Rules of thumb: managing your self-build project

Worried about managing your self-build project with little to no experience? Here are Andrew Stanway’s four rules of thumb for a successful outcome.

In this article we cover:

  • Four rules of thumb to ensure a smooth build
  • What to be prepared for before you start on your self-build
  • How a self-build project is different to other projects

You are right to be concerned because running a building site is nothing like anything you’ll have ever done before.

Be gentle on yourself and listen to what the old hands on the site say and you’ll get along fine, given you’re used to managing in other settings.

This said, a building site isn’t like an office or most other work environments, because it’s effectively a kind of one-off outdoor factory with a group of temporary workers who may not be used to working together. This, and the fact that building work is potentially dangerous, brings challenges with it.

The sorts of things you’ll need to be aware of and to keep on top of include:

  • Poor timekeeping.
  • Workers ignoring Health and Safety issues.
  • People (workers and visitors) flaunting your Site Rules.
  • Poor quality workmanship.
  • Poor level of output.
  • Drinking alcohol or taking drugs on the site.
  • Rudeness, discourtesy, or thoughtlessness (especially to visitors or neighbours).
  • Theft.
  • Poor attitude.

To make sure you stay on top of self-build project, here are my top 3 rules of thumb:

1/ Always be courteous

If you are unhappy with someone’s behaviour, be careful and courteous about how you approach them. It could be that, with your inexperience, you’ve somehow misread the situation. You don’t want an argument on your hands if the individual feels judged or picked on. Keep things calm and, if possible, have an older, more experienced, worker on hand while you sort out the matter.

2/ Seek out information

Ask the worker for their views before escalating things. Always see if they can suggest ways of overcoming your concerns. A good worker can often do this, especially if the work (especially the poor work) of others is an issue that’s preventing them from doing their job properly. This happens surprisingly often.

3/ Be clear

Setting out from the start the standards you expect will help your workforce understand what’s required of them and, as always in tricky situations, it pays to listen as much as you talk, so people feel heard and understood.

Last resort…

For those who cannot or will not change, you may have to give them a formal warning letter and then be prepared to fire them if they still don’t behave in the way that you want and they have undertaken to do. If in any doubt where you stand in employment law on this, take legal advice.

Share and Enjoy !


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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