Categories
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! 

Categories
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.  

Categories
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.

Categories
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.

Categories
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.