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The real world – are you ready?

SOMETIMES there’s a disconnect between what we’ve seen over the past 31 years of advising and resolving disputes for specialist contractors, and those lucky enough to have never had a disagreement or dispute experience.

I say ‘lucky’ because many flooring contractors will go through their working life without too much contractual hassle, and sometimes that is just a matter of luck. But, for many flooring contractors, and we act for quite a number of you, contractual issues arise on a fairly regular basis.

So, when I talk about the ‘real world’ it’s the real world that we have experienced acting on behalf of literally hundreds of specialist contractors in all sorts of trades. And what is now my book: ‘The Streetwise Subbie’ 4th edition (available on Amazon or at a discount from the publishers via our website), is based on that real-world experience.

A lifetime ago the original author of the book, Jack Russell, referred to the ‘love affair’ between the ‘partners’ at the top of our industry and said that back on the site little has changed. Boy oh boy, would he be sad to know nothing much has changed. Except perhaps the amount of BS that some of the lovebirds spout.

In the real world, if you stand up for yourself you’re accused by the contractor of being ‘contractual’, ‘confrontational’, or ‘negative’. But in the real world, if you don’t do what you need to do when you need to do it, you’ll perish at the hands of that same contractor.

So, here’s my take on the way a typical project goes in real life:

1. The ‘honeymoon’ period – everyone gets along fine.
2. Building not really ‘fit’ for the flooring works but you start anyway.
3. You work where you can on a piecemeal ‘seek and find’ basis.
4. The project falls further behind on various fronts.
5. Access delays and obstructions, building shell leaks like a sieve.
6. Variations flow through from the design team.
7. Contractor now in serious delay.
8. Contractor issues revised programmes almost every week.
9.  Your time frames have been dramatically compressed.
10. The contractor’s whole concept is absurdly optimistic.
11. You are threatened with failure to use best endeavours.
 12. You are coerced into increased labour, or working later and at weekends.
13.  Project becomes even further behind.
14.  You request extension of time and mention loss and expense.
15. Contractor ignores you.
16. Deducts liquidated damages from the Contractor.      
17. Employer moves in before building completed.
18. You must now complete your works in an occupied environment.
19. Employer complains about disgraceful unfinished state of the building.
20. Contractor sets off damages for delay and contras for attendance, etc.
21. You again request extension of time.
22. Contractor challenges you to produce notices, prove ‘cause and effect’.
23. Contractor changes QS for more aggressive ‘hired gun’.
24. Your account is valued at a negative figure – they say you owe them money!
25. You are denied your just entitlements.
26. You’re now heavily ‘in the red’.
27. At worst, you accept defeat or become insolvent
28. Contractor celebrates another successful project!

You may think I’m exaggerating but time and again, I see this very familiar pattern unfolding. So, please do yourselves a lot of good by accepting the above is typical and could easily happen to you. And recognise you should be setting out your stall from day one, with the object of avoiding as much of the agony as possible and, above all, avoiding that end of job dispute.

This means starting out with a fair set of terms, clear timescales, an agreed baseline programme, good site diary, regular progress reports, site photographs, no variations without instructions etc., and making sure all delays and claims for recovery of loss and expense are formally registered in writing as and when they become apparent.

If you do this you’ll be ready and able to respond to the various dramas as they unfold in the ‘real world’, and will be able to protect your entitlements, thereby reducing the occurrence of disputes, and protecting your business and your sanity.

For tips on all things contractual, please check out our web site and all the free information you can find there. And if you have a problem, don’t hesitate to call us; after all, our advice has ensured hundreds of specialist contractors are ready for the ‘real world’ – and recovered millions of pounds for them too.

Meet StreetwiseSubbie at CFJLive Online Expo.

I hope to welcome you to a series of five presentations we’ve designed to help you overcome the problems of late and non-payment, variations, and revaluation, managing retentions, and health and safety onsite. There’ll also be a session designed to help you find new customers.

We’ll also be online throughout the event to help Expo visitors beat the challenges of getting paid, checking contracts, and managing your business for better profits. Use the live chat and call-backs to discuss individual contractual, payment, or marketing problems with us.
We look forward to meeting you on the day.
01773 712116
Barry is MD and co-founder of which provides business solutions for Specialist Contractors throughout the UK

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