Archive for September, 2010

10 Tips for Getting Paid

Here’s a topic I’ve come across on more than one occasion and, I have to say, I’ve had discussions about it quite a bit recently too.

When do you decide to commence proceedings against someone you’re working with because they haven’t paid you?

Now all the smart money and advisers will tell you that it depends on what the contract says, the terms you’ve agreed to, etc. etc.  And yes, that’s right – I would say that too, but it doesn’t really help when you need the cash to pay your own bills and they’ve gone beyond the agreed terms, does it? And don’t you find that it’s the big companies who seem to be the worst at paying?! Don’t they realise that they are playing with peoples livelihoods?! You can hardly afford to tell your staff and suppliers each month you can’t pay them. How are they going to meet their commitments and pay their mortgages and feed their families?

So here are a few tips that may help:

  1. Record everything that you’re doing towards chasing monies from the word go: Dates/times/letters/emails/statements. You can never have enough records!
  2. Check and double check that you’ve sent your invoice to the correct address, the correct company and the correct contact – there’s nothing worse than getting the point where you’re ready to start legal proceedings only to find you’ve invoiced the wrong company etc (and this is always a tactic that gets dragged out as an excuse not to pay!)
  3. Make as much noise as you can. The louder you shout the more likely you are to get listened to – and paid!
  4. Go higher up the decision-making tree (if there is one). When you get stonewalled, ask for the next person up. Tell the person you’ve been dealing with that you’re going to speak to them too.
  5. Chase each person hard. Give them details of all the efforts you have been making to get paid. Be assertive, but not aggressive – losing your temper never works in my opinion.
  6. If it all seems to be falling on deaf ears (and presuming you are prepared to do so) then threaten legal action.
  7. If you still get no result (and you know you are clearly entitled to the money) then issue a draft copy of a County Court Summons, stating the date you are going to lodge it. Send it by email or fax, but use a method that allows you to confirm that it has been delivered/received.
  8. Make sure you state that you are going to include interest at the Statutory amount on the outstanding debt.
  9. On the whole, 9 times out of 10 the threat of legal action works well and you’ll receive payment shortly after and can get back to work!
  10. If payment doesn’t arrive though, you should absolutely carry out your threat – 10 times out of 10 this works!

For more information about issuing a summons and the like, visit the HMCS website – you’ll be surprised how easy it is to do!

Or you could just get in touch with us. We’d be pleased to help you! 🙂

Complaints, who needs them?

Well, err, actually we all do! Lessons to be learned and all that…

So here’s my story: We had a complaint a week or so ago from one of our clients. Something we don’t like to hear but, nonetheless, something that goes with the territory if you are a service provider like we are.

Client: Your bills aren’t accurate, we’ve found several mistakes in them and we’re not happy, it’s not a service we’re used to and, as a result, we’ve lost the opportunity of securing the job.

GFP: Oh dear, we’re very sorry to hear that, we need to investigate this and get back to you just as soon as we can

[Time passes, much head scratching and searching…]

GFP: We’ve looked into things and spent a bit of time checking and re-checking what we’ve done and cannot see anything wrong. Can you be more specific please?

Client: Well, its not so much that the work was inaccurate, it’s more that you were late getting the bills to us.

GFP: Oh sorry, we thought you said we’d made errors in our quantities..?

Client: Yes we did originally, but the issue is we didn’t win the job and you actually got the bills to us late and that’s what made us lose the job.

GFP: Oh well that’s not satisfactory and I wasn’t aware of that aspect. Let me look into it and see why we were late.

Client: Please.

[Some time later…]

GFP: Ok, I’ve looked into this and, well, err, actually, umm, we weren’t late. From the time you instructed us to proceed (remember you didn’t instruct us for some 2 days after our quote) we actually got the bills back to you in the prescribed period, as promised. So actually we did what we said we would do, and we did it in the time we said we would… Have a look at our emails dated X, X and X … etc.

Client: No, actually I know all of that, I just want a reduction in your fee.

GFP: Well let me see how can I best answer that for you…!

To be continued…?!

The Impossible…

Certainly, miracles, well they take a little longer!

One of our site based surveyors came in to see me on Friday about the assignment he was working on and I couldn’t resist sharing his story with you.

Apparently the site surveyor working for our contractor client has been off sick for at least three months now. No surveyor has worked on the scheme for the last 2 months until they requested our involvement around four weeks ago. The reason: The client wanted some action from the contractor as variations were being missed! Great client.

So, we arrive as usual with a request to put things in order as quickly as possible. The task: To get on top of the compensation events. In excess of 100 of them!

GFP: When do you need us to get on top of it all by?

Client: Ah, well as soon as possible please.

GFP: What resources can you give us to help, what are your systems, and what do we need to adhere to?

Client: Oh we don’t know. We’ll tell you next week.

[Two weeks later…]

Client: Didn’t I tell you I was going on holiday now? What have you done in the meantime then?

GFP: Well, I’ve struggled to work my way round your systems. I’ve begged and borrowed from others to find out about your systems and have dealt with all sorts of subcontractors. After the first week, I managed to get a computer so I can log into your systems, I’ve put the files in order, read and understood the contract too (oh by the way, you didn’t tell us that there are five separate contracts, as there are five separate sites to control, each about £1M, all in different geographical locations…) So quite a bit I think!

Client: Huh, no progress on the compensation events then?

GFP: Well, errr, no actually not, but I’ve gone a long way to understanding your issues. But what I do need is the input from your site team to help me with understanding the resources you used on these issues as, remember, they all happened before I was here.

Client: Oh that’s mere detail, I’ll make the team available. Get on with the job won’t you!

And so the story goes…

All sound familiar?

Just a few days in the life of a professional quantity surveying support service!

I’ll keep you posted!

APC Tips and Techniques

For those of you about to begin the preparation for your APC interviews in the QS world, I thought I would share a few tips and techniques to help you get through it.

So first of all, don’t think of it as an ordeal – it’s a chance for you to shine and demonstrate to a fellow group of professionals how knowledgeable you are. Be confident; after all, it’s you that everyone is going to be talking about!

  • Make sure you have read, re-read and understood your submission.
  • If there was any paperwork missing or that’s needed updating since your submission, make sure you have it with you and hand it out at the beginning of the interview.
  • Make sure in your record of experience there isn’t anything included that you really don’t have knowledge or experience of. Don’t simply tick off the competency levels and say you have done something. Chances are you will get asked about it and, if you can’t answer, or try and bluff your way out of it, it will be on the list of issues making you a referral.
  • Always try and leave hooks in your submission that will leave an Assessor wanting to ask you more about what you’ve done. Make it a bit intriguing for them. That way you can demonstrate your knowledge to them!
  • Practice your 10 minute presentation over and over again. Use a mirror to talk to, use your colleagues or, if you can afford it, attend a course.
  • During your presentation, speak slowly and clearly and don’t try and cram in everything from your critical analysis, as it will be far too much. Keep it simple and straightforward to understand. Just pick one aspect but describe it in good detail.
  • Don’t take electronic aids, laptops or anything like that: The rooms are so very small and technology just doesn’t add to this type of presentation. Stick with paper charts and graphical aids.
  • Remember this is an assessment of you, your skills and experience, so the assessors are trained to ask you about what you have done.
  • If you are asked a question that you don’t know the answer to then say you don’t know, but show initiative by giving an answer about how you would find things out to give the answer. You can’t know everything there is to know about Quantity Surveying, and the Assessors are aware of that.
  • Equally, if you are asked a question that you do know the answer to, then don’t rush and answer straight away. Take your time and lead the panel through your  answer (it uses up valuable time that could mean you don’t get asked that awkward question you don’t know the answer to!)
  • The last part of the interview will be the chairman asking you questions about the RICS, its code of conduct and ethics. Be aware that if you get any of these types of questions wrong (which will be largely all theoretical) then chances are you will get referred. So don’t treat this part of your learning lightly.
  • If an answer to something comes to you that you hadn’t been able to answer fully at the time during the interview, go back to it at the end, the chairman will give you that opportunity.

Prepare, prepare, prepare is the key to success. As a very good friend of mine always quoted to me: To fail to prepare, is to prepare to fail.

Useful Links:

APC home page on the RICS website

APC requirements and competencies guide

Quantity Surveying and Construction Pathway Guide

APC mock interviews

Final Assessment DVD – An in-depth look at the RICS Final Assessment


Derek Mynott is Managing Director at G F Partnership and has over 30 years experience in the construction industry. In addition to this, he has been supervising and counselling Quantity Surveyors through their RICS APC since 1999.

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About Me

I’m now the Managing Director of Mynott Associates Limited my own specialist measurement business. I’ve been in the industry all of my life since I left school. My first job was with Bovis Construction as a management trainee where I trained to become a quantity surveyor. I’ve worked for contractors all through my career, I am FRICS, FCIOB and MCIHT qualified and act as an RICS assessor. I’m also a keen Arsenal supporter having followed them from a young boy

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