Project Management for Life
Last year one of the Pixel Jar staff, Dave Margowsky, decided to relocate. This event tested his project management skills in a real life setting. Since we work as a distributed team we embraced the move. After he was done we talked about writing a post that would be relevant for our readers. We’ll let Dave describe the lessons learned in his own words.
The Best Laid Plans
My wife and I had been talking about moving out of Southern California for a little while. We’ve both been working from home for a few years and our small condo wasn’t providing enough distance between our offices. In addition, anyone who lives in SoCal knows, we don’t really have seasons and we wanted to have some weather. We had traveled to Washington together several years back and really loved the scenery, weather, and the vibe of the state. We were planning to sell our condo and purchase our home right after WordCamp Orange County was over.
A Change In Plans
However, fate had other ideas. During WordCamp, my wife called with an emergency. We had a leak around the edge of the bathtub and it was dripping into the tub from around the caulk line. We called a plumber and then a remediation team. While we had acted quickly, there was still a significant amount of damage as the bathroom was upstairs and right above our kitchen. Water flows downhill. You get the picture.
Project Management Tip #1
Be flexible, have a backup plan ready to go when the unforeseen happens. If your plan doesn’t cover your contingency, be ready to adapt. Keep your goals clearly in mind instead of focusing on the event causing the change in plans.
Repair and Replace
Needless to say, after drying out, demolition, reconstruction, and painting we were about two months past our original planned start. We had to add an entire additional set of checklists, follow-ups, and reimbursement tasks to our already busy schedule. Finally, we were back to square one on preparing for the sale.
We knew that additional painting and carpeting was scheduled so we had started to move some of our belongings into a storage unit. We finalized that by mid-August and began the next set of contractor visits. Finally, the house was ready to hit the market.
Project Management Tip #2
Keep lists of everything. Have all of your details together. Starting with contact information and working all the way through to final payments. Keep everything organized and visible during the project.
Selling the House
We had been assigned a real estate agent by a close friend of ours. I say assigned because it was more than a recommendation, it was an order, and it ended up being the right call. Our agent not only held our hand through some of the craziest parts of the remediation but also saved us some foolish money on the remodeling we performed after. She indicated what furniture should stay and what should get put into storage and she staged all of our rooms.
Her photographer did a great job of not only capturing our home but selling the rooms in pictures. We listed and within 3 days we had an offer and started escrow. One of the things that we added to our contract was a 30-day rent back clause. We knew that because we were looking for a home out of state we’d need some extra time to make everything work. Now that we were in escrow we hopped on a plane for Washington.
Project Management Tip #3
Work with great people. We were lucky because we had a good referral. You probably have great sources of good referrals, but because it’s business you need to cultivate them. Who are you working with and why? If you’re working with someone you hate, or isn’t helping you reach your goals – stop.
Buying the House
We were ready for the home shopping process. We had started narrowing down the areas in Washington that we wanted to look at for homes back in July. Using some website research we focused on areas with good (meaning low) crime rates and with good schools (as an indicator of good family neighborhoods). We then started finding properties that met our space needs, price range, and style preferences. In addition, we got another amazing referral and had an interview with a real estate agent who covered one of the areas we were looking at. We sent him all of our currently active links and we told him the plan.
Once we landed we met with our agent who was amazing. He drove us all over a long swath of Washington and even added some properties to our list. We looked at over 30 properties in three days. We found a couple of contenders and decided to make an offer on one. There was some tense haggling, but before we boarded the plane back home we were under contract on the new home.
Project Management Tip #4
Communicate thoroughly. Share anything that you think is relevant to the project. Make sure this communication moves in both directions as well. Communicate to your vendors as well as your clients. Anyone who works on the project should be involved in the communication.
One final piece of the puzzle, our California real estate agent had referred us to her financier who had already worked with us prior to the Washington trip. She made our purchase a breeze and facilitated the most efficient banking experience we’ve ever had. We closed escrow in Orange County like clockwork, received our funding, paid our 30-day rental payment and interviewed three sets of movers.
Since we were going interstate and had to move everything we own we had to go with one of the larger carriers. Most of them operate very similarly. However, read reviews carefully and I recommend an interview. The large carriers contract with local carriers to staff the driver and the loading teams. You want to choose a company with their own great reviews. We did our due diligence and everything arrived in great condition.
Project Management Tip #5
Research alternatives. Don’t just take the first offer you receive. If there’s something unclear in the feedback you get, follow up and ask questions. Don’t make price your only (or even your most important) parameter.
Project Management Life Lessons
So how does all of this relate to web development? One important piece for my sanity throughout the move, I never had to stop working. There were certainly some days that were lighter than normal, but working remotely has its advantages. Keeping our clients happy and projects moving was able to stay as a high priority.
The summarized takeaways:
- Flexibility – Plan ahead and be ready to adapt your plan when something unexpected happens.
- Extreme organization – My wife constantly makes fun of me for the spreadsheets that I have for things that need to get done. Now that we’re settled in I’m working on the maintenance spreadsheet.
- Communication – Have solid goals when you’re communicating. Much of the work was handled through emails, but when I needed to I picked up the phone and got straight to the point.
- Research – Take the time to find the right answers. We had to review everything from tile samples to moving companies. Compare prices but don’t make that the only parameter.
- Work with great people – So many of the steps went smoothly because we found the right people to help. Make connections and talk with people before you commit.
We’re now relocated to our new home and I’m looking at the small forest that serves as my backyard as I type this. I’d be lying if I said that all of the steps were easy. However, organization, communication, and a great group of people brought me home.