DID YOU KNOW THAT'S HOW MANY IT TAKES TO BUILD A HOUSE?
How many people does it actually take to build a house? We’ve crunched the numbers and we have a number. 121. That’s a lot of people, right? You’ve got labourers, apprentices, electricians, plumbers, carpenters. Then there are the insulation workers, landscapers, security people, glaziers, corkers, tilers …. Just to name a few.
Managing that many people with their own personalities, emotions, priorities and commitments, is it any wonder that there might be some minor hiccups along the way? In this episode, we’re giving you some insight into who those people are, what they do on-site and what their lives might look like. We talk you through how to maintain those relationships and understand the roles you play in managing your build. We also share a personal story from one of our BuildHers about the warning signs to watch out for.
A lot of people with a lot of emotions, a lot of pressing priorities and a lot of different jobs going on the go. It’s a tough job to stay on top of it all. But, it’s also what makes it so much fun.
If you have a topic or question you’d like us to cover, contact us here.
SOME TOPICS THAT WE COVER:
The nuances of managing relationships as a builder
Setting realistic boundaries with your builders to avoid burn out
Uniting your tradespeople in the “why”. The reason behind the build is so important to help keep tradies on task
The Time, Quality, Cost Triangle - understanding how everything plays in together
If working with your partner on a build, figuring out your roles and sticking to them
How one of our Master BuildHers dealt with a conman
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Read the Full Podcast Transcript Below:
Rebeka: Did you know it takes 121 people to build a house?
Kribashini: I think it's 127.5.
Rebeka: You're always trying to one-up me, honestly. In this episode, we are having a little chat about how many people it takes to build a house, because we were trying to figure it out the other day and-
Kribashini: It's a shitload of people, actually.
Rebeka: It’s a shitload of people. We give you a little bit of insight into what a builder's life actually looks like.
Kribashini: And who those 120 people might be.
Rebeka: I will give you also a little bit of a story of one of our BuildHers when she was managing-- Well, something to watch out for as well.
Kribashini: It's super enlightening that little story's at the end. So stay to the end.
Rebeka: Hi. I'm Rebeka.
Kribashini: I'm Kribashini.
Rebeka: Welcome to Building with BuildHers.
Kribashini: Our podcast, where we believe that building is fun.
Rebeka: Super fun.
Kribashini: So much fun.
Rebeka: BuildHer Collective was created to help women with building and renovating. We believe that with the right tools, everyone can build. For us, it's all about encouraging women to take back control of the building process and really achieve their dreams.
Kribashini: We are women in the building industry and as developers, builders, and project managers, it's our passion to share everything we know with other women doing the same. That's why we've created this podcast for you.
Rebeka: So, if you love all things building-
Kribashini: You're into design-
Rebeka: - keen on the numbers-
Kribashini: About to renovate, thinking and dreaming of that first-ever home and what it would look like or even developing for profit, then you've found your family.
Kribashini: Subscribe to our podcast and follow our journey over buildhercollective.com.au.
Rebeka: Hello Kribashini.
Kribashini: Hello Rebeka.
Rebeka: It takes 121 people to build a house. Does it?
Kribashini: Well, I was thinking it's more like 127.5.
Rebeka: We just did a super quick count and it was one of those exercises of, "Actually how many people does it take?” And managing that many people, is it any wonder that there are minor hiccups along the way?
Kribashini: And isn’t construction management one of the most stressful jobs? I think it's ranked one of the most stressful jobs in the world.
Rebeka: Is it?
Kribashini: Yes, well, probably not as bad as like heart surgeon or anaesthetist or-
Rebeka: Probably not as important.
Kribashini: Or if someone died, killing you and then bringing you back from the dead. Still, it is a tough job and there's a lot of people with a lot of emotions, with a lot of pressing priorities, with a lot of different jobs on the go that have to be managed.
Rebeka: Yes, and it could be also what makes it more fun.
Kribashini: I think so. I think it's always mind-blowing to think about how many people you need, and how many different skills you need to bring it all together.
Rebeka: I guess for me, and this comes up a lot when we're talking to BuildHers about what's happening and what to do says, "No hard and fast rule," because it's all relationships. Right?
Rebeka: The relationship that I have with one tradesperson, is not necessarily the relationship that you will have with them, because we're two really different people and we address things differently and offend maybe differently, maybe.
Kribashini: How can we even start to begin to break down that 121 people, when we don't know what they're all doing or how we need to bring them all together? Then we don't know all the little nuances around that.
I think when we think about relationship-based in the building game, we really should be liking dealing with people, because if you don't like talking to people and managing people and telling them what to do -
Rebeka: I do really like that-
Kribashini: - we might be in the wrong job.
Rebeka: Yes, I will completely agree and I think it's one of the really interesting parts of it is, "How do you manage those people, and what is your personal way of dealing with people?" I guess, a bit of self-reflection in this point is super important, because you find out, for example, as a self-reflection, I know that sometimes I can get worked up or heated and I'll get animated. I don't mean to be-- I'm not mad, I'm animated.
If you don't know me and this is not something that you're accustomed to and you're quite a meek person who-
Kribashini: Reads things differently?
Rebeka: - reads things differently, you might read that animation as aggression. You've got to moderate how you're dealing with everyone to some extent.
Kribashini: To suit them?
Kribashini: Well, it's true you do have to moderate your own interactions to suit the people you're talking to, because they can be adjusted, but they can also be interpreted in loads of different ways. We don't always know how they're going to be interpreted until they've been misinterpreted, to then something you have to crawl yourself back out of.
Rebeka: So, when we say 121 people, it's not actually that number, just to clarify. It's a lot of people. I think when we were building one of our houses, I, as a fun little exercise just went through and noted everyone, because I know everyone on a first-name basis, I just noted everyone that we had like electricians, three, plumbers, four of them. By the time you came through, we had this massive amount of people, and I was like, "Whoa," and to build something quickly as well. You're coordinating all those people's times, all of their agendas to come through at the same time.
What are a few of the people you'd have on site?
Kribashini: Well, look. When you're building, depending on whether you're renovating or whether you're building from new and from a green field site, there's lots of different people that you might have. They could be excavator operators, you could have labourers, you can have apprentices, you can have painters, you can have tilers, you can have carpenters, you can have chippies, you can have plasterers, you can have people doing insulation, metal workers--
Rebeka: Glaziers, corkers, tilers,
Kribashini: Lots of tilers.
Rebeka: Mechanical installers.
Rebeka: Yes, insulation.
Kribashini: You can have different gangs of carpenters too. You can have fixing carpenters, framing carpenters, you can have crane operators.
Rebeka: You can have people who put up metal framing.
Kribashini: Reo? (Reinforcing)
Rebeka: Yes, reo. Concretors, fencers.
Rebeka: The spray concrete people?
Shotcrete, is that it?
Rebeka: Shotcrete, yes. Thanks.
Rebeka: Pilots, Lisa wants to add swimmers, by the look of the way she's-- Who's swimmers? Who swims on a site?
Lisa: Pool people.
Rebeka: Pool people.
Kribashini: Is that how they test the pool? I don't think they swim in it to test it -
Garage door installers.
Rebeka: Very good.
Kribashini: Security installers?
Rebeka: Yes, audio specialists.
Kribashini: Oh, that's a good one.
Rebeka: Joiners. Forgot the joiners. That's a big ticket item too.
Kribashini: Curtain installers or curtain and blinds installers?
Rebeka: Wardrobe people.
Kribashini: Mirrors, we always forget about the mirror.
Rebeka: Always forget about the mirror.
Kribashini: Did we say structural steel?
Rebeka: Yes, the structural steel suppliers.
Kribashini: Oh, shower screen, that's a good one.
Rebeka: You'd have steel windows as well. Oh snap, you're out.
Kribashini: Damn it.
Rebeka: I win. The point is-
Kribashini: That system is-
We hope that you wrote that all down.
Rebeka: Fences. Yes, I know. It's a little game we like to play.
Kribashini: Oh, exposed concrete, layers?
Rebeka: It's concrete polishers.
Kribashini: We really should stop this, because we're-
Rebeka: The point is there's a lot of people that you can have to build your house. All of those people need to be coordinated. This is where we talk about timing. Basically, you're paying a builder, not to necessarily do all the work, but to sublet to all these trades and coordinate everyone, so they arrive on time, when they need to, and do the work on the budget that you've talked about.
Kribashini: That's a really good point, because a lot of the time when we hear from our BuildHers, it's like, "Why does this builder cost so much? Why is this quote so high?" There are so many reasons, but this is one of the reasons that leads into that. There is a massive component of coordination and administration.
Rebeka: Why is it so varied? Because every single one of those trades, you can get three quotes, and none of those quotes will be alike?
Kribashini: Yes, you have to go back to all three people and find out what they've missed out or what they haven't priced for, then you have to engage them and you have to coordinate with when they're going to be there. Then you need to coordinate with the foreman.
Rebeka: Then if they don't finish the work and you've paid them, you need to get someone else to do it at your cost or-
Kribashini: They've made a mistake.
Rebeka: So, there's a whole heap of things, but I guess that's a people management tool. You're paying a builder to know what he's doing, to be able to coordinate people in the right time, but to manage people. If one of your key skills, and this is about assessing yourself and understanding what your key skills are, if one of your keys to your skills is to coordinate people and to be fair, it's something I love.
Kribashini: I love it too, but I also love the challenge of it. It's really challenging to get people to do what you need, when you need it done.
Rebecca: Yes, to unite people around a common goal, and that common goal is getting your house built, and it's not necessarily their goal. That's your goal. Their goal is to get paid for the work that they're doing.
Kribashini: And to run their business and to manage a whole lot of different projects and try and keep everyone happy.
Rebeka: Or to be home to pick their kids up from school. They've got a whole heap of different stuff.
Kribashini: I often find that we forget that BuildHers, because I can't say builders anymore, I always say BuildHers, but builders have lives too and they have families too. Sometimes we get so caught up in the fact that, "I've hired you to do a job, I'm paying you to do a job, I want you to show up, I need you to be there," that we actually forget that they have lives and priorities too, just like us.
Rebeka: Yes, builders as an industry, and especially domestic builders, small builders, as an industry, it's rife with builders that will work seven days a week. They'll push long hours on a job and their pay rate is actually not very high. I know that doesn't feel like that from your perspective, because you're the client who's paying and you're paying a lot of money, but this is the reality for a lot of small builders.
Yes, they're the ones you want to hire, but you want to have some boundaries. So, as the builders get, I guess, more sophisticated and bigger, they seem to be able to set boundaries a lot better. The businesses set boundaries a lot better, and the expectations change both of the builder on the trade and what leverage he has over managing those trades, because he's managing a higher portion of their business growth, but also what their personal circumstances are and what they can achieve, because there's a high burnout rate in builders as well.
Kribashini: If you think about it, if they're working seven days a week on the tools to try and get jobs done, to get them to the next job, because they might be working from invoice to invoice. A lot of them don't have a lot of big cash flow. They're funding one job upfront with materials, and their invoicing and they're getting paid and they've got to clear their invoices with their suppliers. They're doing a lot of paperwork in the background in the evening time as well.
We do wonder why don't these smaller builders have time to quote? Well, because they're on the tools and they're trying to keep their businesses going. How do they find time?
Rebeka: Fun fact, quoting can take about 30 hours, if you do it properly. If you've got quotes and you've got quotes, you've got someone who'll look at plans and they can get themselves in trouble like this, because they'll look at a set of plans and they'll go, "Well, that's 100 square meters. I'll build something like that around $2,500 a square meter." That's $250 000.
Kribashini: You look at it from their point of view, they've got, maybe, 10 people calling for a quote. They've got limited time. They, maybe, only have two hours, so they're going to spend 20 minutes on each one, but really how reliable is that?
On a bigger scale, should we even be asking people to put that much out there without having to spend the right amount of time on a quote?
Rebeka: If they can do a quote like that, then they can get to the point where they're actually doing the job. That's where you might lose some at last minute. They might go, "Actually, now I've spent my 30 hours doing it and I've got three jobs that I've quoted like that, that will line up at roughly the same time, if they come off." That's the thing also, people's time frames change
Kribashini: Or, "Shit. I under-quoted this massively because I didn't realize there was a pool in that drawing, because I didn't look at it for more than 10 days."
Rebeka: Some aren't doing the job. Why would you do that? You're trying to hold them to a quote, but this is a small builder that doesn't have a massive capacity for that. If one client doesn't pay or one job goes over, then that's a massive eating-i n to their wages and their livelihood and the way they're running.
Rebeka: We want to look at things from two perspectives. I think is that-
Kribashini: Well, understanding the other perspective helps us negotiate better, hands down, but also understanding someone else's perspective allows us to be empathetic. I don't want to sound weird when I say it, but be able to persuade people to do what we need them to do. That's really what managing the set of trades and managing a build site is really about.
Rebeka: The reality is, if you give someone a reason why they should do something for you, they're so much more likely to actually do that.
Kribashini: Its understanding, isn't it? People buy into the reason why and they want to be part of the why.
Rebeka: They want to be part of-- I find when we do work, I have a lot of pride in the work we do and the bills we do and I have a lot of fun with it. I can unite people around being able to get a new build. You know what people also love? Photos. I get about 60 photos of our jobs done and I send those photos out to everyone, and I thank them for their involvement on the job and say, "Please, use these. Feel free to credit us."
It works as marketing for me. It also works as marketing for them, because often they're doing, like if you think of a tiler, they're doing the tiling component, but how interesting is it to have some photos of tiles without the fitter, without styling, without good lighting, not photographed well? You're using, again, it's relationship. Do we have to do it? No. Do we want to do it? Yes.
Kribashini: There's also a deeper understanding about what they can and can't get themselves.
Rebeka: Yes, an appreciation of the work that they have put in, because they've put their time and energy and effort.
Kribashini: That's right. How many builders or tilers or tradies do you know that can actually go back to a job to take a photo?
Rebeka: We don't have time, either.
Kribashini: No, there's no time. It's always going to job to job, to job to job.
Rebeka: You're not thinking about that marketing perspective. A lot of small businesses have the setup that maybe, and I know this sounds cliche and it's not always, but there are a lot of small businesses that have the setup where the guy might be by himself or in a small gang, he's doing the work. Maybe his wife's doing the paperwork for him. I know it sounds cliche, but I reckon that's 80%, 90% of the people that I'm working with.
Kribashini: I'd say that's probably not the lower tier, but the most hands-on tier. You might jump up with that builder may have been going on for a while and they might have an apprentice or two, they might have someone in the offices doing the invoicing for them.
Rebeka: Well, I was thinking more about the trades. Yes, there are different levels. Commercially, it's actually a lot easier to manage people, because the gangs you're using are a lot bigger, so your leverage is higher. You're being paid a decent job to manage the job. The client who's paying is aware of what all the costs are going to be.
Then I'm not using a tiler that's got one or two guys. I'm using a tiling business that has 20 guys, so get me guys and then we'll shuffle their work in accordance.
Kribashini: Plus office staff who was supporting those tilers on site. It makes a huge, huge difference. I think even though we're talking about how many people does it take to build a house, it always comes back to what is that cost or why is the cost so much? Because we talk about the triangle and that a lot in that podcast and a lot of in our course. Once we start to understand-
Rebeka: That'd be the time- quality- costs triangle, just because-- [laughs] You just said the triangle, which is fine, but not everyone might know the time- quality-cost triangle.
Kribashini: The reason I asked, what I did say, is because I was actually doing a circle motion with my hand, then I said, "Did I say circle or did I actually say triangle?" It's all interconnected, and so understanding this little piece of how many people does it take, it's so important to understanding the whole bigger picture.
Rebeka: Then you can also have a respect of, "Well, do I have time to manage those people, and do I want to put the time and effort into getting those quotes, managing it?" Managing people isn't necessarily hard, but it's definitely nuanced.
Kribashini: The time commitment, it's got to be something you want to do. If you don't want to do it, it's just going to increase your stress level. It's going to take more emotional strength out of you. A lot of people actually thrive on doing it, too. We're in both camps.
A lot of couples will have one person in the relationship who thrives on doing that, and the other person who doesn't. Understanding what you like to do and understanding the game that you're getting into helps you, basically, manage it with ease, because you can say, "Well, I'm not great at that, so I want my partner to help me with that part of that."
Rebeka: Knowing your roles in your partnership, whatever it is, is super important as well. We actually often see the woman, if it's a family, like a husband-wife family, then we'll often will see the woman at home maybe with young kids who's running the renovation or who has put aside more time, because it's more important to her that the family home is the way she wants it to look. That might mean that the husband is a cross different aspects of that build.
Kribashini: She may have more time in the day to make the ad hoc call here and there, to bring it together.
Rebeka: Depending on what their specific situation and role is, but that's often what we see. Therefore, that woman will be managing all of those trades. That's her role. You don't want to be second-guessed either. If that's your role in the partnership, then you take your role and you run with it, but you don't overlap. Let's say, Kribashini and I were building a house together. If we were both trying to manage the trades, you can see how difficult that conversation would start to get. A, we're very different personalities and we make very different decisions. Our value systems are exactly the same, our outcome is going to want to be the same, but our way of approaching that is going to be really different.
If someone speaks to you and me, it'll be quite confusing and then you don't know the conversations I've had and I don't know the conversations you've had. That's where having this many people, you need a single point of contact, whether that's a builder or a lead hand or whether you own a building and you're managing it yourself.
Kribashini: Absolutely. It happens a lot actually, particularly when you have teams who are managing builds, where you might have one person who's doing most of that coordination and then you have a senior above them who might make a call and get involved into something that they don't need to be involved in. It can create a lot of confusion and that's really where mistakes stream out of.
Being on top of that as Bek mentioned in your scenario is so, so important to understanding how you want to work with your partner and why you're working like this. It's important for you to have that insight.
Rebeka: I guess what we're saying in this is it's a whole heap of people, it's all relationship-based. You should manage it in a way that's reflective of your personality. Whether you use a builder or you do it yourself, all of these are fine. It needs to be done.
Kribashini: Now you're aware.
Rebeka: I'm glass full, I have to say. Half-full, rather than half-empty when I look at things. I would generally assume people are trying to do the right thing by me. I think generally speaking, people are trying to do the right thing by you, but if you don't know much, then that gives people an opportunity to take advantage of you.
Kribashini: Every once in a while, through no reason of your own, through no fault of your own, someone who doesn't want to do the right thing may come along. That's life, really.
Rebeka: There are a select few. One of our builders had a run-in with a conman, a legit conman. Actually, it was, I think, on A Current Affair, as one of Victoria's worst con men.
Kribashini: He's known to police as well?
Rebeka: Yes, he's known to police as well. The police can't stop him, because it's her job and it's-- Anyway, it doesn't matter. Just come out of jail again.
Kribashini: It's complicated.
Rebeka: Anyway. She's had a run-in with this-- and he did all the right stuff. This is like, she's describing this story, and you feel for someone in this situation.
Kribashini: A very charming person is very personable.
Rebeka: Yes, because con men are charming. You want to believe people, you want to have faith in people. He gave a quote, it wasn't high, it wasn't low.
Kribashini: Middle of the range.
Rebeka: He could start pretty much straight away, but had a reason why he could start.
Rebeka: Needed a deposit, which is sometimes unfortunate, but brought some materials to site straight away.
Kribashini: Tick. Sometimes we worry about paying a deposit when we don't see any action or we don't see any materials on site. I'm seeing three big ticks already.
Rebeka: What his MO was, it was to lull people into a false sense of security by getting material there. Getting forward payment, blaming the site foreman for the reason why he couldn't work forward. He was like, "I can't work any further, because your carpenter hasn't left enough space and he hasn't--" What he's done is he's doing that thing that often kids are really good at doing, creating that moment of conflict. Do you know what I mean? Where you're putting doubt, is it your carpenter or is it your plasterer in this situation?
Kribashini: You're not there all the time, so you can't actually see exactly what's going on. You've had a long term relationship with your carpenter, but this guy's saying all the right things, what do you do?
Rebeka: And he's smooth. It turns out that this guy was actually a conman and his quality of work was worse and his amount of work he did was less, and he kept on asking for more money.
She was really smart. She picked up on it and she was really gutsy. She blocked him in when he arrived one day and she wouldn't let him leave without getting some money back and called the police. She actually got out of it, slightly burnt. There was skin in the game. She got burnt a little bit. She wrote me this long story and she was like, "I'm so embarrassed. How could this have happened to me?" And I'm like, "But everything looked right."
Kribashini: Why would you question it until the time that it became concerning, which is when you did question it and then you did something about it. Other people in that scenario may have gone along with it, not knowing what to do or not really having the strength to be confrontational about it.
Rebeka: What I liked about it is she knew how much to pay him, when. She got a little bit burnt, but not too much.
Kribashini: She made a progress claim, but not a full payment?
Rebeka: Yes, because she's paying for materials and works on-site , but not fully committing herself. Look, he was asking for more money and he's persuasive. She sought advice and she had backup from a group of people who knew what they were doing.
If you can imagine getting stuck in that situation, it could be really isolating and really confidence-wrecking.
Kribashini: Well, especially if what he's been doing since he started on site was niggling or deteriorating her relationship with her foreman on- site. By him blaming and pointing finger on the two of them not getting along, they put her in the middle. Then that makes it a bit lonely and puts her out on her own.
Rebeka: She's got to be the adjudicator of their argument. I liked that she was able to get it. I also think she had incredible guts calling it when it was and then trapping him. I don't know that I'd be that gutsy . That's a pretty strong move.
Kribashini: No, I don't think I would be, to be honest, I don't think I would physically stop him from leaving.
Rebeka: She actually set him up to arrive and then put him behind him.
Kribashini: I can't remember if in her email, police came?
Rebeka: Yes, she had the police sent.
Kribashini: She coordinated this intervention let's call it.
Rebeka: Sting, I think it's a sting.
Kribashini: What's the point of it, really.
Rebeka: I guess, all the 121 people that she has had on site, I'm sure she's had a few dramas with some of them, she's had one person who's purposely tried to take advantage of her. I guess, if you hire a builder, you're not putting yourself at risk of that. Unless, that build as a conman.
Again, if you're doing your due diligence and you know the checks and balances, you know how to run a tender properly and there various different-- That's a topic for a different day, because people don't do that right-
Kribashini: Really, the name of the game is manage people, be aware of what can and can't happen. Be aware of how many people you need to manage and if you need to manage them and who they are and what you want to get out of it.
Rebeka: It is super fun for me. I really enjoy it, even though we ended on a bit of a down note. The name of the game is that it's all relationship.
Kribashini: The first time we do anything, it's always going to be a little bit hard, but the next time we build, boy, it's going to be so easy.
Rebeka: Well, we hope you've enjoyed our podcast about the 121 people. Actually, what I told you-
Kribashini: Oh, 127.5, the apprentice.
Rebeka: Yes, okay. An apprentice is not part of 0.5 person .
Kribashini: If you're an apprentice out there and you've heard that, I don't think any less of you.
Rebeka: [laughs] Actually, what I would like to ask is that, maybe, if you have a chance, you could leave us a review. If you're liking what you hear, either press the star button, whatever you think, please be nice and maybe, leave a review, because that really helps us get known and help more people and explain some of these building things that people don't seem to know about.
Kribashini: Plus we love reading them and hearing about what you're learning from us. It's super, super, super fun and it makes it so worthwhile. Bye.
Rebeka: Thanks for listening to Buliding With BuildHer. We'd love for you to spread the word. Show notes, links and downloads and other awesome resources, freebies, head to buildhercollective.com.au. Don't forget that's BuildHer with an H.E.R.
Kribashini: If you enjoyed this episode, it would mean so much to both of us, if you could take a minute or two to leave a review, and don't forget to subscribe so you can listen next time as we talk all things building and women making their mark in the building industry.