It was from this background that the professional field of Construction Management emerged. The basic idea of Construction Management is to manage the construction of a client’s project as though you are the client’s own internal construction department. At the time of the first project that we supervised for owners other than Tishman Realty, I considered the idea to be logical and imperative, although somewhat revolutionary. I believed it should be how construction was done on large projects, and thought of it as a sales edge for our company. Indeed, it was, as we could tout CM to clients and point to it as why we were going to be better for them than, say, a large conventional general contractor firm. My consistent ability to sell owner clients on the idea that we would be working for them in the manner of a lawyer or an architect, on a professional basis provided a marketing edge for Tishman Construction. Henry Ford, Jr., for one important instance, understood the idea at once, and it was the basis for his engaging us to be the Construction Manager for the Renaissance Center in Detroit, and for the other owners on the very large projects that followed. The alacrity with which such large and important clients took to the idea of Construction Management was based not only on how it would save them money and aggravation, but also on the professionalism of the service we would render. Their acceptance of CM gave to me, and to other prospective purveyors, the understanding that CM ought to replace general contracting for all future sizable projects, and, that, in effect, began the modern field of Construction Management.
There may be some truth to the old adage that “You make your own luck.” There were lucky consequences for me in the breakup of the old Tishman Realty and Construction firm, in 1977. My family and our major outside stockholders had decided that the need was to get rid of the former public company because it was hampering the partners’ ability to make the sort of large personal, after-tax profit from real estate that our privately held competitors were making. The breakup would also be an occasion to sell the company’s portfolio of buildings, and for each of the three divisions to go out on its own, the development part under Bob Tishman and his son-in-law Jerry Speyer, the management part under Bob’s brother Alan, and the construction division, under my leadership. That separation not only suited me fine, it was a lucky break for me, because in the ensuing three years under the Rockefeller Center umbrella, the operation I headed up was able to make an easy transition from being part of a public company to being fully on our own.
Having insisted on retaining the Tishman company name and history, I took advantage of the opportunity that afforded me to tell potential clients about all the buildings we had constructed for the family, and how my colleagues and I would bring that expertise to bear on their behalf, as Construction Manager on their construction projects. I knew that I had some of the best construction management experts in the business as colleagues, and was delighted at being able to tout that, as well, to potential clients. After all, I could say to potential clients, these are the men who acted as Construction Managers for the three tallest buildings in the world.
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Luck was also involved in our landing the assignment as Construction Manager on the reconstruction of a Disney World side hotel while waiting for a favorable economic climate in which to begin the EPCOT construction; when the need came up for Disney to have another hotel built, and Disney’s own executives and internal construction people were busy on other projects. When I spoke up and asked if our firm could be permitted to develop that hotel, they were more than willing to entertain the proposition. I had never personally developed a property, but the Disney executives knew of my many years of work in the family development firm, where I had been involved in all major decisions about development, and that, coupled with the work we were doing for Disney in Construction Management, allowed them to feel comfortable in awarding me the opportunity to develop our first hotel.
Luck is also timing, and that was never truer than in this instance. Because the Rockefeller interests did not want to be in the development
At several points in the ensuing years, Tishman Construction had the opportunity to function as a general contractor rather than as a Construction Manager and I chose not to pursue the GC path, even though in opting to be only a CM we gave up the opportunity to now and then make a great deal of money from a particular project. What we were obtaining in exchange, I was very aware, was much lower risk accompanied by the ability to reap a consistent and comfortable living from our fees. Functioning as a CM instead of a GC also enabled us to work on many more projects than we might have been awarded as a GC. As the business cycles went up and down, and as Tishman Construction continued to prosper and to remain independent and privately owned, I felt vindicated in the decisions that I had made.
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