Recently I caught up with Ray Kershaw of Mondo Homes, a highly motivated 31-year-old with a strong ambition to be the best quality builder he can. He has some great tips for bricklayers that make very good business sense. Starting out, he did a carpentry apprenticeship and as such, is very passionate about how to conduct a successful business. His advice, therefore, is ‘Gold’ because it comes from his combined experience as a tradesman and builder.
Ray has won several building industry awards in recent years as well as the highly respected MBA/Midland Brick “Ric New Rising Star Award” back in 2009 and has also been nominated this year for the best new builder.
Thanks for the sound advice Ray:
- Be sure to present detailed invoices on time to the builder for works completed that carry as much detail as possible with the correct calculations.
- Some of the more professional trade contractors send their invoices electronically and include professional development and achievement details such as “Member of…”, “trade qualification…” and “Winner of the…Award”.
- This helps build a positive profile and gives the builder confidence that they are using the right tradesman.
- Take time to familiarise yourself with the plan, details, schedule, purchase order and induction documents prior to starting the job.
- Modern-day residential homes have varying degrees of complexity encompassing engineering details, zonal and environmental requirements.
- Doing a job correctly will ensure a profit; however making a mistake may cost you money, future contracts and your reputation.
- Ensure that you have workers compensation and work liability insurance, an ABN, GST registration and other trade trading documentation in place.
- New contractors should at least engage in a basic business management course or courses to get an idea on how to run a business. Courses are available in WA through a variety of training providers, some with reduced fees for new contractors post-apprenticeship training (Search online).
- Engage an accountant or at very least a bookkeeper. An Insurance broker will help get the right cover for your business at competitive rates. Builder Associations may also be able to help (MBA and HIA) with these services.
Communication and Presentation
- Invest in online communications and access where wherever you are: a tablet, smartphone and perhaps a personal computer enable you to communicate well, trade and compete effectively.
- It is much easier to manage contracts, contacts and business details this way. Accessing and communicating engineering details is made easy with online access. Paper plans are also likely to be a thing of the past soon.
- Label and badge your vehicles, clothing and correspondence, including business cards.
- This demonstrates professionalism and if correctly promoted may also generate new business as well as secure your existing clients.
- Consider developing a website or Facebook page, a hard-copy work portfolio, references and other marketing materials.
- In difficult times this will help you secure work and in good times promote confidence to builders, customers and other clientele. It will also act as a library to help others make informed decisions on what can be achieved in brick and thus create more work opportunities.
- Keep the site clean as well as your tools and vehicle.
- Image is everything and it will reduce the risk of incidents!
- When you are on site, whether communicating verbally or electronically, good manners matter and cost you nothing.
- It helps you build a relationship with the builder and direct customer.
- Punctuality and commitment to being on the job at the agreed time is very important.
- Chopping and changing your time on the job, or being unreliable is very damaging to the relationship and trust between you and your builder and direct customer. People have long memories!
- If you have completed an apprenticeship or obtained a qualification via RPL, don’t be afraid to tell others.
- This is particularly so if you have just spent the last 3-4 years as an apprentice.
- Promote your qualification when bidding for work and be sure to use it in your marketing and even administrative communications.
- Join Associations, engage in professional development and don’t stop learning.
- The more knowledge you have the better you’ll be at communicating and problem solving. Plus, expectations change and staying up to date is important. Should want to become a builder, extra training will pay back in spades.
- Be aware: When you’re onsite, you’re representing the builder in how they build and the quality of product offered to their consumers.
- Buying a home is a major investment. Clients want the assurance they are getting a good product and the builder has good tradesmen on the job. Anything and everything you do on site will be seen by others and may not only affect the builder’s reputation but yours too – yes people talk in our industry!
- Rates and extras will always be contested.
- However, be aware that builders need security in the tradespeople they partner and as such you should strive to develop trust with a builder of your choice. Many will reciprocate in your favour when the industry is in downturn. So think twice before jumping ship for a higher price – last on first off!
- Job profitability can increase with small changes to how you undertake basic tasks. For example,
- Is the mixer, sand and water in a good position in relation to the bricks and the slab?
- Running out of brick ties, cement or sand perhaps? Anticipate this, call the builder or the builder supervisor ASAP as opposed to having a day at the beach!
- Are your tools clean or is there two kilos of dry mud cemented onto the shovel?
- Are you forever cleaning the cavities having slapped on too much mud, too fast?
In conclusion what Ray and many other builders are looking for from new and existing bricklaying contractors in our industry, are tradesman that are reliable, respectful and portray a high degree of professionalism. Plainly this comes from embracing new communication technologies and old fashion values!
Remember these two things, just because you are a gun bricklayer doesn’t mean you are a good contractor or business operator and also Perth is still a small place!
ABBTF WA Manager