ONCE MORE ONTO THE TREADMILL
Echoing the editor’s comments in the last issue, i too was glad to see the end of 2015 – not for any negative reasons, but was just ready for a break, a change and a fresh start. Of course, it is now well into 2016 and I am not sure that it seems much different. Everything is as busy as ever, the calls and emails continue like before and I just have to remember a different number at the end of the date.
There was a time long, long, ago when our life was divided into blocks – the week ended on a Friday, there was a clear difference in the weekend, the month ended and started afresh and the year ended; and many of us had a full four weeks off and started very fresh.
These days – with email, mobile phones and a quite different lifestyle – it is hard to pick the start or finish of anything and we seem to operate in a continuum that never ends. Even on the Australia day Public Holiday, I was surprised at how many businesses were open and the number of people who replied to emails, although I was just clearing my backlog and not expecting immediate replies.
A part of me actually believes that all of this technology is better for my lifestyle, as I feel better if I am travelling, on holidays or just not in the office as I can still keep in touch, deal with issues and not feel guilty.
(I do have to accept that trying to sort out a site contractual matter while up on a ladder with a paint brush in one hand and the phone in the other was probably a bit extreme, but I won’t admit that to my wife!)
My recent construction work has been in the first home buyers’ market, and I have to agree that it is tougher than I was expecting, notwithstanding all of the information and advice available to me. Possibly I did ignore a lot of this information, because I thought I knew better. I haven’t given up: just accepted that I need to try a different approach, look for fresh ideas and listen to advice I once rejected.
Many of the colleagues I have spoken to in recent months report they are still busy, just finding it very tough to keep a viable cash flow. One of my other business interests provides cash finance for SMEs and we have been surprised that we have not had more contact from people looking for help; but suspect that most people can’t afford more debt finance, but are just hoping to increase profitability.
The need for industry lobbying
One thing I can clearly see in my home state is the benefits from the influence that the CCF is having with government. They have changed selection criteria to give greater impact to the use of local resources and put financial incentives and penalties to these and workforce participation targets. I do not believe this is an impediment to interstate contractors, but does help to share the workload among a broader range of companies and individuals; and will leave a stronger and more viable industry for the future.
Our National CEO has commented on some aspects of the economic and political scene and I think the CCF National Office is going to keep busy in this area in this election year. I am not convinced that either party has the strength of will to deliver the tough decisions that I consider are needed for at least another election cycle before we can more appropriately look toward a better future.
A similar short term approach exists in the training space. I am involved in various roles at both state and federal level and I think that the current lull in the civil workspace has led to governments at all levels to ignore planning for the future. I can write the headlines now for a few years’ time when everyone will be bemoaning the skills shortages and asking how we prevent this from happening again. I and other CCF colleagues working in this space hope to influence decision with our collective memories of similar times in history, but suspect we will achieve little direct outcomes.
The Xmas period did give me time to catch up with a few people from my past that I do not see as much as I would like; and reminded me of the strong collegiate nature of the civil industry. Despite competing fiercely at times, we are always ready to offer advice and help to fellow contractors. I even found someone who enjoyed reading my columns (thank you Rex) but not sure how much he had imbibed before divulging this.
A new national event
Later this year we hope to run a National Summit in Canberra to give our members the opportunity to catch up with each other and hear from relevant industry speakers. The election cycle may dictate the details of this event, but we will keep you informed as we progress our plans. At this stage we will combine this with our National Earth Awards ceremony for a fitting finale in celebrating Construction Excellence.
I hope the year has started well for you all and will only get better!