Are You Still Struggling to Find Those Profitable Jobs? Then Read On…

Over the past few months, most of the the news reports have been suggesting that things are looking brighter for the economy and for construction. 

But whether things are on the up or not, it would seem that all Specialist Contractors are still facing the same problem;

“How do we find sources of profitable work and win enough orders?”

Some commentators say that there are more tenders around now. 

Or is it just that the same number of tenders are being distributed to more and more Sub-Contractors? We have anecdotal evidence of lists as long as 20 bidders!

Whatever your take on the current situation, one thing is certain. You need to set your stall out to ensure you receive enough of the right kind of enquiries, and win your fair share of orders.

There are several strategic options that you can employ to help you find new opportunities;

  • Sell more existing products/services to existing customers
  • Sell existing products/services to new customers
  • Sell new products/services to existing customers
  • Sell new products/services to new customers

By far the easiest route to take is the first, selling more products/services to existing customers, because this is much easier than finding new ones. 

But, whichever route is right for you, here are one or two things you can try;

  • Enhance the quality of your existing products and services or find a way to ‘windowdress’ something you are presently doing as something else? For example; ”We only install BS67456 compliant materials”. It might be that all installers have to work to this standard, but if no other Sub-Contractor is actually saying it, then you can makes it your own! It differentiates you from the rest!
  • Increase personalised contact with your customers? Years ago, it was essential to be face-to-face with customers on a regular basis. However, technology has changed this to the point that we rarely need to sit down with our customers any more. But whether we actually need to is not the issue, because going back to the personal approach will set you apart from your competitors.
  • Look at ways you can add value to what you are selling. Can you encourage involvement with a further contract if it helps you to buy better and offer a volume discount to the customer?
  • Increase your marketing activity – don’t wait for them to come to you, go to them. Look at ways that you can regularly keep in touch. Send successful case studies, newsletters, information about new services or, ways of doing things better.
  • Plan out a series of strategic marketing activities that can help to engage with your potential customers and devise ways to convert them to orders even if you are not the lowest price!

Last but not least, keep in mind that, whatever the prevailing climate in the economy, people still buy things! Contractors still need you to get the job done. The key question you need to ask yourself is, 

‘How can I ensure that they buy from me?’

One way is to make sure that you have up to date relevant information and advice about how to market your business better and smarter than your competitors. Even better still, get that up to date, relevant information and advice for free!

So, before you do anything else, please take five minutes to check out some of the links in this email which will take you to the huge range of free information we have put at your disposal. 

Ever heard the expression “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth”

Please don’t look our gift horse in the mouth! Come and check us out now…

It could be the most worthwhile five minutes you spend on your business today.

And, if you are already one of our Silver, Gold or Platinum Buddies, please make sure to use the initial free advice and free Consultancy resources at your disposal. They are there to help you protect and grow your business, because together we can make a real difference!

 
I hope you enjoyed my post and that it gave you some food for thought, and I sincerely hope to speak with you soon.

In the meantime if you need any help with any of your business issues, please don’t hesitate to pick up the phone and give us a call on 01773 712116.

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It’s Wise Up Wednesday! Are You Still Having Payment Nightmares?

This week’s “Wise Up Wednesday” blog post is a very brief one about avoiding Payment Nightmares…

Things might be starting to pick up, but we know that many Specialist Contractors are still experiencing those Payment Nightmares!

  • “Underpayment without reason, pay when paid and if certified”
  • “Spurious contra charges with no prior notice”
  • “Unpaid invoices in excess of 6 months”
  • “Contractors who completely ignore you, even after repeated threats of legal action”
  • “Even large contractors who used to pay on time hold onto payments until you chase them”
  • “Contractors use you to bankroll the contract,then screw you to maintain their margins”
  • Contractors that are in adversarial mode from day one!”

These are actual situations that Specialist Contractors have to fight to resolve on a daily basis.

So despite there being more enquiries about and the whiff of good times ahead, we know that right now times are still really hard for everyone in construction and engineering!

Contractors Are Stealing Your Profits!

What’s making it worse is that most big Contractors are so reliant on cash management for their profits that they are underpaying you and paying you late!

They steal your profits so that they make theirs.

And that’s official because if you read it carefully that’s what the Governments own report says.

You can find it here – BIS RESEARCH PAPER NUMBER 118

Of course it doesn’t use the word “steal” but it does say that;

“As part of a relatively under-capitalised industry, construction firms are highly dependant upon sustained access to trade credit…”

“Trade credit” – what that means is your money!

Now even some of the smaller Contractors, who you thought you could trust, are taking a leaf out of the big boy’s book and screwing their sub-contractors.

I’m sick and tired of seeing good hard working Specialist Contractors like you suffering at the hands of the non-paying, arrogant, bully boy Contractors!

So What’s To Be Done About It?

As you know we have campaigned for the widespread adoption of the Streetwisesubbie Fair Treatment Charter, and we thought we were getting somewhere. But the fact of the matter is that Specialist Contractors have been sold down the river by the Construction Leadership Council.

If Specialist Contractors are ever going to receive the returns that your hard work and efforts deserve, effective action needs to be taken at grass roots level.

So please;

  • already in the group? Then please spread the word to every Subbie you know and share this blog with them and on social media
  • in other groups on LinkedIn? Then please promote this group in your comments and posts
  • check out the free resources on our website
  • in a Trade association? Why not get in touch and see how we can link up
  • think more should be being done or got some ideas? Please get in touch!
 
And, if you are already one of our Silver, Gold or Platinum Buddies, please make sure to use the initial free advice and free Consultancy resources at your disposal. They are there to help you protect and grow your business, because together we can make a real difference!
 
I hope you enjoyed my Wise Up Wednesday blog post and that it gave you some food for thought, and I sincerely hope to speak with you soon.

In the meantime if you need any help with any of your business issues, please don’t hesitate to pick up the phone and give us a call.

Breakthrough Construction 2014 Conference Recap – What The Speakers Told Us

Our second annual conference, Breakthrough Construction 2014, was a colossal success, with over 100 delegates attending to see the 8 speakers including the keynote speaker Geoff Gilbert, Head of Commercial – Infrastructure at London Underground. There was a brilliant buzz and each speaker brought something valuable to the event. Here’s a brief recap of what the speakers told us:

construction conference fair treatment charterBarry J Ashmore – StreetwiseSubbie.com Ltd: Barry kicked off the day by detailing why we called the event ‘Breakthrough Construction 2014’; because despite all this growth we see in the headlines, the industry is still in a rut and no sign of an end to the bad practice meted out to Specialist Contractors. What are needed to stop that happening are some serious breakthroughs! Geoff Gilbert’s talk about the London Underground’s bold move to work directly with Specialist Contractors is a shining example of the type of breakthroughs that could re-shape the industry forever, and in the Subbie’s favour!

Geoff Gilbert London Underground LULKeynote Speaker Geoff Gilbert – London Underground: Geoff’s presentation was the highlight of the event, as he went into detail about LUL’s decision to work directly with Specialist Contractors on an upcoming Tube restoration project. LUL’s new approach to the supply chain model will involve working direct with Tier 3 and 4 Specialist Contractors in order to sustain quality and productivity, reduce costs and potentially improve time scales of works. You can read more about LUL’s plans in our post conference blog post. 

Natalie Wilson2Nat Wilson – See Social Ltd: Nat, our resident social media guru, talked us through the vast and often daunting world of social media. It’s often difficult to know which of the many social media channels we should be using to reach our target market, so Nat broke down some of the key audiences for each social network. If you are aiming at a largely B2B audience, Nat reckons you should be on LinkedIn, whereas if you want to target a mixture of domestic and commercial clients, Facebook and Twitter are ideal. And above all, Google+ is a great for getting your company found on Google searches, so it’s worth taking a look at for that alone!

David GalavanDavid Galavan – Prater Ltd: David is the Commercial Director at Prater, and talked us through the obstacles he has faced in growing the company, taking them from a 10m annual turnover to an 80m annual turnover. As David says, there are many hurdles that are faced when growing a business of any size, the most important and influential of which are change (and our lack of wanting it) and cash (having enough of it to sustain the business during change and growth). Overcome these two hurdles and your business is in the perfect position to evolve and grow.

Neal JamesNeal James – Panthera Group: Neal’s dad always told him “marketing isn’t for subbies”. Good job he didn’t listen! Neal proved his dad wrong and grew their company through the power of marketing. As he said on the day, he’s no marketing expert, he’s just a fellow subbie who understood the importance of marketing within his business and ran with it. The key benefits Neal found from taking advantage of marketing are the quality of both staff and clients Panthera managed to attract, the reputation and loyal relationships that were built in the industry, and of course there’s the nice effect it had on the bottom line! Take away – marketing IS for subbies, so get on board!

Jessica McGowanJessica McGowan – Investment Sense: Jessica was brave enough to broach the topic of pensions and made people sit up and listen! Pensions might not be the most interesting of subjects, but as Jessica said in her talk, if sub-contractors aren’t careful, automatic enrolment pensions could hit them hard. It is simple enough to get registered, so do it now to avoid getting bogged down in the pension mire, turned down by pension providers and whacked with fines! 

Richard BrackenburyRichard Brackenbury – Shakespeares LLP: Winding up Petitions are exactly what they say, a means of bring the debtor’s company to an end. Used wisely they can rile the Contractor and force payment. But they are very volatile and used incorrectly they could end up costing you much more than you bargained for! The Statutory Demand is usually the best option, but either way always get the help of StreetwiseSubbie  to avoid payment demands blowing up in your face!

Bernard Coleman

Bernie Coleman – WSL Stoneclean: Everyone’s favourite posh Subbie returned and was entertaining and insightful as always. His presentation dramatically named ‘add value – do it or die!’, was right on the mark. Specialist Contractors are  being run into the ground by a lack of innovation and value. They all need to add value and invest in the future of your business or your might not have one!

Andrew Foy

Andrew Foy – Foy Certification: Andrew touched on something that appeals to us all, regardless of specialism, and that’s doing less to make more money! Getting ISO certification for your business, doesn’t cost as much as you might think (or have been misguidedly told),and in short, can be the key to attracting bigger and better quality clients and it can allow you to justify charging more than your uncertified competitors. What’s not to like?!

Missed out this year or attended and want to make sure you join us again next year?

We are taking early bird bookings now! On 16th June 2015 we will host “Win Work. Get Paid. Make Money.” To be held at the Nottingham Belfry Hotel once again, our third annual conference will help you do just what it says on the tin; show you how to win work, get paid and make money in the UK construction industry.

Email info@streetwisesubbie.com to find out more and secure your place at the soon to be sell-out event.

“Innovate To Survive and Prosper” Was The Core Message at “Breakthrough Construction 2014”

The construction industry is on the edge of a revolution, and it’s either innovate and succeed, or stagnate and disappear! So says expert Richard Threlfall, head of Infrastructure at KPMG.

Threlfall’s view is that UK construction is at the crossroads. There is an inexorable need for “breakthroughs”, and that is exactly what StreetwiseSubbie were pushing for at our second annual conference in June.

As over 100 delegates from across the UK gathered at The Belfry Hotel in Nottingham for a second year running, the buzz was felt by all as we talked “Breakthrough Construction”; the conference’s apt title and the theme of the speaker presentations throughout the day.

An impressive line-up of expert speakers, included the keynote speaker and London Underground Head of Commercial – Infrastructure Geoff Gilbert.

Gilbert spoke of the current supply chain delivery model being outdated and ill-equipped to carry us forward in this new, post recession economy. “The current construction supply chain approach is unsustainable” he says, and goes on to mention that UK infrastructure is actually 20% more expensive overall than its European counterparts, largely down to the current out-dated approach.

Gilbert goes on to talk about the London Underground (LUL)’s new approach, which involves working direct with Tier 3 and 4 Specialist Contractors in order to sustain quality and productivity  but reduce costs and potentially improve time scales of works.

LUL are rolling out this new and revolutionary way of working based on the belief that “production leads… everything else enables.” They believe that the right capability, right attitude, appropriate delivery models like the one suggested by Geoff, and more collaboration are the key ingredients to creating a more cost effective, efficient and most importantly fairer future for UK construction.

Other notable themes from the conference included the increasing use of technology to bring Specialist Contractors together with both clients and industry peers. In the digital age it is vital that the construction industry embraces the new nature of business, both for innovation and for growth. 

Growing construction businesses through adding value was another hot topic, as various Specialist Contractors explained ways in which growth had been achieved and value added in their business.

And whilst growth is a very hot topic, the delegates discussed the fact that some age old challenges are still being scattered in the path of Specialist Contractors by others in the industry.

Various speakers at the conference highlighted ways in which payment issues and other problems that commonly arise can be identified and avoided, and how they can be solved.

The buzz at the conference was felt by all as the 10 speakers made quick and interesting presentations that shared their own knowledge, experiences and expertise in a bid to help Specialist Contractors take control of both their own business and the future of the industry.

The positive atmosphere that resonated throughout the day showed that YOU, the Specialist Contractors in the industry are ready for positive change and welcome innovation with open arms.

One thing is clear; we must all innovate to survive. But the underlying message still remains, that unless everyone buys into it, a full scale innovative age for UK construction may never dawn.

Missed out this year or attended and want to make sure you join us again next year? We are taking early bird bookings now! On 16th June 2015 we will host “Win Work. Get Paid. Make Money.” Held at the Nottingham Belfry Hotel once again, our third annual conference do just what it says on the tin; show you how to win work, get paid and make money in the UK construction industry. Email info@streetwisesubbie.com to find out more and secure your place at the soon to be sell-out event.

It’s Wise Up Wednesday! 7 Critical Contractual Checks For Success

7 Critical Contractual Checks! Checking These Is The Key To Success

This week’s “Wise Up Wednesday” is a very brief one about checking the terms you are letting yourself in for, BEFORE you put your head in that contractual noose!

It’s easy to jump in when entering into a contract, after all the deal has been discussed and agreed upon, and sorting the contract is just a formality, right?

Wrong!

Not checking the specific terms that will apply to your works is one of the most common and often fatal mistakes I see on a daily basis!

Don’t get caught out by those dirty tricks hidden in the small print.

Here’s a brief check-list to ensure you don’t sign your business away…

1. Know Who You Are Contracting With!

It might sound like the most obvious thing in the world, but you would be surprised at the amount of Specialist Contractors I see who don’t do their research before getting into projects with a Main Contractor they have never worked for before. Are they good and fair payers, and are they in a secure enough place financially that they will be around to pay you at the end of it all?

2. What’s The Scope Of The Works?

I have lost count of the amount of times I have had to deal with disputes between a Specialist Contractor and Main Contractor about the scope of the works. It might be a bit of a chore, but you can almost guarantee that what you agreed verbally and what is written into the contract regarding scope will be different.

3. What’s The Time Frame?

Time frames are a tricky issue to get right! Depending on the project you may have one start and finish date, or multiple starts and finish times if the work is to be completed in sections.

4. Is The Price Right?

Pricing is one of the main areas where Main Contractors will get you, so please be absolutely sure about this. Make sure the contract includes any qualifications that you are relying on as these often get “lost”, or are excluded by sneaky drafting!

5. Are The Payment Terms Fair?

Payment terms are the biggest cause of disputes in the Specialist Contracting community. They have been the cause of many Specialist Contractors going under, and have cost many more dearly!

6. How Far Does Your Design Liability Stretch?

As Specialist Contractor you will be liable for any design you provide if that design subsequently proves to be faulty.  You need to be very clear that your design liability is restricted to reasonable skill and care, and that the far more onerous standard of fitness for purpose does not arise to void your PI cover!

7. Don’t Compromise Your Rights On Dispute Resolution!

Last but by no means least you need to know that your rights have not been compromised by Contractors or Clients! If the contract between you and the Contractor or Client is subject to the Construction Act the contract should have certain provisions which provide some degree of protection.

But beware that these have not been negated by the specific words of the contract!

Amendments Are Never There For Your Benefit

Contracts have and always will be a minefield of sneaky tricks and onerous clauses that are placed there by Main Contractors to reduce their obligations and increase yours!

Being vigilant and checking over the contract before entering into it is the best way to prevent yourself from being caught out.

I hope you enjoyed my Wise Up Wednesday blog post and that it gave you some food for thought, and I sincerely hope to speak with you soon.

In the meantime if you need any help with any of your business issues, please don’t hesitate to pick up the phone and give us a call.

Best regards

Barry

P.S. The clue really is in our name – StreetwiseSubbie! We specialise in helping Specialist Contractors of all sizes and in all trades, and our FREE LinkedIn Group now has almost 1,900 members.

FREE LinkedIn Group

So as a first step towards getting to know us, why not come and take a look at how this free resource could help your business?