Tuesday, 31 December 2013

2014 - Looking towards new pastures?

Looks like we're here to stay after two full calendar years on the Surveying map we are still going strong and looking to the future, but what will the future hold?

2013 - Green shoots of growth in the economy

Surveyors see it coming first in the construction industry, but we also see the end of the tunnel before anyone else does.  This year has seen the industry starting to recover from the dark years of 2010 -2012, I would show a graph of our progress but imagine a straight line increasing equally in X & Y and you're there!!

Clearly there has been improvement, but as a company this is probably masked by the fact that our name is gradually getting out there, so a percentage of the growth is organic growth anyway but far beyond the expectations we had hoped for.  I have to give some credit to this years improvement to our dabblings in the employment market providing the ability to carry out 50% more jobs at any one time than previously, so this proves employing is the right route - we just have to find the right person for the role!

The Milestones
Whoops, didn't see that ditch!
MBS by an open fire
2013 also marks our first full year as an ISO9001 accredited firm, and as a little treat for the first week of 2014 we have our first external audit review - this won't be a case of sleepless nights beforehand preparing because amazingly all of our internal audits are up to date, and we have kept on top of any outstanding issues.  Hopefully the audit will be a time to hone the system, and spot any points for improvement and streamlining!

Scanning the lifeboat station
Early start to Southampton rewarded
Our overall tenders for the year have surpassed the magical 200 figure (I may be high on Christmas cheer, not sure magical is really the best description!), in fact we have almost hit that mark using just our Topographical Surveys.  Invoicing has broken through it's own barrier, now the challenge moving forward will be to consolidate this position, and improve further but this won't be possible without the investment in staff and possibly even more equipment!
Damp day in Rye

This year our staff have covered the miles again going out west as far as Southampton, spreading our wings north into Essex more (no point mentioning south and east giving our location expanding that way would make us very wet or international!!)

A few memories of the year (good & bad), showing the work we have completed scattered around.  But by far our largest investment in time and resources was the 'Mission Impossible' work carried out Trekking across the Swanscombe marshes through reeds, water, brambles, mud flats, quarry faces - never before have we felt our age so much!  Hopefully this job will be tied up early in the new year, and the fruits of our labours will start appearing in the coming years so watch this space!

A little break from normality on the blog, just so some of you can appreciate the fine messes we get ourselves into whilst working.  Both 360 films come from the same site within hours of each other - nothing if not diverse!  Please excuse the filming - not my strong suit, the the ground was a little unstable.  Moments before I was in a ditch!!

2014 - where to now?

Clearly more staff and more kit are high on the agenda.  Laser Scanning is starting to prove to be a growth area but is still very much in its infancy.  By far the largest growth area has been Measured Building Surveys this year, and will no doubt continue into 2014.

There are no plans to move offices into a more suitable location as this would incur unnecessary overheads, so this means our prices will remain consistent into the start of the year.

A second office - still on the horizon, but until we can establish more permanent staff at head office I think that would be running before we can walk.

We also have a number of blogs on the back burner you can look forward too (I say optimistically!), I've currently got these planned:-
  • Then & Now, what happens after the Surveyor has gone
  • Know Your Boundaries 
  • Customer Service or Customer Interference
Fingers crossed I won't have the time to finish them because I'll be too busy on fee earning work but realistically I think they'll trickle through over the coming months.

As always our progress can be followed on Facebook (99 Likes - please lets crack a 100 in 2014!!), Twitter, LinkedIn, and who knows we might even get into Google+ & YouTube.  As always our website is there to contact us, and will be updated throughout the year.

Hope you all have a successful 2014.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

To Employ or not to Employ: Part II

Should it really have been this complicated?

Unemployment in the UK is hovering around the 2 million mark yet we found it almost impossible to find a suitable person to fill the role of Senior Surveyor in our Ashford office.

In January 2013 we had advertised the position twice with varying levels of success but finally we found the right person for the job.

Why did it take so long?

In February we received a handful of applications predominantly from UK based Surveyors currently gainfully employed but looking for something more as the industries employment situation has stagnated a little over recent years.  Then in March we were deluged with applications from as far afield as Burma, all seemingly well trained and experienced in their field.  On both occasions we selected our favoured 3 or 4 candidates and found from our selection we had the following combinations:-
  • Experience on site, but lacking any formal processing experience.
  • Currently living well beyond commuting distance from the office, and not looking to move.
  • Perfect for the job, but not currently resident in the UK.
  • No experience or qualifications.
All made excellent first impressions at interview but concerns were raised over the solvency of the business being relatively new, and then the expectations of the potential candidates were a little excessive at times given the current market & their knowledge/experience.  

If I were being brutally honest I can see their point of view given the current employment situation it will always be a risk moving jobs & everyone wants as much as they can get, but it still left us high and dry originally, a situation which has now been rectified.  However during the process, not wishing to boast but for the first time ever I was stood up, standing like a lemon waiting for the candidate to show up - no response to e-mail or mobile.  What happened I'll never know but standing there I was beginning to think Lord Sugar has the right idea, just need to think up some suitable challenges which have a Surveying tilt - suggestions on a postcard please......

What are the solutions?

Investment in the future - if only the money and time were available for this.  But right now there are no quick fixes but long term our second employee will be wet behind the ears and straight from school or university to train up but right at the time we needed someone to hit the ground running and lighten the load.  However with an eye on the future we were joined for a week in the summer by an undergraduate looking to gain a little experience in the industry......watch this space for our next recruiting challenge!

To follow the progress of our staff, and business as a whole you can follow us on Facebook, Twitter & LinkedIn, as well as through our website - www.rlsurveys.co.uk

Up Date: At the time of writing this all of the above was true.  However at the time of publishing we are back at square one, and venturing into the employment market for a second time!!!  Ideally we are looking for a cloning machine, but I suspect someone with some experience and a little common sense would be a good start.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Competitive Quotes - sublime to the ridiculous

'How can anyone do the work for that!'  A favourite line from a respected local Surveyor who has taught me a lot over the years, but now finds himself in direct competition.  Until starting up a business it was always an amusing moment, now it becomes a frustrating reality.

It is true every now and again you will lose a job to a competitor who has completely lost the plot and submitted a tender which is designed to win the work and not make a profit.  We've all done it in the early stages to gain work or carry favour with a new client, but sometimes you start wondering "am I really quoting for the same job with the same specification?".  Sometimes you know you are the cheapest, but still the work goes elsewhere because of existing loyalties or recommendations which are both accepted when the numbers involved make the difference in the tens of pounds!

The main problem comes down to the information provided, and the final product you are willing to accept.....

What we need from you

Every Survey company is different, every Architect wants something different displayed on their plans hence the need to tailor a survey for the client, and not provide a mass produced uniform survey for every site.  But remove all of the quirks there are still some basic requirements a Surveyor will need to price a job for you.

1) MAPS  -  An accurate site plan clearly marking the site area you are interested in.  We don't want a vague red line encompassing a massive area around the small extension being planned.  Be concise as it will affect the price.  But don't just provide a map, the actual address is essential to find the site on Google Earth or Bing.

2) PURPOSE  -  The final purpose of the survey can be a factor as it will affect whether we can use a local grid or national grid, whether every little tree in a woodland is essential or an unnecessary luxury, or if the heights of surrounding windows will have an impact.  It will also raise the question of whether you will also need a sight line survey for the proposed access point.

3) USER  -  as well as the surveys purpose, the nature of the end user is also useful to determine how the results need to be produced.  If you have appointed an Architect or Developer it will always be useful to consult them first before approaching us, or let us approach them directly to discuss the work.

4) ACCESS  -  As Surveyors we can often be found in unusual places, we need to know that the right people can be informed of our presence.  Farmers with itchy trigger fingers need to be on our side, and the police might not understand the reason we broke into a site because a key was not provided!

5) TIME - Whilst we will bend over backwards to try and return a tender within the timescales requested there will always be times when getting an e-mail at 5pm asking for a quote by lunchtime the following day will not be possible.  Ideally we need at least 48 hours notice to prepare a tender depending on the complexities, but we will always get a tender out in some format.

6) PHOTOS - Whilst google maps is a wonderful tool, there is nothing that can compete with recently taken images of the site showing us the areas of interest (and the fact they are not heavily overgrown or hidden behind a massive advertising hoarding - it happens!).

What you'll get back

Our most competitive price, clearly outlining what you will get included for that price.  We will also provide an indication of timescales to complete the work but if you are in any doubt of the timescales it is always best to call us first as our work is constantly changing one week to the next.

So if you do need a tender please get in touch through our website, www.rlsurveys.co.uk.

Alternatively keep in touch through FacebookTwitter & LinkedIn.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Double Edged Sword

Damned if you do, damned if you don't!

Running your own business is a tricky business, and is certainly not for the faint-hearted.  You need to be able to compartmentalise everything in your life to avoid the constant conflict and worry.

When you're busy you worry the work won't get completed.
When the work is completed you worry you've missed something critical.
When you issue the invoice you worry about being paid.
When the tender goes out you worry you've put in the right price.
When you're quiet you worry where the next job is coming from.
When the tender comes in you worry if you can get the work done.

I need therapy............

The essential key is the one to the office, make sure you lock it at night and leave all the worries behind.

You can't control the markets, you can't control the clients, but you CAN control your product.  

Remember why you started on your own, the benefits really do outweigh the negatives in the long run.  You can chose your hours to a point, you can do the school run or play with your children while they want to play.  

Short and sweet this time, but you can always find out more through our website, facebook, twitter or LinkedIn.

Monday, 7 October 2013

Whilst you're there could you just......

Whilst you're there/here could you just......

This used to be a question commonly associated with setting out, with Engineers frequently being asked to do a little bit of extra work not previously accounted for.  For them it was merely a time issue as most of the jobs were quoted on an hourly rate.  Such luxuries don't exist in the world of fixed price tenders, but the questions are ever more common.  Is there a solution to this situation, or is it just an accepted practice in the current climate?  Even with fixed tenders a price is submitted based on a surveying a certain area, then the client comes back asking for a little bit more!

Sometimes work does allow diversions in other areas, away from the original specification.  With the advent of laser scanning Surveyors are increasingly finding a lot of down time on a job.  Scans can take anywhere from a minute to a couple of hours depending on your resolution - so during an hour scan once you've sketched your control, observed any control with the total station you really are twiddling your thumbs for forty five minutes in every hour before the next burst of activity.  However the results of the laser scan show the benefits of letting technology take over.

Where to draw a line...

As an SME you are always at the mercy of your clients, so long term going that extra mile will always pay dividends but are you making a rod for your own back?  Each time you agree to that little bit more the expectation is that you will be able to achieve this all of the time.  There is no rule of thumb on what can & can't be added into a tender before the cost is affected, of course when the shoe is on the other foot and they ask for an element of a survey to be removed this is always followed by a question on how the price will be affected - the answer to that one is never NOT AT ALL!!

Advances in technology mean the Surveyors time on site is ever decreasing to complete similar activities, and whenever this technology is sold the common selling point is you can still charge the same amount but getting the work completed on site sooner means your two jobs in three days becomes three jobs in three days.  The reality in a competitive market is that the time saving is passed onto the client as reduction on man hours on site.  Thus Surveyors never truly benefit from the time saving of a new technology in a fiscal sense, they can just do more work in the same time!

As always we will try and accommodate a clients requirements within the fixed fees provided, we haven't found the breaking point yet - but that is not a challenge!

For more information on the services we offer & the product we produce please website our website at www.rlsurveys.co.uk, or follow us through the world of social media (facebook / twitter / linkedin).

Monday, 12 August 2013

Policies & Paperwork Part II

ISO9001:2008, pardon?

With the assistance of specialist company IMSM we are now accredited to ISO9001:2008, which means?? From November 2012 all works carried out by us will be covered by the documentation to ensure we follow prescribed methods for carrying out surveys, and recording the results in a sensible and traceable manner. Systems have been put into place to ensure that all information leaving this office is correct (not sure they cover blogging though!).

How does it help us and you?

With this accreditation R L Surveys can ensure a consistent method of working whom ever undertakes your survey from now into the future.  It will give our clients the piece of mind that we are taking the quality of our product seriously from the traverse results to getting the clients name right on the drawing sheets.  

Our first certification, the first of many......
Within the system there is an on going commitment to the improvement of our systems, a method of recording queries and complaints both from clients & staff a like.  The comments will be taken on board and discussed at bi-annual review meetings, and action will be taken.

As well as the bi-annual reviews, we will carry out monthly internal audits into the systems to ensure the practises are working, and look at areas which may need improvement.  These audits can be undertaken by anyone within the organisation after having a brief period of instruction, and our Directors welcome other staffs' input into the system, and even auditing of their work.

Our accreditation is only valid for one year, at which time an external auditor will visit the company, and review the progress we have made before deciding whether to recommend re-accreditation or a period of review to correct some areas before be issuing the certification.

Quality Assurance = Paperwork

Normally I'd agree but the systems set up are developed in line with the existing systems, and intended to compliment the business activities of the company, not create additional work and a monthly chore. Externally people should not see a change to high level of services, but there will be the added piece of mind. There is however a slight responsibility on our clients, we will continue to send out review forms to ensure our performance meets the expectations required of us so look out for your form in the post, and please take a moment to fill it in honestly (good (hopefully) or bad).

Why now?

The plunge was taken with the assistance of IMSM, a specialist company dealing with getting companies to the required level and then ensuring they maintain this level to keep the accreditation current.

The long term intention is to grow the business, but we felt that getting the ISO in place at an early stage would make the growth easier as it would be based on a solid, and approved, set of systems which could be transferable between offices, and easily taught to new starters.

Ask me again in a years time, I'll let you know if the effort has been worth it...

For more information on R L Surveys please visit our website, or follow us on the various social media channels (Facebook, Twitter & LinkedIN)

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

BIM - now or never?

BIM - Post education!

Following on from my last blog we have attended BIM Show Live 2013 up at the Westminster Park Plaza Hotel (certainly a step up from our standard Travelodge, sadly no room for the night!)

Attendance of the show was pushing 600 industry experts over the two days, including a Strom trooper & wookie, and this childhood dream car!

But down to business, BIM from a Land Surveyors perspective.  First the good news, people have stopped coming over all vague at the mention of a laser scanner, so there has been progress.  Clients are starting to be more concerned with what can be done with the point cloud, and this is now where the problems start but I'll get back to that later.

What have I learnt?

BIM is not a buzz word, or another string to the Surveyors bow.  BIM is more like a team sport with each of the relevant players putting in their bit of effort to create a collaborative effect, in our case a model which can be used on a project from inception to destruction.  No one player will be more important than another, but at various stages it will be their turn to shine, but not without the support of the other players (and that is the limit of my knowledge of team sports and the end of any comparison between the two!).

This collaborative process is certainly true for current public projects, and it is something which will be rolled into place on existing buildings over time.  This 'back dated' BIM is the area where Surveyors and their laser scanners will be in greatest demand.  Whilst there is an application for the scanner in modelling various pieces of the BIM model such as pipe work or machinery for block creation, without a building to scan we'd look a bit silly sitting with the scanner in the middle of a field (although admittedly we sometimes do this anyway).  Laser scanners work much better when the building has already been built (Chapter 1 in the laser scanning manual!)

What is this cloud thing?

When carrying out a laser scan the raw data collected from the scanner is a point cloud, basically millions or billions of points in space creating a cloud which represents the area being scanned.  Whilst not a brilliant image, you can clearly see the points making up the overall cloud across the grass areas in front of the building.

It is all well and good visiting site, scanning fifteen locations and returning to the office.  But now you wish you'd asked a Surveyor because you have fifteen scans sitting in space completely unconnected like a jigsaw with no box!  The Surveyors knowledge of installing control on site to a local or national grid, and then being able to reference any given point back to this control allows the scans to be linked together in a very tight format, and you can use the additional cloud over laps to further check the fit.  In essence you will have piece of mind as to the integrity of the data.

What next?

So the Surveyors have the cloud, and a degree of 3D knowledge but generally the modelling software is housed by the Architects or Engineers in the form of Revit (other packages are available) but they don't have the prerequisite add-on for handling the millions of points.  Therefore surely the best way forward is closer collaboration between the two groups to avoid double handling of data/software/equipment?  Any takers because that word collaboration is a massive element of BIM as a workflow.  In my opinion collaboration is the element of BIM which will make the biggest savings:-
  • Pipe work will fit on site after off site fabrication because the model is accurate
  • There will be no clashes between design and functionality as the clash detection is done at an early stage.
  • The model can be up dated over time as areas change, not on mass when a building changes use and an entire survey need be commissioned.
  • Everyone will know what is behind every panel because it has been modelled, so no need for endless pipe and wire chasing to find a fault.
  • The original model will be create/surveyed with everyones' needs in mind, so costly revisits should not be required.
The list goes on, and will continue to grow are the process develops & evolves over time.

We do have some limited abilities in modelling through the processing software, in this case Cyclone, but the capabilities of this will need to be further explored to see how far the model taken be taken before additional software is required, and that is where the next few years come in.  Training and learning ready for the next level of BIM to become a requirement.  So watch this space, or better still call us to discuss your requirements we have a Leica C10 Laser Scanner ready to go....

And in Closing....

For more information on the services R L Surveys can offer please visit our website at www.rlsurveys.co.uk, or for a more relaxed view we can be found on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Surveying, Laser Scanning & BIM

Love it, loathe it, or simply indifferent towards it - the industry and the Government have taken BIM on board so we all have to keep up with times and adopt some changes to our working practices.

So whats this BIM all about then?

Not exhaustive, but you can see where we're come from
Simply put it's a database for buildings accessed through a three dimensional model.  BIM is akin to GIS (Geographic Information Systems) which has been around for years and now the technology has developed to a point where BIM (or Building Information Modelling) can be implemented across the board to make lives easier & more cost effective at the end user stage of a project.  The problem is that BIM is part of a project from inception, but it's real benefits will not be seen for 5-10 years after project completion.

But this doesn't affect me........

Leica C10 Laser Scanner
So why bother with it now as it is unlikely to provide us with a cost saving now? And how do we create this base model to build up from?

Well the basics lie in the Surveyors ability to create a 3D model of a site, something from a topographical stand point we have been doing for years but from a building stand point we are now having to utilise new technology to produce the required level of detail. As a general rule all buildings are surveyed in 3D and then flattened onto a 2D plane once back at the office, this is certainly true for laser scanning which can be used to create a fully referenced point cloud of a building, both inside and out. The real issue is down to cost, as Surveyors we can create the 3D model, but generally the client is only willing to pay for the 2D, when in reality the 3D has a far greater long term benefit.

Pure Point Cloud Data
Point Cloud Rendered in true colour
Laser scanning technology allows a massive amount of data to be collected in 3D in a very short space of time.  The images below show the results of two thirty minute scans, and about five minutes work in the processing software.  The first is a raw point cloud with rendering based on the intensity of the signal being received back from the surface being scanned.  The second image is the same raw point cloud but the colour from the photographs taken by the taken has been superimposed onto each point for a realistic impression of the site.  The next step from here to create the BIM model would be to mesh all of your scans (both internal and external) together and render the flat surfaces to remove the excess point data.  The results hopefully would be something similar to that shown below.

How far can we take you?

As Land Surveyors we can create the template of your existing building in a raw format, and given time we can develop our training to include the production of the bare bones model.  From this point on it is down to the Project Managers , and then the Estates team to develop this model to include the various functions it has the potential to record such as :-  

  • Catalogues of all the light fittings, including replacement dates, suppliers details, costs
  • Position & alignment of all cabling and pipes, again with their suppliers and replacement dates
  • Basic room details and layouts
The potential is endless, but the on going maintenance of the system is essential.  Without constant up dating the system will soon become redundant and the whole process will need to be repeated at a much higher cost.  However keeping the system maintained will provide massive time savings when sourcing replacement parts, or even fabricating new elements into an existing system.

Want to know more?

  1. The BIM task group have been set up by the Government to ensure delivery of the Construction Strategy.  
  2. BIM UK is a central resource containing all references for best practices for incorporating BIM.  
  3. Building.co.uk is a leading construction website covering all elements of the construction industry including BIM.

The last word...

Like it or loathe it BIM is coming and we will all be racing to keep pace with this development which has been common practice in some of our European neighbours for some years.

R L Surveys are Chartered Land Surveyors based in London & the south east.  For more details of the services we offer please visit us at www.rlsurveys.co.uk, alternatively we can be followed on Twitter Facebook  & LinkedIn.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Twiddling Our Thumbs

The age old story of Surveying.  Phone rings, a site needing 50 piles setting out - can you do it?  Well yes but a few questions first:-
  1. Where is the site - general answer, 'no where near you'
  2. Is there existing control - might be I don't know
  3. When do you need this done by - Well the piling rig is due Monday, and today is Wednesday
This is a very common phone call we take, and it is not just setting out this occurs with.  Many phone calls come in asking for almost next day delivery, and then shocked silence when it transpires we have not been sitting by the phone waiting for this very call.

There are always the exception to the rule, on occasion we can turn a survey around within 24 hours.  However the stress there is the exception, most survey firms generally quote at least a 1-2 week lead in time.  This lead in time will the fluctuate depending on the work load at the time of tender, but being a very fluid industry anything can happen between the time of tender and the time of instruction.

As a company we pride ourselves on being able to meet a clients timescales, but jobs with formal instruction will all be booked in first.  Sometimes it's a hard rule to stick to when you have a £500 job with instruction, but then a £2000 job comes in with an urgent start.  Very tempting to bend the rules but I have always maintained a first come first serve basis and so far I can hold my head high on that one!

Right best get back to twiddly my thumbs waiting for the phone to ring!  Perhaps better to finish off the tenders, organise access for my next few jobs, draw up yesterdays surveys, chase a few outstanding invoices, and a few more outstanding tenders.....

For more information on the services we offer please visit our website, facebook page, or follow us on twitter.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Visiting the Wierd & Wonderful

Surveying is a very unique career in terms of the places you end up visiting & Surveying, so below is a list of some of the more unusual/unique places I've been, can you suggest anymore;

Sorry to the assistant on this one!
1) Port Lympne Zoo inside the Lion enclosure (they'd moved the Lions into their smaller side pen).  Still kept me on edge during the work just in case!  As you can see they still showed a lot of interest so the pogo remained at arms length - it is only wire after all!!!

2) Port Lympne Zoo inside the Rhino enclosure.

3) Central wicket at The Oval - setting out the boundary, a little add on to the main survey of the site.  How could we say no to that little request outside of the original spec for the work.

4) Aldwych Station (at night with failing torch!), now a disused station used for training everyone one from Surveyors with a new track trolley to the police armed response units, and some big budget films (I believe 007 in Die Another Day (although not 100%), and Sliding Doors).  It was under the guise of work, wandering off the end of the platforms to try out the then new Leica track trolley.

5) Roof Walk at Lincoln Cathedral, as a little bonus due to the work done for the on going spire monitoring.

6) Chelsea FC Training ground - yes those specs in the distance were the first team, and that is all they ever become just random people in the distance despite the hope of a misplaced football needing returning!!  - OK the picture is not of the training ground, but I was working close to the main stadium recently so this pic will have to do.

7) Camden Town Coroners Office - what was in the black bag?

8) Charing Crematorium - with behind the scenes tour, which was surprisingly interesting even if a little morbid.

There are many other locations I have been that most people in the general public don't have access to such as wandering down the runways of Heathrow & Stansted airports in the middle of the night (I was supposed to be there), inside the Tower of London carrying out a measured building survey, or walking along the tracks at the Eurotunnel terminal at Cheriton, even walking over the arches at Dover harbour - you know the ones at the ferry on ramps right at the waters edge.  They get very windy at the top!

Everyone has their stories, and in 13 years I have accumulated a fair few across five different Survey firms.  I'm sure the bigger the company the more obscure/prestigious the jobs - do you have anywhere different work has taken you?

For more information on the services R L Surveys offer please visit our website, or follow us through the wonders of social media Facebook - Twitter - LinkedIN.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Surveyors don't forget.......

A good assistant (or even a bad one but for totally different reasons!)

Since using one man kit I have started to really appreciate the benefits of a good assistant (and been glad of the freedom from some bad ones)!!!  So here is my personal tribute to the better assistants to have been honoured to be trained by me (I use the terms honoured & trained very loosely).  These are my top five in no particular order, but as a tradition ladies first:-

Alyson (Yogurt Spiller) Bell (2001).  

One of the many work experience students who I have worked with, she spent the best part of four months working in our office being taught the 'proper' way to do things.  Not once was there a complaint, quick to learn, & eager to ask questions, perhaps a little to comfortable at the end making jokes about her Surveyor but I'll let that one slip.  Current where abouts unknown, but I'd love to find out.

Leanne (Far too short) Cochrane (2007-2012).  

A full time trainee Surveyor graduating to a fully fledged Surveyor.  Beyond her height she gave as good as she got in a very male office, eager to learn & ask questions, and generally had her mind on the job.  Currently Surveyor/Geospatial Manager(!) with Dover Harbour Board

Chris (Pretty Boy) Holley (2005-2012).

Started with the same employer within a month of each other, and left within a matter of months.  Joined the company as a raw recruit, and left a fully paid member of the Surveying fraternity, now having moved on he is fulfilling the potential he was never allowed to explore before.  Best without a safety net, and prospering as a result.  Currently Survey Manager at Bovis Homes

Matt (What did your Mum feed you) Bolton (2002).

Another work experience student, far too tall for his own good and made me appreciate the problems of being vertically challenged when taking over the instrument work!  Current career and whereabouts unknown, but I'd love to find out.

Matt (Moaning) Morgan (2005 - 2010)

Similar to Chris started around the same time, but left a little earlier to following his calling to travel & become a holiday rep.  Arguably his dream job, but as a Surveyor he could have been very good if his mind stayed on the job and didn't rise to the banter hence his inclusion.  Currently repping in Southern Spain (I think?)

This little exercise got me thinking since I started Surveying at the end of the last Millenia(!) I have counted 35 separate Survey Assistants, and that doesn't include time when I used to work in teams of two Surveyors!  Survey Assistants are the life blood of Surveying, the future we all need to support and help grow - however the advent of modern technology and the ever increasing squeeze on costs means an Assistant is a luxury many of us can't afford.  The latest robotic equipment is amazing, but it doesn't afford the time to train new staff especially for the smaller firms.  University & college courses do provide a good foundation but there is no replacement for on the job training and apprenticeship schemes for Surveyors are few and far between, and during my quick browse no such schemes existed in the South East - the search continues........

Note from Beccy:  No Mike, it is NOT acceptable to do a similar blog naming and shaming the rubbish assistants!!

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

The cheques in the post....or is it?

Now this is something that bugs me greatly (and this is Beccy writing on this occasion and I have very differing views to Mike) but when is an invoice overdue?

This is the bane of my life.

We offer 14 day payment terms.  We are not a bank.  Nor a credit card company.  We are a business who rely on cashflow to keep us going.  We offer 14 days payment terms as a matter of courtesy to our clients.  So why then do some businesses continue to flout this luxury?

I've come for my weekly shop and I won't be paying!

When was the last time you popped into Tesco (other large supermarkets are available!) and did your weekly shop and said on the way out "I'll pay you in a couple of weeks (or maybe months, or maybe never if the mood takes us)".  I'll tell you when - never.  So why is it acceptable in a business to business environment?

We pay on time! Do you?
I come from an Accountancy background and so am fully aware of financial issues facing businesses of today.  Indeed I always make use of the credit terms offered to us by other companies.  If its says payment due in 14 days - I pay on the 14th day.  Never later.  Is it down to bad bookkeeping that payments become overdue? (lets blame the Accountants / Bookkeepers), or is it a deliberate ploy to keep money in your account for longer?

Mike tells me that it is not uncommon practice in the Construction Industry that people don't pay on time and need constant reminders and threats of legal action.  But why is this?  And just because that's whats done doesn't make it right.

Good old fashioned manners

Personally, I think its all down to manners and respect.  You should respect the work that the other company has done for you - they delivered a product/service as agreed with you when you accepted the quotation so show them some common courtesy and pay on time.

If another business is suffering from cashflow issues we would of course do our best to assist.  Again - it comes down to manners and courtesy.  At least informing us of the situation and advising what you are doing to rectify it.

I have taken to sending out 'reminders' to customers before an invoice becomes due so that we can do away with the 'I never received the invoice' scenario (incidentally we send our invoices with our final drawings so if you got the drawings - you got the invoice!).  Then when it becomes overdue I send a nice gentle reminder, then another, and so on.

When is the right time to take the matter further?  How overdue should an invoice be before you start adding on interest and Late Payment Compensation  (did you even know that you can do this?  - See payontime.co.uk for further information).  Should we only chase debts over a certain value?  When should you take a customer to court? 

I don't know the answer to these questions.  In fact there is probably no hard and fast rule.  I would however be interested to hear your thoughts on the situation.

You can contact me on beccy@rlsurveys.co.uk.

Friday, 4 January 2013

2012 a distant memory?

That's all folks, 2012 has been put to bed and 2013 is just rubbing its eyes and working out what to do next.  Sadly for 2013 it has a big act to follow in 2012, but it can but try.

Whilst it is always nice to look back at the past, and revel in past success (or dwell on past failures) the only benefit is to learn and move forward, in this case, into 2013.  This year will bring around some exciting changes for R L Surveys in many ways, being our second full trading year we can look forward to:-

  1. A increased presence in the boundaries market.  With a Chartered Surveyor on board we are now able to work through boundary disputes under guidelines laid down by RICS, the industries governing body, as well as push the other areas of boundaries such as demarcation & first registration.
  2. With a new toy in the cupboard we are looking forward to providing a complete measured building survey services.  The final investment of 2012 was a Leica C10 laser scanner, the capabilities of which can be found on our website, or through this brief Youtube video (Thank you Paul Burrows of Leica).  This new piece of kit enables our Surveyors to carry out site surveys in a fraction of the time previously with a large element of safety, and a much much greater coverage of data.
  3. Completion of our accreditation to ISO9001 which will give our customers peace of mind about the product we produce.
  4. With these new developments we will need to expand our workforce to service the ever growing demands on our time, so again keep an eye on our website for the vacancies as they appear.
With those thoughts in mind it just leaves me to wish you all a Happy and Prosperous New Year.  Lets raise a glass to whats to come in 2013.