Good administration key to success, says building expert and author

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Document aims to make administration easier for builders

Administration is not core business for builders, and many dread it. But a newly-released manual can help streamline paperwork for RMBF members and take the worst sting out of the desk-based side of the business.

RMBF past president and life member Ashley Hartley developed the manual Guide to Building Administration Best Practice, based on half a century of hands-on experience, and that of several friends in the industry.

Mr Hartley says he’s found over the years that many colleagues may be very skilled at, and excel in, the actual on-site building process — but not necessarily in business principles.
“Their training in many instances does not prepare them adequately for administration in the modern, highly-competitive environment, Mr Hartley says.
“Building is a complex industry, and the bigger a business grows, the more complex the administration side becomes.
“A good command of administration not only limits the builder’s exposure, it also levels the playing field when tendering for contracts and generating income. It’s an essential part of becoming a professional and successful builder.”

The document is divided into seven parts — tendering, pricing, contract administration, contracts, employment, health and safety, and sundry items.
Each part gives the reader a general introduction to, and overview of, the subject. It then provides master document templates such as letters and contracts the builder can use as a basis to work from and to adjust to suit their individual business situation and contractual requirements.

The manual is available on the RMBF web site at no cost to members.
Mr Hartley recommends builders print the manual — “maybe ask your Federation or your Association to do this for you,” he adds, tongue in cheek — and keep it in a file to facilitate fast reference.

“The idea is that the builder picks it up and asks, ‘how do I do this particular job?’ It could be a tender, a job description for a new appointee, pricing variations, or compiling a final account.
“They can then thumb to the relevant section, pick the best document for the case, get it from the web site in electronic format, and amend it as required. It’s all about making it easier for our members,” he says.

But letters and contracts, however valuable, are not the only practical assistance the manual gives
It also provides members with a complete Excel spreadsheet for calculating their own charge out rates and overheads, along with other general costing. In addition, it keeps the builder aware of a very topical issue — security of payment.

“Security of payment is a serious issue that many builders don’t think of — and one that could have dire consequences. The tender letter templates suggest a letter from a lawyer or lender to ensure the money is there and available when required,” he says.

General manager of Gemco Construction Ltd for the past seven years, Mr Hartley started his building career in 1966 as a building apprentice.
He then completed New Zealand certificates in building and in quantity surveying, as well as the National Certificate of Health and Safety and Injury Prevention.
He is a licensed building practitioner, registered as a construction manager with the New Zealand Institute of Building, and a Fellow of the New Zealand Institute of Quantity Surveying.

He has a long history of active service in the RMBF, notably serving on many national committees including Standards NZ, and making representations to local associations, namely Wellington and the Hawke’s Bay, where he is a life member.

“I’ve enjoyed every aspect of my work and can’t see myself just walking away. Rather, I’d like to remain part of the industry, possibly through training.
“In addition, I’ve always tried to be as professional as I can be and to add value to all I do. I suppose that’s where the guide comes from — helping to give my colleagues direction if and where they need it, and to do my bit to help us achieve excellence and growth as an industry.

“I have a deep regard and passion for the Federation. We have some pretty neat people in the organisation and they’re generally willing to help and share knowledge where needed.
“My advice to young builders is to become a part of the association that represents their interests in the industry as soon as possible,” he says.

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