Finishing a project can be bittersweet

Looking down road with townhouses each side of the road

Coming to the end of a project can be a bittersweet pill to swallow. One hand it’s good to see the end of construction and the finished product. On the other hand, it’s a little sad and can be akin to the closing of another chapter in the book of life.

Excavator on pile of soil with large empty construction site at the beginning of constructionI am speaking from personal experience while coming to the end of a project myself, so it’s certainly bittersweet for me right now. I guess this is true when a project takes two years of your life, with early starts, late nights, and long weekends. It is the blood, sweat, and tears we give to a project, and the intimacy we have with every aspect of our builds: the errors, the struggles, the wins, and everything else along the way.

Bittersweet emotions

We all push hard throughout the build; the exhaustion starts to creep up on us. While watching the trades dwindle in number, it becomes easy to slow down, even though we know that the last 5% is going to be the longest and hardest part of the build. I guess, at this point, it is a personal challenge to stay on task, calling on every trick in our own playbook to get to the end.

Looking down a half completed road with scaffolding to the left showing half way in the projectAt the end of a project the conversation, or, for some people, the rumour mill, begins about the next project. We have all have heard the saying, ‘A change is as good as a holiday;’ well, that is the same feeling that I get from knowing I am about to head on to next the project, and it doesn’t help me to keep focused.

While I was writing this, I threw it out to some of my friends to see whether it’s only me or whether we have something in common. After hearing about everyone’s experiences, it became very apparent that wrapping up a project is personal for everyone. And yet, our experiences are all very similar, which is good. I would like to think that I am the same as everyone else, and knowing that my bittersweet experience isn’t unique to me makes me feel normal.

For me and (maybe it’s just me), I figure that when we give so much of our time and ourselves to something, the emotions will roll when the end comes. It feels like closing another chapter in my book of life.

Related article: Don’t stand on the outside of construction

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Being owed money in construction

money, coins, money jar, being owed money in construction

money, coins, money jar, being owed money in constructionIt’s highly likely that we all have been owed money while working in construction at some point in time. It’s almost like being owed cash is an industry right of passage. This happens regardless of whether we own a business, subcontract, or work as an employee.

When we find ourselves in tough times with money outstanding, it can be hard to keep from thinking of ways to collect our money, or at the very least of how we get our own back.

Just like the UK builder who recently drove an excavator through a newly completed Travelodge hotel foyer, we all have thought about doing something similar. After watching the video, out of curiosity, I posted a poll on Instagram asking people who work in construction if they have ever been owed money.

The reality of being owed money in construction

The results didn’t really surprise; more than anything, I think they confirmed more of what we all think of our industry. The sobering results showed that 69% of people have been/are owed money.

So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the older generation of construction workers and business owners have given words of caution, such as take your tools home each day, and the seasoned business owner will tell new players not to put all their eggs in one basket.

tower crane, construction, highrise constructionAt the end of the day, we see it time and time again; companies come and go at what can only be described as an alarming rate. With this, it is the small contractors who pay their staff weekly and have 30-plus day payment terms that are the ones who pay the ultimate price.

When we look at the sub 10% margins that have become the norm in large-scale construction while companies wrestle for the next round of construction work. It’s highly likely that we are going to start seeing more stories similar to that of the unfortunate builder in the UK; where the workers that simply have run out of options take matters into their own hands.

Related article: Carillion collapse, a timely reminder about your tools

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The standout lessons from 2017

2017 standout lessons, windows, building features

Like most years, 2017 was a big year with a few insights and lessons that stood out more than others.

Smart toilets comfort button?

Smart toilet, 2017 lessons, comfort button

We had a chance to meet Kevin from True Blue Building Solutions and discovered smart toilets come with a “comfort button.” Head over to Kevin’s episode of The Travelling Builder Show to hear the full story.


In construction our client’s expectations can be quite unrealistic, Marc and Holly from Clem Carpentry have leveraged the power of video to tackle this problem. In their news article, you get a glimpse into the positive impact video has made for securing projects.

Elusive work-life balance

Everyone’s circumstances make it almost impossible to have a one size fits all approach to the ever-elusive work-life balance. However, Heath from Heath Nicholson Builders brought in a senior management team to help run the company and get his life back. Whereas Dean of Bazzana Tiling went in a completely different direction and stopped working for builders and reduced his team to one, himself.

High profitability

Cat Excavator, Starbuck excavations

And to wrap up the stand out points from 2017, Jim from Starbuck Excavations highlights how incremental improvements across all projects can make a huge difference to the profitability of any business.

With that, we say farewell to 2017 and look forward to the insights and lessons 2018 has in store.

Related: Kicking 2018 off with an entertaining and insightful interview with an ageing workforce.


Was 2017 a great year?

2017 Multiplex tower cranes

2017 Multiplex tower cranes

2017 has been a successful year, my first taste of success was back in May. I wrote about Hutchinson Builders tower cranes dominating Brisbane’s skyline. The article was received so well that it would go on to become my most read article of 2017.

2017 a series of firsts for The Travelling Builder

My first interview was with Heath from Heath Nicholson Builders about their Round House project.

Four smart toilets in a lineAnd the first filmed interview for The Travelling Builder Show goes to Kevin from True Blue Building Solutions. Kevin and his smart toilets would be the most viewed episode of the series with over 1700 views.

Following on from Kevin, I was able to interview Donna from Colour By Design, Jim from Starbuck Excavations, Heath from Heath Nicholson Builders and Ken from Bread Builders.

2017 stand out companies

Stepping away from the screen, the standout companies I have written about would be Holly and Marc from Clem carpentry and Rou from Fix It Up Shopfitting.

Raimondi flat top crane over top of a construction siteAs the year progressed, against good advice, I followed my heart and went on a hike. That hike had me walking my way around Melbourne taking photos of Raimondi tower cranes.

That one excursion has opened a countless number of doors and international recognition for The Travelling Builder.

And now here we are a few days into what is already shaping up to be a massive 2018. This year will see The Travelling Builder go from a small blog to a leading, reputable media outlet for the construction industry.

Thank you so much for being a part of The Travelling Builder’s journey in 2017. I wish everyone a prosperous and happy 2018.

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Getting off the tools? Be careful

Twisties chips, crisps

Twisties chips, crisps, getting off the tools

Why you ask?

Food. Food will likely become your biggest necessary evil.

While on the tools, there is nothing better for smoko (lunch) than a big greasy hamburger, a side of chips and a soft drink. As we eat, we all sit around joking about how we will get fat if we keep eating this way. Who cares, we work hard, sweat our butts off, we will be fine.

Famous last words those ones. Those words did come back to haunt me. The first time I got off the tools, I had six employees.  I don’t think more than a few months had passed before my lovely brothers pointed out how much my waistline had grown.

It happens to just about everyone

Which raises an interesting point, talk to most people that have moved on from the tools into a hands-off role, there is a similar theme. Speaking with Tim a carpenter who worked his way to being a construction manager, said that he had put on a few kilos as well. He said that he had to sort out his eating habits and jokes with the guys on site about where he has found himself.

Food on a table

The crazy thing, we joke about putting on the extra weight if we keep eating the way we do while on the tools. But it still catches a lot of us out.

Damien, a formwork carpenter, turned project manager who was a competitive powerlifter, had a few lessons in store for himself. “I couldn’t eat nearly as much junk, or the quantities and I had to make a conscious effort to drink enough.”

Talking with Nathan from Citi Industries, he was one of the lucky ones that managed to go the other way and turn to a healthier way of eating.

Just remember that if you are looking to get off the tools and move over to a less physically demanding role, beware of your eating habits. Which is easier said than done, ask anyone that has made the jump.

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