So what’s it like when an owner decides to self-perform?
Let’s imagine owner self-perform on a very small scale: someone lives in a house, and decides to install window treatments. (I know, most people say “blinds” or “shades”, but only people in the business say “window treatment”, which is the generic term for both blinds and shades.) This owner is “self-performing” because, after all, they could have hired someone to install that window treatment.
Owners self-perform because they can. Why hire someone to do something when you can do it yourself?
Actually, there’s a couple good reasons. But let’s first list why an owner might self-perform.
First, an owner may have the technical capacity to self-perform, and therefore simply be comfortable with this method of project delivery. Need to do some interior renovations? Got the crew to do it? Go ahead!
We’ve witnessed organizations with the in-house capacity to self-perform, but also with the in-house desire to self-perform at the staff level. There are organizations out there who employ facilities staff who used to be contractors. These are men and women who know how to execute projects, and are now part of a facilities staff. They ache to do interesting things during their day job. Self-perform can be part of a solution.
What are the drawbacks of self-perform? Well, the drawback is that an organization with the theoretical capacity to self-perform may not have an actual capacity to do so. A crew with contracting experience from five years ago is not the same as a contractor who is currently in business. A project manager who five years ago used to run projects may no longer have the tools in place to run a project right now. Estimating, scheduling, knowledge of vendors and subs, payment procedures, how to bid: these are all areas where one can get rusty, can get out of touch.
So when should an owner self-perform? When they can do so and yet not be afraid to hire the expertise they know they lack. The goal of projects is to execute the project, but also to provide the participants with a level of professional satisfaction. As long as the owner is willing to pursue these dual goals, self-perform can be a very good way toward producing successful projects.