Tom Jakobek learned efficient project management through his experience working in both the public and private sectors.
Before founding KBNJ Consulting, Inc., a consulting firm for Canadian construction projects, he spent more than 20 years managing big budgets and complex infrastructure projects for the City of Toronto, Toronto East General Hospital, and his own property development and management company, Romlek Enterprises, Inc.
We sat down to ask him a few questions about project management and the future of Canadian construction.
Thanks for talking to us today, Tom. You’ve had a lot of experience managing both public and private projects. Why did you decide to start your own consulting firm with KBNJ Consulting?
Tom Jakobek: I was receiving a lot of requests for projects. Eventually, the workload grew beyond what I could handle by myself. So I went out and found talented project managers. It’s absolutely crucial to hire people you know you can count on, especially when you have clients that are relying on you to deliver a project on time and within budget. Even though I have people I can trust, I’m always involved in the oversight of all projects to make sure they succeed.
It’s impossible to talk about almost anything these days without mentioning the pandemic. How do you see the future of construction in Canada as it emerges from the worst (hopefully) of the lockdowns?
Tom Jakobek: The truth is, construction in Canada has a bright future. We are a growing country with infrastructure needs that aren’t going to disappear with the pandemic. Things are still moving forward. There are many big infrastructure projects planned for the next decade, especially in Ontario.
I think there’s lots of evidence that businesses are adapting to the new normal. Retailers are selling more online, and restaurants have stepped up deliveries. Real estate in Toronto continues to boom, so we’re still going to need more housing, and improved transportation infrastructure.
In the Toronto area, there’s a lot to be excited about.
Are there potential obstacles faced by the construction industry? What advice do you have for other project managers to ensure the success of their projects?
Tom Jakobek: I think it’s imperative that you read as much as possible. In this day and age, you can’t afford to stop learning. Knowledge is not an option. It’s crucial. I always advise project managers: Remain in charge. If you have the ability to do the task yourself, then do it. That’s how projects get delivered on time.
It’s also important to look ahead and prepare.
What’s a recent development in the construction industry that you see as a positive sign?
Tom Jakobek: The big construction trade groups have recently joined in a coalition called Building for Recovery. The point is to urge various levels of government to deliver on their investments for infrastructure projects.
They’re asking people to send letters to their political representatives, etc.
I think it’s a good idea. These projects are part of the way we’re going to get the economy moving again.
What do you think is the most important attitude for a successful project manager?
Tom Jakobek: You have to understand that you share risk with your client. I think a consultant should only get paid for results. That lets your client know that you are actually invested in the project outcome. They want to know that you have “skin in the game.” That’s when they start to feel they can trust you, and eventually they won’t want anyone else managing their project.