A self-professed entrepreneur since his tweens, construction manager Todd Vendituoli has consistently carved out a reputation as one of the most reputable and knowledgeable in the business. Besides helming his eponymous construction company, he also finds time to reign on the Web via his blog, Social Media for Builders, and his popular Twitter page. Lifelong learning and real-world knowledge are the themes of our interview with him here.
Can you recall the moment when you decided to embark upon a formal career in construction management?
I actually can. It was in 1984, and I worked for a large corporation at the time in a non construction field. I had worked for them for three years and knew it wasn’t going to work out. That’s when I decided to go into the construction field.
Could you define the concept of construction management in the contemporary landscape, as a profession, for our students?
Today’s construction management field is a bit different in some ways than it was when I started. Back then there were no computers, cell phones or tablets and these new tools have aided in the process. Now the process and techniques involved in construction management haven’t really changed but the tools and lines of communication have. Due to this fact, one needs to be aware of the latest uses of technology that will assist you and and keep a project running at its maximum efficiency.
Construction management is all about logistics. It’s about how to get things done in the best, most efficient way, so that every aspect of the project flows smoothly together. This keeps a project on schedule and within a set budget. For this to happen, you need to know every single aspect of what comprises a project and how all the parts and trades will interact and complete their tasks too. You may know all about the technology, but if you can’t interact with many trades, know the entire process in your head, and be able to use these new tools, it probably won’t lead to a successful project.
You own two esteemed construction businesses, one in Vermont, the other in the Bahamas. How did your education equip you for such an international bent to your career?
I have a degree in business and having been self-employed since 1984. I am always on the lookout for potential projects or places that may be beneficial. To be honest, I have been self-employed almost exclusively since I was 13 when I started a lawn cutting business in Rhode Island. I believe, for myself, there was a high degree of natural drive that already existed [inside me]. I was constantly learning about how business worked in actual situations. My degree gave me a bit more [knowledge], but I have been constantly learning to increase my knowledge. That is the key: constant education.
Your Internet presence is quite remarkable. How has social networking supported your career?
Social media is about developing a presence and a level of authority. It has no direct link to sales on that level but [instead] offers people a way to see that you are an authority in your field by posting relative content. This level of authority and trust is the foundation for others to contact you regarding projects. That is the link back to the business end and, therefore sales. Using social media is a part of your marketing plan. It is not a solo effort and it takes time and knowledge to do correctly. You can’t just write a blog, have a Twitter/Facebook account and assume you will increase your presence. It won’t work. Social media and internet presence means being social and not blasting out your message. It’s about being real.
What character qualities should students have who are interested in careers focused on construction and building?
The first thing I believe you need is a love of the field. If you don’t, you probably won’t succeed but that’s true in any field. If you love what you do you will be happy working the long hours that are sometimes need and you will be constantly trying to learn new and better ways to accomplish the best results for your projects. Three things you need: willingness to work hard, love of what you are doing, and constant learning.
How do other disciplines, such as project management and law, influence your experiences in construction management?
In order to effectively participate in project management you need to have knowledge in a multitude of areas. It’s not just knowing how a building is physically constructed. You’ll need to be fluent in laws pertaining to your physical area, building code requirements, plumbing and electrical codes, OSHA, employee laws as well as the actual procedures that will complete a project. You need a broad range of accurate and up-to-date knowledge, thus [again, the emphasis on] constant learning.
Do you think that construction is a subject that can be studied online, even in part, or is a traditional classroom environment ideal?
I believe that construction principles can be taught and learned on line — in part. But real-world experience, in the field, is what will solidify the concepts. Learn the laws, procedures and such. But without actual participation in the field, they are just learned concepts. That’s great, but many times the academic world and the real world don’t work exactly the same. Learn the principles and then apply and modify them in the real world.
What advice would you give to current high school or college students interested in pursuing a dynamic career in construction management?
Again my first thought or question is Do you love construction? If your answer is Yes, then you will do, learn and practice everything that will make you succeed. The long hours and hard work will not be a chore but something that you want to do.
If you don’t love it, it might be better to try another field, as this one encompasses a very broad level of knowledge across many fields, long work hours at times, high levels of stress for completing projects on time and within a budget, and without that love, you probably won’t make it.