Supervision – the home maintenance winner

The topic of home maintenance is one that brings a wave of nausea over most people when they face that moment where they must attend to necessary property repairs that generally get left too late.

More often than not, prior experiences have left a very bad taste and owners don’t see their way to having to deal with individuals or companies that constantly have to be summoned back on site to fix something that was not done properly, in the first place.

While key criteria, when selecting a service provider, are often met, so often the end result is not what is promised, expected or delivered. Some of these key criteria at the top of the list are, or at least should be:

  • Accuracy of quotes
  • Cost effectiveness
  • Supervision of labour
  • An efficient service
  • Project completion on time
  • Quality end result

How does one explain that, even when selecting a professional and reputable company, you can still end up having an experience that is anything but hassle-free? We hear people talk about ‘putting lipstick on the pig’ when trying to cover up a problem. Sadly, that is what often happens with home maintenance projects. Service providers frequently make all sorts of promises – yet, when it comes to the crunch, those are followed by a myriad of excuses as to why it took so long, why it went over budget and why the end result is not what you were promised.

It begs the question: “What is the fundamental problem?” Well, it is actually quite simple. It is called ‘lack of supervision’. Reality has proven that, while you can have qualified workmen on site, using the best products, lack of supervision is, more often than not, the culprit. From many personal experiences, I have seen that, when the right supervision is in place, a lot of potential issues do not even feature.

It’s all good and well for service providers to say that their workers can ‘manage themselves’ but not everyone does get it right the first time; and if no one is around to supervise and advise, that’s where thing start going wrong. One of the synonyms for the word ‘supervision’ is ‘guidance’, and that’s where the real problem lies. It’s one thing giving people a job to do but if they are not being supervised properly and given the training and/or guidance on site, then the project is already set up for failure. In so many different cases, be it building, electrical, plumbing, painting or landscaping, there is a common trend that results in client dissatisfaction.

The common trend is what I refer to as ‘drop and drive’. That is when workers are dropped off at site with the absolute minimum instruction and the ‘supervisor’, or in many cases the business owner, disappears to the next job. Seldom will this approach be effective, as more time is being spent going backwards and forwards to multiple sites or getting supplies – and the supervisory aspect just doesn’t happen. That is when the project already starts going pear shaped. And all too often I hear company owners, who are the culprits themselves, wondering why they don’t get repeat business or more recommendations. It’s not rocket science.

A recent example comes to mind where a client had a requirement for the lawn around a newly-installed swimming pool to be replaced and the levels sorted. The landscaper arrived on site with the team, dropped them off, gave a minute’s instruction and wasn’t seen for the rest of the day. While the workers did get on with it, they spent more time chatting to one another, and their mates on their cellphones, than actually doing the work. By observation, having been on site all day, they probably lost at least three hours of work time – and after that happens over a few days, one can easily understand why completion deadlines are missed. And the sad reality is that the business owner is generally not even aware of this, yet that still seems to be okay.

Having not been forewarned about the layout of cables and pool pipes, the workers were merrily yielding their picks and shovels. They hacked a huge hole in one of the pool’s inlet pipes, which caused another 12-hour delay as that had to be repaired before they could progress. The net result is time wasted and more problems created, which prevented other service providers from finishing their side of the project. The spiral of inefficiency triggers a chain reaction of non-delivery, as all follow-on projects on a site can easily get delayed by other service providers.

This is but one of hundreds of examples, which any of our readers could relate to – and the one word that keeps being the underlying reason for this is ‘supervision’, or actually the lack thereof.

When embarking on any project of this nature, ensure that someone is really supervising the project, and not just leaving workers on site, who then get blamed for the delays when they were not properly instructed. If the project is of such a nature that full-time supervision is not necessary, regular check-ups on work-in-progress should be performed to prevent massive re-work.