In Part 1 of our 2-part interview, we sat down with John Manning, CEO and Co-Founder of KMI, to discuss and dive deeper into his experience with troubled project turnaround. Mr. Manning has over 40 years of professional experience in the construction industry and holds a Master’s degree in Engineering from the University of Florida. He has a vast portfolio of experience which includes the management of the design and construction processes on a variety of projects including: resort hotels; parking structures; infrastructure; mixed-use; area development; aviation facilities; defense facilities; and condominium and office development.
Mr. Manning has the experience leading projects from concept through successful completion but we look closer into how he got involved with the challenging task of rescuing troubled projects.
Q: Tell us about your first time handling a Troubled Project?
John: In the late 1990s, I was sitting in my car at the end of my first long day on a new construction project thinking, what have I gotten myself into?
The vice president I reported to had asked me to transfer to a team that was having problems on a major hotel project. I shook my head as I thought through what I had learned about this troubled project. Although the design was far from complete, the structure was 30 percent constructed!
The owner’s team was fragmented on the path forward, they were being led by a creative design team that was all over the place and had not completed the design. The contractor was armed to take advantage of the situation with multiple project managers, as well as a senior project manager, who in the days to come would pummel me daily with requests for information (RFIs), change orders and delay claims. I almost wanted to walk away because I was not certain how to turn the project around; but something inside me said this was a challenge I should tackle.
Over the next 18 months, I brought a full design team on-site, increased our owner’s project management team, and developed teams to tackle the project problems. I realized the wisdom of the old saying “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time” and I steadily worked through one problem after another.
Q: What challenges did you face with this troubled project?
John: This project rapidly introduced me to the world of troubled project turnarounds and the challenges they pose. I wish I could say everything worked out perfectly on that first difficult project but that would not be the truth. We still finished late and over budget, and there was a large claim at the end of the project that we had to contest. Despite these problems, the 1,000,000-plus-square-foot resort hotel property opened and still has a great reputation in the market. Whenever I return to the property for dinner or to stay, my mind wanders back to the issues we faced when we were working to open the facility; and I still shake my head!
Q: It’s September so we have to say, Happy 19 Years to KMI! What led you to start KMI International and offer Troubled Project Turnaround as one of the 6 services the company provides?
John: At the end of that project, I chose to start the firm Kraus-Manning, in which I am a partner, and apply the lessons we learned to help real estate owners develop projects in a way that keeps them out of trouble or, if they are already in trouble, turns those projects around. Based on our 19 years of experience, we have refined and fine-tuned the processes we use to deliver projects successfully.
Q: You’re the author of a new book that will soon be released in November of this year, tell us a little about your book.
John: Prevent and Turn Around Troubled Construction Projects is a compilation of the processes and experiences that have delivered hundreds of projects in the United States and abroad since we formed our company, KMI International.
This book will focus on the steps that owners and owner’s representatives, whether the representative is in-house or from an independent firm hired by the owner, can take to prevent and turnaround troubled projects.