#143 How to Deal With a Project That is in Distress with Francesco Zappala

How to Deal With a Project That is in Distress with Francesco Zappala

Francesco Zappala was Kevin Appleby’s guest on episode 136. Previously he spoke about his journey to CFO and how an Italian ended up setting up a company from scratch in Chile, South America. Francesco is the CFO of a major construction company. He returns to talk about dealing with a construction project that is in distress.


Kevin and Francesco discussed the challenges of managing projects in distress, particularly in the construction and infrastructure industry. They highlighted the importance of proactive cash flow management, monitoring warning indicators, and being prepared for unexpected events like the pandemic that can significantly impact project finances.

Kevin and Francesco discussed the importance of building trust and strong partnerships with clients, suppliers, and subcontractors in order to navigate financial challenges and mitigate risks. They emphasized the need for transparent communication, fair contracts, and mutual support to ensure successful project outcomes and long-term business relationships. 

Francesco and Kevin discussed the importance of considering clients in a global way, managing reputation, and complying with ESG principles in the construction industry. They also highlighted the challenges faced by companies entering new markets and the need for ESG to be ingrained in the DNA of organizations. 

Francesco and Kevin discussed the importance of managing risks and maintaining a strong safety culture in a company. They emphasized the potential consequences of not taking responsibility for mistakes, such as financial distress, damaged reputation, and loss of clients. 

Francesco and Kevin discussed the importance of prioritizing safety in the workplace and creating a culture of openness and partnership with clients.

Why might a construction project get into financial distress?

A major construction project can end up in financial distress due to a combination of various factors. Construction projects are complex endeavours involving numerous stakeholders, significant investments, and multiple risks. Here are some common reasons why a major construction project might face financial difficulties:

  1. Cost Overruns: Unexpected expenses and cost overruns can occur due to changes in project scope, design modifications, price fluctuations in construction materials, and unforeseen site conditions. Failure to manage these costs effectively can strain the project’s budget.
  2. Delays and Time Overruns: Project delays can lead to increased labour costs, extended rental of equipment, and penalties for not meeting contractual deadlines. Time overruns can also result in lost opportunities and revenue for the project owner.
  3. Inadequate Planning and Design: Poor planning and inadequate design can lead to errors, rework, and inefficiencies during the construction process, contributing to increased costs and delays.
  4. Contractual Disputes: Disputes between project parties, such as contractors, subcontractors, and owners, can result in litigation or arbitration, leading to legal expenses and delays in project completion.
  5. Financing Challenges: Difficulty in securing adequate and timely financing can lead to cash flow issues, hindering progress and causing financial strain on the project.
  6. Insufficient Risk Management: Failure to identify and manage potential risks, such as weather-related disruptions, labour shortages, or supply chain issues, can lead to unexpected financial burdens.
  7. Inadequate Project Management: Poor project management practices, including inefficient scheduling, lack of communication, and inadequate coordination among stakeholders, can result in project inefficiencies and increased costs.
  8. Change Orders and Scope Creep: Frequent changes to project scope can disrupt the construction process, increase costs, and delay completion.
  9. Economic Downturns: Economic downturns can impact the demand for construction projects, leading to reduced revenues and lower profitability.
  10. Environmental or Regulatory Issues: Unforeseen environmental or regulatory challenges may require costly remediation efforts or modifications to comply with legal requirements.
  11. Subcontractor Default: If a subcontractor defaults or goes out of business, it can cause delays and additional costs to find replacement contractors.
  12. Poor Financial Management: Inadequate financial management, including inaccurate budgeting, cash flow mismanagement, or improper accounting practices, can lead to financial difficulties.
  13. Natural Disasters and Force Majeure Events: Natural disasters or force majeure events can cause significant damage to the construction site, resulting in additional expenses and delays.

To mitigate the risk of financial distress in major construction projects, careful planning, risk assessment, effective project management, and contingency planning are essential. Engaging experienced and reputable contractors, architects, and project managers can also enhance the project’s chances of success. Regular monitoring of project progress, timely communication among stakeholders, and proactive problem-solving are crucial to ensuring the project stays on track and within budget.



What happens when a project gets into trouble? (0:11)

Managing costs and contingencies. (3:51)

The supply chain problem. (7:27)

Dealing with risks and mitigating risks. (10:44)

Importance of trust and reputation. (16:22)

Sustainability in the mining industry. (20:26)

How to deal with projects in distress. (24:41)

Getting the right culture and best practices. (29:43)

The importance of safety and culture. (33:31)

Related Articles


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *