What is an owner’s rep, and what do they do?
Answer: An owner’s rep is someone hired by an owner to manage and execute a design and construction project on their behalf – particularly when they do not have the industry knowledge, time or resources in-house to do it themselves. An owner’s rep acts as the owner’s eyes and ears throughout the entire process with the sole purpose of executing their goals and mission. As we like to say, an owner should be able to say to their rep, “go be me,” and have the confidence and trust that the rep will do just that.
Ideally, an owner’s rep is engaged from the very beginning of the project. This way they can work alongside the owner to identify budget and project objectives, a realistic goal-forward schedule, and a clear understanding of what success looks like to them. Once these fundamental pieces are in place, the rep can then help identify and assemble the ideal team of design, construction, and specialty consultants to deliver on the client’s goals. From that point forward, it’s about management, communication, and coordination.
Think of an owner’s rep like a conductor in an orchestra. Someone must take all of these brilliant, creative artists, and plan for how they are going to work together, in the right sequence, to create something beautiful. Instead of sheet music and instruments, it is structuring scopes of work and schedules to align to a master plan for the project – making sure everything is moving precisely when it should and costing exactly was budgeted.
What challenges are clients who hire an owner’s rep typically facing?
Answer: Every owner’s challenges are different based on their specific needs, their familiarity with design and construction, and their knowledge about the process. Whether they are the CEO, the COO, or a project Lead, they are all challenged with balancing their new project responsibilities with their day job.
In an ideal world, the owner’s rep is brought in early so they can weigh in as a subject matter expert on potential project pitfalls from the beginning and use their experience to help steer the owner to success. Unfortunately, we do not live in an ideal world, and oftentimes owners are seeking support from an owner’s rep after the project is already underway. Experience says, this is caused by one of four reasons:
- Owners are overwhelmed: Suddenly, they are struggling to balance their day job and personal project’s schedule. They are inundated with change orders and requests and are unable to answer the various questions coming in from their consultant team. They are becoming a bottleneck in both the project and their day job and need help to keep both moving. Without this help, they won’t be able to make timely decisions and the project will likely fall behind schedule, if it isn’t already.
- They encounter mistakes (i.e. they don’t know what they don’t know): Maybe they were unaware of the need for a permit expeditor, or they realize that none of the design consultants own the responsibility of consolidating the drawings into a final bid set. A key component of their project unintentionally slipped through the cracks – they must figure out how to correct their mistake, which will take time and add cost to the budget.
- They are behind schedule: Keeping a project team on schedule is complicated – and every additional day has an impact on budget. Sometimes an overwhelmed owner may not realize when or why delays have happened. They need someone to help identify issues, reestablish critical milestones, and get the project back on track.
- They need back up: Sometimes an owner’s rep is hired to explain controversial or complex issues to key leadership that internal staff may not have the experience or background to do. The owner’s rep can handle conflict resolution to alleviate the client from this task. Whether it is dealing with cost overruns or difficult personalities, the owner’s rep can stay impartial and in front of issues – developing strategic solutions to resolve problems before they impact the project.
How can hiring an owner’s rep positively impact your project?
Answer: It all comes down to managing resources, time, and money. Acquiring an owner’s rep allows the owner the freedom to manage and invest their time in the project as they see fit. The earlier an owner’s rep gets involved, the more value they can bring to the project – hiring the right team and setting a project up for success. By the time a project reaches construction, an owner’s rep has the cost estimates to establish a realistic and accurate budget, has hired the right contractor to ensure it stays on schedule, and has documented every step of the way to guarantee the project meets established goals. In the end, it is about providing the owner with peace of mind and a final result that suits their vision.