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  • Stevie Bee

Even the most patient of us get tested building a house

Updated: Jan 1

You’ve heard the saying: it’s the journey not the destination that matters. The quote’s from T. S. Eliot, the prominent American-born British poet of the last century. It’s where the rich rewards lie, so we’re told. Yet, so many of us can’t wait to get to the end point. All the actual journeying just gets in the way!


rollercoaster

We’re a very goal-focused lot, aren’t we? That isn’t of itself a bad thing, of course. Having goals and targets are worthy aspirations and they do help us get what we want in life. However, I want to talk about the reward that comes with ‘the stuff that gets in the way’: the getting-there part. The last two years of my life has taught me about it in spades. And I am not talking about covid, per se. And I’m not talking about travel or work or school or uni or other similarly medium to longer-term activity that I know people usually mean when they say it’s the people you meet along the way that makes the journey. This story applies to a quite short-term activity where it’s not so much about building (lol) a lasting relationship.


Generally, throughout my life, I would say I’ve not been especially goal-focused. I’ve been happy to keep a steady pace, content to learn to play the long game. I’ve been pretty active, wearing many different hats over many years. And I’ve had some goals, for sure, but not grand long-term overarching ones that span vast decades! Little ones. Mostly. I’ve had my share of successes and things that went awry. By and large, though, the things that went pear-shaped weren’t big ticket items. I got used to laughing at them, especially in hindsight. And given my birth number in numerology, I learned to better plan things, cross that t and dot that i. And not just trust that I could always wing it. I'm meticulous these days.


Well, that got challenged when I started building a small house! I’ve been preoccupied with it these past two years or so. I recall being reasonably relaxed to start with; you had to be in the face of incessant rain and covid restrictions and supply shortages and tradies off sick. I took it in my stride, reasoning it’ll take what it takes; pushing and getting angry at people doesn’t help. I can’t hurry it along; a farmer can’t make the crop grow faster by tugging at it. So, I was accepting of the delays, to start with. But then I came face-to-face with my big bugbear. What I don’t like is not knowing what’s going on. I can accept delays, if I know to expect them. If you’ve built a house, good project management and communication are essentials. Without them, it’s a real test of patience and forbearance. Well, I got tested. My patience, especially.


People who know me, know it takes a lot to faze me. You want to see me frustrated and upset: keep me in the dark; promise me work will start on a particular day and then show up whenever unannounced. That doesn’t go down well with me. Being an editor and graphic and web designer for many years, I’m used to meeting deadlines, even very tight ones that would sometimes necessitate long hours. To make it work, good communication is essential; jobs don’t get done unless you have that. In my world, we rely on each team member working together to meet deadline. So, imagine my reaction when weeks would roll by on the building site and despite repeated phone calls and text messages, not a peep. I only got a rise when I called it out, arguing project management includes figuring out client expectations and meeting them. Our requests weren’t unreasonable: just tell us there would be delays and that ‘promises’ can’t be fulfilled. It’s okay not to meet every expectation if we know you can’t! As my sister said at the time— we were building our houses at the same time on the same block — we just want boring old communication, don’t surprise us. Unfortunately old habits seem to die hard.


I put up with it for six months. Won’t be doing that again. Is it fixable? Maybe, if the supply-demand side of the equation changes in favour of the customer. But I suspect it’s a cultural thing. The industry just doesn’t see communication as a priority. They’ll turn up any old time, no notice, and wonder why you’re not home! All I’ll say is there is a real opportunity for builders and tradies who have good communication skills. If the market flips in favour of the customer, they could do well, especially if the work’s good quality.


I’ll say one more thing. The journey is more about the people I’ve met while building my house. They won’t become friends; I hardly expect that. That’s not the point. I will say all the tradies scored well on the work they did and most of them communicated well once they were onsite and they had good demeanour. (They don’t set their work schedules, so I’m not pointing the finger at them for when they show up.) It affirmed that most people in life are good souls and want to be helpful and want to see you happy.


You know who were the best? It will be a complete surprise because they’ve had such a crap rap in the past. Drum-roll . . . the NBN. They gave plenty of notice as to when they were coming, weeks before, the day before and again on the morning they were coming. I received a text message saying they were ten minutes away! And they stayed to make sure the internet was connected and working. All the techs were polite and helpful and kept me informed all through the process, as needed. Full marks. That’s how you do it. I wonder if they know the key takeaway is that I’ll tell that story? And that’s more important than all the marketing in the world.


So, yes, it is indeed the journey that matters, although I would add the destination also matters — obviously! Otherwise, why do it? But it’s really the people you meet along the way, isn’t it? They make or break the journey. And the other observation: even the most patient of us get tested. I’m grateful for that: I have more to learn!


The journey is important, well, the people I’ve met along the way building a house are. They won’t become friends. That’s not the point. I will say all the tradies scored well on the work they did and most of them communicated well once they were onsite and they had good demeanour. (They don’t set their work schedules, so I’m not pointing the finger at them for when they show up.) It affirmed that most people in life are good souls and want to be helpful and want to see you happy.



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