MP Consulting Services LLC
In 2011, when Michael J. Parnell decided to start his general contracting company, MP Consulting Services LLC, he was all too aware of the challenges his industry was facing.
After spending 10 years as a project engineer and senior project manager for Skanska and Hunter Roberts Construction Group, two of the largest general construction companies in the country, Parnell had watched his competitors baffle their clients with expensive cost overruns, inexplicable change orders and deliberately confusing contracts.
“In so many people’s experiences there is a lack of trust between the client and a builder,” Parnell says. “I felt that the biggest way to differentiate my company was to analyze what goes wrong in all those relationships and understand how we could be different than anyone else on the market.”
“Anybody can build a house or an office or a commercial building, anybody can get that job done, it’s how painless we make that process that sets us apart.” – Parnell
Parnell realized that MP Consulting Services would have to educate its clients at every step of the process, give exact costs of materials and services and present clear contracts that even someone with zero construction experience could understand.
“Anybody can build a house or an office or a commercial building, anybody can get that job done, it’s how painless we make that process that sets us apart,” Parnell says. “By giving them all the information [our clients] can make informed decisions on what’s a priority and what’s not in their project.”
While bidding for a project, Parnell’s team even offers, at no extra cost, to review their competitor’s bid, showing the client gaps in his competitor’s estimate, and suggesting follow-up questions so the client feels empowered to demand an up-front proposal.
After five short years, Parnell’s approach has built his company a large portfolio which includes completing renovations for Temple University, Brandywine Realty Trust, Liberty Property Trust, multi-family housing projects, health care facilities, office interiors and custom home building in New Jersey and the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, area. And it’s made MP Consulting the third fastest construction-related company in America and the fastest-growing builder, according to Inc. Magazine.
Winning on detail
Parnell says his company’s process is the same for commercial and residential projects.
“An ideal situation is for us to be brought onto a project early on, hopefully during the design process, so that we can make sure that it doesn’t exceed the budgetary constraints of our client,” he says.
Parnell points to one of his current projects, a luxury custom home, as an example of how necessary it is for his company to be a part of the design process.
In January 2016, his general contracting firm was asked to bid on a $1.1 million custom home for the son of a local doctor who had used MP Consulting Services to build his many offices across New Jersey.
Parnell says his team’s bid was by far the most competitive, but it was the amount of detail in his estimate that won them the project.
While other firms gave a one to two page descriptions, “we gave him our whole internal estimate—I think it was around 50 pages—the cost of the whole project, trade by trade exactly what’s included and the cost of each item, as well as our overhead, insurance and profit. And right from the beginning, they not only understood that their project was more than they intended to spend, but they saw the transparency which we were going to bring.”
After being hired, MP Consulting Services collaborated with the client to figure out ways to bring the price down, presenting 25 to 30 different ideas, such as material substitutions and alternative building methods, but at the end of the day the client needed to change the overall design of the house to fit his budget.
When the architect proved unwilling to change his plans, MP Consulting Services was able to recommend an architect it had worked with previously to redesign the house to fit the client’s budget. By January 2017, MP Consulting Services had finished the frame of the house and was about to begin roofing.
Protecting client’s investment
MP Consulting Services likes to act as a “design budgeter,” which Parnell believes is one of the most important parts of his job.
“For most people, [a house] is the biggest single investment they will ever make,” he says. “Would you ever take a half a million dollars and just hand it over to an investment manager and not know how he is going to invest it? No, you would never consider that. I believe it is the same idea for a construction loan or mortgage.”
Parnell believes that this mentality is the reason his firm, with nine employees, has grown over 4600 percent in three years, and he is careful to guard these values.
“What I pride myself on is client after client saying that ‘everyone told us this project was going to take a year, you built it in six months’ or ‘everyone told us that building is the most stressful time of their life and this was so simple, you made it so easy for us that we actually enjoyed it,’” Parnell says. “That’s what I’m trying to get out there to people that [construction] doesn’t have to be any other way.”
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