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A coffee with Earl Hicks, Project Manager

We’re thrilled to announce that Earl Hicks has joined Fleetwood Urban’s rapidly expanding Queensland team as one of our new Project Managers. With his highly qualified background as a civil engineer and project manager with 14 years of construction industry experience, Earl brings a wealth of knowledge to Fleetwood, and we’re super excited to have him on the team.

As part of our staff profile series, we sat down for a coffee with Earl to talk about his background, and what new perspectives and experiences he brings to the Fleetwood family.

 

Q: Hi Earl, thanks for taking the time to talk with us today, and welcome aboard to Fleetwood!
We first crossed paths with you, working together on the Bokarina Beach project on the Sunshine Coast. We enjoyed collaborating with you, so obviously we offered to make things more permanent, and we’re glad you accepted the offer! Can you tell our readers a bit more about your perspective on that particular project, what was trying to be achieved there, and how we worked together?

A: Thanks very much, it’s a pleasure to be here!

I was working as a project manager for a civil engineering company, and a piece of critical infrastructure – a boardwalk to be precise – would not have been able to be delivered on time by the landscape contractor we were working with. So I suggested to my employer that we engage Fleetwood direct for that piece of work just to make sure the boardwalk would be delivered to a high standard and on time, which it was! I then started doing some subcontracting with Fleetwood on a couple of projects, including an outdoor shelter and a dune crossing up here, and now I’ve come on board full time as an employee which I’m stoked about.

 

Q: Across your 14 years of experience, you’ve no doubt worked on some impressive and interesting projects. Can you tell us about one or two that stand out for you, and what the biggest learnings might have been that you took away from those experiences?

A: Yes, two projects stand out as great learning experiences for different reasons. The first was a civil infrastructure project for the Sunshine Coast University Hospital. That project required vast amounts of integration and coordination between lots of different trade services while managing a range of client and stakeholder expectations, so I learned a lot about good project management and communication. The second would be delivering the Maroochy Waters Golf Club for Horton Park. During this project, I found a great mentor who I’m still in contact with, and I learned what constitutes the delivery of a great client experience. Specifically, in my experience, a project will go well when there is a clear flow of communication maintained by the project manager, when the client is delivered exactly what they want and expect, and finally when everyone along the chain gets paid on time which contributes to a positive environment, and ultimately helps create a fantastic final outcome.

 

Q: Looking at the topic of innovation, you believe that the inclusion of innovation is important at both the design and project management level to help produce better outcomes. Why is that, and can you give a practical example of that in action?

A: Yes, just going back to the Sunshine Coast University Hospital as a case in point. That project involved the delivery of trunk infrastructure for a new hospital of 6 or 7 buildings in a small footprint. That meant sewer networks, water, gas and fire mains, electricity, and ultimately the movement of people all pretty much on top of each other. To solve any issues, we used really clever 3D clash detection technology in the design phase to scope out the layout and make sure everything would work together. As an innovative approach, it saved us time and money and led to a positive and highly functional outcome in what was a very challenging environment.

 

Q: It’s obviously early days with your tenure at Fleetwood, but as you know, we place a lot of emphasis on best practice processes using our DesignExecute2 methodology. With that in mind, what do you think are the most important elements that should be built into successful project management in this industry?

A: I think it varies within the sub categories of the construction industry. But thinking about the landscape architecture field specifically, good project management is all about making sure the design intent is honoured and that the client gets exactly what they’ve been shown in the detailed creative sketches and descriptions from the outset of a project. This is where Fleetwood excels and why I’m particularly excited to be more involved now. We don’t simply throw a product onto a budget, instead we help design and build exactly the right product to fit the budget while working closely with the landscape architect at every stage in the process to make sure the creative intent is captured correctly. There’s a lot of integrity in this process, and the outcomes speak for themselves.

 

Q: Given our rapid expansion delivering high quality projects in Queensland, it’s terrific that you share our vision for inspiring people to get out and enjoy the outdoors, and where better than in the sunniest state in the country right?

A: Absolutely! The weather up here really lends itself to enjoying outdoor activities, and I certainly share that enthusiasm myself. Outside of work, you’ll either find me surfing, drinking coffee, or playing golf. I live with my family literally on the water, and we’re definitely active, enjoying the beach every day. So if I can help contribute to inspiring people to enjoy being outdoors, that’s all for the better.

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