Adam Felson On The Art Of Project Management
As the ambitions of real estate developers have grown, so has the complexity of their projects. Keeping track of the competing demands and prioritizing efforts requires the specific skills of a project manager, says Colton Commercial & Partners director Adam Felson, one of our speakers at Bisnow’s San Francisco Construction and Development event Wednesday at Parc 55.
We caught up with Adam (above with his son, Jeremy) to discuss the skills it takes to help developers finish projects on time, what he looks at before he takes on a project and the right questions to ask before starting.
Bisnow: What is your background?
Adam Felson: My background comes from representing landlord clients with their capital improvement and tenant improvement projects. I’ve worked for several large REITs, and originally started on the general contractor side of the table.
Bisnow: Where does Colton focus?
Adam Felson: Our project management division specializes in representing landlords because our team has a deep background with building owners, but we also work with tenant clients too, because our landlord experience provides a unique perspective.
Bisnow: How has project management changed over the past few years? Which skills have grown in importance?
Adam Felson: While there are more tools out there thanks to technology to do everything—collaborate on drawings, develop schedules and fine-tune budgets—it seems that the projects that go south are often the ones that have little to do with anything construction-related.
A good project manager knows how to properly set expectations for both the client and the entire team. Also, like in many industries, we are finding ourselves writing more than ever before, and solid written communication skills are paramount. Yet at the same time, it is important to know when you aren’t getting anywhere with email and a phone call or in-person meeting is appropriate.
Bisnow: What is your method for approaching a new project?
Adam Felson: We are advocates for getting it all on the table as soon as possible. This means extracting all of the client’s needs from the start and engaging with project partners early so they can help us figure out where the landmines are.
Bisnow: What are some typically good questions to ask before taking on an engagement?
Adam Felson: We like to ask questions about the organization and check out their existing office to answer questions that might not be so obvious. A project is successful if it meets budget, schedule, quality, functionality and cultural goals. What is also important is making sure these goals are clear to everyone from the start.
Bisnow: What's an exciting project you're working on or have just finished?
Adam Felson: We’ve recently wrapped up some large TIs where we played the owner’s rep. Some other work we’re involved with is a job for the Social Security Administration and helping a growing advertising firm with some pre-leasing services.