One of the problems we builders and carpenters sometimes have is understanding what our responsibilities are. There are legal responsibilities and then there are moral responsibilities. When we choose to start running our own business, as opposed to working for someone else, we have made a decision to take on both legal and moral responsibilities. The difference between the two is simple, the first is a statutory obligation, ie enforceable by law, while the second is a voluntary one.
Let’s get legal
Let’s leave the second for another day and just focus on the first, your legal responsibilities. Choosing to run your own construction business means you’ve put your hand up to be the responsible and authorised person on the building site, and for financial interactions with your business, whether you are a sole trader, a partnership or Pty Ltd company. You must take this responsibility most seriously because the consequences of not doing the right thing could be expensive or worse.
There are of course numerous areas you are responsible, however the two categories that you need to be across is the health and safety of everyone on your site and the financial success of your business. We want people to go home in one piece at night and we must be able to pay our staff, subcontractors and suppliers in a timely manner.
She’ll be right. Or will she?
When I was starting out as a young carpenter, then builder, I witnessed many occasion when the owner of the businesses I worked for had a ‘She’ll be right attitude”. This seemed to be tightly coupled with “the electrician (or the plumber or the brickie) is a great guy, I trust him.” Or, “he knows what he’s doing.” This attitude stunned me, because there were times when the builder didn’t understand what needed to be done or left the sub-contractor to finish off a job, only to find that the subbie had left work unfinished or the builder’s safety protocols were not being followed.
The bottom line is, YOU are responsible for any problems or costs on your site or your job. Another term for a builder is ‘the Prime Contractor’ which is why the electrician is a ‘Subcontractor’. You are not employing mates you are employing other legal entities or persons. They too have legal responsibilities and you are engaging with the respective legal entity, not your mate. You have your mateships down at the beach or down at the oval, you don’t have them on the building site. Which is why I say, “Leave your mates down at the beach.”