I embarked on having controls in place to safeguard my interest; after all it was plainly obvious that all and sundry were out to milk me dry. I had to look for another hardware guy and this time round I strictly instructed him to only deliver good in the evening at around 6 PM in my presence. I’d personally verify the goods.
I also managed to get a new foreman who role was only to supervise the fundis and the KYMs and nothing else. I took charge of negotiating with suppliers and paying them. I realized that this was a big loophole in the initial set up. What the other foreman would do; he’d insist that anyone supplying anything on the site, must part with something small for him. Once a supplier is compromised, it simply means they can just enter into an arrangement to supply air as long as they both gain.
To safeguard against loss of man-hours (fundis and KYMs) I’d demand that the foreman pre-plans the work and for each phase he’d give me the labour estimates to finalize the works. I’d independently confirm whether the estimates made sense. I’d then give him some contract to finalize the works and would obviously throw the control to him. He’d then push the fundis to deliver and maybe make a small saving. That arrangement worked well for me because I’d relinquish that bit of getting the best out of the workforce.
As regards material pilferage, I took one of the guys on site and made him a mole. He’d be my eye on the ground to ensure no-one steals materials. But again bestowing all this trust on one person never brought a sense of security on my part, you see once bitten twice shy. So I got yet another mole and as long as I could get comparative info from them, it made much sense to me. And by the way, you should never keep a mole for long; after all they easily get compromised, so you keep shuffling them. I’d also make surprise visits just to ensure that am unpredictable.
The other thing which I intentionally did and which worked is to create a perception that am really very tough. The moment these fellows realize you are a weakling, they’ll take advantage of you. But when the fear is instilled in them, then they’ll think twice. If you have to slap someone, take them to the cops or whatever else you can do to instil the fear.
I managed to bring some sanity on the site after the tough lessons. The other very important thing I noted regarding procurement was the fact that same items, same quality, exact products would retail at different prices in different hardwares. You’d be shocked to sometimes even find a price difference of 20-30% in hardware’s within the same locality. Some clever hardware guys’ will also price some items cheaply and creates the perception that all their goods are fairly priced, only to inflate other goods once you become a repeat customer.
I also realized that well priced and professionally approved alternatives would also create a big saving. Like I discovered some items they call fibre mesh which act as a very good but much cheaper alternative to BRC mesh when casting the slab. You’ll also hear of pre-cast concrete blocks which I have never used which can bring a saving as opposed to the conventional mass concrete.
Finally, investing in knowledge is extremely important. Like being able to interpret a BoQ would give you an idea of the materials estimates as opposed to relying on that jua-kali foreman. Get to know what a substructure or superstructure is, even those Y12's and Y8's should not sound like Greek, and even those impregnated tank bearers and slats should not overwhelm you. There is a certain word I heard from the fundis which was quite funny…'makirigishi'…of course I had to understand what they were but I’ll leave it to your imaginations.
In thenext post I’ll tell you about how that crafty Rongai fellow conned me in the name of selling me timber…and the useless cops who could never help me....