Last month, I attended NAHB’s midyear meeting in Miami and had the pleasure of sitting in on a presentation by Daniel Swift, president and CEO of Des Moines-based architecture group BSB Design.
Are You Good and Lucky?
In the first quarter this year, Ed Pettigrew earned the highest bonus Royce Homes has ever paid to a construction superintendent for meeting key objectives.
Name: Ed Pettigrew
Company: Royce Homes, Houston
Years as superintendent: 22
Customer willingness to recommend: 95%
Units carried per quarter: 10 to 30
Days ahead/behind schedule: 15 ahead
Homes delivered last year: 48
Value of homes delivered: $4.6 million
Hard-cost variance: within 1%
Punchlist items on first inspection: 6
Average days to correct punchlist items: 1
In the first quarter this year, Ed Pettigrew earned the highest bonus Royce Homes has ever paid to a construction superintendent for meeting key objectives. He built and delivered 26 homes during that time, and if you ask him how he did it, he'll say it was mostly luck. He was lucky that the salespeople did a great job at the end of the previous year to line up the number of home buyers they did. And he was lucky that the January weather in Houston let him get slabs poured and frames built in record time. But everyone knows you have to be good to be lucky.
Catching the callbacks: Arriving every morning at 5:30, Pettigrew goes straight to the activity that earns him the big bonus checks, catching all the "warranty work waiting to happen." His budgets are always tight, customer satisfaction is high, and both are closely linked to few callbacks. His drywall checks are a good example.
"Early in the morning when it is still dark outside, you can take a flashlight and lay it on the wall, and you can see if anything is off," Pettigrew says. "If there are imperfections in that wall of any kind, it's going to show up at that time."
That is just the start. He is in attics, in closets, checking for leaks under tubs, and running a battery of tests on countertops and carpet. Countertops are not often out of level; cracks and chips cause the trouble. Then there's the sleeper high-warranty callback, the laminated plastic backsplash. Pettigrew pushes along the length of it to feel for bubbles and tell if it is glued evenly. In carpeted rooms he feels for hard objects trapped under the surface, paying special attention to whether the entire periphery is tacked and tucked. Then there is the paint check. "I am a painter's worst nightmare," he says. "I get on my hands and knees and look under windowsills. I use a roll of blue tape on every house."
Give contractors time to do their jobs: When it comes to running the jobsite, scheduling and planning, Pettigrew says it comes down to mutual respect. The trades should respect the superintendent's construction knowledge and overall ability. In turn, the superintendent should have a deep enough understanding of each piece of the job that plenty of time is allowed for each trade to do its job correctly. Pettigrew says it helps to know without even asking when a trade is running behind so he can offer the trade extra time and have the lead time to adjust the schedule. "I have a lot of respect for the contractors," he says, "and I expect respect in return."
What the trades say: "Ed is easy to get along with. We work together on how to make the job easier and faster. He knows construction, so he knows how to schedule. At the same time, he is pushing you. He's got everything under control. He's always ahead of you. Not long ago we did 22 houses in two weeks, and he shared the credit with us." -- Alfredo Flores, Flores Framing, Houston
Ed on his approach to being a superintendent
Ed on what makes him stand out as a superintendent
Ed on scheduling
Ed on dealing with emergency repair situations
Ed on the recipe for being a good leader