Stuck in a hole?

27th November 2020

From time to time, we meet developers when they are on their knees. They pick up the phone and call us because a couple of properties, a site or their entire portfolio of plots have gotten out of hand and they don’t have the knowledge or resource to put it right themselves.

There’s a myriad of reasons this can happen but I’ll take us through a couple so you can see just how relatable the problems are.

Number 1) The contractor’s gone bust

As we all know, when this happens, it does so very quickly and with little prior warning. Main contractors often have financial liabilities ranging far above and beyond your site that they just finished two months ago and so financial recourse is often minimal.

Number 2) Poor build quality

We could all write several books just on this subject but it suffices to say this can stem from issues of contract, issues of product or labour or issues of quality control. It’s really easy to have a poor build, it’s very difficult to have a good one.

Number 3) Keyboard warriors

It only takes one tech savvy twitter user to raise hell for a developer by posting pictures of any and all issues they can find in their property, and laying bare all failed attempts to put things right. Occupants like these are also very good at stirring up their neighbours.

Number 4) Unusual geography or other working conditions

Developers are very good at doing what they are very good at doing, but sometimes we see companies straying outside of their comfort zone; building in a location or a way that they wouldn’t usually, and finding the learning curve just a little too steep.

When we talk about developers approaching us in times of crisis, its often times because of one of the above reasons and at this point, people are pretty frank about causes – they just need the pressure to come off of them and they need that to happen very quickly.

We are used to seeing job lists in the thousands and we are used to sitting down for the first time with fractious clients, contractors and occupants.

How we handle the backlog of jobs depends on each situation but I can tell you what our first steps will be in each case.

Step 1) We have a round table discussion with all of the key stakeholders. This will include the client and the contractors but possibly also a social landlord, a tenants’ representative, an employers agent and anyone else who has the same objective that we do.

It’s out experience that these meetings should be repeated, regularly and with a strong chairing voice, to keep everyone focused on the task ahead and to monitor progress frequently.

Step 2) We ring fence the backlog. This is about drawing a line in the sand. To do this, we write to every effected homeowner and ask them to report any and all issues that they feel are outstanding up until that point.

It’s very usual for jobs to have been lost in between the cracks, and as big as the list might seem on day one, the point is that it will never grow, only shrink. From that point on, your regular resource is freed up to keep the day to day ticking over while the backlog diminishes under our supervision.

Step 3) We log all of the jobs on our system and write to all occupants and contractors to make them aware of their individual outstanding lists.

Everyone is now aware of and has sight of the size of the problem and can make arrangements through our co-ordinator team to bring down the jobs day by day.

What if there’s no contractor?

Its really common for us to begin working on sites where there’s no incumbent contractor.

Depending on the size of the site, it may be necessary to source and instruct an alternative main contractor to ensure there’s always a resource available and After Build can assist through this tender process.

On smaller sites, it’s possible to find contractors on a job by job basis and After Build can source suitable contractors for you. We will even instruct and pay contractors directly on a developer’s behalf, as long as we are put in funds first.

What if the site needs management?

On a couple of occasions where we’ve felt it’s necessary, we’ve installed a site resource to help manage the work flow in the first intense weeks of clearing a backlog. This is someone who can be a single point of contact with our office team, they can hand out jobs directly, inspect works completed and sign off on job sheets with customers.

We’ve also been able to source site staff such as site managers if the site is still live and needs a permanent presence.

After Build can provide a single point of contact for your customers during this time and one of our core KPIs is contacting a customer with an open job once a week, regardless of whether we have anything new to tell them, just to make sure they are informed and don’t feel left behind.

We can work with you to set realistic targets for job completion rates and, the best part, is that we can be up and running within two weeks of a signed agreement so you’ll feel an immediate relief of pressure.

If you are in a crisis at one or many of your sites, pick up the phone to After Build today and find out how we could help you to solve the problem.

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