One of the greatest causes of delays in construction is the misinterpretation of contracts. Even the smallest oversight can land you in deep trouble later on. Once the ink on a contract is dry, the horse has already bolted, so it’s vital, right from the off, that all parties know exactly what is expected of them. It may sound simplistic, but all too often the importance of these basic early stages is overlooked, leading to critical errors and unexpected costs piling up.
I eliminate the risk of ambiguity by bringing together the responsible project managers, engineers and designers for a full commercial and technical review of every aspect of the project and what it costs. This highlights any confusion, resolving oversights before kick-off, which greatly reduces the risk of delays. Structure the contract into a technical breakdown and ask the contractor to review every stage of work. This presents every chance to correct misunderstandings, protecting you and the client should a dispute arise.
Unexpected client requests can cause delays and increase costs. A request could suddenly mean you need to hire equipment that hasn't been budgeted for. Don’t agree to add-ons if they haven't been stipulated clearly in the contract. Analyse the terms and conditions – if the client hasn't included it in the original price, you must flag it up before proceeding.
Suppliers are another problem area. Most contractors have robust back to back subcontracting agreements, but be realistic about who the real owner of the risk or failure is. I was once bumped down the supply chain after another client began paying more for the supplier’s product. The supplier put back their delivery date by three months. We reduced the delay to three weeks by providing the supplier with a programme analysis and financial breakdown calculating the impact of the delay.
Once the supplier realised we could and would take them to the cleaners for around £50k a week, they soon played ball. Be clear that you will pursue any liability and hold the supplier to obligation, and you must set out costs. When doing this, speed and detail are key. Prove your entitlement by demonstrating the legal aspects of the supplier's agreement. Be clear that this is only an estimate - costs could rise. With any delay it's important to maintain profitability, even with the challenges of client changes and supply failure. Never lose focus of the responsibility to deliver a successful project.