5 Things You Should Know Before You Hire: Owner’s Representatives and Project Managers


With every hospitality construction or renovation project, there are many steps of the process, many teams involved, and many different stages and timelines. We are starting a new series in which we look a bit deeper into each of these stages focusing on one specialty at a time and talk with some of those companies to get their perspective.

For the first article in our series, we reached out to some Owner’s Representative and Project Management groups. We asked them a few simple questions: what are some common misconceptions, and what are some things that you should know before hiring an Owner’s Rep or Project Manager for your next project? We took those answers and put a list together from what we heard and found as common threads in the responses.

What to look for in an Owner’s Rep or Project Management Group

As you are looking for the right Owner’s Representative and Project Manager for your next project, here are some of the key things we heard that you should look for in the team you hire.

Industry Experience and Knowledge

Nothing can replace the power of years of experience. With industry knowledge comes the ability to foresee challenges and how to best avoid them, the expertise that only comes with working with similar project scopes in the past, and the practiced speed of having a particular specialization. Managing a project can take a significant amount of time, and that time is best utilized by a team that knows every small detail on how to manage a project most efficiently. The longer you spend on a skill, the more developed that skill becomes, so why would it be any different with a specialized team of professionals?

“It is essential to hire someone who has relevant expertise and experience in the industry. You want a professional who has a strong proven track record in successfully managing similar projects and also familiar with the unique challenges and requirements.” – Vickie Smith, PM Unlimited

Ensure that the team you are looking at has managed similar projects before and has a proven to be successful with those projects. The experience and knowledge is not always a wide umbrella, and there can be a big difference between managing a large branded resort property and a boutique select-service property.

Having a strong understanding of the industry from years of experience is the base that then leads to the next few things. Without the knowledge and expertise, it can be hard to know what details to look for, how to best avoid and manage issues and problems, and how to best lead your team.

An Eye for Detail

Undertaking a hospitality project is a big process that involves thousands of moving pieces, whether it’s a new construction build or a hotel renovation. In order to keep everything moving and where it needs to be, having a trained professional who can keep it on track is a paramount part of a successful project completion.

“A Project Manager should have a keen eye for detail to ensure nothing slips through the cracks. From contract negotiation to budget management and schedule adherence, meticulousness is vital.” – Kimberly White, Paragon Construction Consulting, Inc

Not only does the Owner’s Rep and/or Project Manager oversee the timeline and budget, they are also involved in hiring the right teams, keeping in communication with them, and closely monitoring the progress. Part of staying on track involves creating realistic timelines and budgets in the first place, saving time and money by avoiding possible delays later on in the project.

“It is important to lay out all the roles and responsibilities before starting, to cover every aspect of the project. With years of due diligence, programming, design, procurement, and construction experience we know where to fill the scope gaps and remove the overlaps between designers, consultants, vendors, and contractors.” – Cole Butler, Allied Partners

With an eye for detail and knowing that every single piece of the complicated but balanced system is in its proper place, the next skill comes into play.

Team Management and Leadership Skills

When working on such a large scale with so many moving parts and multiple teams involved, having the proper team management and leadership skills is vital. Without the ability to lead your team, things can easily go sideways. If all the different teams are not managed in such a way that they are all working towards the same goal, then things won’t be completed on time and more issues will arise.

“The project team needs to have both the desire and respect to follow this individual to ensure the commercial success of the project.  That means this person must be a good leader; they must have empathy, active listening skills, be able to navigate unforeseen challenges creatively and strategically, as well as compromise where needed for a positive outcome.” – Paul Brussow, Rider Levett Bucknall

Team management is a key part of the Project Manager’s responsibility, hence the title. A project cannot be completed without the teams, and when you have that many separate teams working on their individual details of the project, there needs to be some major collaboration and communication between them to ensure proper milestones are being met.

“Ultimately, a project manager’s primary role is to lead a diverse team and manage relationships throughout the project. Their ability to motivate others towards a shared goal, resolve conflicts, and maintain team morale through both the highs and lows of a project is just as important as their ability to manage a budget or schedule.” – Ryan Brown, Artaic Group

Clear and Collaborative Communication

A good leader is only as good as their level of communication. Not simply the quantity, but also the quality and types of communication. The communication in a project can be the “make it or break it” point.

“Projects are most effective when there is one point of contact distilling the ownership team’s feedback. Make your communication preferences clear to your project manager from the beginning; any professional project management team should be catering their communication to your preferences, whether it’s reporting frequency/formatting, emailing vs. calling vs. texting, hours of reasonable communication, etc.” – Shannon Seay, H-CPM

With communicating also comes listening. Understand that all parties involved have a different perspective on the project and different experiences, but they all have the same end goal – to have a successful project completion. Proper communication can help to quickly share important information, make timely decisions, set clear expectations, and lowers the risk of misunderstandings.

“Owner’s reps and/or project managers should be able to inspire and motivate the project team which requires strong leadership qualities. This creates an environment where everyone is working towards the same goal.” – Vickie Smith, PM Unlimited

Sometimes communication isn’t solely between the teams, but also with the brands. Knowing what the owner prefers in terms of how they want the Owner’s Reps and PMs to interact with the brands is an important factor.

“Some Clients have long-standing relationships with their Brand team and want to be the primary point of contact.  Others want to offload all of that coordination to me.  I’m happy to play as big or as small of a role as needed; but I want to understand their desired approach from day one.” – Jessica Hahr, MGAC

Proactive Risk Management

We never like it when it happens, but we all know there are parts of every project that don’t quite go as planned. Sometimes its to a greater extent than others, but the ability to foresee and avoid when possible, or deal with quickly and efficiently when unavoidable is of key importance. Sometimes that risk mitigation isn’t even related to production delays but the knowledge of subcontractors and potential conflicts of interests, past experience, and even recommendations.

“When interviewing project managers, we would encourage our clients to ask how are challenges handled? What is the risk mitigation plan? What does communication look like in the face of an urgent challenge?” – Shannon Seay, H-CPM

“Look for professionals who demonstrate problem-solving skills, adaptability, and resourcefulness. Their ability to think on their feet and find innovative solutions can save time, money, and prevent delays.” – Kimberly White, Paragon Construction Consulting, Inc

Having that back knowledge of the industry and experience is one of the best things when a situation arises and your Project Manager needs to make an informed decision. Communicating these challenges and proposed solutions can help the rest of the team stay up to date and know if anything has shifted to accommodate.

Common Misconceptions when Hiring an Owner’s Representative

Hiring When Construction has Begun

“There is an old construction adage— “What takes $5 to fix in preconstruction takes $50,000 to fix in construction.” Thus, the greatest impact that an Owner’s Rep can have is really during the design and planning phases.” – Charles Moleski, Becker & Frondorf

We’ve already discussed how the Owner’s Representative oversees such a large part of the project. The earlier they can begin to work with the Owner or Developer, the better they are able to share their industry knowledge and learn more about the project’s goals. They can share their expert advise on creating realistic budgets and timelines, and have a better understanding of the project as a whole.

“The role is most impactful the earlier you bring us in for due diligence, programming, design, coordination and beyond. We carry two titles for a reason to represent the owner’s best interests (owner’s rep) and manage the projects’ consultants, vendors, and contractors (PM).” – Cole Butler, Allied Partners

Construction Timelines Are Always The Same

The reality is that each project is so unique, met with individual challenges, and has a different timeline set up from the very beginning. Sometimes it is a new construction build with custom furniture, sometimes it’s just a brand renovation sticking to a brand standard.

“Each project is unique and its success relies on collaboration and shared responsibility among all of its team members, including the owner, design team, contractors, and suppliers. A strong project manager fosters a culture of collaboration and communication within the project’s team and is able to adapt to the evolving needs and challenges that arise during the project’s lifecycle.” – Ryan Brown, Artaic Group

What Your Owner’s Rep Should Know when Starting a Project

When starting a new project, there are a few key pieces of information to share with your Owner’s Rep that can make the project a little easier to start.

The Client’s Goal

The Owner’s Reps are there to be exactly that: to be able to be a representative of the goals of the owner and have their success in mind. Sometimes it’s as simple as keeping to a specific budget and timeline, but there are often other measures of success as well. Knowing what the owner’s goals are from the very beginning can help ensure the project maintains that as the primary vision throughout the project.

“When we consider our three main quantitative metrics (scope, budget, schedule), our goal is to complete our client’s desired scope for minimal costs, as quickly as possible, while always maintaining industry standard quality and professional standards.” – Shannon Seay, H-CPM

“A project cannot achieve commercial success unless the desired outcomes of the client have been realized. At RLB we like to say that we ‘bring imagination to life’ and this is exactly what we mean when we say this. The project will run smoothly if the owner/client has faith that this individual understands their ultimate goal and is working toward achieving that.” – Paul Brussow, Rider Levett Bucknall

The Project’s Full Information and History

Having a full view of exactly what the scope of the project is from the very first day is crucial to keeping things on track. The more your Owner’s Reps can know at the beginning, the more they can help maintain proper timelines. Knowing who all the key players are up front, including all the stakeholders eliminates possible confusion and unnecessary delays.

“The clearer you can be about the scope of the project, the more you will improve your chances are for success. Being focused allows Owner’s to get accurate proposals and prevents scope creep and cost additions.” – Charlie Moleski, Becker & Frondorf

A keen knowledge of the project’s history enables the owner’s rep/PM to identify risks and to account for them or eliminate/minimize them, ultimately taking them one step closer toward commercial success.” – Paul Brussow, Rider Levett Bucknall

“Who’s Checkbook is it?  Some clients want to know where very penny is going; some clients carve out a Working Capital budget line item for the small day-to-day Design or Construction changes.  Obviously trust is paramount; but what level of detail do they want to be looped into?” – Jessica Hahr, MGAC

There is a lot of great information and insights here and thank you to the Owner’s Representative and Project Management groups that contributed their thoughts and perspectives. We hope this was helpful to see a little into the world of Owner’s Reps, and we look forward to sharing our next part of our series with you!