Problem Solved

typewriter with the words problem solved written
I landed my dream job! But the project was about 80% complete with 300 change orders and I had only had 4-6 months to complete it!

I landed my dream job
The company that didn’t hire me two years prior
Called me.

I was so happy.
I left a big job at one of the largest airports in the country
I was headed to build skyscrapers

…but wait…

They had a project in need.
The project was about 80% complete
They needed someone to organize, comprehend, write, and negotiate 300 change orders with subcontractors and the client. The client was a large nationally recognized developer.


They said I had 4-6 months to complete.


The majority of the change orders were during pre-construction, excavation, behind finished walls, and inside of closed hard ceiling spaces.

5 things I did to not only meet the challenge, but positively gained strong relationships with the client, the subcontractors, and my company.

  1. What’s going on? From Day 1, I talked to the team. Before opening up any folders, I wanted to know about the job, walk the job, and obtain a list of their priorities.
  2. Who are you? Within a week of mobilization, I sent out a formal email to all parties involved with the project (all subcontractors, vendors, suppliers, Owner, design team, auxiliary services, and my team). In this introductory email, I talked about:
    • Who I was and how I planned to add value to the project
    • A list of their outstanding change orders and if they could prioritize them. Also, asked (subs) to list their pain points and what they would like to see changed. This was another avenue to gain trust not only for me but for the team.
    • Expectations on how we can successfully work together on this grandiose task and explained my familiarity with successful negotiations in the past.
  3. Shake hands. I went out to the job site multiple times a day. I asked a lot of questions to each trade contractor in the field. I wanted to know their names. I wanted to know all the history they knew about the project and how I could assist them going forward. I wanted the facts from the workers in the field, in addition to, the information received from the project manager and superintendent representing the trade contractors.
  4. No one has time for you. We all have work to do, deadlines to meet, paperwork to complete, and emails to respond to. No one has time to talk about a change order that happened a year ago. It was my mission and intention to value everyone’s time. I dug into the drawings, organized all correspondence, organized all change orders into folders with their associated drawing, RFI, sketch, ASI, etc. When I talked with someone (design team, client, subcontractor), I had thoroughly researched the project and was able to ask specific detailed questions to get answers. The more information I knew, the easier it was to negotiate with the client. This also the process fair and equitable for all parties, even if it cost them some money.
  5. No problems, only opportunities, and solutions. Don’t shoot the messenger. “I was not here when this change order took place, but I wanted to make sure parties were covered and any ‘opportunity” resolved quickly and off their to-do list”. 

-Bonus- I didn’t take it personally. This was a big feat to overcome, but I quickly talked to myself about being a problem/opportunity solver and to add value. Honestly, it took about a month to get over the “don’t take it personally” mantra. But once I changed my mindset…it was easier.

The negotiations were so successful. The project made money and finished on time and within the budget allotted by the client, who had contingency funds for all of the “unknown” circumstances that could arise from a new build.

The success of this project landed me opportunities in multi-market sectors. I was deemed the problem solver and moved to projects in need. The majority of my projects were about 1.5 years, when the biggest hurdles were reached, I moved on to the next project.

Project #1 – 300 change orders negotiated and resolved in 6 months (2 months of closeout changes)
Project #2 — $20M in changes in 1 year for a project that was already 2 years in the works.
Project #3 – Project behind schedule by 4 months. Was able to complete the project, on time and within budget, AND 2 months ahead of schedule (that will be another blog post).

I share all of the processes used over the years, to successfully manage over $1B in projects, on time, and within budget in my online course:

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