Building a career in construction

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When the desk job no longer appeals and turning physical labour into a money making venture seems the obvious solution, then it’s time to look at just what’s involved in investing in a business opportunity in building services.

Whether or not you will need to come to the business with a list of practical skills will depend on the particular system you choose.

At Spray Pave, attention to detail and commonsense are key attributes that business owner Chris Bylhouwer looks for. And there’s a certain level of physical fitness required to manage the equipment used.

“It’s a trade business with light physical work. The guys handle machinery like a mixing drill, which is like a heavy duty drill that weighs about three kilograms. They hold a hopper gun which sprays the product and when full it can be five or six kilograms.

“That’s about it in terms of the required skills. We’ve had IT workers and schoolteachers and we’re geared to handle the training.”

The job doesn’t necessarily require computer aptitude either; Bylhouwer says many licensees work with a hand-written cashbook, though Spray Pave does outline the value of, and how to work with, a relevant accounting software program.

As many of the jobs will involve decorating driveways, it’s a benefit for licensees to understand how to choose colours and patterns and advise customers on their choice.

The work entails both indoor and outdoor treatments, from polishing and staining concrete to epoxy application and spray painting.

“Over the last two to three years we’ve geared up more for indoor work so it gives the licensee work all year round. Otherwise it can be a seasonal opportunity.”

The work is not just domestic; increasingly commercial clients such as chemists and fashion retailers are turning to concrete treatments to enhance and maintain their concrete environment. Even airports have been on the client list.

The minor trades are essentially add-ons offered with the main trades and include services such as waterproofing concrete, cleaning concrete and tiles and treating surfaces with non-slip properties. The extended services give licensees an opportunity to upsell, says Bylhouwer.

“We promote the business as a lifestyle issue, you can have a range of trades and services. We have one guy with three guys and four cars on the road, and one in Perth who is 74 and just does spray paving for a couple of days a week.”

There are no elements of control in the business, he says, even down to the use of the Spray Pave name being optional.

The full package includes equipment and a trailer. The full license costs $49,000. Most licensees choose the $37,500 option because they have either a trailer or some of the equipment themselves, and will purchase the extra kit they require.

More than 200 licensees have gone through the five day training program, including two days working on site. But with the breadth of technical applications on offer, learning has to be continual.

“We offer lifetime support — there are four trades and minor trades to learn, so you won’t learn it all in a few days,” says Bylhouwer. “As the jobs come in, we will provide ongoing support.”

Jim’s Building Maintenance

In the building arena the first hurdle in the skills event may be a trade licence, and the requirements vary from state to state. Theunis Terreblanche explains, “If you have no licence in Western Australia you can earn up to $20,000, in Victoria up to $5000, Queensland $3000 and in New South Wales just $1000. The only state you need a licence to do any work in is South Australia.”

For Terreblanche, who heads up Jim’s Building Maintenance, experience is the most important aspect when picking a franchisee. Then it comes down to the individual. “We look at skills, personal skills, attitude, communication, what type of person they are. We prefer to meet the partner and see how they treat each other.”

Jobs include building, tiling, ceilings, pergolas, decks and plastering. Going out on a job with a franchisee who will ask them to do some of the work and see how they use a power drill and a screwdriver is part of the pre-sign up process.

Once onboard, the franchisor will spend time to get the skills up to date or improved. “We work on a carpenter’s licence as it’s the easiest to get and it doesn’t matter what level you have,” he says. There’s plenty of help on hand, insists Terreblanche. “We assist in getting the licence, we offer advice and recommend TAFE courses, and enrol them in Housing Industry Association or Master Builders who do workshops. These costs are additional for the franchisee.”

If a new franchisee is interested in learning additional skills, then they have the opportunity to train on a job with another franchisee. If they have a little experience, the franchisor may go on jobs with them until they are satisfied the franchisee can do the job.

“Most of those we sign up, about 85 percent, don’t have a licence. They still get work straight away.”

Most franchisees will be dealing with residential clients, though there are some commercial accounts.

Initially work comes to the franchisee through the national call centre, which fields every Jim’s group inquiry. Jobs are allocated according to how a franchisee lists themselves — available for work just in their territory, in the local area, or in all areas.

The franchisee handles their own administration but in the first three months is provided with a bookkeeper who shows them how to work with BAS, and software like Quickbooks or MYOB.

Terreblanche stresses the importance of having a partner in the office once work piles in, and encourages a franchisee’s partner to undertake a two-day training course on admininistration and how the Jim’s system works.

A franchise cost of $31,000 includes a three-month bookkeeper, insurance, uniform and stationery. Franchisees must supply tools, but are advised to start with those they can work with confidently, then add to the list as their skills increase.

“Our system is designed so they can select the type of work they want to do, ie brickwork. They can bring in subcontractors but the work guarantee is the franchisee’s responsibility,” says Terreblanche.

ProPit

Absolutely no experience or building skills are required to join the established Melbourne-based stormwater pit building business ProPit, which is just starting franchising. “In fact I prefer that,” says founder Rowan White. “That’s my pre-requisite. Inherently, people in the construction industry have preconceived ideas.

“You have to be reasonably fit, not a fitness fanatic, but also not afraid of physical work.

“We teach them all facets of pit building and related construction work. How to build a pit, how to read site plans and drawings, how to read council, Victoria Roads and Melbourne Water standard drawings and specifications.”

Franchisees are bound by standard drawings. Some clients, such as Melbourne Water, require the pit builder to be an accredited contractor, but the contractors who subcontract the job to the franchisee may well have this legality covered.

Franchisees do require the skills to market themselves however, so the right attitude is essential — and will bring in plenty of work through referrals, says White, citing his own five-year spell of business building which has required fewer than five phone calls for him to generate work.

For instance, one job took two months, building 60 pits; another was a 15-pit construction job that took just 10 days.

“Franchisees can expand the business with two utes on the road and four or five employees. Beyond that means purchasing a new territory,” he explains. Franchisees get first right of refusal for a job in their territory.

The cost for a franchise is $65,000 and this includes training, online and back-end support, a laptop, software installation, a sizeable tool kit, a uniform of branded shirts, and a one-day safety course for the nationally recognised White Card.

Franchisees will lease a ute and trailer and pay $20,000 for the formwork — the panels that make the pit.

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