We have learned to take care not to act in such a manner as to make in-house construction personnel feel that we are competing with them rather than, as we seek to be, working side by side with them. I always want to be able to deal directly with the top man, but I also recognize that to complete the project successfully I need the cooperation of those who report to him or who may be on a lower level.
Our reputation for doing big projects attracted the attention of the executives and “imagineers” at The Disney Company. Disneyland in
California was a very successful enterprise, as was the first section of the much larger Disney World in Florida. Before Walt Disney died in 1966, he had made preliminary plans for a sprawling, 600-acre complex adjacent to Disney World in Orlando, to be called EPCOT, for Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow. Two-and-a-half miles from Disney’s Magic Kingdom, it was to be more like a self-contained world exposition than a theme park, with many pavilions and showcasing the latest technologies.
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I knew from published industry reports that during the construction of the first section of Disney World, the Disney Company had had a bad experience with their general contractor. They had fired the contractor and ended up forming Disney’s own construction division and then having their in-house construction people supervise the contractors and subcontractors.
For this next phase, to select a construction firm for EPCOT, the Disney executives decided to go about the task in a different way—in fact, in what I considered the correct way. Rather than simply choose one contractor over another, they did their homework and decided that they would be able to choose among four different approaches to construction supervision. One would be to hire a large General Contractor on a cost-plus basis. A second would be to employ an architectural firm whose project management arm would act as a GC on a cost-plus basis. A third approach would be to use an estimating firm to keep track of the costs incurred by one or more General Contractors. The fourth approach would be to hire a Construction Management firm such as ours, which for a fixed fee—not a cost-plus fee, but a fixed fee—would oversee the work of multiple General Contractors. That they were even considering the Construction Management option spoke well of the Disney executives’ knowledge of the business and the challenges facing them in estimating, scheduling, and constructing such a large and multifaceted project.
But in this instance, what the Disney executives were doing in traipsing all over this construction site was true due diligence, so that they could report back to their colleagues that they’d seen us in action.