Good, Fast, Cheap - Choose Two

If you think hiring a professional is expensive - wait until you hire an amateur!

It's completely understandable; budget pressures often mean cost plays a major part in the process of choosing a supplier, especially when time is tight. But more often than not, using a supplier whose cost appears too good to be true can ultimately prove a false economy, causing more than a few headaches down the line... or much, much worse. Indeed, the Construction Leadership Council's Ann Bentley only recently called out the urgency for a perception shift for the word 'value' in the construction industry; away from meaning simply 'the lowest price' and more towards 'tender price plus performance'. 

In this post, we look at five ways that a low-cost, low-quality supplier can actually cost you in the long run, with the aim of ensuring you select suppliers who get you the A* results you expect. Every time.

 

Good, fast, cheap - choose two

This is the truest statement we’ve heard in business - it applies to just about anything. Trying to be all of the above is the surest way to financial ruin. You might manage all three - for a while. Your clients will love you - after all, you’re good, fast and cheap. However, you’ll soon be overrun - meaning that the ‘good’ level can drop for your customers - and you might come to realise that margin is vastly more important than volume!

Fork in circle

A simple illustration of this is buying lunch. There are always a number of factors to consider - whether you’re in a hurry, how healthily you want to eat and how much you have to spend. 

 

These three examples cover all three 'pairs':

 

Pret A Manger: fast + good

Pret has a Formula-1 style efficiency built in to get you 'in the door' to 'out of the store' as fast as possible. This is not accidental - the placement of everything in the store is optimised for fast customer flow. Their range is higher quality with lots of healthy options, but it’s not the cheapest on the high street.

 

Your local coffee shop: good + cheap

You probably know the proprietor, and you’re happy to have a chat with them as your food is prepared. They don’t charge a high price, and you know it’s good - you watch your food get prepared for you as you wait, the same way they’ve done it for decades.

 

Greggs: cheap + fast

It’s got all the calories you need, at a low price. Like Pret, it’s designed for as fast a turnaround as possible. To make a profit, they have to keep the volumes very high so there’s a standard range, but it’s not the ‘artisan’ brand of other stores.


For us, this often translates into conversations that go somewhere along the lines of:

"Can you get the cameras in next week?” 

Yes - most of the time - we always turn around projects as fast as possible for you.

“Can you give us a really high quality service, from start to finish?”

Certainly!

“Oh, and can you match this price we have from a one-man-band company without any certifications or much experience?”

Well, probably not...

 

Do it yourself?

We spoke to a competitor in the USA, and were discussing “what’s your competition, on the ground?” (The US is not a huge market for us, and we get on pretty well with our serious competitors over there). He said: “well, there’s one big company, and there’s everyone’s brother-in-law”. By this he meant: lots of people go for the experimental, webcam or camera-in-a-box solution. Which is fine if you have the time and inclination - and it’s not critical if anything goes wrong. After all, we started out by experimenting! But we spend a lot of time explaining to people that our cameras, though both ‘cameras’ and ‘on the web’, are not webcams. A webcam is something that you could buy in your (late, lamented) Maplins for a few pounds - not a state-of-the-art, hand-built unit with bespoke and patented electronics and professional optics, battle-tested in the lab and all over the planet for years at a time.

Our customers aren’t actually buying ‘cameras’ from us. Our M.D. Robbie Allen noticed this as a self-confessed camera geek - when he started off on a sales call about pixels, depths of fields and prime lenses, clients (politely) zoned out! What you buy is service - all of the work that goes into successfully and safely filming and monitoring a construction project for many years at a high quality. You buy a service, and you buy a result.

 

Your supplier’s reputation is your reputation

We watched a talk recently by a leading drone training company, discussing the costs and benefits of hiring a professional drone company to survey a construction site, or the alternative of learning how to fly yourself and gaining all the right qualifications, insurance, experience and so on.

There were two key takeaways.

First is that as the cost of drones has plummeted, their autonomy - ease of use - and ubiquity have increased at the same speed: being a drone pilot is almost the ultimate ‘lifestyle business’. A few years ago we heard from a keen pilot who was proud to be one of ‘only’ 250 qualified in the UK - a number that’s well into the thousands now (including us, though we don’t dream of being the next Skyhook, we just like to keep our awareness up and fly our DJI Mavic legally).

The second was that - even if you take the easier route of booking a contractor - there are now thousands of individuals and firms offering ‘professional’ flying services with massively varying levels of skill, experience and cost - so if you don’t perform due diligence, there’s a risk something catastrophic could happen. And if that’s the case, it’s your name in the newspaper headline when the drone drops onto the 3.30 from Cardiff.

The point is - choosing the right supplier makes you look good!

 

Certification makes you look good, too

Which sounds better to your Line Manager: “We hired this company, with ISO 9001:2015 certification, and every safety qualification you can think of” or “I saved some money by choosing this supplier”?

Certification is far more than ‘just’ a box-ticking exercise - though it’s undoubtedly that too. In our experience, gaining ISO 9001:2015, while time-consuming and expensive, forced us to take a long, hard look at all of our procedures and processes. This is not something that sets the heart racing in the abstract, but taken together, the experience made us a much better business. For a client, the supplier having this sort of certification really can cut down the work involved in due diligence, meaning you can make better decisions, faster.

 

What will you have to look back on?

As covered in a previous post - sometimes using the cheapest solution can be the phenomenally daftest thing to do. You might be building a beautiful, iconic, architect-designed structure that will stand for centuries (or a big metal shed on an industrial estate, we’re not picky!) In either case, using the ‘cheapest possible’ method of documenting and archiving the project can be a false economy. Without wanting to sound too grandiose: think of your legacy. When you’re happily retired, and your grandchildren ask ‘what did you do for a living?’ - imagine being able to show them beautiful stills and time lapse films of the projects you were part of, preserved in digital format forever?

Yes, it’s a sentimental point - but it’s true. Think of the iconic construction photography of New York being built, or The Forth Rail Bridge under construction below - you can’t get pictures like that with a Go Pro!

George_Washington_Wilson  

 

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