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These articles were prepared for the February 21, 2001 edition of
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Estimating, Managing Inestimable Projects
When the thousands of fans pour into Staten Island’s
new stadium on June 1 to watch the minor league Yankees toss the
around, they can thank Brooklyn-born Marty Seigel for their
view, comfort, and safety. Seigel is the construction project manager
overseeing this $87 million complex, including the ball field,
train station, and road and rail links. He is the man who transforms
the owner’s dreams into sod and concrete, pitcher’s mound and
— all for a price they can probably afford.
Yet whether it’s an $87 million stadium or tiny bungalow, figuring
the right cost and the right schedule are the two initial steps that
will guide or haunt you the remainder of that long construction
Thus, for those in the trade seeking the sharpest tricks, Seigel
his eight-week course, Construction Cost Estimating and Administration
beginning Wednesday, February 28, at Mercer County Community College.
This upcoming course is part of a five-course package offered by MCCC
to fulfill the requirements for the Construction Project Manager
Program. Each course, running about 8 to 10 weeks, is set in sequence
and is prerequisite for the course following. Contact the Mercer
registrar at 609-586-9446.
"I teach reality," says Seigel. Since graduating from City
College of New York, he has spent 40 years in the construction trade
— 26 of them as a construction engineer for New York City. Seigel
is head project manager for Bovis Lend Lease, the Australian-based
firm dealing in all aspects of real estate.
The project manager (or construction manager) in theory solves
old inimical triangle of owner versus architect versus general
The owner hires a project manager, notes Seigel, "to be his
break up log jams and make the work flow easily."
But some participants, including architects, argue that the project
manager can often turn that old inimical triangle into an unfriendly
four. The debate over whether a project manager is a hindrance or
a help rages on. Having stood on both sides, Seigel offers his two
prime directives to owners hiring project managers.
First, choose the man, not the firm. It is the specific individual
whom you must trust, who must placate the contractors and who must
fight for you. His company, however good, is doubtless off on other
projects, leaving him to his own devices.
Second, hammer out exact responsibilities beforehand. Who holds the
authority to stop a project, issue change orders, pay for a
Make these totally understood at the outset. Relinquish too much,
and you are tempting your contractors with a license to steal.
Construction cost estimating and scheduling traditionally remain
mysteries held close by a cadre of experts ever fearful of cut throat
competition. But Seigel, displaying his "reality first"
plunges right in with a list of dos, don’ts and caveats.
Scheduling is cost, and cost is scheduling, says Seigel. They stand
inseparable. Time is money, and distance is money. (Remember those
old algebraic distance, rate, time formulas?) All three interplay
in a complex spiraling ballet that if unconsidered can flutter your
company like the Black Prince into the Hades of Chapter 11. "A
few jobs back," Seigel says, "I needed a large sewage pump.
Seemingly simple item. Yet it turned out that it had to be made in
London, shipped by boat from Germany and would take 17 months to
Now ask yourself: Have I set up enough alternative tasks to keep my
work force and project moving during the wait?"
Consider book price a base, no more, Seigel counsels. Textbook
may assure you that paint costs 75 cents a square foot plus the labor
cost. Fine, if your building is one story. But what if you need
for the third story, or a crane for the fourth? How much time is lost
in crane transport? Along the same lines, square-foot price is only
a rule of thumb, variable by a third. In the U.S. 1 area, office space
can be erected for $80 to $100 a square foot. Unless, you want wood
paneling instead of sheet rock or unless your backhoe operator
Jimmy Hoffa while preparing the concrete slab. For all the above
Seigel strongly urges:
or contractor seeking to move up and out on your own, first attach
yourself to a veteran. The factors in cost estimation and project
scheduling are too numerous to memorize. They form a process that
must be intuited. It is lore that only the experienced can pass on.
says Seigel, "they can be off by up to 30 percent "Architects
are hired to envision practical endings, not to foresee problems.
When that $70 a yard concrete can not be pumped up, as planned, but
must be carried up by men and mixed on site, costs change. Like the
square-foot estimate, the architect’s estimate is a useful tool, but
the owner should not bet down to his last dollar on it.
Unions bury a banquet of costs beyond the standard higher labor price.
Seigel’s 280-person crew building the Staten Island Stadium is union,
entailing both a teamster and a maintenance foreman whose sole job
is to guard union rules. They are salaried, he says, but totally
Add in the additional lawyer fees, grievance costs, and paperwork
time that come with union labor, Seigel says, and then balance the
quality of worker.
the greatest forgotten factor in cost estimating and scheduling is
private versus governmental projects. "This especially hurts the
little guy," says Seigel. "He’s got a pickup truck full of
tools and his wife keeping the books in the basement. He latches onto
a municipal bid because he can count on getting paid definitely, if
not promptly. But oh, what he doesn’t realize is that in New York,
we frequently ran 35 percent over private costs."
First, the government invariably over designs. That safety factor
of 1.7 built into a private office structure, rises to 3 or even 6
for a public monument intended for a century of high traffic use.
Complying with laws also ups the cost of government projects. Every
aspect must be doubly inspected and the inspector’s reaction time
is invariably slower than promised. You also may have to consider
the cost of the inspector’s vehicle, his phone, fax and radio costs,
even his equipped on-site trailer. But the real sinker, Seigel says,
is the paperwork. All the government forms can inundate a large
and just bankrupt a small one. Here again is where experience will
help make an realistic bid.
alone," says Seigel. "Managing and estimating requires a team
attitude. It cannot be `my side versus the other side.’ It takes a
great deal of diplomacy." Then, he adds, with a laugh, "of
course if that doesn’t work, it always helps to have a strong right
— Bart Jackson
John Harmon, businessman and president of the
Metropolitan Trenton African American Chamber of Commerce, started
his career as the first African American management trainee at the
Bowery Savings Bank in Manhattan. "I was up against 150
he recalls. "Coming from Trenton, it was somewhat
Piloting MTAACC, an organization that was founded in 1997 and shot
up from 25 members to 90 last year, Harmon draws upon his own
"Minority businesses need to get out of their comfort zones,"
he says. Mainstream businesses in Central Jersey are receptive to
their minority counterparts, he finds, but it sometimes takes gentle
encouragement from MTAACC to jog minority business owners to get out
and reach for the opportunities.
On Wednesday, February 28, at 6 p.m. MTAACC is honoring prominent
minority leaders at the Princeton Hyatt. The keynote speech,
Success Together," is by Charlie Allen, chairman of the
American Automobile Association. Cost: $75. Call 609-393-5933. The
honorees are Reverend Dr. DeForest B. Soaries Jr., secretary
of state; James B. Golden Jr., director of the Trenton Police
Department; Larry Sheffield, Universal Consulting Group; Jerri
L. Morrison, Young Scholars Institute; and Rocky Peterson
an attorney with Hill Wallack.
Coaching differs from consulting in that the business
coach sticks around, working with clients until they reach their
Helene Mazur, business coach and owner of Princeton Performance
Dynamics, says coaching is a lot like strategic planning. "We
don’t come in and tell you what to do," Mazur says. "We ask
a lot of questions so that you can crystallize your goals."
Typically working on goal setting, attitude, skills development,
remain with clients as they test their new resolve in the real world.
Also different from training, where lessons are learned, and then
"the phone rings four times and you’re back where you
coaching sets up accountability standards, Mazur says. Clients not
only set goals, but work with their coaches to measure progress toward
Mazur worked in corporate America for financial services companies,
including Merrill Lynch, Bankers Trust, and Dean Witter Reynolds,
for 22 years before starting her business last year. Her
included training, sales and marketing, and running large
groups. She holds a bachelor’s degree in marketing from the State
University of New York at Albany (Class of 1979) and an MBA in finance
from New York University. A Princeton resident, and the mother of
seven-year-old son and a five-year-old daughter, Mazur is married
to a project manager for Delsys Pharmaceutical.
On Wednesday, February 28, at 7:45 a.m. Mazur speaks to the Princeton
YMCA Business/Professional Women at the Nassau Club on "What
Coaching Can Do for You." Cost: $22.50. Call 609-497-2100.
While Mazur specializes in business coaching, Susan Levinson,
founder of Results Life Coaching in Metuchen, tackles every aspect
of clients’ lives, including relationships, career goals, volunteer
objectives, and the accomplishment of creative work. Levinson does
personal coaching and trains and certifies coaches.
The next training course begins on Monday, March 19, for those who
want to be trained through teleconferences and on March 20 for those
who prefer in-person training. The fee is $2,500 for the three-month,
part-time course. There is also a requirement that students be
before or during the course, at a cost that ranges from $900 to
Call 732-494-4494 or find information at www.resultslifecoaching.com
Levinson, who holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from Brandeis and
a master’s degree in computer science from Stevens Institute, has
worked for a number of telecommunications companies, including AT&T,
Bellcore and, most recently, Bridgewater-based DSET. She was in
working on a telecom project in 1998 when she met David and Lisa Rock,
the couple who founded Results Life Coaching. "I was making a
lot of money, but I wasn’t satisfied," Levinson says. Having
as a volunteer, she was intrigued by the idea of making a living as
Two years ago Levinson opened the first American franchise of Results
Life Coaching. Many of the coaches Levinson has trained come from
Information Technology backgrounds. "Maybe after a while, they’re
not satisfied with the work," she says. Others taking the course
include the national marketing manager for a fragrance company, a
pharmaceutical sales rep, a retired human resources professional,
a massage therapist, an accountant, and two nurses. Some graduates
coach full time and some part time. Levinson says a coach with 12
clients could gross $6,000 a month working approximately 18 hours
Coaches pay Results Life Coaching a license fee for which they receive
marketing assistance, an Internet presence, and instruction materials.
Coaching students are taught listening skills and the art of asking
good questions, Levinson says. They use this training to help clients
clarify their goals and break them down into manageable pieces. Each
client is asked to state three goals in his first session.
A stock broker Levinson recently worked with wanted to add 33 new
clients, write a non-discrimination plan for a non-profit where he
volunteered, and repair his relationship with his wife and children.
At the beginning of the coaching sessions, the business goal was the
most important to him, Levinson said. But as time went on, he focused
more on his family. When his coaching session ended, the stock broker
had finished writing up his non-discrimination plan, decided to revamp
his business, and reported a vastly improved family situation.
Coaching works, Levinson says, because it holds clients accountable.
"We don’t let them talk themselves out of their goals," she
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