My own building experience


Happy New Year to you all. I trust you each had a relaxing break after what was a very trying 2010, and that you have sufficient work, at least for the moment.
We ended 2010 on a continued downward trend and, while the Canterbury recovery and leaky homes financial package will provide some relief later in the year, buckle yourself in for another tough period.

I hate to be foreboding, and I really hope like hell I am wrong, but the recovery for the construction sector looks a way off yet.
So make sure you get your house in order, make those tough decisions you were putting off and reduce your overheads as much as you can (if you haven’t already done so).
Remember cash is king, so get it in as fast as you can, any way you can and don’t under price to win work that is non-profitable.

We are hearing some horrendous stories of under pricing and seeing it in our dealings within the guarantee company.
If you do this it is the beginning of the end, and will make matters worse, particularly when you don’t know where your next job is coming from.
The first few months of the year are always the hardest, with overheads eating away when no money is coming in over Christmas and creditors shoot out another 30 days in the blink of an eye.

On another note, I want to share with you my own building experience from a client’s perspective. In mid-2010 we commenced a major renovation and addition to our 100-year-old villa.
The job is still in progress, though coming to an end, and has taken about seven months at a not insubstantial cost.
We have been living in it while this work was going on, and have been camping in various parts of the house during this time.

I decided to put my money where my mouth was as I have been saying there will never be a better time to build with finance costs being so low.
All of the things that could happen with renovations happened. Problems were discovered that were not known about, it was more complex than first envisaged, the weather was appalling during winter, yardy yardy ya — you know how it goes and, of course, costs went up and up and the original budget — well, forget it.

But it has all turned out perfectly. We are absolutely delighted with the result, never a cross word was spoken between the parties and, most important, our dream was made a reality.
And when it comes to residential building that is what is most important. Home owners spend years dreaming and visualising (and scrimping and saving) for their perfect home (not house) — and that is what you, as builders, make come true.

So how do you go about that, even when costs blow out and time is extended, yet still keep the customer happy?
I have pondered this during my experience and, for me at least, it boils down to customer service and communication. And that is what I had with my place — on a daily basis.

Everything was discussed beforehand, when problems were discovered they were talked about before work was done, I knew from one day to the next who was going to be on site and who wasn’t, I got a constant price update, and I could have stopped at any stage.
I suspect that if the communication was not as good, the experience would have been quite different.

Don’t hide or shy away
So make sure you always, and I mean always, speak with your client, whether things are going well or not. Diarise and agree with the client when you will talk, and stick to it.
Don’t hide or shy away from problems because they don’t actually go away — and silence makes matters worse.

The builder I used was, of course, a Registered Master Builder, and he is pretty busy. I suspect it is not only because he is an excellent builder from a workmanship perspective, but he builds excellent relationships with his clients.

People put a huge amount of faith and trust (and money) in what you say and, as professionals, you have to honour that by behaving . . . well, professionally.
Do that and you are well on the way to having a successful business.