Jon Vanstone, Chair at Certass Trade Association, talks about where the industry is heading…
Every once in a while, it is good to stop and look around to see not only where we are, but also what we are collectively doing and the direction we are heading.
Construction is seemingly continually under fire, whether it is from supply chain problems; workforce shortages; regulation changes; unrealistic expectations. And so much of the doing is our own in the eyes of many commentators, officials and customers. This creates a lack of sympathy and support at a time when our industry is being impacted from all angles.
The bodies who want to lead our sector are too often focussed on their own commercial development or public positioning of their brand, as opposed to doing some real good. This then makes it complex when some who are trying to achieve the right things, are getting lost in the noise of self-interest.
Newsnight recently looked at the issues surrounding leaseholders in high-rise flats who are facing huge bills to rectify issues that were never known on purchase, which makes their domicile a huge financial burden to them and their family. Very soon the dialogue focussed on the construction industry and the fact that competency of workers is a major issue that we need to tackle. The implication in many stories, with often fair evidence, is that construction will do the minimum amount it can to get its invoice paid.
The rhetoric is often stated as cost over value, as it is all about the price. However, this position is throughout UK society as the consumer is often entirely price driven when considering improvement work in the home.
This has been reinforced by the way many large installing businesses sell, where inventions and innovation are given away swiftly under marketing promotions. We all probably remember ‘triple glazing for the price of double glazing’ and campaigns such as ‘window scrappage scheme’.
Too often we as an industry are judged on our price, with the buyer fully aware that skilled workers are more expensive and the right materials for a job should not be substituted for lesser standard items. The economy has affected the consumer’s desire to reduce expense where possible, but this relationship of trying to drive the price right down is so embedded in our industry’s sale tactic, that we are helping deliver a race to the bottom where value is lost.
We need the business leaders in construction, across the varying sectors, to look at how they can culturally change our industry at a pace that is fair and in a direction that helps give our industry a platform for the future rather than a headline for today. Once construction sorts this element, it then needs to deal with the communication and relationships we have with those who judge and pay us, so that they can understand their role in our future.
We need a greater skilled workforce, with significantly more labour that is paid a fair price for the work undertaken and the products being used, on the basis that a job that is more expensive is due to products used, complexity of the task and volume of the order. Only then can we start rebuilding the trust that our industry had prior to the eighties.
To change values which delivers culture and therefore reputation, needs unity and leadership from all areas of the industry. I am seeing too many activities focussed on profit generation as opposed to improving the industry for those within, by the very bodies who say they want to help the sector.
It was therefore interesting to see a data market report from the GGF about the industry, but very concerning that to achieve this, data was reportedly taken out of Fensa which I doubt was with the consent of the installers, nor is it within the principle of why this data has been collected. If this really is the case, then such activity would clearly benefit the GGF from a brand and commercial position and the large installers who can gain clear insight into how to compete with all the local companies in our sector.
Our industry’s local installers are already under so much pressure, so having to deal with well- informed large competitors, with access to insight into the local area, with a lot more financial resources for sales activity is a major concern for their future. If I am telling anyone about the prices I am charging, I would be very concerned to hear that they are undertaking data analysis to create reports I have not agreed to, without gaining my express permission up front.
With such industry turmoil, the fact that our order books are full into the future is the light in an otherwise dark tunnel.