In planning a construction project, one of the first decisions an owner must make is deciding who should be hired to manage and oversee the project. Critical to making this determination is understanding the difference between the various management personnel that an owner can employ.

Painting with a broad brush, there are three distinct, but similar management professionals who can be hired to supervise and direct a construction project from start to finish, including a project manager, a construction manager, and a general contractor. Understanding the differences between these individuals and the roles they play is paramount to ensuring that the construction project will proceed in an expeditious and orderly fashion.


The Project Manager plays a vital role in the construction project. As an extension of the owner’s internal team, the Project Manager is intricately involved in all stages of the construction project, from pre-construction activities, to construction administration and thereafter, to post-construction concerns. As the Project Manager is intrinsically aligned with the owner interests, the Project Manager is well versed in the owner’s overall goals and priorities, as well as the owner’s methodologies. Accordingly, it is the Project Manager’s job to make sure that all of the professionals on the construction project are in agreement with the owner’s goals. Typically, the Project Manager plans for and handles all of the personnel scheduling and oversight to confirm that the project stays on task, relative to time, budgeting, and quality. Project Managers are on the jobsite throughout the course of the project. Unlike a Construction Manager or General Contractor, the Project Manager is charged with supervision of the entire project from the initial ground breaking work until the finishing touches are completed. A Project Manager approaches the construction project holistically, and not simply focusing on the construction aspect. Given that Project Managers are a virtual extension of the owner’s team, they are often charged with managing the activities of the Construction Manager and the General Contractor. The ultimate success of the construction project often rises and falls with the capabilities of the Project Manager.


Unlike the Project Manager who is involved in the construction project from start to finish, the Construction Manager typically focuses his or her efforts at the pre-construction stage of the project, as well as during active construction. As a preliminary matter, the Construction Manager is critical in assisting with the ultimate selection of the design professionals and coordinating their activities with the owner. Construction Managers typically oversee the day-to-day activities of the actual workers on the project, including the general contractors. The Construction Manager sets the work schedules and makes sure that the contractors are performing their tasks safely and efficiently.


Last, but not least, is the General Contractor. A General Contractor is most often selected through a bidding process supervised by the owner. The General Contractor typically manages the construction crews and ensures that the work is completed in accordance with the design professionals plans, and in a timely manner. General Contractors are usually charged with hiring subcontractors, including those needed for specific work including masonry, electrical, plumbing, roofing, and the like. The General Contractor is an indispensable part of the overall construction team.

Assembling a quality construction team will ensure, to the extent possible, that the construction project will be a success. Three critical hires to be made by the owner are the Project Manager, the Construction Manager, and the General Contractor. Careful and thoughtful consideration must be made in making these essential hires.


Laura Colca is a partner in the law firm Goldberg Segalla, where she is a member of the leadership committee of the Corporate Services and Commercial Litigation practice group. Laura is also a member of the National Association of Women in Construction, as well as Professional Women in Construction. Laura has counseled countless clients on all types of business transactional matters, including representing owners and contractors on both private sector and public construction projects. She can be reached at 716.710.5840 or

Modern Contractor Solutions, October 2018
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