Traditionally, trying to get ANYTHING done remotely in Grenada has been a challenge. We’ve had a lot of experience over the years working with contractors, consultants, etc. working up plans and getting projects completed and have learned extreme patience. You can think you have a plan for work getting done, can have update calls where promises are made and then arrive in Grenada only to find that nothing has even been started. Face to face has seemed to be the only “reliable” way to insure work is getting done ~ and even then, it can be a challenge. AND after the work is finally completed, then you have to plead to get an invoice so the bill can actually be paid.
Now we have bought a house and want to get work completed right away. We planned to travel to Grenada in mid-September to see what we purchased and to begin figuring out what we would need to ship down via an ocean container for our December visit. Michael’s goal was to get the key items that were identified in the engineering report completed prior to our September visit.
We made a conscious decision not to work with previous contractors based on history and Michael began soliciting ideas from our network of Grenadian friends and business associates. Our attorney gave us the name of a general contractor she uses regularly and has been pleased with, so Michael contacted him. This would be a good test before we made any major changes to the house. We had a rocky start. Of course, it was Carnival season. Not much gets done in Grenada … prior to … during … or directly after … the 2 weeks of Carnival that takes place in early August. UGH! Emails had been exchanged but we couldn’t get a conference call arranged. Finally we made contact, Michael had a good conversation about what we wanted, he left the call thinking the contractor was aligned and we came to agreement on a work plan and pricing. The contract included upgrading the electrical system including replacement of the electrical main wiring to an underground system, replacing electrical outlets, rerouting water and other plumbing work, generator maintenance, new fans and air conditioners, etc. ~ the list goes on and on.
All of Michael’s business experience running remote teams across multiple countries has really been an asset for us. He knows how to speak and write clearly, to make milestone checkpoints and to listen critically for what people are saying when they are communicating “progress”. Everything sounded like it was moving according to plan and we eagerly awaited our arrival date to see the house again and to determine the progress and workmanship.
When we arrived in Grenada, we were pleasantly surprised that 97% of the punch down list that Michael had provided from the Engineering Report was not only completed, but was well done. YEAH, success! The contractor was unhappy that he hadn’t gotten it 100% completed, but he had some very reasonable delays that prevented him from finishing and Michael was very happy with the amount that was completed and the quality of the work. YEAH, again!
All projects in Grenada are complex. Workers have limited skills so you need to contract with a wide variety of people to get a project completed. Workers may or may not have the tools they need and may or may not have transportation to the site. Our house has an electronic gate so getting people in and out of the site also needed to be managed. Oh, and then there is the ever-present problem of “parts” or supplies that may or may not be on the island and sometimes have no projected ETA on when they might arrive. Therefore, hiring the right General Contractor is essential and we were thrilled we found someone who listened well and could be counted on to produce great results.
We also continued a contract with the Property Management company that worked with the previous owners. Their job was to pay all the utility bills, manage and pay any “household” staff – like pool maintenance, house maintenance and maid service and be the local contact if anything needed to be done. This came in very handy as we made the transition. For example, we wanted Nadica to clean the house and get it ready for our arrival. Kim, our property management contact, made sure Nadica knew where the house was, drove her there the first time, gave her keys so she would have access, bought all the cleaning supplies she would need, introduced Nadica to other people working at the house and in general, showed her around and made sure she was feeling comfortable. Kim also was able to accept payments from us and pay the general contractor and his workers. This has made things much easier for us.
On our end, Michael was researching networking equipment that would need to be brought with us to Grenada. We want wireless access to be available anywhere on the property and since the buildings are concrete block, we ended up needing a commercial set up. After extensive research, Michael determined the necessary components needed and is now a local distributor of this networking gear!
Michael also researched and bought special locks that allow us to give each person their own code to get onto the property and into the house that we can turn on and off via the internet. This would allow us to give a plumber access, for example, to do some specific work on a specific day and then turn off that access when they have completed the job. It will also record when people enter and leave the property. Pretty cool!
We would also like to have great wine while we are in Grenada but we haven’t been able to find any good sources, so Michael will also be looking into becoming some kind of wine distributor. This has given me the idea of creating a “Straley’s Favorites” storefront where we import things we like but can’t get locally and selling off extra inventory to others on the island. In addition to wine, this could include specialty cheeses, great olive oils, etc. We’ll have to see if this is feasible or just a crazy idea.
So far, the remote project management has worked brilliantly due to Michael’s great organizational and communication skills as well as his determination. I don’t think I’d be prepared to try this without him, so big kudos to Michael for making this seem easy. This, plus a great General Contractor that keeps his word has made us much more confident in making larger changes to the house while we are off island and we’ve created a large list of improvements that will make the house even more wonderful than it is already.