What struggles do you face with on-site communication?
How could you improve?
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If you’re just assuming that others know how you want things done, even if they’re the same trade as you, that’s not always going to be the case. Making assumption is one of the biggest communication challenges for builders.
Duayne, a lot of builders who build their business and start getting teams, obviously are going to end up having chippies or carpenters working as part of their teams on site. When you come from a carpentry background and become a builder, you can find that you’ve got particular ways that you like things being done. Ways that you know work over a period of time.
Then trying to convey that to your team can be a really big sticking point for a lot of builders. How do you suggest builders get their carpenters doing things the way that they want them done on site?
It’s about not assuming. So much of what we do on site, for me anyway coming from a carpentry background and then growing into a builder. I just always assumed that they would or I expected that they would know what I wanted.
I’m rocking up there for half an hour, I’m having some meetings with people. I’m putting some notes on a white board, I’m talking as I’m walking, and then I disappear and leave the site. And I would expect that they’d taken it all in and then wonder, I used to get frustrated, because I’d come back the next day or whenever and things hadn’t been done right or not the way that I wanted. And yeah, it can get quite frustrating. But ultimately I was causing the problem.
I think that whenever you’re working with any kind of team, the whole issue around assumptions can be such a catching point for problems. I actually had a colleague that very early in my architectural career, said to me, ‘Amelia, you need to remember that assumptions are the mother of all F-ups’. And it’s something to really take to heart. Because what happens is that if you’re just assuming that others know how you want things done, even if they’re the same trade as you, that’s not always going to be the case.
Spending the time of actually thinking about how you’re going to work with them so that they know what you want done and the way you want things done becomes so important.
Knowledge is Power
I think we take that for granted, whatever type of builder you are. We do the PAC process, so I’ve literally been staring at the plans, been involved in all these meetings, I’ve built the house 50 times in my head before my team starts on site, or before they even get the information. So I’ve got to understand that there’s bound to be mistakes and things that people are not on the same page if I’ve had all this time to review it.
And even if you’re a builder that is possibly still on the tools a bit and works closely with your team, again, but if you’re sitting in the office, you’re doing takeoffs, you’re getting things ordered and delivered to site. And this stuff turns up and your team’s there and then you’re saying oh, that should have been cut, and that goes over there and things are going wrong, and there’s material shortages, and they’re putting things in the wrong place. What do you expect? It blows my mind now when I think about how frustrated I used to get and how there was a lot of confrontation on site. And I think well, it had to happen. It was my own fault.
Now we have a process where we give people information well before they turn up the site, and it’s made such a big difference.
I think that’s the thing too, is that if you’re constantly butting your head against the fact that you’re assuming that they should just know how you want things done, they’re getting frustrated, because you’re constantly annoyed with them at not doing things a certain way. And the amount of animosity that builds between you and your team members when they think that you can never be pleased, that you’re never happy with them. You’re never happy with anything that they do.
And so they turn up to work every day knowing that they’re going to not do things the right way. Because you as the business owner and the builder in charge have not taken the time to actually explain to them how you want things done. You’re setting people up to fail. You’re setting people up to not be able to learn and grow and work with you in those situations.
Empowering Your Team
And you’re also setting yourself up to get in that mindset of I may as well do everything myself. I’d think why, what’s wrong with these people? You’re setting yourself up to fail as well.
So we’ve developed a lot of systems and processes which are now available in our Live Life Build program, ELEVATE, but it’s all about giving people time. And so part of our system now, not just with our own employees, but all of our contractors as well, is having, whether it be Google Drive for the contractors, we use Slack for our own team, but giving them access to the documents very early on.
And they’ve all taken to it. Giving them time to, whether it’s after work, or at home or on weekends, whenever, to get their head around the job so that the first day on the job, everyone can hit the ground running.
Probably the biggest thing that’s come out of it for us is it’s actually started creating a lot more open talk about things. So quite often our team will review details or we’ll be having a squiz at the plans on a Sunday afternoon. And when we have a site meeting or a catch up on the Monday morning, they’re prepared, they know what questions to ask.
It’s completely changed our business, and it’s taken away all my frustration.
We can now work through things together. But also I’ve had a lot of conversations with my team about the fact that I’ve built the house 50 times. So it takes the pressure off them. Because I’ve said to them, look, I get it, you’ve had the plans for whatever, two weeks, four weeks, six weeks, I’ve been working on this job for 18 months, I literally know it inside out, so don’t feel bad if you don’t understand something or don’t know something. Come to me if you’ve got questions. And again, it’s just all about opening up those clear communication lines, giving people permission to ask, making people feel comfortable that they can ask, and putting systems and processes in place to set the business up for success.
We talk a lot about communication in Live Life Build, as it is the lynchpin for running a successful building business. Whether it is communicating with your client, your team, your sub contractors, it all comes down to regular communication. If this discussion has had you thinking about your communication processes, why not check out Setting Expectations With Your Building Team and Stop Blaming Others Start Taking Responsibility.