Are you ready to learn from industry titan, Gabriella Milgrom? We were lucky enough to catch her in between managing high-stakes construction projects and redefining spaces with her interior design skills. Gabriella, with her 12 years of experience, shared her unique perspective on the often overlooked role of project management in design. From the challenges of managing contractors as a woman to the pitfalls of neglecting careful planning, she shares her insights on steering clear of common traps.
Choosing a reliable contractor can feel like navigating a minefield - but not when you have Gabriella's expertise on your side. She helps us peel back the layers of the contractor selection process, emphasizing the necessity of checking references and the importance of finding a bonded and insured professional. Gabriella also highlights the unique advantages of hiring a single company for both design and project management - a pearl of wisdom whether you're selling a house or planning a commercial project.
In our final segment, we delve into the role of project managers and interior designers in the real estate world. Gabriella unravels the differences between interior designers and decorators, and underscores the importance of a seasoned third-party project manager. We also explore the distinctions between a contractor's construction manager and a project manager - and why a company offering both could be your secret weapon. To top it off, Gabriella introduces her upcoming free House to Home Challenge, aimed at helping you set up your projects the right way from the get-go. Listen in for a wealth of in-depth advice and industry secrets from one of the best in the business.
Remember, "Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works" - Steve Jobs. With Gabriella Milgrom, you'll learn how to make it work.
This episode is brought to you by Skilled Property Finders - Home of the 21 Day Close!
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And welcome back to another episode of Latinos and Rid Estate Investing Podcasts, where individuals just like you come to learn how to create well the real estate, investing, entrepreneurship and business ownership. And today's guest is Gabriela Milgram. And Gabriela is an accredited interior designer and professional project manager that's been in the design and construction industry for 12 years over 12 years designing and managing multi-million dollar residential projects, commercial spaces and hospitals. That's big, big stuff you're doing there, girl. Gabriela teaches women how to create their dream home the right way from the start, by combining the key design drivers and desires with the needed management tactics to build the home they've always dreamed of, without losing time, money and their sanity in the process. Gabriela, welcome to the podcast. It's my pleasure to have you.Speaker 2:
Thank you so much for having me. I'm super excited.Speaker 1:
So tell me about this thing. So you do project management, construction project management. You're going as far as hospitals to residential commercial man, that's a lot of cool stuff. Tell us your journey. You know five minutes or less. How did you get started in this space?Speaker 2:
Yes. So I graduated in 2012 and one of my first jobs I ended up having was actually in commercial spaces and that led into restaurants, which was one of my very, very first jobs with a local restaurant chain that did design and construction management as one kind of entity. So my title was actually project assistants, I believe, at that time, and it blended both of these aspects of me. That I didn't really realize was that missing chunk in projects. So I went to design school, I graduated, I have my bachelor and I always thought that interior design was this thing kind of all on its own. And then I ended up in this sphere where there was this project management side to it and it was like, oh well, we need to do all of these different things in order to inform the design and we need to do all of this front loading and figuring out exactly what we're going to be needing and what we're going to be doing and the costs and all of these different aspects to it. That all of a sudden there's like light bulb clicked and I was like, oh my God, that's the missing piece. That I didn't realize was where my kind of experience and my forte lay. So that's pretty much how I started and I spent a few more years in interior design doing hospitality and restaurants and commercial spaces, and then I ended up just doing project management for about seven or so years and that's how I got into more quick service project management side and hospitals. And then when I started my own company I realized there was really that need for the duality which was the two between project management and design and how they actually inform each other.Speaker 1:
How do they actually complement each other, how do they exactly work with one another?Speaker 2:
So typical way that people approach projects is they jump right into the design process and they're like this is what I want to do. Either it's a room on its own or it's a house and I'm sure you have experience with this where you're like I want to renovate a bathroom. When you start looking at images and you start thinking what the design is going to be, and sometimes it goes even further, where you just jump right in and you start demoing and you start taking the project on right away and all that does is it snowballs right. So you're sitting there and you're going okay, I was going to do this small part of my bathroom, but now this doesn't go with this and this doesn't go with that, so it just it snowballs into this much bigger project, both from a time as well as a cost perfect. So that's where project management comes in, where, if we take a little bit of a pin and we pin that idea for a little period of time and we start to really think about what are we actually trying to do in this space? What's not working, what is working, what can we do in order to fix those problems, what is the laundry list? And then we start working that laundry list of priorities into a budget and how then that informs the design, you're able to start massaging the two. So your design ideas and what it is that you're wanting to do in this space, you've already decided and found aspects of it. Like you've sourced the products, you've sourced what you're going to be doing in it, so you know how much is going to cost. And then you have that actual developed package that if you need to bring in trades to do parts of the work, they're more accurately able to price it. And it's not this cost plus pricing or labor pricing where they're like, well, we're just going to do it on an hourly rate they're able to really look at what it is that you want done because you've sourced and selected everything in advance, and give you more accurate pricing.Speaker 1:
That makes a lot of sense as a woman doing project management, dealing with contractors. So my project I used to. I've had a couple of female project managers here at my farm and they both struggled at first until they kind of asserted their commonance. Without them there's no check. How do you navigate those challenges as a woman dealing? First of all, contractors are a rare breed and they're not easy to manage right. It takes a particular skill set to know how to navigate and manage contractors as a woman. How do you do that? How do you navigate that? And what advice do you give to women that get into investing and you know in real estate investing a big part of that is construction. What advice are you? What have been some of the things you've learned as a woman managing project?Speaker 2:
So I'm going to be very honest it's taking me like 12, 15 years to really find my groove in it. I got into the industry when I was like God, 24, 25. So it's still very young and in that sense you're impressionable. You don't really want to assert yourself. You don't want to come across as I guess the language that people use is bossy. You don't want to come across as you're putting your foot in the door in the wrong way and you're telling people to do things and or that even by telling people to do things, that it's going to be taken the wrong way. So it took me a quite a long time to figure out and navigate that field. And you're right, contractors are a very, very breed. They're starting to be a little bit more of a shift because there is a predominance now of females in the trades as well as on construction projects as a whole. That it's changing and that's that dynamic of it. But there still is a lot of pushback when it comes to a female in an authoritative position. So either you as the owner or the investor that's saying I want you to do this, or me as the designer, project manager who's saying you've done that wrong. So really the easiest way that I can put it is to check your balances. So every time that I approach a project, I am very much communication forward. So when I am interviewing contractors or trades and I'm looking at them to bring them into my project, I have a list of boundaries and expectations that I have in terms of how I want the project to be run, and that can be in terms of when I expect information to come in that timeframe. I don't want to receive text messages all hours of the night. This is my window of response, this is the time that I need to respond to things, and so on and so forth. I have an entire YouTube video on it that goes fully into it. But when you come up front and you say this is what I expect, this is what I need and these are the lines that I won't cross, it opens up those communication channels and it either goes two ways. The contractor can go what the hell, I don't want to work with this person. She's, you know, crazy. Or it can go wait a second. She's opened up the door and she's decided that this is what she's going to accept. This is what we're going like, the ball we're going to play with and I can deal with. So both of you are going into the project knowing this is how it's going to be run and it results in less pushback.Speaker 1:
Good. So basically you're telling, you're telling a female project manager going into his communication, communicate expectations up front, even though the project even begins. Am I hearing that correctly?Speaker 2:
Yeah, and it's part of the interview phase that you do so before you even hire anyone. So there's multiple questions aside from this that you would ask when you're interviewing and trade your contractors that do with pricing, that do have to do with how they run their projects, what, how you know the contract's going to be. All these different questions that you ask, and once you've kind of narrowed down the field and you're like I'm basing it between three to four people that I want to move forward with this is when you start to have the questions about boundaries and expectations and you also throw it back to them and you say, like what can I do to make your life easier? You know, like, how do you want to receive communication? How do you respond? Because you might be someone who wants a paper trail for emails, but your contractor might be someone who, if you've got questions, they just want you to send them a text, because that way is how they're going to respond. And if you guys have it open that thought process up at the beginning, you're always going to be batting heads because you're like he's not listening, he's like she's annoying me, sending me 10,000 emails. So it's about opening up those channels at the beginning.Speaker 1:
That makes a lot of sense. What are some of the contractor red flags that you have found in your long career?Speaker 2:
So some of them are female specific but, depending upon if you're a male and you're new into investing and renovating or building a house in general, it can also be applicable to you. The major ones right off the bat is how do they actually treat you and talk to you? So when you're bringing them in and you're showing them your project and you're like this is what needs to get done, this is what I'm thinking, this is the timeframe and you're going into details. If he's very abrupt, if he and I'm saying he because it's a generalization but if they are very abrupt, if they are condescending in any way, I've experienced times where I've brought contractors or trades in and they immediately go and talk to my husband and my husband goes like I don't know why you're talking to me, I have no idea what's going on. She's the one who's running the show. So if they are dismissive or abrasive in any way, that is a red flag, because if they're treating you that way at the beginning, that's how they're going to run their projects. So that's the first one. I don't know if you've experienced anything like that and then other ones will be, if they place urgency on proceeding. So if they've come and they've done a walkthrough and they give you a ballpark price and they say you know, in order to lock this in, we need to move forward right away and I'm going to need a down payment in the next day. That's a red flag because they're trying to get you to have a knee jerk reaction and perceive them. Other ones will be if you get pushbacks from asking for references, which you should always do. Double check your references and ask leading questions about how they communicated, what their response time was, how the project went and a lot of details in terms of all of those. If they push back for references, then that's a red flag. Another one is that they're not big. One is that they're not bonded and they're not insured. Never proceed with a contractor who's like a handyman, a small little mom-and-pop shop, that they don't have licensing and they're not bonded, because that puts all of the liability on you.Speaker 1:
These are really really good points that you bring up. Now tell me, how do you determine when you have a good contractor right? You told me all the things not to look for. I'm going to I mean, the logical thing would be the opposite of everything you said. What are some of the things I mean that would be the logical right? What are some of the things that you would say, yeah, I really like this guy. Right, this is a good one.Speaker 2:
Within the first five or 10, 15 minutes of meeting this person, Sometimes it's just a gut reaction You'll meet someone and you'll instantaneously get along. You're like, well, okay, this person has my back. In my experience when I've been dealing with contractors or trades and I'm talking to them about the project, what I am really looking for is someone who is going to be upfront and, yes, I've worked in the construction industry for a very long time at this point, but it doesn't always mean that I know everything and I am very much aware of that. They are experts in their field. So if you are saying to them this is what I want done on my bathroom and this is what I'm thinking, and they're immediately going, okay, we can do that, but these are the things that you need to take into consideration and these are like the red flags that I'm pointing out to you and the risks that maybe you haven't thought of. That's someone that you might want to consider, because they have your best interest at heart. They're not sitting there and making notes of all the things that they know that you don't know. Like, if you remove tile, for instance, it's probably going to damage all of your subconc, like subconcrete layer. So, okay, does that need to be redone? Maybe you don't know that and they're not making a list of all these things where they can upcharge you later on because you haven't included it in your scope package. They're being upfront with you in terms of saying I can't guarantee this is going to happen, but there's a high risk that. These are the things that I'm noticing, based upon the orientation, ease of access to things, age of your house. That are really things that we need to take into consideration and that you might want to. Either we could put a buffer in your budget or increase your contingency so that we're accounting for it. Those are contractors you want to move forward with, where they are open to having those conversations with you.Speaker 1:
Where does when does it make sense, right? Or and I want to just be investor-specific right now let's see when does it make sense to hire a company like yours? You guys do both right Design and project management. That's actually very freaking cool. I'm glad you're here on my podcast because I would love to hire someone locally to do manage to do that for me. That's actually awesome, actually, I think it's really. Where is the advantages right? What are some of the advantages of hiring a company like yours to come in and do the project management and the design? So, for instance, a guy like myself I'm an operator, I'm a real estate operator, so we are buying. A lot of the stuff that we buy is distressed, right. So we just bought, for instance, a 12-unit apartment building that was literally rat infested, was condemned, was condemned, and we're waiting for designs, architectural designs, to get permits with the city. And I'm thinking about having this conversation here with you and I'm thinking, man, it would be a really cool idea to have someone like you on my team to kind of run this for a project like this or bigger. We're looking at also developing a 44-unit warehouse and it would be really cool to have someone like you come in and kind of do the design and things like that, because I'm not a designer, I'm an investor man, I'm an operator. I find the deals, I negotiate the deals, I underwrite the deals. That's what I want to do. I want to execute, execute, execute, execute. Put my team, put the right people, the professionals around to go and do the stuff.Speaker 2:
Where is the advantage? For At what point does it make sense to hire someone like you for someone that's trying to sell their house? I can see a lot of my brain is just going in so many different directions If I see a lot of advantages with someone like you. Maybe a realtor, right, it's got a listing and they're looking at this listing and they're like, hey, you need to do some things. Why don't we bring a professional to tell you what are some of the things you can do to sell this faster? There's a lot of value in what you do in our space. Where do you see as the highest value or what you do, and when does it make sense? In a duplex, in a single? In a bigger project? You know what I mean. I'm trying to navigate.Speaker 2:
Where does so first, what I will say is there's a common misconception in terms of what an interior designer is, and you're in the US, right?Speaker 1:
So in the US there's different standards. Well, in North America, but mostly in the US as well, there's different standards and different classification. So I just want to give this a broad scope. There's a lot of people that will state that they're interior designers but they're not their decorators. So that is a very different realm. Decorators are more really only going to be able to assist you in pairing colors, maybe picking some finishes, the finishing touches, bringing in certain furniture patterns, drapery to spruce up your space. So if you are looking for an affordable option to just make your listing pop a little bit more from an investment statement to sell it, bringing in either a stager or an interior decorator would be a really cost effective option to proceed. They have different. They haven't gone through the same rigmarole of education. They don't understand it all, so their rates are typically lower and therefore you can get more bang for your buck. Interior designers really should. We've been fighting for years to be classified as interior architects because we go through a lot of the same education processes as architects do, except for a lot of the physics in the math side of like load bearing us. We understand code, we understand egress, we have all of those licensing capabilities. So our breadth is much more experienced than decorators. So where our expertise would come in is if you were doing, say, a full gut job and you're ripping an entire space out and you're starting new and you're really wanting or like a remodel or an addition and you're really wanting to make sure that the flow and the function of your rooms and how everything works together, along with the decor, is really going to work. Because architects are wonderful, but architects specialize in the exterior of a house. And I'll give you an example. I'm working on a project up in Alberta. I'm working with an architecture firm. They're very, very aware and pushing forward with the design from an exterior standpoint, that they designed this entire set of windows, even though I gave them all of the floor plan and everything that's going into the space, without looking at how those windows fit with the interior layout. So we had to hop on a call and I had to go. Your windows can flip my millwork. They don't work with what's going on over here. This swing isn't going to work. Your windows are too low. They don't pay attention a lot of the time to how the outside affects the inside. So that's where you would really want to work with an interior designer because we're obsessed with how you live in the space. We want to make sure that the inside works for you or for your selling purposes. So if you're investing and you're looking for guidance in terms of help to either flip it or quickly, or to sell it at a higher price to really make it pop, that's where you would want to work with either a staging company or an interior decorator. If you're working on larger scale projects like you have, where you're doing a multi-unit redevelopment or warehouse projects and you're really wanting that interior flow to working to coordinate, that's where you can look at bringing in an interior designer on top of your architect. And then, from a project management standpoint, if you can find a company like mine that does both interior design and project management, then you've got your set. If not, I always recommend hiring someone as a third party project manager, because a contractor construction manager is not the same thing. They are there for the company that you've hired. They represent the construction team. They do not have your best interest at heart. They also don't know the projects inside out. A project manager will know the project almost as good as the interior designer, where they have reviewed all the drawings. They've cross-referenced everything. They know what is going on. So if you get a change order from your contractor saying these things are extras, the project manager can push back and go. Actually, no, it's on the drawings right here. So that's why you need your own person who is looking out for you to be able to make sure that the project's running smoothly, is navigating all that communication, is staying on top of your budget, is staying on top of your contractors to make sure that they're hitting those lead times and your project isn't gonna take forever. That's what a project manager does, and if you don't have one, you're doing that, and it's a lot of work.Speaker 1:
It is a lot of work. Right, you have an in-house project manager and when we're in between it's a lot of work. For the rest of us it is a lot of work and it's important having the right project. I didn't even know there were companies out there that would do project management. So I'm glad you're on the podcast because I'm learning something new. Do they have them in the US? Do you know if we have them in the US?Speaker 2:
Well, yeah, there's lots of companies. I used to work for a company called JLL Jones Lang LaSalle. They and CBRE. They do in-house project management. Most of the time it's more commercial-based, but they do sometimes do residential projects as well. There's a lot of project management companies out there and they're basically there to field the project for you. They'll look at it from a different perspective. They also don't have the emotional ties to it, so they're able to look at it a lot more rationally. Look at all the drawings. Make sure everything is blending together. It's working together. You don't have any inconsistencies. You're not gonna get any risks coming in where your contractor hasn't priced something because something wasn't clear on the drawings completely missed. So that's really what their job is. There is to run meetings, make sure communication is followed through. Lead times are being pushed forward. So if your appliances are really in pouring equipment needed to be ordered by this date, it has been ordered by this date. So you don't end up in a situation where you're like, oh look, our project's gonna take eight months longer because we didn't order what we needed. That's really what a project manager is there for.Speaker 1:
That's really awesome. I am so grateful that you came on here, gabriela. It was my pleasure to have you here. We're gonna go into the Untitled Round idea. Thank you so much for yeah, scary, scary all of your awesome insights when it comes to project management, I mean, I learned a ton from you here today and I'm actually gonna start looking into I'm gonna look into what these third party project management companies look like for bigger projects. As we're going into bigger projects, it might make sense for us to look at those numbers. Just a question. I got another question for you. Before we go into the Untitled Round, do project management companies charge you based on the amount of rehab, so is it a percentage of the cost? And do they bring in their own contractors that they're used to working with? If it came to, or they guarantee the work? Is that how those companies would work?Speaker 2:
So when I used to work for JLL, pricing was basically based on and again, every company's gonna be different, but pricing for them was basically based on the duration of the project and the scope. So they would sit down with you along with reviewing all the drawings and really get a big understanding of exactly what was needed, along with the duration, and then they would estimate, because there's specific tasks that you do with different phases of a project. So then that was pretty much how a scope package and a proposal was provided solely for project management. Sometimes, if there's a little bit less concrete information for them to review, they'll do it as a percentage of either construction costs, so they'll give you a retainer amount to then it's percentage upcharge on finals. That's if you're at a phase where you're more in like feasibility and you're looking at kind of what the project could be and you haven't really landed on all the specifics yet. So there's a lot of room where it's going to get massaged, it's going to change, so they don't have really concrete information yet. That's when they would do more percentage wise. And then from the construction side, because project managers work in with a lot of different contractors, they will have a lot of parties that they work with and they recommend, either from trades or from full on construction companies. And what they will do which is one other benefit of hiring a product manager is they will help you vet the contractors. They will help you review through all the contracts, make sure that everything is properly legally written out, everyone's covered, you've got the right insurance in place, you're getting the right percentage upcharge. They're really able to help you tender and to navigate those construction costs, so you're getting the most value in terms of what that project is going to end up being priced at and they're making sure that it's properly written out into contract.Speaker 1:
That's amazing. Thank you so much, my dear. Again, leave a little down right at the end so many gold dodgy types taken away here from you and we're going to go into the Untitled Round. You don't have to thank you, you don't have to justify. We're just going to ask you a series of questions. Are you ready to play, my dear?Speaker 2:
Let's do it.Speaker 1:
Real Estate is Fun. I've always wanted to travel too.Speaker 2:
My advice to all women is Stand up for yourself. A million dollars is ability to help others. People coming to Penticton, canada, should try.Speaker 2:
Oh, floating on the channel.Speaker 1:
Family or business.Speaker 2:
Oh, that's a hard one. I'm pregnant right now, so my brain is shifting a little bit. I'm going to see both.Speaker 1:
Congratulations, by the way, cats. Cats or dogs.Speaker 2:
Dogs all the way.Speaker 1:
Is it smart or book? Smart Treat, passion or stability, passion, coffee or tea.Speaker 2:
And lastly, angry coworker or angry client.Speaker 2:
Which would I prefer? An angry coworker?Speaker 1:
Thank you, gabriella. Thank you so much for coming on and sharing your wonderful insights and wisdom on project management and construction. My dear, if people wanted to connect with you, they wanted to hire you, they wanted to get more information on how to just engage with you. Where can they find you Social media emails? I don't know how do you.Speaker 2:
Yeah, definitely. So there's two strengths to my business. If you wanted to engage me to basically help you in your project and I do the design as well as the project management that is my company called Jinji Design Group, and the website is jinjicom, which is J-E-E-N-G-I dot com, and that's where I call the full service package. You can hire me for both and I will run the entire ship for you. And then, if you're just looking for more guidance and education in terms of how to set up projects more successfully for yourself from a design side as well as a project management side, that is GabriellaMilgramco, and I actually have a free challenge that's coming up in the fall. It will be starting in the beginning of October and it is called the House to Home Challenge. It's three weeks. I'm going to show you how to actually set up the design package the right way from the start. So you've got everything figured out. You're not going to end up with a snowball effect and you know exactly what it is that you'd like to do in your room.Speaker 1:
Awesome, Great, great, great Guys. You heard her here. Gabriella, thank you again for coming on.Speaker 2:
Thank you, I had so much fun.