OB Carpentry – How times have changed

Oliver and his wife from OB Carpentry




Oliver and his wife from OB Carpentry

I had the opportunity to chat with Oliver from OB Carpentry in Brisbane. Like every good writer, I started with what I thought would be the story, chatting about some of the projects that Oliver has completed. However, that never ended up being the case.

Oliver has been in the game for more than 30 years and has watched complexity steadily grow; this complexity is all the younger generations of construction workers know.

But it has been the rise of social media over the last few years that has changed the way marketing takes place in construction. As Gary Vaynerchuk (Gary Vee social media and business icon) mentions in numerous videos, if you are in business, you are a media company that happens to sell something.

In terms of marketing in the field of construction, the best form has always been word of mouth. As the digital age has taken hold, word of mouth is slowly becoming less valuable. Once word-of-mouth-generated business was what really showed the strength of someone’s workmanship.

Does that mean a shift in what word-of-mouth advertising is?

OB Carpentry abstract shelving unit

For industry veterans like Oliver, the shift in marketing is adding another complexity in an already complex industry. Going back six years, before the explosion of social media, word of mouth came from personal experience of working with someone. But now, people are starting to recommend people by what they are watching on social media without having that personal experience.

As Oliver mentioned, “for someone, who has always been strongly recommended, making the shift to social media has become more prevalent than ever for him and his business.”

At one time it was automatically granted when a trusted friend or family member recommended you. Now, as more and more of the younger generations become homeowners, gaining access to them is forcing people like Oliver to shift away from old forms of marketing. It’s one thing to be recommended in today’s market, it’s another to demonstrate your work over time.

As times change, it’s tradesmen like Oliver, willing to back themselves, move with the times, and adapt, who will continue to thrive where others may not.

Website: OB Carpentry

Related article: What is online content / marketing? Is this relevant?

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Sydney’s Opal Tower is a timely reminder

Opal Tower Sydney

Opal Tower Sydney
Opal Tower in Sydney fiasco comes as a timely reminder. Image credit ColourByDesign.




Scaffold, Formwork, construction in SydneyIn the wake of Sydney’s Opal Tower fiasco, the New South Wales state government’s approach is geared toward improving the construction industry and alleviating public concerns by cracking down on private building certifiers. For all in the industry, this can be likened to taking the paintbrush off a child and leaving them with the open paint tin.

Let’s be honest: What is the purpose of building certifiers? They check that the proposed building design meets all the regulations, standards, and building codes for the proposed “classification” of the building. Once the building is complete, all they are checking to ensure the building, in its “finished” form, meets the classification requirements. The certifier will also compile every consultant, subcontractor, and builder alike, that all the appropriate evidence (aka paperwork) stating they have completed their job correctly.

At what point has the private building certifier walked onsite? Unless you are doing a partial handover, they will only come to the site at the end. How is this relevant to the Opal tower in Sydney?

Building certifiers and Opal tower

Reo in suspend concrete slabFirst, we need to ask: was the building certifier there when the concrete was being poured? Was the certifier there when the precast panels were being installed? It is highly, highly unlikely.

How is this the certifiers problem? Frankly, its not. Who’s responsibility is it? It’s ours; we have all done it: didn’t blow/clean the formwork deck off properly, didn’t remove the over-spilled concrete from the top of that column. And before everyone jumps up and down, I am not saying we are doing a bad job. The Opal Tower is one major incident that has emerged after the handover in how many buildings that we all have collectively built? More than anything, this is a timely reminder.

We all have tight timelines, and hundreds of meters of concrete booked weeks in advance, all while managing teams of contractors to meet these fictitious dates. We have become masters of balancing risk, timing, and ever-pressing constraints of construction. Of course, we let things slide; how else do you build a tower in under 12 months?

Opal tower’s timely reminder

It’s easy for us to get complacent when making decisions of what we will let slide and what we won’t. Just like the guys on the ground at Opal tower would be feeling the weight of their decisions made throughout the project, we, too, have to live with our decisions.

Construction site in Sydney

Maybe we have been lucky, maybe not. And with all the quality and consultant inspections that we have to complete on a daily basis, not to mention the continual re-checking (I know we all love re-checking everyone’s work), it’s the detail that will always cause sleepless nights.

As the saying goes, “the devil is in the details.” By having the person (private building certifier) that has a broad brush stroke being responsible for painting between the lines will only cause a mess. After all this has blown over, as we are the people responsible for building our buildings, we will have missed the direct government scrutiny, but we will feel the added pressure with our ever-shrinking project constraints.

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

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Precision Cranes, getting started in construction

Precision cranes article, scaffold, house frame

Precision cranes article, scaffold, house frame




Tell me if this sounds familiar? Working day after day, we get frustrated, see an opportunity to start a business; we sit on it for a while, daydreaming in our downtime. We chat with our colleagues over smoko (lunch), listen to everybody’s two cents worth of advice. Then the people that would be our potential clients give us the unofficial, “yeah we will give you ago.”

I am pretty sure that we all can relate from our own experience or know someone that has/or is going through the whole “startup” of their new business. Just the same as Yusuf, the founder of Precision Cranes.

Precision Cranes, Potain tower crane, scaffold in the foreground

Then it happens, on the back of everyone’s support we throw caution to the wind and get the ball rolling. Just like Precision Cranes, most guys, in the beginning, start out as a labour-hire business. Let’s face it; construction is so capital intensive that most of us are putting a second mortgage on our homes to get started.  And that is where labour hire lets us leverage the principle contractors buying power with materials, and we take a much smaller margin in return for a significant reduction of risk.

Precision Cranes startup route

And as Yusuf founder of Precision Cranes has begun his journey into the expensive, heavy lifting sector, the labour hirer route allows him to leverage the builders market position. Where the builder can dry hire tower cranes and Yusuf can arrange everything else; the operator, doggmen, lifting gear, crane installation and all the rest.

It’s like a safety net, a way that allows the principle to remain competitive while we get our foot in the door. There is a downside, and I am sure a lot of us have found this out the hard way, much like Jim did from Starbuck Excavations.

Where Jim had purchased his first digger and to get the “ball rolling,” he would do manual labour when his machine was not in use but still onsite. To the builder’s advantage, he would only charge full price for the few hours the machine was in use. And for the remainder of his time, he would charge a much lower labourer’s rate.

The true nature of construction

Entry to construction site, Precision cranes article, construction startupAnd it highlights the underlying culture of the industry, the sense of comradery, yet the dogged world we call work. Where on the one hand we are more than willing to give someone a go, yet once you have started, you are now just the same as every other construction business out; fair game, where you can be eaten alive or taken advantage of at any moment.

Yusuf is no stranger to the in’s and out’s of the construction industry working as a tower crane operator. I am sure as he grows Precision Cranes from labour-hire into equipment hire, there will be plenty of war stories to be told.

Stephen McBurney former AFL umpire to head the ABCC

CFMEU march in Sydney

CFMEU march in Sydney




Friday 5th December saw the appointment of Stephen McBurney to the top position at the ABCC (Australia Building & Construction Commission). Stephen will commence his five-year term on 6th February as the ABCC commissioner.

Who is Stephen McBurney?

If you are an AFL fan (Australian Football League), you likely have heard of Stephen McBurney. Stephen reached the highly regarded milestone of umpiring over 400 games alongside four other greats.

Stephen McBurney
Image copyright AFL Umpires Association

Stephen comes into the ABCC commissioner role with quite an extensive legal career. Between the years of 2006-08 Stephen was the ABCC assistant commissioner (Legal) responsible for implementation of compliance powers.

The past nine years Stephen was working in the Victorian Office of Chief Examiner, assisting Victorian Police with investigations into serious organised crime.

Stephen McBurney’s new appointment as the ABCC commissioner comes at a time when tensions between unions, construction companies and the government are at an all-time high.

With the booming Australian construction industry across the private and public sectors, the ABCC will have its hands full as it has now come into full legislative power.

Who is the ABCC?

What does this mean for construction?  We first need to understand the ABCC role.  The Department of Justice, often referred to on-site, as the “Department of Safety” (WHS), are the watchdogs for all things related to Occupational Health and Safety. Whereas the ABCC is the watchdog of everything business related.  Basically, the ABCC watch over unions and the construction industry’s industrial relation matters.

The ABCC role is to review and enforce the “Building Code 2016” which outlines how companies are to perform when undertaking Federal construction works. In short, the code aims to keep the CFMEU and other unions in check and operating consistent with all current industrial relation laws.

CFMEU march in Sydney streets

To give you an example of what that might look like; strikes that take place over menial matters similar to the firing of a union member could be considered illegal.  Whereas striking over continual unsafe work conditions would be legal, broadly speaking.

The ABCC has the legislative power to fine individuals up to $42,000 and companies up to $210,000 for unlawful picketing (strike action) of building sites.  That is, if you participate in an illegal strike, you can be fined as an individual.

Stephen’s appointment as the ABCC commissioner isn’t the concern; it is that everyone in the industry more than ever, needs to be aware of their own personal legal obligations.

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SMCH, a new approach to looking after employees

SMCH mobile crane hire

SMCH mobile crane hire




SMCH yard and mobile crane
Image by: SMCH

Sometimes something different happens, and I am sure this doesn’t happen all too often. Earlier this week I was approached by a group of people that want to show their gratitude for their boss. They asked if I would write an article about their boss Shane, and his company SMCH.

And here we are, I am writing, and you are reading. Shane this one is for you, you have a great bunch of employees. This article is a credit to you and your business.

SMCH Favco on hire
Image by: Shane

Let’s start at the beginning, Shane has 20 employees, and no one knows how he got into crane hire and fabrication. However, SMCH started it all with the introduction of the 20t Franna.

After the 20t Franna introduction, they went on to produce a 25t version. It wasn’t too long, and they started to manufacture the Kato NK 300. Due to business growth, the need for a yard crane became critical to the fabrication side of the business. So, they built their first tower crane, the Favco STD 750. With the new yard crane, they were able to start constructing a variety of tower cranes which are now available for wet and dry hire.

SMCH begins manufacturing tower cranes

Getting to where SMCH is today took some large-scale capital investments, to which the guys are thankful. They had concerns when Shane first announced his plans to manufacture tower cranes. At the time, they had no welder, forklift or trucks to collect all the required parts and materials.

working under umbrellas
Image by: Shane

With the continual growth that SMCH has experienced over the last few years, they have continued the well thought out capital investments. First came the purchase of a nearby hotel keeping everyone hydrated, and umbrellas to help beat the Australian summer heat. However, the guys are concerned about the umbrellas as Shane might want them to work in the rain now that they have this shelter option.

SMCH show room
Image by: Shane

Shane’s approach to safety is second to none and is evident in the way that SMCH have had no incidents in the last few years. SMCH pride themselves on how they can undertake work that other contractors might hesitate over.

Heading into 2018, Shane’s Model Crane Hire has already secured an order for two new motorised tower cranes. According to the team, they are expecting big things for 2018.

Shane’s Model Crane Hire – Facebook: @shanesmodelcranes

Shane’s Model Crane Hire – Instagram: @shanoes_miniatures

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Fond memories of carpentry, would I go back?

Decking boards, timber wedges




Decking boards, timber wedgesWhen we reflect back on our careers, there are a scattering of times that we all remember for the right reasons. I look back over the last 15 or so years, and some of my fondest memories came from when I was working as a carpenter building decks.

That pocket of time started not too long after finishing my apprenticeship. I had been working for a small builder on government-owned housing upgrades. Soon enough I got sick of government work and looked for a new job. That was when I met Mike Glab, who has become a close friend and later in life a mentor. That, however, is another story for another day.

Highlight of my carpentry career

Building decks were the highlight of my time as a carpenter. It was hard, heavy work, we only ever built hardwood decks if I remember correctly. The hard work wasn’t such an attraction; it was the challenge of doing high-quality work that had my attention. We were in the top end of the market, so the standard of work that we had to delivery had to match.

It was in this environment I went from being a carpenter to a tradesman. The constant challenge to better my skills was what I looked forward to most mornings. I learnt so much, developed a lot of my style and techniques that still hold true today.

Cutting deck posts, carpentryI would refer to guys I once worked with, as artists with a power saw. We would be hanging on the side of posts, cutting the verandah beam checkouts (housings). Cutting rafters for hand pitched roofs and watching the roofs come together, especially after screwing up the set out more than once.

I used to love the challenge of setting out decking boards and scribing them around whatever obstacle each deck through our way. And the never-ending race to see who could nail the most decking boards down in a day. They were good times.

Would I go back to carpentry?

I guess the question would be, would I go back to building decks or carpentry in general? And right now, I would have to say no. The thought of building again for a living doesn’t excite me.

Carpentry, deck sub floor frameAs I have been working on growing The Travelling Builder, I have been doing casual carpentry work on the side. After a few weeks of the casual work, I am done, I just don’t have the passion I once had. I enjoy doing a little bit of carpentry work here and there as a hobby, and for now, that is where it ends.

With that, some of my best memories will always be of those days building decks. Not sure if you guys from those days gone by will ever read this. However, Chaps (Ross or Jamie depending on the day), thanks for putting up with all my BS. Woolly (Steve), I hope you have stopped cutting with the wrong side of the saw. Scott, thanks heaps for the lift home to take the bin out that morning, saved my arse entirely. Toddy, I hope all is well out west these days. Cookie, we have to catch up again soon and all the guys that I have forgotten that made those years great. Thank you for the fond memories and hope all is turning out well for each of you.

Raimondi Cranes, thanks for joining me on my walk

topless raimondi cranes in melourne




Raimondi Cranes on King street MelbourneI have been in Melbourne, Australia for a few weeks, travelling around filming the next few episodes of The Travelling Builder Show. As we all experience from time to time, my plans had changed a little, resulting in a free day to do whatever tickled my fancy.

Personal challenge, photographing Raimondi Cranes

Just in case you haven’t seen my Instagram page, its full of photos of buildings and cranes. Instead of aimlessly wandering the streets of Melbourne taking photos of said buildings and cranes; I figured I would set myself a challenge. So, I reached out to Raimondi Cranes and asked if they would be interested in sending me a list of crane locations around Melbourne and I would send over a few photos in return.

A few phone calls later, and help from Clarke Cranes in Melbourne. I got my list of addresses.

Raimondi Cranes in RichmondThere is something about setting a goal that has no implications on whether you complete it or not. I was under no obligations to take photos. I thought it would be a great way to give my day some purpose, a challenge and hopefully build a new connection along the way.

Testing our own personal resolve

Completing this little goal tested my resolve way more than I could have imagined. Particularly heading over to my last destination in St Kilda. I had just finished walking 11km so far in what felt one of the hottest days I have had in Melbourne. The worst part, knowing that I now have a 6km walk to get to St Kilda followed by another 4km’s back to the hotel. It was at this point that the chatting to one’s self about quitting began.

The thoughts, so many thoughts about quitting. Thoughts like, you have bucket loads of photos (by this stage I have 200 plus), no one knows how many cranes you thought you would visit. And with all the images I had taken so far, I had more than exceeded what I thought I would shoot.

Raimondi cranes in St KildaAnd this is where the pull to give up and go home set in. That 6km was the longest, loudest walk of my life; my head would not shut up. The excuses, the reasons, that wrong turn down a dead-end street. But when I looked up from that intersection in St Kilda and saw that familiar round Raimondi crane cab, that sense of achievement was so much sweeter.

Not only had I set myself a challenge and finished it. “I nailed it,” no matter how exhausted I felt, it was worth it. That satisfaction for doing something that we said we would do for no other reason than saying we would, is the most satisfying, don’t you think?

So please, enjoy some of the photos from my day, knowing the victory over my reasons and excuses.

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Raimondi cranes with powerlines
Personal achievement

Raimondi cranes jib and window reflection
Keep going, one more stop

 

Bazzana Tiling, reaching that elusive work life balance

Tile floor, tile walls, tiles around window




Tile floor, tile walls, tiles around windowFor the last few weeks, I have been working with a mate on the extension of their home at Byron Bay, Australia. While working there, I had the opportunity to meet Dean from Bazzana Tiling. Dean is a boutique tiler from Ballina.

Over the week Dean was tiling the bathroom, and we got chatting as you do, and I got to find out a little bit about this family man.

Dean from Bazzana Tiling past time

The thing that I love about this industry, just about everyone is open for a chat and where the conversation ends up, is always a surprise.
As we chatted away over a few days, I got to learn about how he loves to do archery in his spare time. So much so that he brought in the bow to show us all.

Bazzana tiling archery bow sightAs much as we would have loved to have seen the bow in action, Dean restraint himself from letting off a few rounds. It was good to see his passion and excitement show through as he was telling how to use the bow. Not to mention how he and some friends do 3D archery tournaments (fake hunting for lack of a better description). And the excitement as he went through the rules that ultimately make the tournament all about the skill of the archer.

Stepping away from project builders

Chatting away, Dean used to work for project builders as his bread and butter. As we all have experienced from time to time, the work had got to the point where frustrations became too much. Working the six sometimes seven days a week, long hours and missing the family, he took the significant step into working directly for the homeowner/client.

I figured I would ask how working direct for the homeowner has been working out?

Dean said the most significant positive is he gets to spend time with the family. He has the opportunity to get home at a sensible hour and have his weekends back. Something that we all miss when that time is not there.

According to Dean that is one of the benefits of finding his spot in the market. He gets the time to do the work the way he wants to, without the pressure of having to work back due to builders time constraints.

Bazzana Tiling tile trim mitre, detailed tiling work One of the things I noticed about his work, was his attention to detail. Check out the mitre on the aluminium trims. Not sure how many tilers carry a drop saw with them, but Dean does. Did you notice that the tiny little piece of tile in the corner? Yep, I thought the same when I saw it too.

I will leave you with this thought, Dean doesn’t want hundreds of employees, loves to do the work to a standard that he is happy with, one that he would do in his own home. Here is one man that has found his balance, one where he can sleep at night, spend time where it matters most to him. Isn’t that what we all striving for?

Contact Dean: Bazzana Tiling

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Pro Build’s Greenland Centre could be Sydney’s most recognised construction site

Pro Build Greenland Centre building steel structure looking up from the street with two tower cranes




Pro Build's Greenland Centre building steel structure looking from the street up to wards the sky with two tower cranes
Street view of Pro Build’s Greenland Centre building. Image by Chiagramz

Walking through the heart of Sydney city, there are construction sites everywhere. You have what feels like every second city street having the new 12km light rail being built by Acciona. Then there is all the high-rise construction happening throughout the city and surrounding areas. For perspective, the RBL crane index has listed Sydney as having 334 cranes erected in the second quarter of 2017. Sydney currently has over 50% of Australia’s tower crane population.

Pro Build’s Greenland Centre building

Of all the work that is happening, there is one construction site that stands out, one that everyone recognise. That is Pro Build’s Greenland Centre building. At the moment the original 1960’s building steel structure rises high, which will be incorporated into the new building’s structure.

Pro Build Greenland Centre building steel structure zoomed in with two tower cranes visible
The old steel structure makes an interesting subject to photograph. Image by Colourbydesign

Looking from the street, the skeleton, the remaining steel structure of the old building has a presence of its own. So much so, that photos of the structure have been flooding Instagram. This building can almost be used as a point of reference to anyone visiting the city.

The trouble that Sydney photographers are facing is, who has that one image that sets them apart. That photo that puts them ahead of the pack. There is everything from the street view, to window reflections and far away zoom pictures.

Who has the best photo?

Well, I guess, who has the best image is a question more of personal choice. For the time being, we have a short window of opportunity to try and capture that one special photo.

The rumour on the street is Pro Build has the new concrete structure up to ground level. So if you are looking to get a great photo, you may only have a few months before this unique view disappears.

Night time photo of Pro Build's Greenland Centre building with car lights, lit up site hoarding and the steel structure.
By night the steel structure with the access lighting it all interesting. Image by Thetravellingbuilder

Take a search on Instagram using the hashtag #greenlandcentre, #greenlandcentresyd and #greenlandcentresydney to find a few more images. Also, if you search the hashtag #towercranes, you will find a scattering of some of the images that feature this unique view of the Greenland Centre building. I will let you be the judge to which photo is the standout.

Leave a comment below about any interesting photos you find of this soon to be hidden Sydney gem.

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Clem Carpentry unique approach to challenges

Stairs, Clem Carpentry, design




When I spoke with Marc and Holly from Clem Carpentry, I figured that I would be writing about one of their projects. However, it was their business and how they have tackled some of the challenges that grabbed my attention.

Clem Carpentry’s niche market

Marc, Holly, Clem Carpentry
Marc and Holly from Clem Carpentry

Marc and Holly have found themselves in the niche market of high-end renovations, in their words “elegant restorations and renovations.” A boutique market that in my opinion puts a builders reputation on the line with every project.

I have a special spot in my heart for renovations, particularly with high-end and old buildings. The whole challenge, do you make your work plumb and level? Or do you match the existing building, so it all flows? The kind of work that tests all of us as tradesmen. From what Marc and Holly have shared with me, they are not only up for the challenge; they are excelling.

 

Stairs, Clem Carpentry, design
New stairs designed by Clem Carpentry

They are an impressive team; Marc is the carpenter and builder, and Holly is an interior designer. With their niche, they have the perfect team. They both enjoy working on older homes, which in Queensland Australia we call Queenslander’s.

 

Their well-suited teamwork is evident when a client asked them to replace the front stairs and restore the old homes character. They took what looks like an old 70’s style steel stairs and handrails and have created era perfect timber set.

Their attention to detail is second to none. With Holly providing well-detailed drawings and Marc’s attention to the seemly small details. For example, the priming of the step treads before being installed. And the housing out of the timber stump to allow the stairs to sit hard against the weatherboards at the top of the stairs.

Unique approach to challenges

Clem Carpentry attention to detail
Attention to detail

A challenge that the Clem Carpentry have been confronting is the expectations that reality television shows in Australia have put on the industry. Shows like “The Block” have been making renovating bathrooms, kitchens, etc., look achievable in a single week. And yes, we all know that it can be done, at a high cost and exceptionally long hours. Marc and Holly find that the younger generations have an unrealistic expectation of the cost and the time it takes to renovate.

I find it fascinating that sometimes our biggest hurdles in business are not always our direct competition. And the way in which people and business approach these obstacles is equally fascinating. How Marc and Holly from Clem Carpentry have approached the unrealistic expectations that reality tv has created is unique and well thought out.

To help their clients understand the time things take with a sensible budget, they turned to YouTube. Making short videos of the different projects, they have completed, not only demonstrating their work but also a realistic time frame to complete the work. By using time lapses, they have managed to combat the expectations reality tv has directly installed in different people.

Construction is a unique industry, and again I have been surprised how I thought one thing before meeting Marc and Holly from Clem Carpentry. My thoughts have been turned in a direction I didn’t expect, and I am so glad for the new direction.

Marc and Holly are easy going people following their passions and in the process making other people’s dreams a reality. I’m stoked that I got the opportunity to meet them.

Website: www.clemcarpentry.com.au

Phone: 1300 400 431