The Go Between

Project management services arrive.

Playing the go-between

by Anne Marie Moriarty, Remodeling Magazine,October 1989

In a world where homeowners and contractors often seem to be speaking different languages, Richard Connolly and Carl Stone have created jobs for themselves as interpreters. Connolly, a Weymouth, Mass., consultant, and Stone, a Nyack, NY construction manager, have found that homeowners who are worried about finding an honest contractor or are overwhelmed by the remodeling process are eager to pay an expert to make sure everything goes well.

Richard Connolly is a consultant, not a manager. Like Stone, he acts as an intermediary between clients and contractors, working for a set fee and leaving all contractual obligations to owners and general contractors.

Connolly, a former contractor and computer specialist, started his 18-month-old firm, Cornerstone Consulting, in order to act as a consumer advocate. But he has found remodelers eager to work with him as well. "We are not the builder," he stresses. "We are support. We help consumers save money, and we help remodelers get in, get out and get paid."

Connolly offers a menu of specific services, including help in project planning, materials specifying, bid evaluation, contract negotiation, scheduling and on-site inspection during construction. His typical client is looking to build an addition in the $25,000 price range and his fee for the full gamut of services on such a job would be about $1,400. Connolly charges on an hourly basis, not on a percentage of the project cost.

That’s because when fees are a percentage of the project price, a consultant profits when the project price grows, says Connolly; he sees that as an area in which a client might become concerned about a conflict of interest.

Connolly lets his clients know what their fee will be before any work gets done. On large jobs – those $20,000 and up – he guarantees that every dollar a client spends on his fees will be matched by $2 to $3 dollars in savings. On smaller jobs, he says he typically saves clients enough money to offset his fee, so they get his expertise for no additional charge.

While Connolly will work with homeowners who want to be their own general contractor, he says nearly three-fourths of his clients opt to hire a professional. He says contractors love working with his firm. They are spared the hassle of measuring, specifying, preparing a materials take-off and purchasing.

Says Connolly, "We’ve eliminated price as the deciding factor in who gets hired to do a job. On a recent $175,000 job, the three bids we got came in within $100 of each other." Also, he says, the good contractors he recommends reap the benefits of repeat business from his clients.

Both Stone and Connolly developed their companies in an effort to work in the construction business without the hassles. They agree that construction experience is a prerequisite for the current work. Says Stone, "You have to be an experienced builder – 10 years minimum."

And while design and computer skills are helpful, the other must, says Connolly, is "people skills."

Stone agrees, saying, "You have to be a diplomat, and arbitrator."

Connolly employs three part timers at his firm and is looking to expand the company. He says the work lends itself to part-time workers and is ideal for retired trades people.

Both men see the demand for their services growing. Connolly advertises his fledgling business, while Stone gets nearly all the work he can handle from referrals. By holding the client’s hand through the process and ensuring that the project is done right, they let homeowners feel good about remodeling.

That benefits all remodelers in the end.

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