Archive for October, 2010

Rebuilding Confidence… My take on the Comprehensive Spending Review

Being a pupil of a former comprehensive school I thought that I would be reasonably well qualified to comment on the comprehensive spending review, so here it goes…!

Having spent Sunday evening reading The Sunday Times, The Sunday Telegraph and Building Magazine, it’s difficult to compute all of the information being thrown at us and make sense of it all. It’s interesting to compare: The Times reads quite downbeat and negative, while The Telegraph is far more upbeat and positive about the opportunities that will be created. So much so, in fact, that they are even launching a campaign this week for Rebuilding Confidence! Ok so they carried two interviews with David Cameron and Vince Cable, but I do believe there is hope out there for all of us. Why? Well…

  • We’ve had four consecutive quarters of growth now.
  • Though 490,000 jobs are to go in the public sector by 2014-2015, this puts us back to around 2005 levels. Around four times as many people work in the private sector than the public sector.
  • BUT, 1.8m jobs will be created in the private sector according to the OBC (Office for Budget Responsibility) and 308,000 were created over the summer!

So what for construction…

  • According to The Telegraph, British Land has committed £600m to new developments this year, which is in line with pre-crisis levels. They also say rents are improving and occupiers are starting to take new space in  prime sites across the country.
  • Westfield shopping centre at Stratford also starts to deliver 1.9 million square feet of retail and leisure space for us to indulge ourselves in from February 2011 (well, the fit out works anyway).
  • In The Telegraph Cameron interview he is quoted as saying… ‘Crossrail is estimated to generate benefits of up to £50 billion, High Speed 2 could provide over £2 of benefits for every £1 spent, with the London to Birmingham line promising the UK as much as £32 billion’
  • In Building Magazine’s article So what’s left after the all the cuts?  James Wates, Chairman of the UK Contractors Group, said ‘…there are real opportunities for construction especially in transport and energy but also in education and health.’ Their report also seems to confirm that whilst spending will be curtailed the key message being taken is that Transport will be the seen as a key driver of economic growth (no pun intended).
  • Education is the bleakest spot for everyone in construction… But to echo a message I’ve heard from many Estimators over this period: Who seriously made any money at schools?! Enough said.
  • The thing that interests me most is the housing sector, as this has some interesting twists and turns to take. Is it the end of Social Housing as we know it? Well yes I think it is. But wasn’t it time for us to make some sweeping changes anyway?! A consultation scheme will be launched in November for the New Homes Bonus Scheme to be launched in April 2011, its aim being to bring in private sector funding on a much larger scale than ever before. I think its bold, but I also think it will create some great opportunities for us all. So get your thinking caps on and be creative and get involved I say. There’s more about this in Grant Shapps open letter that he tweeted on Saturday.

Now let’s hear what has to be said today by David Cameron at the CBI on growth, and also what The Telegraph publishes on Rebuilding Confidence…

Lessons Learnt

You may have been following a story with one of our clients which I titled The Impossible (you can read the original post here and the follow-up here). So what have I learned from this? What did we do wrong or could we have done better? Having had time to reflect here’s some of the things I’ve come up with. But first, a bit more background…

 

 
How did it all happen?
We met over the internet.
They had a need. We wanted to fill that need.
It was desire (or lust) at first contact.
We sent in our man on a blind date, he secured the work and started immediately.

Who took the brief? 
Our surveyor did. The client needed someone fast and we sent him straight in; something we wouldn’t ordinarily do.

Who then managed the brief?
 Our surveyor did. Having been there at the original briefing, we left him to manage the job. It didn’t sound that bad an assignment; it was routine work to us…

Who did he call when things started to go off course?
Well the guy he took the brief from of course. The trouble with this was that he wasn’t the day to day contact on the project and was divorced from every day issues that had cropped up.

What could we have done differently?
Gone to see the client after the brief had been given to make sure that it had been correctly translated and that a clear plan had been agreed (as we would usually do)

The moral of the story?
Lack of time is no excuse for compromising on attention to detail. Even though the need was urgent we should have found time.

The Impossible – The Final Chapter

It’s been a month now since I told you about the client who expected us to perform the impossible so I thought I’d bring you up to date. Sadly, not all stories have a happy ending…

Client: We’re still not happy with the rate of progress you’ve been making.

GFP: I’m sorry to hear that, but as we explained we need input from your team to help us in our task, and their time has been limited unfortunately.

Client: Yes we’ve heard all that before, but this is just an excuse as far as we are concerned. You’re costing us a lot of money at the moment and we don’t seem to be getting anything in return.

GFP: Forgive me, but we aren’t trying to make excuses – we’re just trying to piece together all of the facts and information to be able to present the best case for you. That’s what you want from us isn’t it? The best return on the project?

Client: That’s what we don’t understand – why do you need to do that?! You’ve got all the records in that bundle over there, can’t you just make it up what you don’t know or haven’t got?

GFP: Well, errr, actually NO. We can’t just go making things up. We are providing a professional service, and our reputation relies on us being just that – professional. We need to present details that will stand up to scrutiny by a third party.

Client: That’s the problem; that approach is getting us nowhere and taking ages. We don’t have time for this! And besides, your fees are far too expensive for us.

GFP: Well I’m sorry to hear you feel that way about our fees, but they are what we agreed at the outset for the services you wanted. Is there anything we can do to help on this?

Client: No. We’ve decided we don’t want your help anymore. Leave the site by the end of the week.

The end 😦

How to manage your business RICS style

How quaint! While all around us people have been re-branding, re-naming, becoming expert Consultants in all sorts of property related matters, and operating under limited liability status in some form or other (because of our dear friends at HMRC) the RICS has produced a document called ‘Practice management guidelines – The management of surveying business’. It’s the quaint expression of “practice management” that got me. Maybe it’s just me, but are we still called practices?! This aside, the point is that the document is a guidance note. Just advice, so they say… But it comes with a health warning! Though it may just be a guidance note, it goes on to say that if you don’t follow their advice and you get a P.I. claim then the RICS will take a dim view of you. And the courts too apparently, so read on…!

The guidelines were first published in 1997, updated in 2003 and have now been updated again in 2010. They’ve even added references to CRM and social media, with LinkedIn getting a special mention. They also have ‘must do’, ‘recommended’ and ‘advisable’ sections, so make sure you’ve read and understood them!

To be fair, it’s a very good read with lots of useful information and tips for any professional in business. They give really good pointers on business management, people management and current legislation too, with references of where to go for further advice if you need it. I really liked the section on practice leadership, leading your management team and the part about understanding your team members and the eight generic types of personalities you might encounter, which they have labelled as follows:

  • The independent: prefers to be left alone and often finds it difficult to work with others
  • The entrepreneur: highly commercial type who is an excellent networker and deal maker
  • The traditionalist: considers the former professional ways are not only still best, but the only way
  • The plateaued: reliable and friendly but passed over for promotion and lacking apparent motivation for change
  • The former star: great ‘back when’, but living on the memory and reputation of past glories
  • The politician: canny operator, but usually on the look out for number one
  • The teflon type: difficult to pin down and make accountable
  • The ego: has an opinion on everything and is always right (in his or her eyes anyway).

I particularly liked the teflon type who they suggest:  “know all the loopholes and dodges, so involve them in reviewing procedures and contracts.” So if you’ve got one of these that’s the tip on how to deploy them!

What I don’t understand though is why they chose to reproduce the second edition questions as an appendix again?! Confusing. But all in all I really liked it. This an example of good work by the RICS and, in my opinion, some genuinely useful spending of our membership fees.

I actually happened to visit the Great George Street HQ yesterday (see photo). It’s the first time in a year or so I’ve been and I’d forgotten what a lovely old building it is. I used the members room, though it felt a bit deserted… but then it would be wouldn’t it… they’ve sent everyone to Coventry! 😉

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If you would like to read the Practice management guidelines then you can download them here, but sadly only if you are an RICS member! If you are not a member and would still like to take a look then please email me and I will forward you a copy.


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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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