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 With the Details?
John Sias' home building knowledge goes back to 1980, when he built his first home under the tutelage of a general contractor friend.
Name: John Sias
Company: CCM Homes LLC, Atlanta
Years as superintendent: 5
Customer willingness to recommend: 95%
Units carried per quarter: 22
Days ahead/behind schedule: 10 ahead
Homes delivered last year: 42
Value of homes delivered: $11.6 million
Hard-cost variance: within 2%
Punchlist items on first inspection: 7
Average days to correct punchlist items: 1
John Sias' home building knowledge goes back to 1980, when he built his first home under the tutelage of a general contractor friend. His basic approach to managing a CCM Homes job site in Sugar Hill, Ga., northeast of Atlanta, is to constantly put himself in a position where his 22 years of construction knowledge can be put into action.
To Sias, what separates him from other superintendents is attention to detail, particularly on the front end of a new job. Well before work begins on a job site, Sias and his foremen spend an unusual amount of time reviewing the plans, elevations and possible options that will be built.
"Initially we will have specs and tell them what we want and what we expect in as much detail as possible," explains Sias. From there the job goes slowly at first and speeds up as each trade becomes more knowledgeable about the job. "We have been running along pretty good here [at Sias' current job site] for a year, so now everybody is pretty comfortable with what we are doing."
Sias' true talent is staying close to the work without bearing down too hard on his people and inadvertently creating an adversarial relationship. He does so by dropping any airs and be-coming a working part of each crew.
"Most of the trade contractors are experts, so I let them know what I want," Sias says. "As we go along and things aren't quite up to snuff, we'll talk about it. I truly respect all of these people, and I like to work with them, and we are on a very conversant basis. We talk all the time. It seems to help make the process go smoother. Then when we have a problem, it is not like a big problem. We just talk like a friend and tell them that we have to work this out."
Home sweet job site: A lesser super than Sias might quake at the prospect of living in a home on site. The dread of constant requests for assistance from neighbors would be very real. But Sias controls his off hours as well as he does his job site. CCM has clear rules on warranty work, and it does not involve Sias. His line to home buyers at final walk-through: "Today I am your superintendent, tomorrow I'll just be your neighbor." Mostly Sias gains instant credibility as a builder for living in a home he built at a location where he works.
Paperlessness (to an extent): Sias works out of his truck most of the time. Inside, he has a laptop booted up during work hours. On it he has every schedule for every house under construction. A hand-held computer for taking notes goes with him when he leaves the truck. Scheduling is an everyday task. Trades are notified of job readiness two weeks out, twice a week. Reminder calls go out the day before.
What the trades say: "He's got it down cold. He makes it really easy for us. He's real efficient, always on top of things and knows his jobs. And he is very good about getting us the information we need. John is one of the best superintendents I've ever worked with." -- Bill Wiley, Wiley Electric, Suwanee, Ga.
John on paying attention to the building process
John on his typical work day
John on dealing with trade workers
John on managing costs
John on dealing with homeowners