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Banter

13 Truths every Tradesperson can relate to

13 Truths every Tradesperson can relate to

 

  1. How do so many people not know how to make a decent cup of tea?

 

  1. The order of importance. 1) Tools 2) Van 3) Family (the positions of 1 & 2 can change)

 

 

  1. The horrified look on a client’s face when you hand them an invoice for an amount that has already been agreed on. 

 

  1. Participating in site banter when you don’t entirely understand what’s going on

  1. The newbie gets the crap jobs. No discussion. 

  1. The words that go through your head when a client starts telling you about their financial problems. 

  1. When a client tells you they’re handy with the tools

  1. The excitement you still get when you need to destroy something really big 

  1. That one guy on the job who always needs to prove how strong he is

  1. There’s always that one idiot who takes it too far

  1. What you want to say when a client hasn’t settled two invoices in a row

 

  1. The Inter-trades rivalries.  

  1.  When somebody reminds you about taxes on the 31st January

 

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Banter Top tips for tradesmen

The Tradesman Dog Dilemma – Should you take your dog to work?

Tradesman Elite – Should you take your dog to work?

While scrolling through the Screw Fix forum recently (wild lockdown times I know)

we came across a wonderfully funny thread about whether those working in the trades ever take their dog to work. As you can probably imagine, it was filled with plenty of witty, smart arse comments, but also plenty of decent feedback. With that in mind, we thought we’d bring you our take on this hilarious suggestion.

Taking your dog to work is the kind of idea that sounds great in theory.

You imagine Lassie sitting patiently all day while you work, maybe she can even bring you your tools or nip out to the van to get your sandwiches at lunchtime. The reality is usually very different, involving muddy paws through the house, incessant barking and a nicely curled crap left upstairs for the homeowner to find several days later. At that point, you’ll either need to come clean that you brought your pet to work, or cover for the dog and take the blame for crapping on the new hardwood floorboards that were laid just last month – I’ll let you choose.

Some will suggest leaving the dog in the van or might even puff their chest out and claim that their dog is well-trained and would be fine on a building site. But the truth is, this sort of location is hardly ideal for an animal and do you really want to have to keep one eye on a roaming dog when you’ve got three million jobs that need to be completed in four days? Leaving the dog in the van might sound like a decent idea, but is it really better than just leaving it at home?  

Most people probably have a good idea of what kind of dog they have – although they might not actually admit it.

If you have a quiet and well-trained dog then, by all means, give it a go. If on the other hand, your dog is the kind of dog that people and other dogs avoid, you might want to give it a miss.

There are some jobs where it might be appropriate to bring a dog – shepherding for example – but the trades are not normally the right kind of place for a canine. Just as you wouldn’t bring your three-year-old to a rickety house renovation and allow them just to wander off and explore. In most cases bringing a dog to a building site or something similar is just going to be more hassle than it’s worth. Most of us have this idyllic image of us playing catch with Lassie on a beautifully sunny day when the reality is sometimes more like a Gremlin after a bath. 

Once in a while, if there’s an emergency, yeh why not, give it go. But that one time will probably be enough.  

Share this post with a mate who has had this dilemma! 

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Top tips for tradesmen

Will Brexit affect building material prices?

With the seemingly never-ending Brexit saga now coming to an end…

Many have been left unsure about how businesses will be affected by Britain leaving the European Union. This is something that has been a particular concern for those in the trades. Will material prices go up? How will taxes be affected? Will it be easier to get things done without EU red tape?

Firstly, we are still in the early stages of this post-Brexit period so it’s very difficult to get a firm indication of how things will be in the long-term. When we add on the effect of Covid-19 the situation becomes even more difficult, but here’s what we understand to be true. 

What changes can we expect?

Right now, it’s hard to say anything for certain. Considering that between 50% and 65% of building materials come from the EU, it’s evident that there are going to be some changes, but the fact that a trade deal was signed seems to have ironed some of it out – for now at least. 

However, the effect that Brexit might have on the labour market could be the biggest problem. There is already a workforce shortage as the trades have traditionally recruited a substantial number of foreign workers, this issue will only continue to worsen if the number of foreign nationals residing in Britain is cut due to Brexit. 

Nonetheless, one positive that might come out of the situation is the reduction of that pesky red tape that sometimes has a habit of holding things up. But let’s be really honest here – this is not going to become the Wild West where you can do whatever you want. EU red tape will be replaced by British red tap – but we can just hope it might be easier to navigate.  

 Have material prices gone up after Brexit?

There have certainly already been cases where prices have increased since Brexit formally came into effect, but prices have been rising for several years now, so you can’t simply put that down to Brexit. 

A survey conducted by the Federation of Master Builders in Q3 2020 found that 87% of those surveyed said they had experienced an increase in material prices in September and October, but only 30% reported any kind of price hike in their own pricing. 

Should I be worried? 

Undisputedly, it’s a difficult time to be in the trades, with many as confused as a fart in a fan factory. Everything seems to be swirling around, and nobody seems to have a firm idea of how things are going to play out. 

However, we’re not at the stage where you should be excessively worried about the current situation or the future. Yes, we are going to see some changes, but the construction industry is so important to Britain that the government can’t allow it to be severely affected for too long.

Instead, it looks like we’re going to have a period of uncertainty that will most likely settle down over the coming years.  

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Top tips for tradesmen

Electric vans: to buy or not to buy?

If You’re In a Trade Don’t Get An Electric Van Until You Have Read This Post!

Let’s be honest here, the idea of driving around in an electric van sounds about as sexy as grandma’s crochet club. But are we really giving them a fair shot? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of using an electric van in the trades.    

Electric Van BenefIts 

Ever heard of climate change? One of the biggest benefits of an electric van isn’t even for the driver, but rather for the environment that we seem hell-bent on destroying. I know that often doesn’t appear at the top of most pressing concerns, but if you want your grandchildren to have a planet, you should probably factor it in. 

If you’re looking for reasons that are more present day, there’s plenty of those too. Electric vans are becoming much cheaper to run than their diesel or petrol cousins. Citroen’s Berlingo Electric apparently costs just 2-3p per mile on average – equal to just £2 per 40 miles. They also typically come with lower maintenance costs because they have fewer moving parts and most people would agree that they’re an absolute dream to drive. 

They could also add an image boost to your business. Everybody is talking about climate change right now, this means that in the near future customers will be encouraged by those businesses who seem to be taking an active role in addressing it.

Electric Van Limitations 

Charging is the most obvious limitation of owning an electric van. There are currently over 20,000 charging points across the UK so they’re not exactly few and far between, but for more isolated areas it can be a problem. 

Then you need to think about what kind of charger you find (and no, they’re not all the same). The Nissan e-NV200 van takes 7.5 hours to fully charge from flat using a standard charger, which is fine if you can leave it overnight, but not ideal if you’re in a rush. On the other hand, rapid chargers can fully charge a van in as little as an hour but are much rarer.

The range is another issue that people tend to focus on when thinking about electric vans. Most come with a range of around 100 miles, which will be easy enough for some tradespeople, but not nearly enough for those with a wider catchment of jobs.   

Another limitation at the moment is the initial outlay. These new uber-green vans don’t pump out CO2 but you will pay a premium for them at the moment. While the cost of electric cars and vans has been falling, it’s still not at the point of being comparable to the petrol alternative. 

The last limitation is about stigma. Tradesmen have traditionally been stereotyped as macho, tough guys. This image doesn’t exactly fit with driving around in a virtually silent van that you feel ashamed to be seen in. But let’s be frank here, if you need a roaring diesel-pumping van to feel like a man, then your automobile of choice probably isn’t the biggest problem. Perhaps it time to break free of the tradesman stereotype?     

Electric van Incentives

In case you’ve missed the memo, the government is trying to push the use of electric cars and vans more than ever. Luckily for us, this means that there are some juicy incentives on offer to try and tempt us over to the dark side. 

One of these is the government’s Plug-in Van grant, which works out to up to 20% off the list price (up to a maximum of £8,000). There are also reduced tax rates for both business and private use and you can even get a grant if you want to install workplace chargers.

Another big incentive is the exception that electric vans have in Low Emission Zones. London’s new and expanded Ultra-Low Emission Zone has ruffled a few feathers, but if you’re an electric van owner you can just sail straight through it, so if you’re a central London driver, you are quids in!

Our verdict

Whether an electric van is right for you really depends on your priorities and how long term you can and are willing to think. Electric vans are unquestionably the future and while they might cost you a little more in the short term, the long term savings will easily offset this expenditure.

However, we would encourage that you also take into consideration where you live and the number of charging points close by, additionally consider how much you use the van on a typical day? If you only cover 50 miles every day then an electric van will make perfect sense, but if you travel well over 100 miles daily, it might not be the right choice just yet.   

Question; Is your van secure?

Thieves do not differentiate between electric vans and traditional vans – any van presents an opportunity to a tool thief. As we know, there has been a massive increase in van and tool theft in recent years, one easy way to protect yourself is by installing a van alarm. If paying £30 to protect your livelihood sounds like a good deal, then check out Vanmate now.

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Banter Nightmare customers

5 ‘potential customer’ red flags

We’ve all been there. You’re standing talking to a potential customer when that warning light in your head starts going off. I call it my bullsh%& omen detector, but other people call them red flags. 

A red flag is when somebody does something that immediately gives you the impression that they’re going to be a royal pain in the arse in the long run. Whether you carry on after that is up to you, but you have been warned. 

Red Flag 1 – The overly pedantic    

Obviously, everybody wants a job done right, but some are just eternally dissatisfied. You can call it pedantic, picky, fussy – or just plain bloody annoying – and it can be a difficult situation to work under.  

But it probably depends on just how pedantic somebody is being before you consider running for the hills. 

Red Flag 2 – The Micromanager

I’m sure everybody has had one of those jobs where the client tries to hover over your shoulder every second while “checking how things are going”. This can be infuriating for two main reasons; the first is that it’s not pleasant having your work scrutinised while still in progress (we’re not in school anymore) and secondly, the person hovering over you probably has absolutely no idea what they’re talking about. If you ever want to freak out a micromanager, finish the job you’re doing, straighten up, then ask, “so what’s next?”

Red Flag 3 – The Scrimper 

Alarm bells should be ringing if somebody repeatedly brings up that they don’t have a lot of money or that there are some unseen financial possibilities. I don’t want to overgeneralise and say that all people who do it are trying to lay the groundwork for inevitable ‘money problem’ talk later in the job, but it certainly happens. 

Red Flag 4 – The ‘Anxious Arnold’

This doesn’t always need to be a huge issue, but certainly, something to bear in mind. Even before Covid-19, there were plenty of people who were – how can I say this delicately, a little on edge. That’s fine if it doesn’t affect those around them, but we’ve all come across those clients who are a constant bag of nerves and anxieties. 

This doesn’t mean that they don’t have legitimate reasons to be anxious, but when it affects those around them, it can create a difficult atmosphere to work in for a long period.

Red Flag 5 – The straight-up shady individual

Lastly, there are always going to be people who are looking to gain an advantage – sometimes even over other people. If somebody starts off by telling you that they don’t need permits or planning permission or immediately starts pressing you to do the job under the table, you can normally quickly determine that they’ve got all of the ethics of an East German weightlifter from the 1980s.

We certainly don’t all need to be saints, but this is probably one of the more serious red flags. It doesn’t take a scientist to see that working with this kind of person can lead to numerous problems. 

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Nightmare customers Top tips for tradesmen

Dealing with customer complaints

Is there anything as frustrating as customer complaints? You’ve worked all day and done a good job, but there are always those who will find something to complain about.

First of all, let’s be clear about the difference between a reasonable complaint and a whining for the sake of it complaint. If you bodge a job, you don’t really have a leg to stand on if somebody throws some complaints in your direction – in fact, you probably deserve it. 

Whining for the sake of it complaints are different and we all know we people who do it. Some just seem to enjoy complaining. I know that sounds ridiculous, but give me a better theory? As much as we’d often love nothing more than to tell these people to sod off and get a life, that’s not always advisable – especially if you want to keep your job.  

What kind of complaint is it?  

The first question to ask is, is it reasonable? If it’s a reasonable complaint and you’ve missed or forgotten something, then just get on with. It might be frustrating to have to go back over something, but that’s part of your job.

Things get a bit more complicated if you know that the reason for their complaining is absurd. This is, of course, subjective, one person’s reasonable complaint might sound ridiculous to somebody else, but generally, if you’ve worked in the trades for a while you can tell the difference.  

Is there anything you can do?

If somebody starts ranting that you’ve left ⅛ of a footprint on their clean tiles you can offer to go and clean it all up. Almost always they tend to see sense in what they’re saying and decide that making you scrub off something that measures 1.5 inches across sounds ludicrous. 

Would an apology help?

Look, nobody likes apologising for something that they don’t feel they need to. And even worse, apologising for something that you know is somebody else’s fault. Let’s be honest, it’s damaging to your pride and integrity and you might loathe the idea of saying those two little words that often make all of the difference – I’m sorry.

That’s not to say you should just blindly apologize for everything, but just think that sometimes we need to bite the bullet for the sake of trying to maintain a healthy atmosphere. 

Have you explained the process?

People often don’t really understand what the process is going to look like, instead, they just imagine the finished article. They don’t know that their kitchen is going to like Robert Downey Jr’s stag do before it looks like the shining example in the IKEA catalogue. A lot of complaints come from a lack of clarity, so it’s always worth outlining everything to them before you start. Then when they complain about the dust, at least you’ve got something to fall back on.

People are People 

The reality is that some people will always find something to complain about – it’s in their nature. We can discuss why they feel like that, but I think that’s enough for a whole blog in itself. Difficult people are part and parcel of the job and something you need to learn how to do with.

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Banter Nightmare customers

5 classic customer remarks

We’ve picked some blinders that we’re sure all trades have heard and be warned, some are quite annoying!

We all love to pretend that we are totally unique, but anybody who works in the trades knows that clients and their needs and phrases often follow a set pattern. Here are five commonly heard phrases that those in the trades hear frequently  (and why you probably shouldn’t say some of them).  

‘I’m pretty sure I can do it myself but the wife wanted me to get a professional in’

Let’s be honest here, pride and ego often have a habit of getting in the way. The stereotypical view that men should be able to build, fix, renovate and install is often way wide of the mark. The truth is many men (and women) can’t do these kinds of things – which is why we hire professionals to do them. Even if we know it’s not true we often throw out some variation of this sentence in order for us to feel slightly better. You can do that – or you can just accept that you can’t do everything under the sun and move on to something else.  

‘Is there any way of getting things finished a bit sooner than planned?’

Yes of course. Let me just go and get the small army of workers I’ve got waiting in the van for this exact purpose. People often seem to think that those in the trades are working at a greatly reduced speed anyway and that a polite kick up the backside might be enough to speed up the whole process. It’s definitely not, grrrr, really grinds my gears!

‘I had a little play around but couldn’t see anything wrong with it’ 

This is essentially code for, ‘I stuck a screwdriver into that hole there and wiggled it around but it didn’t fix the problem’. You’ve got to give it to them for trying at least and it’s certainly preferable to the amateur plumbers who smash and bash around in the vain hope of magically fixing a loose bolt with a hammer.   

‘That’s a little out of my budget I’m afraid. Any chance you could do it for a bit cheaper?’

Absolutely! And congratulations on using the secret password that automatically knocks 20% of the quote that I’ve just given you. I know that times are difficult for a lot of people, but potential clients who attempt to barter down the price can be infuriating. You wouldn’t walk into Argos and ask them if you can have that new TV for less than the stated price, so why do people think they can do it with the trades? 

Is it cheaper if I don’t get a receipt?’ *usually said in a hushed whisper 

Well, that’s one way to make the situation awkward. Let’s just be very clear about what you’re actually asking, shall we. You want to know if the price is lower if the tradesman in front of you is willing to break the law and work for cash in hand. 

Some are more than happy to do this, while others are not. But by asking the question you might have put this person in a dilemma. I mean, I’m sure all of us would love to not pay our taxes but that’s not really the point is it, calling it out like that…

If you enjoyed this article, learned something or just like our vibes at TradesmanElite, please find us on Instagram, Facebook & share this post with a friend. @TrademanElite.

Ps. Let us know in the comments if we’ve missed any phrases and what your favourites are!

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Banter Nightmare customers War stories

What to do when your customer refuses to pay

When Builders Destroy

What do you do when a customer refuses to pay for work done?

Take them to court? A lengthy and costly process. Ask nicely and hope they pay? A reasonable yet most likely fruitless approach.

How about knocking down all your work? Sounds a bit drastic, but might at least give you that delightful release. 

Ever since people started paying others to build or fix things, people have also been refusing to pay. It’s an age-old problem and one that comes with a few pleasant options. Legal proceedings can take months and often end up costly for everybody involved. There is a degree of trust involved on both sides and when one of those sides doesn’t deliver, things can get ugly. 

After failing to pay a £7,300 bill, a woman in Cheshire watched in horror as this group smashed apart their own work in her garden.

The video which was uploaded to Facebook includes this somewhat Godfather Esque statement from the ring leader before the destruction unfolded. Watch our video here on You Tube

‘This is what happens when you try and have me off for £7,300. Smash the whole place to bits.’

According to reports, the police were called to the property but no arrests were made. 

A firm favourite from 2008 is this clip that appeared on Sky News, in which builders destroy a conservatory and a front porch after the owner refused to pay the agreed £15,000. The highlight of the news piece is undoubtedly the interview with the builder with his sledgehammer casually slung over his shoulder. His take on things is wonderfully honest while also being slightly unsettling.  

‘Very satisfying to knock it all down and see the lady get what was coming to her – but gut-wrenching at the same time’

The internet is awash with these tales of woe and blind rage. But the problem is that legally it’s still a very grey area. While builders are technically within their rights to reclaim materials used, wanton destruction can easily lead to a court case, as was seen in this story in which a builder’s crazed demolition of a conservatory was captured on CCTV and played in court. 

Look, we get it. When you feel like you’ve been cheated it must feel truly amazing to destroy something with a sledgehammer as payback. In fact, I can’t think of too many better ways of relieving tension than swinging a giant hammer through a wall. But the police tend to take a fairly dim view on crazed assaults on houses these days and while it might be the greatest two and half minutes of your life (insert sexual innuendo if needed) that release will soon be over and you’ll probably be left at the start of a lengthy legal journey. 

So what can be done instead? 

We’d love to be able to offer a new and satisfying alternative, but dealing with customers who don’t pay is a difficult situation to address.

Your best bet is documenting and record the work carefully then seek mediation or other legal alternatives. It’s not nearly as satisfying as swinging a sledgehammer, but let’s be honest, what is? At least this way you’ll have a fighting chance of getting paid without falling into legal problems yourself. We wrote a good post on how to protect yourself from getting knocked here. 

And if you really feel the need to smash up a room, try Wreck Room. The legal way to get out that wild destructive side that lies in us all.    

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Top tips for tradesmen

The essential guide to beating winter blues

Winter can put even the best of us on a downer, especially when you’re working in a cold house or on a building site day in day out…

That shrill sound of the alarm clock feels particularly unpleasant in January and February. The winter blues, or seasonal affective disorder to take its fancy name, affects us all to some degree or another but for those working in the trades, it comes with some unique challenges. Here are five ways to help beat those winter blues. Here are some tips that seem pretty simple but easy to forget.

Eat Right

A quick stop at Mcdonalds at lunch might sound like the perfect way to brighten up your day but the truth is could well be dragging your further down. Eating healthily is a good idea no matter the time of the year, but it’s particularly important at times when mood levels tend to drop. Our understanding of the link between mood and food is growing all of the time and yet it remains an area people consistently struggle with. Start your day with a healthy breakfast and set yourself up from the very start – your mood will thank you for it.

Wrap Up

The seasoned pros out there might smirk at this one, but this is an issue that often arises. It’s important to keep your body as comfortable as possible throughout the day. Working in the trades you often experience different activity levels, one minute you’re working flat out, the next you are standing around for half an hour in the cold while somebody completes a job.

The point is you need to be ready for both. If you’re working outside during winter you need to come to work prepared. Whatever you need, whether its thermals, hot drinks, (make sure the customer puts the kettle on 😉 ) get a nice woolly hat, find the pattern that works for you. The right kind of gear can make a huge difference and it’s worth giving it some thought.

Beat winter blues

Communication

One of the major causes of depression is loneliness. Humans naturally gravitate towards other humans and when we go through long stretches without any meaningful communication it can be particularly damaging. If you’re working on a site with plenty of people this probably isn’t a huge problem, but for those working on their own, it certainly can be.

Taking the time to call somebody at lunchtime or during a break can really help to alleviate some of the effects loneliness can have on the mind

Sleeping

Sleeping is important. You probably already knew that, but just how important is another matter. Poor sleeping patterns are closely related to depression, along with numerous other conditions and ailments.

Seven to eight hours is the medically recommended amount of sleep, but it’s important to listen to your own body. If you feel tired, go to bed earlier and under no circumstances should you feel guilty about that lie in at the weekend.

Find Your Happy

This might sound like the most absurdly obvious point on this list but ignore it at your peril. During times of difficulty, it’s important to focus on the small habits or activities that bring you happiness. Whether it’s binge-watching a TV show, riding a bike or simply walking the dog through the park.

Sometimes you need to actively set aside time for things like this, especially if you add in a family to your busy schedule, but the psychological benefit of regularly doing something you love to do is not only exceedingly obvious but one of the biggest tools you have in improving your mental health.

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Banter

Trade lingo: Have you heard these one-liners?

Trades Lingo – A collection of classic one-liners, have you heard them all? 

We’ve all been there. You’re standing talking with somebody when they use a word or phrase that leaves you completely stumped, the brain frantically tries to make sense of it while you weigh up whether it’s worth admitting you have no idea what they’re talking about or trying to continue blagging your way through. 

People who work in the trades come with a wonderfully bizarre vocabulary that can feel like a secret language to those on the outside. Here are six of our favourites and what they really mean when you hear them.      

‘That’s a party wall that is’

Hearing a builder say this in your own home would leave most people thoroughly confused. Sadly this has absolutely nothing to do with a good old-fashioned knees-up – though it would make a great name for an underground rave in Berlin.

No, I’m afraid the truth is far less interesting. A party wall is simply a wall that is shared by another home, for example in terraced housing.   

‘That floor’s on the piss, who did it?

As you scratch your head wondering how the floor could possibly be enjoying itself down the pub, you might start to get the feeling that all might not be as it seems. If somebody describes the floor as, ‘on the piss’, it means that it isn’t at all flat – which is bad – obviously.  

POETS day’

Now, before we jump to any conclusions, there are probably some in the trades who enjoy a spot of poetry to brighten the day, but POETS day has nothing to stanzas, rhymes and flowery adjectives. It’s simple really – Piss Off Early Tomorrow’s Saturday.  

‘I know a good chippy if you’re interested?’

It might sound a little odd for your plumber to recommend a high-quality fish and chip shop out of the blue on a Monday morning – and you’d be entirely right. Within the trades, a chippy refers to a carpenter or anybody that predominantly works with wood. And while we’re at it, Sparky is a slang word for an electrician.

‘There’s a problem with the greywater’   

There’s different coloured water? You might splutter in reply. Well actually no, water is water, but there is a difference between grey and black water. Greywater includes water from all sources apart from the toilet, which, as you might guess, is the black water as it’s sewage water. 

‘We’ve just put all of the carcasses in’ 

This is one sentence that just sounds plain wrong. Surely we should be removing the carcasses from the new kitchen? And why the hell are there carcasses around in the first place? As you can probably imagine, a carcass in the trades doesn’t have anything to do with dead animals. Rather it is the word to describe kitchen cabinets, which certainly makes a whole lot more sense.