Today’s project management firms follow industry best practices, more or less. But that doesn’t mean all PM service levels are the same. In fact, there’s a pretty wide gamut between successful delivery and major disappointment. Meanwhile, it’s tough to judge PM quality, commitment, and integrity based on a firm’s website alone…

At Precision, we’ve partnered with clients who had to cut ties with former project management firms, due to poor performance or poor working relationships. This blog post aims to help you learn from their experiences.

Whether you’re looking for a project management partner to help you with design management, facility management, company relocation, project logistics or other initiatives, watch for these red flags during your outsource vetting process.

1. Questionable Listening Skills

Are you getting a chance to explain your needs and expectations? Or are you just getting the hard sell? Exceptional PM groups aren’t afraid to let you lead the discussion because they have the experience and the knowledge to address unique concerns with specificity—not according to a generic sales script. Like with any other job interview, look for candidates who have done some homework on your business already, but still come prepared with key questions that get at the heart of your project challenge.

2. Lack of Relevant Success Stories

Does the candidate have enough background handling projects of similar size and scope? Can they point to specific wins in your industry, facility type, or budget ballpark? Do they have experience addressing similar stakeholders? The only way to avoid hiccups and delays is to partner with a team who will anticipate niche challenges. You may even want to ask for some examples of the localized problems your candidates have confronted when working on jobs like yours.

3. Zero Collaborative Skill

The reason you’re hiring a project management firm is to get new initiatives off your plate, right? Still, don’t trust a partner who seems content to take your budget and run. Even before the actual communication plan is drafted, quality PMs will outline project components/phases that require your input. They will be upfront about project variables and change control. This is the only way to ensure shared objectives and positive results.

4. Less than Complete Transparency

The worst PMs will actually hide behind project complexity (constraints, dependencies, mitigation activities, etc.) to dodge your questions or avoid giving straight answers. Don’t be intimidated by PM jargon and Gantt charts. Instead, judge candidates by how well they can translate their work into your terms. Give extra points for solid explanations and transparency in terms of contractors, software, vendors, etc.

5. A Lousy Contract

What if everything appears great at the outset? How can you protect your business from a subpar project management firm that only reveals its shortcomings after the work gets started? Draft a solid termination clause—one that lets you pump the brakes or bail entirely if deliverables aren’t being met. Here are some common mistakes to avoid in your PM contract suspension/termination clause:

  • Fuzzy performance standards (e.g. “acceptable” or “necessary), which can be viewed subjectively
  • An incomplete scope of services (include every tiny detail!)
  • Unclear provisions about jobsite safety and other risk management factors

Looking for more project management services advice? Check out our blog, I Hired a Project Manager. What Next? It’s a great outline of your project manager’s key responsibilities.

Wondering what makes us qualified to offer advice about project management firms, construction management, design management, facility management, etc.? Check out our team credentials. And of course, you can always drop us a line with your PM questions. We love hearing from you!