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What do you dislike and like about being in construction?

#career-choice #career-path

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Wilson’s Answer

Hello William A.

1. Clients that don’t pay for completed work, or regularly pay their contractors late. When contractors have delivered construction work of the right quality and on time they deserve to be paid. Not paying a contractor on time can have serious repercussions for the contractor, possibly even resulting in them becoming bankrupt. Inevitably there is a knock-on effect and the contractor’s employees, suppliers and subcontractors may not be paid. One invoice not paid, or paid late, can seriously impact the lives of many. Why should owners and clients make money at the expense of others. Of course, it is equally important for contractors to pay their subcontractors and suppliers what’s due to them and on time.

2. Clients that ignore variation claims from their contractors. Contractors can’t be expected to work for free! I had one client simply ignore our variation claims which eventually totalled the value of the original contract – that’s right the contract value had doubled but the client was only paying us for the original contract scope and value. This put severe strain on our cash flow and it would have sunk many other contractors. We tried everything in the book to be paid and only when we instituted legal action were most of our claims paid, although the contractor managed to avoid paying some of our claims on a technical issue. Why did we have to wait 6 months to get money that we were entitled to? If there’s a change in the project scope, or if the contractor has been delayed for reasons beyond their control then they deserve to be compensated – indeed they are entitled to be compensated in terms of the contract.

3. Clients that request you price a project and then use your price to bargain with their favoured contractor who ultimately is awarded the project. Pricing a construction project takes time and costs contractors money. But even worse for the losing contractor is that they might think they have a chance at winning the project and don’t price other prospective projects, so could be left with no work for their teams.

4. Clients that ask contractors to price construction projects which are pie-in-the-sky or won’t be built any time soon. Pricing projects costs money. Why should contractors be used and abused to provide price estimates for grandiose plans.

5. Contractors that lodge excessive or even ludicrous variation claims to try and make up the losses they’ve incurred on the project due to their mismanagement, or because they under-priced the project. Excessive and spurious claims wastes everyone’s time and money. It costs integrity to submit false and inflated claims and it will negatively impact your reputation.

6. Clients that award a construction project to the contractor with the lowest construction price even though the contractor doesn’t have the resources or know how to complete the project. Unfortunately many clients are only interested in the lowest price. Inevitably the contractor who submitted an unreasonably low price runs into difficulties on the project, possibly submitting numerous spurious variation claims to recoup their losses. The client is sometimes left with an unfinished project, or a project that’s completed late, or one that is of poor quality. Of course all contractors are blamed by the client for being useless and crooked, when it was actually the client’s poor choice that caused the problem.

7. Contractors who price projects knowing they don’t have the resources or knowledge to complete the project. That’s irresponsible and possibly even dishonest. I’ve witnessed many contractors run into problems after winning a construction project which they didn’t have resources for. Inevitably they had to hire new personnel who weren’t suitably qualified and who didn’t fit in with the culture of the company. Resources were stretched and management didn’t have time to manage the project. Sure, we all hire personnel and equipment for our construction projects, but it’s critical that we have some key people available within the company for the project, or that we are sure we can employ the right resources for the project. Contractors who don’t have the required knowledge will certainly run into problems which will cost them and their client money.

8. Poor safety. Poor safety leads to injury, additional costs and even death. There is no excuse for poor safety. It is possible to work safely. Yet frequently I see construction projects which aren’t following good safety practices.

9. Contractors who let you down and contractors that don’t respond. Unfortunately there are contractors that let you down. They deliver work late and of a poor quality and then they don’t respond to complaints and requests to sort out their problems. They don’t reply to telephone calls or emails.

10. Poor quality work. There is no excuse for poor quality construction work, no matter how rushed the project or how low the price. Poor quality work tarnishes reputation and it can even cause injury and death. Often it costs no extra money to do the work properly, but poor-quality construction work usually has to be redone costing extra money and time. We should all be proud of our work.

Regrettably, like all industries, construction has its share of fraudsters and liars. But unfortunately, as often as there are unscrupulous contractors there are also dishonest clients. Contractors need to be wary of the clients they work with and clients needs to be more selective in their choice of contractors.
Thank you comment icon Thank you so much for your feedback. Will take this consideration for future contracts. William
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Xia’s Answer

Hi William,

Before I jump in your question, let me provide you with a little bit of background about me: I studied Civil Engineering for my undergrad and went into construction management for a multi-family residential developer for 6 years in the Bay Area. I recently completed my masters degree and transitioned into a new function/section. Now onto your question (please keep in mind that there are many different ways to work in construction, so I am providing my opinions based on my experience/perspective as a construction manager for a developer)

What I loved about construction:

1. A ton of hands-on learning experience - As a general contractor/construction manager, you are learning to become jack of all trades. You have an amazing opportunity to learn about how everything comes together. There is never a dull moment in construction.

2. Building something tangible - I have been and still am very proud of all the buildings that I helped build in the past 6 years. Taking a complex building design and transforming it into an actual building takes a tremendous amount of work but is an incredibly rewarding experience. I still proudly point out the buildings I worked on every time I pass by them :)

3. Human interactions - There are a lot of interactions with people, whether they are contractors, developers, city officials, etc. Hopefully you enjoy talking to people.

What I didn't love about construction:

1. Inflexible work schedule/location - If you are in construction, you are pretty much tied to the job site schedule/location you are working on. I was lucky that I did not have to travel far from one project to another, but I know there were others that had to drive 1-2 hours or relocate for new projects.

2. Disagreements with others - Unfortunately, a lot of decisions are driven by time and money in construction. When it comes to money, there are often disagreements that you are constantly working through with others. Sometimes it can take a toll on your well-being.

I hope this helps provide you with some insights you are looking for. Good luck!

Xia recommends the following next steps:

If you are interested in learning more about the industry, you can always reach out to those (whether they are in or outside of your network) to interview them in person / virtually.
Working in an internship or shadowing someone in construction may also be a great way to learn more about this industry.