Tom Jakobek knows a thing or two about project management.
Jakobek has built a successful career as a project manager, easily managing the city of Toronto’s budget, overseeing large infrastructure projects or taking on private assignments 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 come in a straight line.
Jakobek likes to say: “In politics and in life you sometimes have to go from A to M and then from J before you get to B.”
Canadian clients are looking for him when managing major restorations and renovations, building remodeling, retrofitting public facilities and new residential and commercial development projects.
Prior to founding 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 real estate in the greater Toronto area.
We wanted to know what advice he gives other project managers and how he runs a large consulting firm.
Here are the highlights of his recent questions and answers with us at YoungUpstarts.
You moved into the private sector after many years at The City of Toronto. What did you learn from this experience that helped you run your own business?
Tom Jakobek: Well, I’ve learned to be extremely careful when dealing with governments or government officials. Especially when you are working with a bureaucracy, you cannot rely on the help of others to get the job done. A big lesson for me was learning that a project can be delivered on time and on budget – you can’t delegate too much. The only way to ensure success is to monitor as much as possible. It’s important to work with people you can trust, but when you are in charge, ultimately the responsibility for what happens rests with you. This means that you will find out about the various aspects of the project as often as possible.
What would you have liked to know before you started this career?
Tom Jakobek: I’ve always been ambitious. But I wish the younger version of me had taken more time assessing all possible job opportunities. It is so easy to jump at the first opportunity when you are young and hungry. Time and experience have taught me that there are always more options than you realize. It just takes time and patience to see them.
Do you have daily or weekly habits that are important to your productivity?
Tom Jakobek: To run. Every other day I get out and run at 6:30 a.m. If I don’t, I’ll start work at 6:30 am. I’ve found that running helps maintain my mental agility. The morning is consistently the most productive part of the day for me. I think many of us busy professionals forget the importance of exercise in keeping the mind and body productive and alert.
Are there trends in the construction industry or in project management that you are currently interested in?
Tom Jakobek: When you work in the construction industry in the greater Toronto area, there’s a lot to look forward to. Many large projects are planned for the next few years. It has to be because the city is still growing rapidly. You just have to look at the condition of the property to see that. In Ontario we will see more housing, more transportation projects and more infrastructure. It’s an exciting time and place to be in project management.
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs who are just starting out?
Tom Jakobek: You can’t do much better than reading. Books remain one of the best and easiest ways to constantly learn and grow. I would suggest that young entrepreneurs read everything. Even books outside of the business area. When you’re a project manager, you need to know as much, and preferably more, than anyone else in the room. Knowledge is crucial.