Category Archives: Vlogs

What is Essential… Really?!

Well, there are so many different people that are still working construction which is phenomenal because as a business owner I can only imagine having to put stuff on hold wondering you know whether we can and cannot work. Putting stuff on hold, our cash flow, our payroll to our team and so on and so forth. You know it’s really frustrating as to what actually constitutes as essential. You know from where I sit, it’s easy. It’s easy for me to complain, it might come across as sargeras but it’s not. I’m trying to build a restaurant, trying to build an office space for clients for their team to provide you know as they say in the political sphere to add to build the economy to infuse money in that ever popular cash into a certain economy and we’re supposed to stop our work but on the other hand what is actually deemed essential?

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Is if you or me want to upgrade our bathroom because we don’t like to look at it and we’ve not taken a vacation for a year we can do that job that’s essential that is deemed essential businesses have had to put their planning on hold. They have had to still continue to pay their interest rates on financing on projects and now it’s on hold and they can’t give clear answers to their lenders as to what’s going on. But new homes can be built, new high-rise condos can be built, it’s interesting what is deemed essential in today’s environment. Well, I’m not begrudging for the actual contractors that are doing some of this work, they’re following the rules and that’s all anyone else can ask for but when it comes to us as the commercial contractors trying to work, we have added scrutiny, we got to make sure all our liability documents are on site. Our form you know safety boards so on and so forth. More often than not we get more spot checks on our sites from ministry of labor making sure that we’re following rules, we’re following protocols. There are so many more hurdles for us to jump through not just to build but to maintain a safe work site for our clients, for our trades as they’re working on it and it’s so frustrating that after now almost 10 – 11 days, there’s still no clarity even worse that’s happening right now when we do have direction when we do have that certainty on certain projects. We have municipal inspectors and municipalities determining that what we are building is not essential so they are not coming to inspect they are deeming it as their own sort of entity saying no we are taken upon ourselves the guidance given by the provincial government is ambiguous and I’m quote-unquote.

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Glad you see the ambiguity but we as a collective decided that your type of project does not deem as essential but ministry of labor has the construction associations have they feel it’s valid? So now I can get to a certain point of work and stop completely. I wonder what’s going to become of a lot of the companies a lot of the people behind these companies that have tried to make it work over this last year. Now obviously going more than a year talk about the impact on small businesses to me where I said I’m a small business it feels like the cards are stacked against us as small businesses not just to succeed but just to maintain a status quo to be around. When all of this lifts into whatever new normal we’re in. I guess we’ve always known that you know our society is all about the haves and the almost haves. I won’t say have nots but it feels like the big guys keep getting bigger and they kept keep getting busier and busier and busier for the small guys well I would say what we’re just 80  – 85 percent of our industry and I’m talking about contractors subcontractors suppliers they’re struggling man. They’re struggling to collect they’re struggling to pay their suppliers their bills it’s no wonder all of our materials are going up and it’s just going to flow downhill so the question we have to ask ourselves what is essential? what is really essential?

What Clarity?! Frustrations everywhere right now

You know I really didn’t want to have to talk about this yet again but in light of the restrictions that came in last week on Friday, we seem to be repeating a lot of the same mistakes as we have in the past. And normally I’m pretty balanced in what I’m talking about but you know after a year of lockdown, after lockdown, after restrictions, after lifting up, you would think that there would be some semblance of clear direction that we receive as to how we go about doing things. Especially and more importantly on a business level. I don’t want to get into some of the other restrictions that they imposed that have since been pulled back but as it pertains to construction it is so frustrating right now. Just trying to get answers as to whether we can or cannot work. We and by we I’m talking about the company that I work with mono construction.

We primarily build restaurants and while the previous lockdowns I got approvals from the ministry of labor from construction associations and the like that we could work since quote-unquote we fall under the production and distribution of food and restaurants are essential, so, therefore, we are essential because we’re supporting them but last time around two we had inspectors that made a decision that we were not essential. Fair, I understand it didn’t like it this time, around the exact same lingo has been put out the exact same verbiage but they’ve added a twist, if you work in hotels, if you work in shopping malls, you can’t work. That’s it, that’s all they say. I’ve got work at shopping malls building restaurants as its own entrance, what do you do? What do you do, my clients have no answers, landlords have no answers, consultants have no answers, heck ministry of labor doesn’t have answers. Apparently they’ve dispatched hundreds of inspectors to make sure we’re working safe and we’re not. We’re not circumventing the rules but if the inspectors themselves don’t know if we can work or not what are we supposed to do? Do I tell the client, we keep working but they got to sign a waiver that they pay all the bills, they pay all the fines? How does that impact them?

You know one of my biggest frustrations with what’s been going on here is that well everyone talk about leadership involving rather leadership involves making the tough decisions and I agree with that but making those tough decisions you also have to provide clarity. You also have to provide direction, clear direction as to what people can and cannot do. Be your team members, be it us in society as businesses, as individuals, what can and we cannot do? Without that direction, leadership means nothing, the hypocrisy of the situation is absolutely ludicrous, doesn’t affect me but I know of other contractors that build office spaces. What do they do? They got to shut down but yet if you have a government contract you can work how does that make sense? I work predominantly with businesses they have a bottom line, they have projections, they’ve got profit and losses they’ve got lease costs, they’ve got financing costs, they’ve got everything, they’ve got more than likely their livelihood on the line. They got to stop their work, they got to stop expanding but a government entity that doesn’t have such ramifications to their livelihood, they can keep, they can have their office built, not providing clarity breeds discontent. I hate to say it but the more you try to appease everybody and give 10 to everybody almost everyone’s upset almost everyone’s frustrated. How do we go about planning our lives?

I know it’s easy to say either lock it all down or open it all back up at least we know at least we know you would think after a year clear direction for businesses on how to operate would have been put forward. You would think that these questions and these concerns from a lot of contractors that want to follow the rules, that want to be safe, when we build, can actually do that. How are we supposed to provide confidence to our clients, clarity to our clients, when we can’t even get answers from the people enforcing the rules my hope and it’s a hail mary pass, whatever you want to call it in the next few days. We get some clarity as to what we actually can and cannot do but given the track history I don’t think that’s going to happen. My hope is we get clarity long before may 20th but you know as they say, as a business owner, as an entrepreneur, plan for the worst, hope for the best and that’s all we can do. Make sure we’ve got four or five different plans in order and we hope that the best is actually implemented.

Thoughts That Build​ – Rising Costs of Construction….

I want to share with you today some of the things and trends that have been happening within the construction industry now. In the past, I have spoken about the need for accurate pricing to make sure the drawings are covered, make sure you get pricing from your suppliers and subcontractors, but what’s been happening now during the pandemic has been what’s the right word it has been strange and uncertain. Costs of materials have been rising exponentially. The same costs as last year at this time compared to this year has gone up 20%, 30%, 40% up. Just in a supply price we’re talking about global supply chain shortages. That’s the first thing because of the pandemic factor in some of the issues that have happened down south in Texas. With their power outages, a lot of suppliers that we’ve had are based in Texas and we’ve had increases from two weeks to eight weeks to supply materials, just due to backlogs of orders. How do we overcome these hurdles? How do we make sure that all parties are aware? I feel like every day I’m having to explain to my clients to architects about delays in supplies of materials. Projects are stagnating as a result but we have to understand that prices that we held two months ago three months ago are not valid today. There was a time pre-pandemic where construction prices we could say we’re going up five to ten percent at least per year but it’s actually gone exponentially. I started doing some work but the prices even from you know a project I got awarded in November until when I received the actual building permit in march had gone up about 22% up in a span of four months.

Understanding this ensuring your clients are aware, trying to find local products as an example because there’s one thing to do with price, the second thing has to do with the lead time they both factor into the success of a project right you don’t want to make sure that your costs go overboard more stress on your clients, more stress on yourself. But you also want to make sure that you’re getting products in at a good time at a good rate. So that you can keep work going, you can keep seeing that progress as you go down.

So understanding the climate in which we’re in right now and understanding that cost today might not be the same as costs in two weeks is really important. Not just for clients but for contractors, subcontractors, homeowners, architects. In vetting, bill costs for us as GCS have gone up in terms of maintaining a safe workplace. We don’t just have to worry about here in Ontario anyway. You know the ministry guidelines, you know working at heights training but now we have to take into account you know safe work distances, contact tracing we have to keep in mind hand sanitizers that have disappeared from my sites actually.

So there’s a lot of things nowadays that we have to be extra diligent about in our communication, in our delivery to our clients because at the end of the day we’re all in this together. We all want to make sure that the clients are getting the best price and we’re making a little bit of money so understanding the whole size and scope of this is imperative to a successful project.

Thoughts That Build​ – Site Supervision…

So another career in construction that you can choose to go down is being a site superintendent. Now some people call them construction site managers, I generally call them that but really what it is. It’s an experienced person on a project site that’s looking after the day-to-day operations of it. Some of the key factors and key roles duties that a site superintendent plays are health and safety. He got to make sure everyone’s safe. Especially in today’s environment, you’ve got to make sure the mask is being worn, you’ve got to make sure a hard hat, safety boots, you got to make sure all those things are in play. Yes, you have a lot of government requirements too and certifications that you need, but a site superintendent needs to make sure that you have a safe and clean project site.

The second one is coordination, you have to be able to schedule at least one to two weeks in advance you going to let trades know, your team knows. If you have in-house personnel when they need to show up on a site to continue a project, you can’t call somebody a day before. I mean you can but chances are they’re busy on other jobs, so scheduling ahead is so vital and so pivotal to being a construction site superintendent. You need to make sure that once the demo is done that you already have your plumber lined up to mark out the floor, so you can do coring trenching concrete removal, you got to have drywallers ready for you know framing layouts, partition layout, so on and so forth and the third one that I find is really vital is quality control measures. You’ve got to make sure that the trades aren’t cutting corners. You’ve got to make sure that what they’re installing is actually asked for the drawings. Now I’m not saying that they always cut corners, I’m saying sometimes it’s really easy to miss. Sometimes a superintendent will pick something up that your estimator or your project coordinator hasn’t picked up on the drawings and how they interface with each other so having that person on-site to report back as things come up. Because things that come up all the time on a project like that, are generally not shown on the drives. How do you know if a site supervision role is for you? You got to see what you’re like as a person and I’m talking about a long-term career in the short term. I’m a big believer that anyone who wants to grow in the construction industry should go into all the aspects of construction. So they have a full understanding of how a project works? How does the industry work? But in terms of supervision, if you’re looking at long-term growth, you want to make sure that you have that attention to detail that you have that you’re able, I should say to communicate with trades on a project site there will be dispute resolutions, you’re not always going to get along with people we have to be able to work with them. You have to be able to put them to task when you need to and then you know still hang out afterward right? You got to have again attention to detail. You got to make sure your schedule’s met the quality control measures are there and if you like just being out and interacting with people and not going to an office once in a while, the site supervision role just might be for you long term but I highly recommend at least experiencing it be it as in a site coordinator role an assistant side superintendent role, you will learn so much just going on a job site for a week two weeks, a month, two months. You will see how these 2d drawings actually are built up and how it tangibly fits together. I couldn’t recommend it enough if you’re looking to grow within the construction industry.

Thoughts That Build – Estimating…

I want to keep talking about the various careers in construction, as it pertains to general contractors and construction managers spoke about differences between project management, site supervision, talked about project coordination, but one of the key foundations to any successful business is their estimating department. Now, why that estimating is the foundation by which you try to capture everything you can see on the drawings. Everything you pick up, it’s not always so linear. You always have other projects on the go, there are tons of notes I mentioned in the blueprint reading, how you have to look at the electrical drawing with the architectural drawing, with the interior design drawing, with the h factoring and trying to make sure everything kind of fits together.

Now, try doing that in a week, ten days, two weeks depending on the size and scope of the project. How do you put all of that stuff together? Make sure you’ve captured everything that you can. I remember when I started in the industry, I worked with the company, my big company bird construction and I was an assistant estimator as a co-op student. I remember one day my supervisor asked me to count doors. So I counted these doors. I was so proud of myself and it came back and he said all right, what are the different sizes? It’s like what do you mean different sizes, to go back 30-inch door, 32-inch door, 36-inch door, now they’re 38-inch doors for universal washrooms accessibility went back to them. Here are the numbers that go all right which ones are fire rated, so you can see how all these things come into play.

The next thing you know just counting doors and frames took me the better part of today, this was a much larger project but once you try to put together the entire size and scope of the different sizes of doors, the different fire ratings of doors, the different hardware that comes into play, every cost is different for each door, some of them jump, some of them roughly stay the same but estimating again is the key part of the reason why it is as well is. It’s so important to try and visit a project site before you price the job. If you look behind me we’re just about to start a new project today and not everything is always picked up on the drawing sometimes in this particular case we’re supposed to demo portions of the space but the new drawings call for painted walls, now while the drawings call for the tiles as you see to be removed halfway down what happens up above when you look at it. It’s actually wallpaper so now you have options, do I just pull off the wallpaper and skim coat it? Do I remove the drywall completely, so now I have to go full sheets of drywall so not just your demo price change, now your drywall price changes as well these are the things you have to keep looking at as it pertains to a project.

Generally speaking, you’re going to be able to submit these questions to the client so everyone’s on an even playing field. Sometimes it’s not so simple, sometimes you don’t have that luxury sometimes when you’re dealing with independent business owners they’re not 100% sure of the exact process. So understanding the actual scope of work is key. I believe in clarity I don’t believe in just pricing as per the drawings you have to look a little bit outside the drawings and see how everything fits together in the real world. So keep that in mind if you want to get into the estimating department. It’s a vital role you need to have attention to detail. You need to have an analytical mind that sometimes you need to think outside the box as well and if that kind of suits you, estimating is key. It’s also a big-big advantage to get into estimating because you can springboard to other roles and go higher up as well because again it forms that foundation of understanding how to price work, how all these prices come together.