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Advice on expansion

 
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Standingstone



Joined: 11 Jan 2007
Posts: 6
Location: Get tae Falkirk
PostPosted: Tue Jan 23, 07 9:55 pm    Post subject: Advice on expansion  Reply with quote    

I have been in business for nearly 4 years (this time) dry stone dyking and random rubble wall building. I tried to expand last year, took on a 20,000 contract on a windfarm, took on 2 people through the New Deal programme to train them up. Some problems encountered were:

Red Tape/paperwork; cash flow; working for major civil engineer.

Does anyone have advice on how to develop a business yet remain true to downsizing ideals? I am currently working on my own, have been offered several jobs in last couple of weeks, which is supposed to be my quiet time of year. Any comments would be welcome.

Penny Outskirts



Joined: 18 Sep 2005
Posts: 23385
Location: Planet, not on the....
PostPosted: Tue Jan 23, 07 10:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Know just how you feel - it's a nightmare as you grow. The decision when and how to do it, has been the hardest thing for us.

We're just about to start our fifth year of trading, and are now in the postion that we can sit back a bit from the coalface of the business to review where we're going.

I suppose it really depends on where you want to get to. Are you just wanting to make a basic living? Are you aiming to make more money so you can realise some dreams? That's what we've had to think about I suppose.

Standingstone



Joined: 11 Jan 2007
Posts: 6
Location: Get tae Falkirk
PostPosted: Tue Jan 23, 07 10:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Thanks for the reply. Last year was a nightmare.

I went for the New Deal programme because I worked with long term unemployed for 10 years but I was unable to get them up to speed quickly enough to satisfy the time/quality demand of the main contractor on that job. As a result, I had to let them go -not a good experience- and finish a very large job myself. This experience has really put me off 2 things, employing people and working for very large companies

Pilsbury



Joined: 13 Dec 2004
Posts: 5645
Location: East london/Essex
PostPosted: Tue Jan 23, 07 10:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

could you not get someone who fancies a bit of part time labouring and teach them through the small jobs then ask them in on any big ones you get, might end up with a team of acceptable standard apprentices for a little time invested in some part timers now.

Standingstone



Joined: 11 Jan 2007
Posts: 6
Location: Get tae Falkirk
PostPosted: Tue Jan 23, 07 10:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Thanks, pilsbury. I have tried that route, an older guy who only wanted to do pointing and a younger stonemason. The older chap was ok but not available long enough. The stonemason may be a possibility especially as I dont know what a chisel is for. But again, he only wants to work as and when it suits his own commitments, difficult to mix with my schedules.

Gervase



Joined: 17 Nov 2004
Posts: 8655

PostPosted: Wed Jan 24, 07 12:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Can you get an apprentice - try through SPAB or West Dean college? You'll get tax help with employing someone so it won't cost you personally a great deal, and it will be doing something useful by way of handing your skills on so you can share the load.

The other thing when it comes to working with organisations (or any client really) is to be as realistic as you can in your tender. Explain that the work is likely to be affected by the weather, and that 'x' metres in 'y' days is an idealised figure; I always tell people that up to a day a week (which works out at 16-20 per cent 'wriggle room') may need to be added on to cater for the unforeseen, but that if it looks like being any more, then I'll tell them immediately it becomes likely. If you are firm at the start and explain to the client that what you do isn't like pouring slabs or laying blocks, you may find them less of a pain. Unless , of course, the project manager is just an arse.

tahir



Joined: 28 Oct 2004
Posts: 44270
Location: Essex
PostPosted: Wed Jan 24, 07 10:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Apprenticeship sounds like the ideal route to me. Are there others in your trade that offer them? Might be worth talking to a few.

tahir



Joined: 28 Oct 2004
Posts: 44270
Location: Essex
PostPosted: Wed Jan 24, 07 11:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Does this help?

http://www.drystone.org/career/

tahir



Joined: 28 Oct 2004
Posts: 44270
Location: Essex
PostPosted: Wed Jan 24, 07 11:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote    

http://www.dswa.org.uk/Publications/PDF%20files/DSW%20Apprenticeship%20Lantra.pdf

Standingstone



Joined: 11 Jan 2007
Posts: 6
Location: Get tae Falkirk
PostPosted: Wed Jan 24, 07 9:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Thanks Tahir and Gervase.

The New Deal programme is a bit like an apprenticeship in that wages are subsidised and training is funded for a fixed period of time. That is fine in itself but where I found problems was in the nature of the people that I took on. Neither could drive so I was picking them up. However late starts were common because of missed public transport or other problems, sometimes meaning that I had to drive 12 miles in the opposite direction to where I was working just to get them to start at around 9.30 at the site and finishing at 4.00.

Some of the harder people on the site suggested immediately that I should ditch them and get a couple of labourers with their own transport. I have worked in training and employment, for Scottish Enterprise, a college and private firms, advising hundreds of employers and unemployed people about situations just like this so it is not in my nature to do that to people but a point of no return was eventually reached.

Anyway, this is getting a little away from my original post. I was hoping for some insight into how other businesses have coped with success if you like, of being in demand. Are most traders in this forum 'traditional' business types such as sole traders or are there more co-ops, other types of firms that may find different ways to cope with business growth?

Stacey



Joined: 18 Jul 2005
Posts: 8380
Location: Kernow
PostPosted: Thu Jan 25, 07 8:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote    

I think the problem lies in the kind of work you do as to gaining advice from other traders etc. If you want to expand you'll need employes and it seems you've had trouble getting any. I think it's the same with any specialised kind of work. It's the same with what I do - I can't farm anything out to other feltmakers as they'll all be doing their own stuff and (quite rightly) would want to be paid as much as me for doing the work. For me it seems I'll always be a sole trader ( with the inherent sole income) unless I can come up with a design/product that can be subcontracted out to other makers. But I have to say that doesn't really appeal to me.

I think the heart of your issue is how you'll cope with expansion without being able to employ someone with the skills to cover the extra work.

tahir



Joined: 28 Oct 2004
Posts: 44270
Location: Essex
PostPosted: Thu Jan 25, 07 10:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Stacey wrote:
I think the heart of your issue is how you'll cope with expansion without being able to employ someone with the skills to cover the extra work.


Yup. My brother in law is a metal worker and has the same kind of issues, he has a few mates that sort of work co-operatively (very loosely) basically they'll divvie up a job if it's too big for one of them to take on alone or they're tied up on something else. The person that got teh job gets the biggest share but they all get a bit more than they would just as "labour"

dpack



Joined: 02 Jul 2005
Posts: 35422
Location: yes
PostPosted: Thu Jan 25, 07 6:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

ask yourself do you prefer walling or running a buisness or training? then adjust things to suit what you want to do and what you are best at .
expand is a steep learning curve .
delegate well

gil
Downsizer Moderator


Joined: 08 Jun 2005
Posts: 18379

PostPosted: Thu Jan 25, 07 6:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

a) would it be easier to find someone to do some of your admin, thus freeing you up to do more stanedyking ?
b) advice given to a friend of mine when finishing apprenticeship and thinking about going self-employed : either stay small (one-man band) or get much larger, with anything in-between being a lot of hassle.
Don't know that I necessarily agree with this, but it is one perspective.

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