Hiring direct labour

Once you’re clear that you’re the right person to manage the project, hiring the right people is just as essential. Here’s a checklist of what to consider:

Start early: Find all of the people you want to hire for the various jobs at the design stage, that is, before you get on site. And if possible, get them to commit to a timeframe to do the work. Rushing to find someone at the last minute will not only be stressful but may compromise the quality of the work. However, bear in mind that some tradesmen will ask that you get in touch much closer to the date before they will give you a price so this will need to be scheduled into your calendar. Do your research: It takes time to do the research to find the right people as you will need to go and see what they’ve done before and talk to previous clients. While it certainly pays to rely on word of mouth, you will need to make sure you get along with the person in question. In fact it can’t be overstated how important it is to feel comfortable with the people you hire – communication is essential to get the job done the way you want. A good relationship also tends to instil pride in the work, which is beneficial for both you and the tradesman. In general terms, you should keep abreast of changes by reading appropriate journals as construction technology is constantly evolving (despite what builders might tell you!). Check their insurance details and qualifications: All tradesmen must be insured and you should ask for proof of same; if they’re cagey about it, it’s a bad sign! This is essential. Not unsurprisingly, not all builders keep up with the necessary qualifications such as Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) or proof of training to use machinery so make sure to check for the required accreditation. In ROI you will need to gather all necessary health & safety documentation to add to your safety file (see Your Obligations below). It’s always a good sign when they’re a member of a reputable organisation such as the Federation of Master Builders. Put a contract in place: Everyone on-site must be fully aware of their responsibilities and commitments. The project manager must ensure that a written contract or agreement, however basic, exists to record the scope of work, the time constraints and the agreed final cost. As each operative comes on site the contract should be reviewed again for clarity. Some tradesmen work on a ‘supply and fix’ basis. Be clear about who is paying for what and if you want something different you may have to purchase this separately, having first of all ensured that the tradesman has the expertise to fit it. Again, this may ruffle feathers but it’s better to know in advance and not have to rush around finding a new electrician, plumber or joiner half way through. Payments: Fixed price agreements are always best as the onus is on the operative to supply sufficient labour and in some cases materials, to complete the job on time. Hiring on a time basis leaves you vulnerable to low productivity and cost over-runs. Never ever pay in advance. This is the quickest way to finding yourself stuck with a half completed project. Instead make stage payments as the work is done with the largest amount payable upon completion. Allow 10 per cent of the total budget as a contingency fund; for very complicated projects this could be up to 30 per cent. These days cash flow is a problem for everyone so when working with individual trades know that you may be asked to pay for the work as soon as it’s been finalised, or even possibly on a weekly basis, as opposed to being able to wait 30 days (as can be expected with your builder’s merchant). The most frustrating financial dilemma is where tradesmen refuse to work anymore because they haven’t yet been paid for work done and your lender won’t release more cash until the work is done. It’s at times like these that you’ll need your ‘dream’ to keep you going in the wee small hours! Backup: You should always have a backup plan, (see Risk management above), in this instance in case someone doesn’t show up or isn’t working out. Have telephone numbers and pricing details of alternative labour on hand. Hiring and firing: It’s not everyone’s cup of tea but it is an essential part of being the boss. Strive to be sure of your facts and courteous in your approach. Explain the site rules: Before beginning work on site you will need to explain where everything is and where everything goes (especially waste!), and you will need to explain what the rules are. These will be primarily based on health and safety requirements (see Your Obligations, below) but also include any potential housekeeping annoyances such as radio, smoking, use of WCs, etc. A note on DIY – while a lot of the jobs you will need carried out will be ‘low’ skilled and could be done by you, much of the work will require specialist intervention – oftentimes by law, as is the case for gas installations. If you are intent on having some true DIY involvement then it is important that it doesn’t become the limiting factor in achieving a smooth and economical build process. It is as important to recognise your limitations as it is your strengths.

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Andrew Stanway

Written by Andrew Stanway

Andrew is a project manager with over 30 years’ experience. He is also a writer and the author of Managing Your Build published by Stobart Davies.

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