Tom Jakobek knows a thing or two about project management.
Jakobek has built a successful career as a project manager who’s comfortable managing the budget of the City of Toronto, overseeing large-scale infrastructure projects, or taking on private contracts through his construction consulting firm, KBNJ Consulting, Inc.
Jakobek’s experience in both the private and public sectors has taught him that project management requires juggling all aspects of the project at the same time. Success doesn’t always happen in a straight line.
Jakobek likes to say that “in politics and in life, sometimes you need to go from A to M and then J before you get to B.”
Canadian clients seek him out for help managing major restorations and renovations, building conversions, the retrofitting of public facilities, as well as new residential and commercial development projects.
Before launching KBNJ Consulting Inc., Tom Jakobek was general manager and director of Romlek Enterprises, Inc., a property development and management company that he also founded. The company focused on the redevelopment or restoration of commercial and residential properties in the Greater Toronto Area.
We wanted to know what advice he has for other project managers and how he manages a large consulting firm.
Here are the highlights from his recent Q&A with us at YoungUpstarts.
You transitioned to the private sector after many years working for The City of Toronto. What did you learn from that experience that helped you manage your own company?
Tom Jakobek: Well, I learned to be extremely careful when dealing with governments or government officials. Especially when working with a bureaucracy, you cannot rely on help from others to get the job done. A big lesson for me was learning that delivering a project on time and within budget — you can’t delegate too much. The only way to ensure success is to oversee as much as you can. It’s important to work with people you can trust, but if you’re in charge, ultimately the responsibility for what happens falls on you. That means checking in as often as possible on the various aspects of the project.
What’s one thing you wish you had known before you began this career?
Tom Jakobek: I was always ambitious. But I wish the younger version of me had taken more time to gauge all the possible options for work opportunities. It’s so easy to jump at the first opportunity when you’re young and hungry. Time and experience have taught me that there’s always more opportunities than you realize. It just takes time and patience to see them.
Do you have any daily or weekly habits that are important to your productivity?
Tom Jakobek: Running. Every other day, I get out and run at 6:30 in the morning. When I don’t, I start work at 6:30 a.m. I have found that running helps maintain my mental agility. Mornings are consistently the most productive part of the day for me. I think a lot of us busy professionals forget the importance of exercise for keeping the mind and body productive and alert.
Are there any trends in the construction industry or project management that you’re interested in right now?
Tom Jakobek: If you’re involved in the construction industry in the Greater Toronto Area, there’s a lot to look forward to. There are many big projects planned for the next few years. There have to be because the city is still growing fast. You only have to look at the state of real estate to see that. In Ontario, we’re going to see more housing, more transportation projects, more infrastructure. It’s an exciting time and place to be in project management.
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs just starting out?
Tom Jakobek: You can’t do much better than reading. Books remain one of the best and easiest ways to constantly be learning and growing. I would suggest that young entrepreneurs read everything. Even books outside of the business section. When you’re a project manager, you have to know as much, and preferably more, than everyone else in the room. Knowledge is crucial.