Posts Tagged 'Building Magazine'

Tender lists, who cares?

Now this might start as a strange story, so bear with me, you’ll get the drift of my theme I’m sure.

Why is it, that assuming exactly the same product is available, if you went to buy it from say, Harrods as opposed to any other high street retailer such as Argos and the like, you’d expect to pay more for it at where?

Well Harrods of course, everyone agrees on that.

So far so good.

Then why is it that a current trend I’m picking up on is to line up the likes of Harrods and Argos against each other and expect Harrods to give you the cheapest deal? Now substitute those names with any diverging set of Contractors or Subcontractors or Suppliers you care to name. Oh and then also have a very extensive list too, don’t just go to Harrods and Argos. Now I can hear you all groan as you say we’ll never win that project with ‘X’ on the tender list they are ‘buying’ work all over, what an unfair listing.

Sound familiar?

What damage is this practice doing to the industry as a whole?

Well here’s my take on a bit of that.

Part of our State of the Economy Survey we carried out recently contained a question ‘Whats the single biggest likely area for costs to increase this year for you?’ We had the usual expected answers of fuel, steel, concrete and the like, see the recent building article we are living  in a materials world for more on that….…but, one of the other top answers was ‘the increasing cost of putting together a bid to win a project.’

Interesting.

Well we know for sure about that in a small way for our contribution of providing bills of quantities to contractors bidding on design and dump, errr sorry, design and build projects these days. Let alone the pqq’s that go before that, the subsequent bid team that is needed and the various documents that everyone seems to require for the bid and then no longer refer to for the duration of the project. As after all who considers those when ‘X’ has put in a bid so much cheaper than anyone else………you go with ‘X’ don’t you……… it’s such a bargain you cannot refuse it.

Now where does everyone think these costs end up?

Well on the face of it with the contracting party.

But in the long run?

Well the end user of course.

 What a waste of time, money and effort.

Who advises clients on this?

Well professional advisers naturally. So come on guys instead of lining up Harrods with Argos, make the competition realistic and keep the numbers bidding to a sensible list. Stand up to Clients who insist on having you compile unbalanced tender lists. You’ll be surprised about the outcome.

And a final thought, what practice came about as a result of extensive tender lists and contractors not wishing to decline a tender opportunity………..

Something might turn up…

Now this is a word of warning for those of a nervous disposition……don’t read this! Why?

Well I could be writing about anyone you know in construction right now…..

I read the article The Eye Test in last Fridays ‘building’ magazine, page 42/43 if you happen to get a paper copy, or here’s the link if you subscribe.

It’s a message for all company directors out there, don’t take risks at the expense of the support of your creditors.

The gist of the case was about a property company continuing to trade beyond the point any reasonable person would, on the blind belief ‘that something might turn up’ and the consequences this had.

The thing is it really is quite a difficult call to make, as if you are certain you’ve got a deal that will make you a fortune, and you’ve got all your eggs in that basket, and bang! All of a sudden things don’t quite fall into place. Suddenly you could be in a very cold and lonely place! And who wouldn’t think…..something might turn up……..as invariably if you put the effort in, make a few calls, ask a few favours ………..it does. But be warned it might not, and there are consequences…..

The judgment in the case itself is a message to company directors, but the key principles apply to anyone involved in running a business these days when they get to that point of no return.

So the messages from the article that came out to me were:

  • Look after you creditors and their interests – surprising that to some people you might think
  • Monitor your cash flow intensely, identify any irregularities that highlight the company cannot make its payments by the due dates – basic common sense isn’t it?
  • Investigate all available options for putting the company back on track – and don’t delay in doing so, it takes time
  • Hold regular board meetings, and keep notes of why you have decided to act in that way, what facts did you have that made you take a particular decision – you’ll never remember in time to come.
  • Consider the need to keep all stakeholders in the business informed at the appropriate times – everyone has an interest in keeping the business alive
  • Don’t place orders for work when there is no prospect of you paying for that work – common sense again!
  • Don’t put personal or any other interests before those of the company – difficult one to judge but don’t go for short term greed

And………….don’t continue to trade on the basis that ‘something might turn up’…..

For anyone interested to read more on this, the case is Roberts vs Frohlich and if you do read it, it has some great insights into the way or industry works with developers and contractors jostling in the formation of contracts. It also has around paragraph 43 a great quote from the letter of intent and the problems of naming individuals in any such letter. Fancy naming the Chairman of an organization as the only person you could negotiate commercial matters with!

Couldn’t resist this one either……….there’s also a Spanner in the works too!

Calm before the storm…….

I don’t know about you but we’ve been rushed off our feet since we came back after the Christmas break and things have only really just slowed down for us – producing boq’s for contractors that is. Time to draw breath we think. Conversely our Consultancy site based QS services has been at a low level of activity for quite a while now, everyone getting by the best way they can.

But is it just me, or is there something in the air………things are about to get more, dare I say sinister this year?

Buildings headline news of insolvencies being down in January compared to last year is more optimistic news – sad news for those 205 companies and all their employees mind, not a great start to the New Year for them.

But I think things are about to take a turn for the worse…….. (and I’m not the only one, take a look at Neil Edwards blog for some words of warning too)

Now I normally look on the bright side when I can, but I can hear too many alarm bells starting to ring now, meaning it’s going to get tough and nasty for us all. And soon.

Fuel prices, raw material prices, interest rates, extended payment periods, government spending cuts, increases in national insurance contributions….I feel like I could go on ……the thing is nothing is going to get any cheaper.

Where is the pressure for everyone?

To reduce costs, and we just cannot do it any longer…..…there’s only one direction for costs this year and that’s upwards.

What has everyone been doing this last year or so? Living off the higher priced projects on the past, and taking advantage of their supply chain reducing its costs over the same period.

What is happening now? Prices are still being submitted at low rates anticipating that things will be bought even cheaper later on.

The bad news………….It’s just not going to happen.

The supply chain is at rock bottom and cannot go any lower. Look also at the Construction Products Association recent press release ‘Sharp Material Prices Add to Construction Woes’. I predict some serious repercussions for lots of organisations as a result. So now is the time to be vigilant and if the bank says that client is a bad bet, you know what? They are probably right.

It really is the calm before the storm………..

Time for a Construction Revolution?

I read an article in The Times the other weekend about how the uprising began in Tunisia with a simple story about a fruit and veg man being badly treated and how that subsequently spread to the events we all saw in Egypt, and now other countries too.  It got me thinking (dangerous I know…)

The thing about being an SME, or at the lower end of the food chain, is that it’s a very hard and lonely place to be right now.

You’ve got the big companies holding on to your cash for longer. Getting paid after 60 or 90 days is not uncommon now and, really, for no other reason than to fund the way they are pricing their work. It looks good to their backers as it appears they’ve cash in hand at the bank. Everyone knows the game.

You’ve got your own banks telling you to get your cash in earlier otherwise they’ll, well, you know what… to you.

You’ve got the Government fiddling with red tape and employment laws making it even harder for you to know what’s best for your business. Can someone tell me what the new retirement changes will mean to an SME for instance?

And in the end all that happens is any little profit you may be making is squeezed out of you when you get hit by, yes… a bad debt!

Sounds like I’m speaking from experience here and, well, I am… I’d love to give you a few real case studies here, but I’ll keep quiet. Maybe that’s another blog….

So what to do?

Building did try and get a campaign going last year before the election with their Charter 284 Manifesto… Remember that? It had the great statistic that every £1 spent in Construction is worth £2.84 to the Economy. That’s a fantastic statistic and makes our industry one of the most important to the Economy.

So what happened to that? Well all we’ve had since then is cuts in spending and more cuts in spending. Why wasn’t our voice heard? I don’t trust the new way in which the Economy statistics are being produced either at the moment. Who feels like our industry grew by 8% in the fourth quarter of 2010 compared to 2009?!

Surely it’s time for a Construction Revolution of our own?

The RICS has tried again to kick things off in it’s own way with a call for a reduction in the VAT rate on the repair and maintenance of homes to 5%, which they calculate this could lead to £17bn of benefits to the Economy by 2019. But is anyone at the Government really listening to us? I think not…

It’s time for some action from us in the industry to make the Government truly understand how important this industry is to UKplc.

So what to do? I wish I knew but if there were enough of us ordinary everyday people in the industry who could get together and start a campaign for some action to kick start things then I’d be up for the revolution!

Doom and Gloom????

Cuts doom and gloom seems to be the theme of our industry right now or should I say the media in general, nothing like a good old moan from us Brits- even the weather is doing its bit for flaming June!

The thing that bugs me though is the scale of the figures and the fact that like most business around we’ve made massive changes to respond and we are still here alive and kicking ….

Now I’ve been trying to find some stats to back me up, and perhaps someone can help me here but I remember attending an event organised by the sadly now defunct Contract Journal magazine about the Olympics (only 787 days to go). The stat was it was around £9bn of work over a 5 year period and that this represented less that 5% of the total construction output at the time. But what is the total output of the UK construction industry? That’s the bit I couldn’t find. I did find this graphic showing what’s happening to GDP though – looks like things are on the up!

So my point is that there is all this talk of multi billion pound cuts and the dramatic effect it will have on us but I remain to be convinced. The percentage of actual reduction is not that huge. How many of you out there have made huge cost savings and or cuts to your personal life and or business beyond say 5%? A huge number of us I’d guess. So for the government to make savings in it’s wasteful expenditure of our money is a good thing. Surely?

Anyway if you fancy a new mobile phone you could always take a look at how things have come on since 1922. I wonder what they were saying ………

Tesco Value QSs and Architects?!

Now we all like to have a bash at the big boys every now and then so what about the latest story to break about Tesco?

They have flown in some Indian Architects and QS’s to train them in the UK to work on their initial planning and development projects.

Why can they not use UK consultants to do this type of work?! How are they going to keep them aware and up-to-date with UK construction methods, legislation and techniques?! Is it just Tesco driving down costs again, or is something more sinister afoot? Who knows, but has anyone got the ear of someone senior at Tesco that they could talk to about this? It’s mad! Here we are in the UK construction sector struggling to get work, and a big player like Tesco goes overseas! I expect we’ll get Gordon Brown to intervene on our behalf as it’s an outrage! Or maybe we will just fade away quietly… Does anyone realise that without an active and engaged construction community there’s a lot of damage being done to us at the moment?!

I prefer Sainsburys anyway, so I’ll go with the boycott that some of the Building Magazine readers have suggested.

The voice of construction

It’s always a case of whoever shouts loudest gets the most attention, so why does our industry always seem to have such a weak voice when it comes to lobbying government?

Take for instance Building Magazine’s latest campaign: They’ve called it Charter 284: A Building Manifesto to promote construction spending. The title comes from the fact that, according to a report by economic consultant LEK, every £1 invested in construction generates £2.84 of GDP.

Why oh why can our voice not be heard? The government listens to car manufacturers, no doubt now the steelworkers, and it seems almost every other industry except ours. Have we really got just the boiler scrappage scheme on the go at the moment?!

And, while I’m on about it, and following what I was saying two weeks ago, what about this for some headline statistics: The government target (set in 2005) was for us to build 240,000 houses by 2016 and a further 240,000 on an annual basis thereafter. But how many did we build in 2009? 118,000!

If everyone in the industry signs up to Building’s campaign will we stand a chance of getting ourselves back on our feet again? I’d like to think so, but will we do it?

If you are interested then you can sign up here, but this is what Building are saying should be done:

  1. Complete the renewal of the school estate
  2. Don’t let spending on transport infrastructure fall more than 10% below current levels
  3. Reduce the regulatory burden on the housing sector to encourage more development
  4. Give householders incentives to green existing homes
  5. Prioritise the development of renewable energy, including nuclear, through incentives for private sector investment.

What do you think? We’ve got to start somewhere, somehow…


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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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