Communication is Critical

As we reach the end of the first quarter of 2021, it is pleasing to see our sector continue to thrive. Our builders are busy, apprentice numbers are growing, and consumer confidence remains high. But that does not mean it will all be plain sailing. We are still navigating our way through COVID-19 and the impacts that has had on our economy. Communication is now maybe one of our most critical tools – whether that be with our clients, our peers in the sector, or with government.

We all have a role to play in our recovery. Communicating openly and honestly with our clients will help to build trust, collaborating with others in the sector will help us work through issues together, and connecting with government to overcome the big challenges we are facing will ensure the building and construction sector remains strong through these challenging times. 

Communicating with clients
It is an incredibly busy time for our sector, add to that the supply chain disruption due to COVID-19, and delays are inevitable on every project. While we know this, our clients do not. We need to remember, it can be a stressful time for the client, with it likely being the most significant investment of their lives, and usually with no previous experience to draw on. Effective communication will play an essential part of any successful project and will help to build a trusting partnership. 

Good communication at the outset is vital, as is setting realistic timelines and keeping those on your orderbooks regularly updated. Common obstacles and disputes can often arise through no fault of our own, and there is the potential for future lockdowns which may cause disruption. Despite best intentions, variances or delays in the short term can pop-up. The key is to make sure you address any issues early, flag these to your client, and put everything in writing so you have it to refer to. 

Having these tricky conversations can be tough, but they are extremely important. A ‘she’ll be right’ attitude is a big risk in our current environment. Often when tricky conversations are delayed or avoided, disputes occur. The earlier you have your conversation, the more likely you are to have a satisfactory outcome. At Master Builders we see that almost three quarters of all complaints that come through our dispute’s resolution service could have been avoided if tricky conversations had happened earlier. 

Collaborating with our peers
Along with our customers, it is just as important that we have good communication with our peers. From our colleagues and the sub-trades we are working with on-site, to others working in the sector, clear communication will help keep everyone on the same page and collaborating to work through any issues together. 

This clear communication needs to go further than the regular on-site toolbox meetings that ensure the site is being safely managed and the project remains on-track. By coming together, we can talk about the issues we face, ask for help, and learn from others on how they overcame similar challenges. That is why Master Builders created the Constructive Forum a few years ago, and we have seen great success in this collaboration. It’s an opportunity to get together to communicate our concerns, hear from leaders in the sector about best practice and put our minds together to develop tangible solutions. It was from this Forum the Construction Sector Accord was developed – a tangible solution to help the government and industry transform the construction sector.

But communicating with our peers doesn’t have to be formal, or in a forum. These conversations can happen off the building site or out of the office. The key is to grow our network of people within the sector, to go to for advice when facing a challenge. 

Connecting with Government 
While the sector is currently going gangbusters, we need to be ready to respond to any changes, and we may need government intervention to support us. This means we need to be having these conversations now, to communicate what support we will need. 

There is much focus on housing and a lot going on at a policy level across the sector – from the RoVE transformation to the RMA reform, Commerce Commission review of building supplies, the Climate Change Commission Report and of course the recent Government announcements on housing policy changes – there is a lot to be across. We will continue to keep you updated, and will be discussing all these issues on the 12th and 13th of August at the Master Builders Constructive Forum, hosted at Shed 6.  

David Kelly