GGInsights: Q&A with Project Manager Don Murray

GGInsights: Q&A with Project Manager Don Murray

Don Murray joined the Gillis Gilkerson team in 2001 as a Project Manager, after returning to the area from Nashville, Tennessee. Don has over 35 years of experience in the construction industry, with responsibilities ranging from schematic design, field construction, estimating and bid preparation; with expertise in all forms of commercial construction.  Don enjoys working closely with clients from the beginning of projects all the way through to the final punch list, and often works as both Project Manager and Superintendent, managing all aspects of his projects with a hands-on approach. Originally from Salisbury, Don briefly attended Salisbury University before leaving for Nashville to play drums with the Charlie Daniels Band from 1974 – 1979.

Q&A Questions: 

In a nutshell, how would you describe your role as Project Manager?  

Every job goes through similar phases, from buyout, scheduling, purchasing and subcontracting.  My favorite aspect is probably scheduling.  There is so much unknown and variability possible with each job, its pretty unrealistic to get a schedule exactly right at the beginning of a project, but there’s something fun and satisfying getting it close, given all that uncertainty.   

You’ve been with Gillis Gilkerson for almost twenty-three years now, how has your role and the company changed over the years?  How has it remained the same?

Honestly, a lot of things are the same between the familiar faces that have been with this company for many years, the nature of the projects we work on, and our repeat customers.  I remember my first project with Gillis Gilkerson was a Price Acura dealership in Dover, and today we are building a Price dealership in Rehoboth. Things change, but a lot stays the same.

Describe the role of technology in the construction industry, and how it has impacted your career over time?

Technology has brought the most significant changes to the industry over the course of my career.  When I started out, there weren’t cell phones or laptops, it really chained you to a desk. Handwritten spreadsheets were the norm. I’ve appreciated the advancement of technology over the years, from scheduling software, construction management software and drawing software like BlueBeam.  With a click of a mouse, I can do things that used to take hours, and communicate better with clients.  I have enjoyed being a champion of adopting new technologies into Gillis Gilkerson’s day-to-day operations.

In recent years, you have been taking on the role of Project Manager and Superintendent for many projects.  What draws you to this style of project administration?

I enjoy being hands-on with my projects.  I like being there seeing the work take place and being the single point of communication.   It doesn’t work with every job, but when it is possible I really enjoy the dual role. I appreciate that Gillis Gilkerson has been allowing me to take on more projects of this type.  As I get closer to retirement, I’ve spent enough time at the desk. I am enjoying the opportunity to get back on job sites.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Customer satisfaction is the number one thing for me.  I build strong relationships with clients over the course of their projects, and making sure everyone is 100% happy with their finished product is always my priority.  Obviously, finishing the job on-time and on-budget is important too, but knowing your customer is thrilled with the job is the most rewarding aspect for me.

How do you approach managing and coordinating projects? Any strategies you find most effective? 

Communication is key.  Making that extra phone call can make all the difference or having that extra meeting with a subcontractor will always pay off in the long run. 

Are there any projects you’ve worked on recently (or in the past) that are memorable, that you’d like to highlight?

The Caribbean Express renovation got a lot of attention recently, and Habitat for Humanities Fruitland office location turned out great. In the past, I really enjoyed working on the Choptank Lighthouse, the YMCA pool, the Wicomico Yacht Club, Choptank Transport, Precious Paws and Pocomoke City Restaurant.

Outside of work, what are some of your hobbies or interests? How do you unwind and recharge? 

I enjoy boating and spending time in the workshop woodworking and restoring furniture. I also enjoy making pulled pork BBQ, to enjoy with my ever-growing collection of hot sauces.  I’ve found that the funnier the label, the hotter the sauce.

You have always been very active in the community, what are some of your favorite community service projects you’ve worked on in the last few years? 

I am active with the Allen Lions Club and help with the Toys for Tots drive associated with Wicomico Yacht Club’s annual Christmas Parade. I especially enjoyed volunteering with the Furnace Town restoration, and continue to volunteer on Furnace Town’s grounds committee, as well as the grounds committee for Salisbury Urban Ministries.