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Vox pop What does the New Normal mean for you and your business?

Canute Simpson Director, Smart Objectives

I’m a self-employed business improvement

facilitator, and the nature of the work I’m doing has changed. I used to run two-day business strategy events for construction professionals at a big country house in Kent. The first day was dedicated to fun team-building activities — we had groups competing to erect a structure on the lawn, good conversation over dinner in the evening, followed by drinking until 1am in the morning! On the second day, we got down to business. But it’s all changed now — the

companies want to get straight into the business session because their main focus is on improving efficiency and performance to survive the recession. They don’t have the time or money for non-core activities.

Vance Babbage, Director, B&M Babbage The bottom line is I don’t stop working, I worked straight through last weekend. I’m behind my desk at least by 7am every morning and past 6pm every night. It means my personal life is being

squeezed out of the picture as it has become more important to keep the job than have additional leisure time. Normally I’d take a two-week summer holiday but this year it will be cut to one week, I’m more cautious with my money so frivolous purchases go out the window. I’m not saying the pleasure has gone out of life — I’m much more cheerful than that — but it does take the gloss off of things.

In response to construction’s ‘lost decade’ Stephen Findlay The general topic of conversation and concerns from the government and construction industry appear to be around the lack of opportunities for young people who might be convinced to enter the construction industry. The industry already has a wealth of talent from the young but more so the

Phil Hall MCIOB Managing director, Hall Construction I’m working harder and at least 20% more hours a week than I was three years ago to keep the business turning over. I work most Saturdays, and occasionally I’ll be in on a Sunday morning so I have much less free time. I spend more time working on marketing the business and also spend a few hours a week with a local training company to improve our sales techniques. It’s hard work, but in the long term there must be benefits in rethinking how you operate. I’m also trying to develop a secondary income through buying up properties for sales and letting as a fallback should the industry come crashing down.

Geoff Wilkinson Managing director,

Wilkinson Construction Consultants

Increased work pressure

means there just isn’t enough time in the day, so I find myself relying heavily on social media to network and build client relationships in the evening. It’s not unusual to be on Facebook or

tweeting at nine or 10 o’clock at night. Last week a client posted a Twitter query at 11.30pm and was surprised when I posted an answer shortly after, which would never have happened prior to the downturn. Our business actually started up

at the beginning of the recession, which meant we adopted a very different business model, utilising temporary short-term lease office accommodation, taking on part-time rather than full-time staff and scaling back benefits packages. For example,

older professional, tradesmen or qualified managers, yet nothing appears to be being done to retain them! The old saying “that you don’t know what you have until it’s to late” might be the long-term cry from the construction industry once the recession is over and experienced personnel previously in the industry are no longer available because they have secured alternative employment in another industry or gone abroad.

“I’m working harder and at least 20% more hours a week than I was three years ago to keep the business turning over” Phil Hall, Hall Construction

we have a car mileage allowance instead of offering company cars. We’re grown turnover by 20% over the past year, so these efforts seem to be paying off.

Tim Lewis MCIOB Contracts manager, IB Construction The recession has meant peoples’ roles within the company have evolved into other areas that might previously have been outsourced. I’m a contracts manager by background, but now I’m also the sustainability and environment officer, which has meant some retraining. The role itself came out of the

recession, with the market shrinking and the need to diversify into other areas. Taking on the extra work has meant increased pressure and more hours, but thankfully I enjoy it and because we’re a small workforce and a close-knit team I don’t mind going that extra yard to help the company out.

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How contractors are adapting to a future of low margins and high stakes

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