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Developer vs. Design/Builder – 10 Attributes of Successful Project Developers

Words mean things…and not all words mean the same to everyone in every context.

Some of my closest friends know that I have been prone to fixate on a word that just does not seem to fit or is not contextual.  For years, I struggled with “churchy” words like sanctification, atonement and justification.  I did not struggle with the meanings or the concept behind the words…but rather with the use of the words in church and in “church-speak”.  Another word I used to really get up in arms about was the word “bid”.  At one point in my career, I had my staff use words like “quote”, “proposal”, “pricing” or even “estimate” in lieu of the dreaded “B” word. I have since gotten over my phobia of the word “bid” and actually have embraced it for the right situation…but not always.

I now have a new re-alignment  or a clarification in my vocabulary.  The term is Develop/Developer. Let me share how I interpret this word and how I believe it impacts the way churches need to look at the team of partners when considering any kind of facility oriented initiative.  Whether it is new construction or renovation or tenant improvement for a “big box” rehab, the term “develop” far better describes the process by which the most successful projects are procured.  Here is how.

The word DEVELOP is defined as:

  • to bring out the capabilities or possibilities of;
  • to cause to grow or expand:  
  • to elaborate or expand in detail: 
  • to bring into being or activity; 

The word DEVELOPER, as a noun, is defined as – a person or thing that develops something, especially a person who develops property

As I look at this I see a set of proactive words such as “cause”, “expand”, “bring” and “grow”.  These allude to forward action with an intent to make progress and ultimately accomplish a goal and/or task (i.e. a project). With my recent involvement with our SaaS based software products, I have learned that the word developer has an additional meaning in the software world…but with the same basic forward processing skills and attributes as a real estate developer.

Last week we looked at the 3 Variations of Church Design/Build Projects and identified that the best kind of Design/Build projects are those that are PROJECT led. I believe the tenants of that post to be true and without exception.  That is what drives me and our team to focus first and for most on the project that our clients allow us to participate in.

But let me put a little twist on this.

As I look at the definition of a developer above and I consider the attributes of successful, project centric projects, I am even more convinced that churches need a project DEVELOPER and not just a Design/Builder. There are numerous firms that can design…and many that can build…and several that can provide a project focused design/build project, but I believe that in nearly every one of these scenario, there will be missing pieces to the project that either fall back on an already overworked church staff or worse…are completely overlooked or compromised due to a lack of planning, scheduling and forward thought. I would argue that if a church is considering a church construction/expansion/tenant improvement project, that they look for an expert Developer.  Don’t settle for only part of the services and skills your church deserves.

Here are 10 attributes of a successful Project Centric Developer to help you know how to identify the right development partner:

1. Is a leader, not a follower

2. Doesn’t wait for things to happen, they make them happen

3. Are not a lone-ranger, but compile a team of experts to reach the goal of the project

4. Can “see” things yet to have taken physical form and then bring it to reality

5. Possess a combination of creativity and detail oriented (or at least the team they lead has these skills sets)

6. Are a problem solver…overcoming obstacles

7. Have a unique blend of optimist, pessimist and realist

8. Are passionate about what they are developing

9. Have extensive experience in not only the type of development, but also in development (just because it quakes does not make it a duck)

10. Has the projects….thus the clients…best interest at heart in all decisions including fee structures, transparency, accounting method, creativity, value, future phases…to name just a few.