welcomes as our guest Jamil Soucar author of Real Life Construction Management Guide From A-Z. Jamil is a construction manager who has worked on both sides of construction projects, giving him extensive experience from both an owner’s and a contractor’s point of view.

He earned a Bachelor Degree in Civil Engineering from American University of Beirut (AUB) and a Certificate in Project Management from UCLA. He has worked in the construction field since1983. Jamil has held a wide variety of positions that give him a well-rounded construction experience from different perspectives and enable him to offer real life guidelines and tips for best practices. Some of his previous jobs include Site Engineer, Site Superintendent, Civil Engineer,

Project Manager for Contractors, Senior Project Manager for Contractors, Construction Manger as an Owner’s Representative, and Senior Project Manager as an Owner’s Representative. 

He also worked for Turner Construction, one of the largest construction firms in the US, a company he credits with teaching him much of what he has learned about handling construction from the people-perspective.

In 2007 he founded his own company, Arc and Line LLC, and currently works from there, while still contracting out to Turner. 

Given his vast knowledge of the business, he is also frequently asked to be an expert witness in court for construction-related claims.

Jamil is gifted in teaching and has taught several classes and seminars. At Westwood College, which offers a Bachelor Degree in Construction Management for working Adults, he taught

Construction Management and Scheduling. There he made the list of “Outstanding Faculty” every year. He is also a registered Mentor with the Construction Management Association of America. 

Norm: Good day Jamil and thanks for participating in our interview.

What motivated you to become a civil engineer? 

Jamil: I have several successful Engineers in my family. My Uncle was the first Civil Engineer that registered in the Lebanese Association of Engineers, so his card has the number 1. My family pushed me in that direction saying I was good in Math, Engineering and in  only 4 years I can make good money with this profession. My first inclination through high school was to go to Medical school. 

Norm:  What has been your greatest challenge (professionally) that you’ve overcome in getting to where you’re at today? 

Jamil: Well, I grew up in the Civil War of Beirut and worked there after graduation for 6 years before coming to the US. In the US I had to start from scratch on all levels, culture change, communication, gaining local experience, studying about construction in the US, I didn't know that they used wood in building structures. I grew up with concrete and Concrete blocks, so did a lot of studying.

Got laid off work without any support in the recession of 1990. I did all kinds of odd jobs, drove a Limo, delivered computers as a laborer in a computer store, gave private tutoring. My mindset was I will sleep on the pavement in a gas station if I have to but won't give up because this is my only chance to have a future. No where else to go.

I had no money. One time I fractured my fist playing soccer but had no insurance and couldn't afford a doctor so I wrapped my hand up and tolerated the pain until my hand got better.

While going through tough times, I went to UCLA at night to learn all these new concepts about construction management in the US, which got me on the right track. When I started my business in 2007 we hit the recession of 2008. At that time I had a family, mortgage and 2 kids in private school and I kept those payments going when each month, my bank account went to $0. Later business picked up and now I'm doing well. 

Norm: What was the most successful construction project you have managed. What did you do that made it so successful?

Jamil: I had many successful projects and many with problems which is usual. The main common element among the successful projects is the people on the project got along which makes solving problems smoother. Of course there are the other steps that I explain in the book about best practices, planning, proper documentation, foresee potential problems and more 

Norm: What advice would you give to anyone who wishes to become a project manager?

Jamil: Start on site to understand construction. Many Construction Managers never ran a site and they become a problem with their theoretical approach. Gain a diverse range of experience by doing the multiple tasks involved. Most importantly remember that attitude and easy going approach goes a long way 

Norm: What have you learned from mistakes on the job as a construction manager?

Jamil: I haven't stopped making mistakes since I started in 1983 up till today. I learn something new on every project. The main thing is to think about the lessons learned for next time. What I learned is not to make it a big deal. Stay calm, work it out and move on. Don't make it personal 

Norm: Describe your leadership approach and as a follow up, how do you handle conflict on the job?

Jamil: My leadership approach is realizing that my job is help everybody else be successful on the job. Understand the project and the overall schedule, stimulate thought and empower staff to take decisions. Making them feel that I got their back.

How do I handle conflict, that is a case by case judgment. In general I try to diffuse the situation by injecting humor and work it out. There will be cases where I clash with people that don't want to solve the problem fairly. You have to be strong and tough when needed and easy going at the same time. 

Norm: How can you tell if a project is well-executed? What do you look for in quality control?

Jamil: I look for many elements. Was pre-planning done before moving forward? Are Subcontractors and staff following the plans details and specifications? Is the communication going smooth? Are we foreseeing issues instead of hitting problems and solving as we go? Are we on budget? Are issues well documented?  I look at the schedule regularly and discuss upcoming work to pre-plan. Since I do my own scheduling, I control that part well.

Norm: What motivated you to write Real Life Construction Management Guide From A-Z ?

Jamil: 2 main things. (1) There are so many procedures and books that teach principles that don't work well in real life. (2) No one talks about the human nature element that impacts how projects proceed. When I taught at Westwood college, I never opened a text book I spoke from my experience giving practical ways of doing the work. So, I thought I would write the book from this practical perspective to explain to readers the concepts in an easy read style with real life examples. I looked in the market and didn't find any Construction Management book written in this style. Since I succeeded with my students, I figured that other readers will enjoy and benefit

Norm: What were your goals and intentions in this book, and how well do you feel you achieved them?

Jamil: My goal is to promote common sense and practical construction management practices and talk to the readers as if they were sitting in my class. And, to offer a complete guide that people can use since I cover all phases of projects. From the reviews I got from people who are not in construction, I feel I've achieved that goal.

Norm: Whom do you believe will benefit from your book and why? 

Jamil: Anybody who is currently managing construction projects, whether they are contractors or Owner's consultants and people who want to get into this business. I also think this will make a great book for colleges that offer a construction management programs

Norm: What was the most difficult part of writing your book?

Jamil: Finding the time to write it. What I did is every night when I'm done with my work or any other time that I have few free minutes, I opened the file and started typing. That's why it took me a year to finish the book.

Norm: What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your book?  

Jamil: That I actually wrote a book. I'm not a writer nor am I a good reader. I'm an Engineer who works in construction. But since I love teaching so much, I enjoyed writing it.

Norm: Where can our readers find out more about you and Real Life Construction Management Guide From A-Z?

Jamil: I have a WEBSITE  for my business.

Norm: What is next for Jamil Soucar?

Jamil: Just pursue my business and possibly expand in the future. My main focus is my family and making sure that I can provide them a good life.

Norm: As this interview comes to an end, what question do you wish that someone would ask about your book, but nobody has?

Jamil: Can I use your book in my daily practice as a Construction Manager. My answer would be yes, since it provides step by step guidelines about each of the work involved in the various phases of our work.

 Norm: Thanks once again and good luck with all of your future endeavors.