Career Guide

The foundation of a construction manager

“Everything is about experience. The more you have of it, the lesser problems you will face.” - Choong Kun Loong “Everything is about experience. The more you have of it, the lesser problems you will face.” - Choong Kun Loong

My father has always told me that there is no such thing as small jobs, only small people. Each job has its own importance and significance. You reap what you sow, so the final outcome is from your doings,” says Choong Kun Loong, reminiscing his old man’s words.

Choong has diligently followed the wise words of his father, which have made him what he is today – a successful construction manager.

The eldest in the family and with four siblings, Choong managed to only obtain education until he was 13 years old because the family was poor.

He dropped out of school and started working as a car-seat maker for three years to earn income for the family. He then joined the family business and started learning about construction work.

Once he has mastered the trait, he started taking on his own projects and started his own company in 1998. According to Choong, he got steered into this profession due to the influence of his family and his background, where everyone was involved in the construction business.

As a construction manager, Choong has multiple tasks to handle at any given time. There aremany things that come together while managing a construction project and multiple aspects to look into.

“Firstly my job consists of getting ideas and understanding what my clients want. Then I convey these ideas to my employees. Next, I have to manage my team well. The team includes the plumber, constructor, technician and workers that I hire for each project.

“My job doesn’t stop at just hiring them; I have to supervise them as well. Sometimes, they may have problems which I have to look into and solve. I have to always make sure that I have hired enough workers as there are a lot of divisions in construction which need manpower. My main job is checking on the progress of my projects, which are usually at multiple locations.

“I also meet up with my clients to discuss the current progress of their houses or offices. I usually give them suggestions especially when it comes to the interior design and the look and feel of the building.”

The daily adventure

Choong typically arrives at the construction site between 7:30am and 8:30am depending on the location, and starts by checking the work progress. Choong typically arrives at the construction site between 7:30am and 8:30am depending on the location, and starts by checking the work progress.

Choong’s day starts at 5am when he sends his children to school. After that, work begins. He typically arrives at the construction site between 7:30am and 8:30am, depending on the location, and starts by checking on the progress of work.

Here, he also discusses with his workers any issue they may be facing in the project. It’s important for Choong to make sure that no errors occur as he cannot afford to have mistakes at work. Everything has to follow a plan as designed, and the execution of it must be smooth. In times when unexpected changes occur, Choong has to come up with a quick and effective solution to settle the issue.

Afternoons are mostly spent with his clients.

“I allocate this time for them so that they can discuss their opinions, thoughts and apprehensions with me. Some mayt have ideas that they want in their projects, others will want to get updates on the work being done.

“Some may even have complaints about certain aspects which I will discuss with them to rectify the matter. I also meet up with new clients who have projects for me to work on during this time.”

Once he is done meeting with his customers, Choong heads to the other locations where his projects are progressing. Once all these are done, Choong calls it a day and heads for home at around 6pm.

Challenges of the role

Choong’s profession is not entirely smooth-sailing. Just like any other job, he faces his fair share of challenges as well.

“The main challenge is the interior design. Having an array of clients equals to various types of tastes, and clients are always demanding for different types of interior design. So I have to have knowledge of interior design in order to cater to their needs.”

“Sometimes, there might not be enough manpower on site. On these days I have to do the job myself. So, it is not just about supervising. There are times when I have to do the hard, manual work as well.”

“Then there is the pressure from some difficult clients that have to be handled in a very professional and tactful manner,” explains Choong.

On top of all these challenges, Choong has to be alert about safety measures as construction is a dangerous job. One has to climb high places to get the work done and injuries are quite a norm on site. Nevertheless, work has to go on regardless of whether it is a scorching hot day or if it is raining cats and dogs.

Despite all this, Choong loves what he is doing as he gets the opportunity to explore various aspects ranging from the technicality of construction to understanding clients’ thinking and design preferences.

“To be in the construction line, there is no age limit and you don’t need to have professional qualifications. However, you need to be systematic and have good leadership skills as well as have a sense of responsibility. Only then will you be able to execute your projects and manage your workers well.

“Effective time management is also essential as you need to juggle various projects simultaneously. You need to have a very strong mind and will in order to succeed. You will face a lot of problems in this profession but you should never succumb to pressure. Stay calm and try to find solutions as your previous experiences are bound to see you through.

“Everything is about experience; the more you have of it, the lesser problems you will face. And always remember to work hard as hard work always pays off in the end.”

For Choong, his moment of delight comes when he sees the finished product. Looking at the beautiful outcome and witnessing his clients’ happiness makes it worth all the hard work put into the projects.

Choong is very happy with what he is doing as it has helped him provide a decent and comfortable life for his children. He is able to give them all that he did not receive while he was growing up, and this gives him immense pleasure.

“I am happy with my business and thankful that it is flourishing. I would love it when one day my children and grandchildren will proudly acknowledge me as a successful construction manager.”

The video for this story won first prize in the Leaderonomics A Day in the Life competition 2012.