Wise Up Wednesday: Taking Advice!

streetwisesubbie, solutions for specialist contractors
Your Wise Up Wednesday today is about taking advice. Taking advice from time to time is a sign of strength, not a weakness, and here’s a quick quote that sort of sums up what this week’s WUW is all about;

To profit from good advice requires more wisdom than to give it.

Wilson Mizner American dramatist 1876-1933

So please take 2 minutes to read our guide and please share it with all your colleagues.

Streetwise Guide To Taking Advice
Firstly, here’s a quick question;

If a complicated piece of machinery like the engine in your car needs fixing, do you get out the manuals and the tools and set about it yourself?

Back in the day, when I was much younger and engines were much simpler, I have been known to change the odd set of points.

Now, however, I wouldn’t have a clue how the complex mass of pipes and wires crammed under the bonnet of my car works, let alone how I could fix it if it went wrong.

The point (if you’ll forgive the link), is that like all things in life, business gets more complicated by the day, and it is almost impossible to be an expert in every single field that affects your business.  In addition to the traditional professions such as banking, accounting and law, there are now experts in health and safety, public relations, marketing, computers, e-commerce etc, etc, etc.

Unless you are one of the really big players in Specialist Sub-Contracting, it is unlikely that you will have in-house expertise in each of the fields that affect your business.  However, failing to take appropriate professional advice at the appropriate time can be disastrous.

So Where Do You Start?

Before you take professional advice, think very carefully about how you are going to choose who to take advice from.

Here are a few things you might want to consider before engaging a particular firm or individual from whom to take advice:

  • Credentials, qualifications and experience.
  • Relevant experience.  Have they had experience in your particular specialism?
  • Who will actually be doing the work?  Will it be the person you meet and strike up a relationship with or just one of their team?
  • Can they provide names and addresses of clients who they are happy for you to contact?  If they can’t, ask yourself why.  If they can, make a few calls and check them out.
  • Is the size of their organisation important to you?  Can they handle the volume of business you are going to generate?

At StreetwiseSubbie.com we think we measure up pretty well, and tick all the above boxes. And by teaming up with no fewer than 17 Service Delivery Partners we have experts in advising Specialist Subcontractors across 21 areas of your business.

Make It Cost Effective

It’s important to take advice as soon as possible, even before whatever it is becomes a “problem”. Delay can be catastrophic.

When the time comes to engage someone, ensure you make their appointment cost-effective.  Professionals sell you their time and you should make the best use of it.

I once had a client who brought me a carrier bag full of documents that looked like it had just been picked up off the floor after a burglary.  As politely as possible I suggested that I was a very expensive filing clerk, and encouraged him to put the documents into some sort of order before paying me to me start looking at it.

Prepare in advance for meetings or phone calls and decide exactly what you need to discuss and what you expect to achieve.  Make sure you have all the relevant information to hand so that you don’t waste their time and your money whilst the information is found.

Getting Free Advice

Not all free advice is good advice. Your mate down the pub might not be the best person to ask, but we reckon our experts are. And they are already providing initial free advice to over a hundred Specialist Subcontractors who get that advice as just one of their Streetwisesubbie Membership benefits.

And if you need to go beyond the free advice, discounted rates apply.

There are three Membership levels Silver, Gold and Platinum, so there is one to suit you, and if you would like to give us a call on 01773 712116 or email info@streetwisesubbie.com, we will be happy to explain the benefits.

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

Best regards
Barry

P.S. Please remember if you have a problem, take action sooner rather than later. If you’re not sure what to do or just want a second opinion, please give us a call on 01773 712116, or email info@streetwisesubbie.com

Helping Secure A better Future for Specialist Contractors

Streetwisesubbie.com Ltd, Shanakiel, 17 Ilkeston Road, Heanor, Derbyshire DE75 7DR.
t: 01773 712116 f: 01773 719455 info@StreetwiseSubbie.com.

 

 
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#WiseUpWednesday: What’s The Future For Your Business?

The Past Does Not Equal The Future

I love that phrase because it inspired me to take certain action about 30 years ago, and it changed my life. But, I would like you to think about what that phrase might mean for you and your business.

On the one hand, if things have been going well over the last few years, it should encourage you to think about the good routines or practices that helped you to succeed, and how you can embed them within your business.

On the other hand, many Specialist Contractors are still finding it tough to make a profit, and the construction industry, still tops the insolvency figures, with thousands of companies lost to insolvency every year.

So maybe you need to change things now before it’s too late, because most of those insolvencies have been Specialist Contractors or smaller construction firms!

The Year Ahead Isn’t Set To Be Easy Either

No-one truly knows what is round the corner, and the election and Brexit are creating uncertainty for just about everyone.

One thing we do know is that those of us who are well prepared will weather whatever storm affects us. And that is so true in Specialist Contracting, whatever your size or specialisation.

That’s why the suggestions below will ensure you are well prepared for any eventuality in business:

Ask Questions and You Will Get Answers

Don’t be afraid to ask others for help and advice. There are plenty of people you can ask, from the seasoned pros at StreetwisesSubbie to our forum and LinkedIn group, it’s brimming with over 2,100 members discussing business issues, industry topics, advice and personal experiences.

If you would like to join even if you are not on LinkedIn yet, just drop us a line at info@streetwisesubbie.com and we will set it all up for you. There is no cost involved.

And you can find our group on Facebook too. Just search for StreetwiseSubbie.com.

Healthy Profit

If you are not making a healthy profit from your jobs, it is time to question why this is so. It could be due to the accuracy of your estimating, lack of control at site level, or assumptions that weren’t well thought out. Be sure you take an objective view and look for the improvements that can be implemented.

Problems Will Occur

It is inevitable that at some point during your business’s lifespan problems of some scale will occur, and so you need to be prepared for this eventuality. For example, if you were taken ill do you have a team who you know you could trust and rely on to keep everything running smoothly without you?

Do you have the right professional support at your fingertips? If not, it might be time to put a plan in place.

Be Flexible and Ready For Change

The construction industry may look like its been stuck in its ways for many years, but it has been evolving. Contracts in particular are becoming more and more onerous and some Contractors are extremely aggressive to work for.

You need to know how to protect your interests, as well as looking at other areas and niches in which your company could operate more profitably.

What Do You Know?

You’re good at what you do but what else do you need to learn in order to make your business more profitable and secure? Do you have plenty of construction industry knowledge but feel like you struggle with some aspects of running the company?

You aren’t alone there, so why not give our friendly team a call on 01773 712116 or drop us a line at info@streetwisesubbie.com?

Its Not Just What You Know, But Who You Know

Network with people from other industries. If you create mutually beneficial relationships you could become one of the companies they turn to when in need of added value.

A Little Help From Your Friends

Not everyone in the construction industry is in direct competition with each other. In fact when we work together we can earn more money and get complex jobs done a whole lot faster when a variety of skilled construction professionals in all areas who are willing to team up.

Our groups are a great place to build relationships.

Don’t Cut Marketing, Improve It

When money gets a little tight, many people first begin reducing their sales and marketing spend, but this is false economy, and could seriously damage your long term revenue.

Instead make your marketing budget deliver better results by working smarter.

And Yes it Can All Be Stressful

 

Construction is a contentious business, so it’s no surprise that problems can arise, even if you haven’t done anything wrong.

 

Keeping on top of everything can be stressful and have a negative impact on you and your business.

 

We have Consultants who have decades of experience in everything we have talked about above and more. You can access no-nonsense, practical advice that won’t blind you with jargon, and it isn’t expensive.

Please don’t hesitate to email us at info@streetwisesubbie.com, or pick up the phone and give our friendly team a call on 01773 712116.

#WiseUpWednesday: Aggressive QS?

Our Wise Up Wednesday Guides are sometimes quirky, sometimes hard hitting, but always guaranteed to make you think and take no more than 2 minutes to read.

Last week’s was “Don’t Fall Foul Of Poor QS’s”. This week I want to share a few thoughts about what to do when faced with an Aggressive QS.

Construction Enquirer recently reported that there is now a super-aggressive quantity surveyor employed by Contractors for the specific purpose of saving them money no matter what.

“Subbies under attack from new breed of aggressive QS”

Here’s a snippet from that article;

Subbies are coming under pressure on site from a new breed of “super aggressive” quantity surveyors employed by main contractors.

“We’ve had QS’s say things like ‘it’s only 50 grand.’. That’s easy to say when you work for a major contractor and it’s not your money.”

“Some firms are worse than others and a lot of suppliers are refusing to work with those with the worst reputation.”

How To Beat The Aggressive QS

Back in the day quantity surveyors made sure that the works were valued both fairly and objectively.

Most QS’s back then would be RICS qualified, and being a QS was a very respected profession. Now, even some of the RICS qualified QS’s employed by Main Contractors ignore the RICS rules of professionalism.

Nowadays, the role of a Contactor’s QS is often to get away with paying as little as possible, as late as possible and to look for any reason to set off or counterclaim whether valid or not.

Over the years, here at Streetwisesubbie and in my work at Ashmore Consulting, we have seen far too many spurious and made up claims, and  some have sadly resulted in the insolvency of the sub-contractor. So please, don’t be a guaranteed meal ticket and bonus for the Main Contractor’s QS.

What Can You Do About It?

Firstly, recognise that it’s happening. This might sound over simplistic, but you would be surprised how many subcontractors fall for the QS’s “I’m smarter than you” BS…

Secondly, in last week’s Wise Up Wednesday I talked about getting the paperwork right, and making sure all the important details are properly incorporated in the contract. So, now it’s time to refer to those documents;

1. Don’t get angry, frustrated or any other emotional response. Stay calm.

2. Don’t rush or jump at the first figure offered.

3. Don’t fall for the “it’s this or we won’t pay another penny” routine.

4. Don’t agree to anything you don’t understand and if you need to, don’t be shy about taking time out to get advice.

5. Make sure you follow the procedures set out in the contract – and make sure your view of the valuation is realistic and properly evidenced.

6. If your account is being undervalued escalate the problem to a higher level

7. Don’t waste time trying to persuade someone who doesn’t want to understand

8. Recognise when it’s time to change your approach – don’t just wait for things to change on their own – they won’t

And if you aren’t sure please call us for advice on 01773 712116 or email info@streetwisesubbie.com or checkout our web site.

It’s A Stressful Situation

 

Construction is a contentious business, so it’s no surprise that problems can arise, even if you haven’t done anything wrong.

 

This can be stressful and have a negative impact on you and your business.

 

So,if you find yourself in a sticky situation, the best advice is to act quickly and to take appropriate advice. We have decades of experience in contractual and commercial matters and will give you no-nonsense, practical advice that won’t blind you with legal jargon.

Please don’t hesitate to email us at info@streetwisesubbie.com, or pick up the phone and give our friendly team a call on 01773 712116.

#WiseUpWednesday: Don’t Fall Foul Of Poor QS’s

“…alarm over quality of new QS’s”

This is a recent headline from Construction Enquirer which caught my eye, because it’s bemoaning the poor quality of new entry QS’s in the industry.

Now I can remember a time when being a QS was a very respected profession and attracted high calibre entrants. Unfortunately, things have been on the slide for a good many years. And this is bound to impact on the QS’s employed by Main Contractors.

How Does This Affect You?

You might think that if the Contractor’s QS isn’t very good it will make life easier for you. But, you would be wrong.

The fact of the matter is that a poor QS will make your life much more difficult and here’s why;

  • they prepare poor quality contract documents – rarely to your benefit
  • they can’t make decisions – this causes delay
  • they make bad decisions – and cover them up / pay with your money
  • they hide their incompetence behind arrogance – causing frustration
  • they don’t have a clue about fairness and objectivity – you suffer

What Can You Do About It?

Many disagreements and disputes can be avoided by getting the paperwork right in the first place. So making sure that everyone has a common understanding of what is expected of them is key..

Adopting the following approach can help:

 

1. Record all pre-contract negotiations and confirm everything in writing and/or email;

2. Make sure all the important details are properly incorporated in the contract and that it exactly reflects what has been agreed;

3. Agree on any standard terms and conditions to be used and negotiate out any onerous clauses;

 

4. Don’t agree to anything you don’t understand and if you need to, don’t be shy about getting advice on your contract documentation.

5. Make sure you follow the procedures set out in the contract – don’t ignore them…

6. If your account is being undervalued escalate the problem to a higher level

7. Don’t waste time trying to persuade someone who doesn’t want to understand

8. Recognise when it’s time to change your approach – don’t just wait for things to change on their own – they won’t

And if you aren’t sure please call us for advice on 01773 712116 or email info@streetwisesubbie.com or checkout our web site.

Strength In Numbers

There is a lot of truth in the old adage about “strength in numbers”. Specialist Contractors need to stick together, so please share this email with every other Subbie you know, and come and join our LinkedIn group of over 2,000 Specialist Contractors. Even if you are not on LinkedIn we can set it up for you for free and it’s a great place to share knowledge and information.

Just email us on info@streetwisesubbie.com.

 

What If Problems Arise?

 

Construction is a contentious business, so it’s no surprise that problems can arise, even if you haven’t done anything wrong.

 

This can be stressful and have a negative impact on your business.

 

So,if you find yourself in a sticky situation, the best advice is to act quickly and to take appropriate advice. We have decades of experience in contractual and commercial matters and will give you no-nonsense, practical advice that won’t blind you with legal jargon.

#WiseUpWednesday: The Enemy Within…

Our Wise Up Wednesday Guides are here to give Specialist Contractors a quick burst of useful information that will help you succeed in your business life, irrespective of your size or specialisation.

 

Sometimes quirky, sometimes hard hitting, but always guaranteed to make you think and take no more than 2 minutes to read.

So this one is both quirky and hard hitting!

So why raise this now?

Three reasons;

Firstly, I know from current first hand experience that it’s not always apparent when someone, even someone close to us, is hurting inside. Whatever the cause of that mental turmoil they might look absolutely fine on the outside. And construction can be a very macho “get on with it-stop being a wimp” kind of place.

Secondly these things don’t get much publicity, albeit that the Health In Construction Leadership Group’s “Mates In Mind” campaign is seeking to raise awareness, particularly about research suggesting that in the construction sector people could be 10 times more likely to die by suicide than in an accident on site!

Thirdly, it’s current, because you may have seen on the news today that Everton winger Aaron Lennon has been detained under the Mental Health Act by police over concerns for his welfare. The club has said that he is now “receiving care and treatment for a stress related illness”.

The message – it can happen to anyone, young or old, rich or poor, famous or unknown, successful or struggling.

Aaron Lennon’s case, and sports men and women generally, will probably get a lot more publicity than those who work in construction.

So Why “The Enemy Within”?

Recent events reminded me of a passage from “The Art of Happiness” by non other than H H Dalai Lama and Howard C Cutler. A bit out there, but very interesting nonetheless.

“This is very different from an ordinary enemy… This internal enemy, this inner enemy, has no other function than causing us harm. It is our true enemy, our ultimate enemy. It has no other function than simply destroying us, both in the immediate term and in the long term.”

Whilst the Dalai Lama was talking about the inner enemy within ones own mind, it got me thinking about the “inner enemies” within our own businesses. Because, day after day in my work resolving problems for Specialist Contractors I have a unique and objective view of their inner enemies, their very own “Enemies Within”.

The Specialist Contractors Top Ten Enemies Within

These “enemies within” manifest themselves in all sorts of different ways, lack of knowledge, the wrong people, wrong thinking etc. Or a combination of these and other factors, but however they occur, and in the words of the Dalai Lama; they have no other function than simply destroying us, both in the immediate term and in the long term.

So here they are;

1) Not understanding the contract

2) Not agreeing the basics of the contract properly

3) Ignoring contractual obligations

4) Failing to get written instructions

5) Failing to agree additional costs at the appropriate time

6) Not issuing proper notices when being delayed

7) Failing to understand and comply with the payment process

8) Failing to take remedial action when things are going wrong

9) Reluctance to escalate problems to the senior decision maker

10) Not taking appropriate advice sooner rather than later

And these enemies within our business can all too easily lead to enemies within our ourselves.

 

Destroying The Enemy Within

Whilst it may never be possible to completely destroy the enemies within, we can take steps to minimise their impact on us as individuals, and the success of our business. After all if we don’t take action they will destroy us and our business!

Maybe not today, maybe not next week or next month, but they are busy working away, and they have no other purpose…

And please take a moment to consider anyone who might need your help to overcome their own enemies within.

Here; a link to more information about “Mates In Mind”

#WiseUpWednesday: Don’t Get Angry Get Paid…

This week’s “Wise Up Wednesday” is about a topic close to every Specialist Contractor’s heart; Getting Paid.

If you don’t get paid your business fails. It’s that simple.

Ask any insolvency practitioner and they will confirm that lots of otherwise profitable businesses fail because they don’t collect what’s owed to them.

Of course actually getting paid is sometimes easier said than done, and it’s one of the problems StreetwiseSubbie are most commonly asked to help our members with – and one which I have personally been advising Specialist Contractors about for the last 27 years.

So, don’t get angry, get paid, by understanding these key points;

  • The payment provisions of a contract should be clearly established and fully understood
  • Prior to the Construction Act (where it applies) you had no automatic right to interim payments, and no payment notices, no suspension, no adjudication etc., so despite it being a bit complicated the Act is good news for Specialist Contractors
  • Most standard form contracts have provisions entitling you to interim payments, with clear rules set out as to how these should be calculated and when they should be made

So, first things first please make sure you understand the contract and whether or not it complies with the Act

Be aware that the Construction Act does not apply to all contracts, there are certain types of project to which the Act does not apply, these include supply only contracts, process industry and power generation sites etc. (a full list is set out in the Act and you can download a copy from our web site)

Understanding The Rules Is Crucial

Unless the  Act applies or the contract provides for it, there is no common law right to suspension of the works in the event of non-payment’ therefore, unless there is an express provision in the contract, or the Act applies you will be in breach of contract by stopping work.

However, once you’re certain the terms of your contract provide the right of suspension, then this can be the most effective weapon in the fight to get paid on time.

The  Act and in particular the 2011 amendments introduced some key rules about payment;

  • Contracts are required to be clearly establish the “Due Date” and “Final Date for Payment” – confusingly the Due Date isn’t when the money is due to be paid, but the Final Date is the last date by which you must be paid
  • The act does not preclude lengthy timescales – negotiate them!
  • The contract must also provide for Payment Notices to be issued by the paying party, and if they are not provided there are favourable default provisions

But, watch out because most Contractors will try and bend the rules in their favour by way of their own terms or amendments to the Standard forms such as JCT and NEC/3.

Speaking Of Different Rules

Watch out for contracts that are completely different from the norm. For example, the NEC/3 is so different from any other contract that you will have used previously it is a real challenge.

Please don’t ignore the problems that the NEC/3 creates for you as a subcontractor, and please get advice from the outset, because it really will save you a fortune.

#WiseUpWednesday: Losing The Right to Payment

This week’s “Wise Up Wednesday” is about Specialist Contractors unwittingly losing the right to payment.

It’s hard enough to make a profit when things go well. But when things go wrong and you are delayed through no fault of your own, you are entitled to be paid for that right?

Wrong!

You can lose that right completely under the terms of the NEC/3 contract if you don’t do what you need to do and at the time you need to do it.

And that could cost you £thousands…

Losing The Right To Be Paid Under The NEC/3 Contract

Compensation events are events which are not your fault, and they change the cost of the work, or the time needed to complete it. As a result, the prices, key dates or the completion date may be reassessed, and in many cases the you will be entitled to more time or money.

Examples of compensation events

There is a list of specific compensation events at clause 60.1. The list includes:

  • Instructions
  • Access prevention
  • Failure to provide something e.g. information etc.
  • Actions by the Employer or the Contractor
  • Contractor not replying to a communication
  • Contractor withholds acceptance
  • Unexpected physical conditions

The list is fairly extensive, and you need to know how to ensure you take full advantage, and most importantly, avoid losing your entitlements altogether.

Notification of Compensation Events

The aim of the compensation event regime is for compensation events to be assessed as early as possible at the time they incur and not at the end of the project. For this reason, the NEC/3 form imposes strict notification provisions.

The mechanism for notification depends upon the type of compensation event but crucially, the notification of compensation events may be subject to a time bar at clause 61.3.

Clause 61.3 provides that if the Subcontractor does not notify a compensation event within seven weeks of becoming aware of the event, he is not entitled to a change in the prices, the completion date or a key date.

Depending on the facts and surrounding circumstances, any failure by the Subcontractor to notify a compensation event in accordance with clause 61.3 may operate as a time bar, and you will lose the right to be paid.

Applying the strict application set out in WW Gear Construction Ltd v McGee Group Ltd and Education 4 Ayrshire Ltd v South Ayrshire Council, to the NEC3 form, the wording of clause 61.3 leaves little doubt that a condition precedent is anticipated by the parties, and that means you won’t get paid.

It Is So Different It Is A Real Challenge

Unfortunately the NEC/3 is so different from any other contract terms that you will have used previously it is a real challenge. But it can be a massive opportunity to make money too. But, you have to know what to do.

Please don’t ignore the problems that the NEC/3 creates for you as a subcontractor, and please get advice from the outset, because it really will save you a fortune. And if you fancy learning more about what the NEC/3 is all about, and how it will morph into the NEC/4 please see the panel below.