Getting stuff done…. April 26, 2017

Is it just me or does anybody else notice a definite leaning towards things never actually getting ‘done’ – job never quite finished, job never complete? What I’m getting at here is the number of ‘hoops’ that we have to jump through before a job actually gets started let alone finished.

Safe driving, safe surveying, lone working, health and safety, ecology, bats, badgers, newts, neighbors, highways, rights of way, human rights, Brexit ….etc etc

In the past one of my favorite comments that was made about our company was …’bloody hell you don’t f**k about do you…’ – this being a comment made by a client that arrived home after a day’s work had been undertaken by our teams and he was blown away by what had been achieved in a day’s work.

Nowadays I would suggest that most clients who arrived at the end of the first day of modern projects would be lucky if they saw that everyone had been fully inducted for site safety….

The lads that used to work for us were masters at getting the job done – they worked quickly, efficiently ….and with the minimum of fuss and cost. They seemed to know inherently that time was money and that time spent standing around with your proverbial ‘finger up your ass’ meant that money was being lost and the company would suffer. They also knew that the longer they took… the more likely they were to get a b*****king from ‘the management’.

Nowadays, we are super health and safety conscious. We all now see lots of pictures on LinkedIn of people doing really stupid things – which are incredibly dangerous and contravene every health and safety instruction going. We all laugh and feel so superior to these people and hundreds of comments are posted showing how far we have advanced in the realms of safe working….

Yet – in the back of my mind – part of me has a sneaking suspicion that some of these people are actually just trying to get the job done. That guy leaning his ladder on the nearby skip to get the extra height needed – was pretty stupid – yet in his head he was probably thinking…’how am I hoping to paint that top piece that’s just out of reach’ ….’I could stop work and go and get a cherry picker …or I could just use that skip’….

Don’t all shout at me at once – I know, I know – I’m not suggesting we all abandon common sense and all go back to the days of dangerous working …but I am asking for a little common sense on the job. Maybe you don’t have the correct tool for the job – do you use an alternative method on the basis that you will lose several hours of productive work time by sourcing the correct gadget for the exact purpose…. or do you improvise?

What happens if you get on site – the works have been signed off by an ecologist… all is good to go …then one of your team finds something that looks suspiciously like a Great Crested Newt…? Do you call a halt to all proceedings? Do you call the ecologist back to site? Do you stop all site works until clarification has been received ….and who pays for all the lost time on site?

The client wont thank you, your boss won’t be happy …and the newt certainly won’t thank you (well he won’t thank you in person, though he might be a happier newt for not being bulldozed…) …

Would you turn a blind eye then run the risk of a fine if you are damaging the habitat of a protected species??

Our teams at JKSL are thoroughly briefed to be aware of environmental issues and to always put health and safety at the forefront of their thinking. They are told about bird nesting season and advised about badgers and told about bats and told about discrimination at work and bullying and sexual harassment and have trackers on vehicles to make them drive aware….and are all wrapped in cotton wool …. just in case….

We will now veer to the side of caution – which is a really great thing in the terms of Health and safety and protecting the environment…. but…just once in a while I think we have become a nanny state whereby the needs of the odd frog or newt take precedence over the needs of a small business trying to get the job done…

I do like frogs though.

Mike C

Positive thinking…. April 19, 2017

I was at a seminar a couple of weeks ago titled ‘Be happy – the art of being brilliant …’ – a great day and thanks to CAS our accountants for arranging this event. The message was pretty clear – be positive, be grateful for the little things in life ….and make a point of thanking the world for every day that you spend in it.

LIFE… is a special occasion – and should be greeted as such …on a daily basis.

I’m not saying that the day has changed my life but it hasn’t half made me think. I come across an awful lot of people in my line of work and many of them are just really depressing. In my head I call them ‘Eeyore’ people (Eeyore the donkey from Winnie the Pooh that was constantly depressed). ‘Oh no, oh dear, everything’s going wrong ….’ etc etc etc

These people don’t half drain the life out of you.

Not only that …. but…they do it insidiously – you aren’t aware of how draining they are until you get home and realise how tired you are from the constant barrage of negativity.

I personally am on a crusade to change the way I greet people – when they ask… ‘hi Mike how are you…’ I now respond with… ‘fantastic/great/stunning/marvelous ‘ – just try it – its a game changer. I’m not sure why, but the phrases seem to release some chemical which makes you feel good – then …because you are feeling good …you act more positively ….and the day just goes better!

People do spend far too much time ‘destination thinking’ – I’ve noticed that my wife seems to wish time away when looking forward to a holiday or some new piece of interior design this she’s having done. Her constant phrases are …’I cant wait for my holiday in (insert exotic holiday destination)’ or ….’I can’t wait for the bedroom to be finished’…. wishing the days to pass quicker – when really she should be savoring each day and relishing the experience of each journey that she is on – whether it be looking forward to a holiday or finishing the decorating.

Enjoy it all – not just the final result.

It’s easy when at work to be thinking – ‘…if only we could win that project’ or ‘I can’t wait to finish the scheme at (insert site location) …. yet half the time when at work we are too busy and never have time to enjoy actually doing the project works.

We get in a cycle of hitting targets and exceeding expectation – which is great from a business point of view – but – you can’t always exceed every target.

Rush, rush, rush – …. just slow down for pity’s sake and enjoy the moment!

BLOOD PRESSURE…. April 12, 2017

Last week I was due to go into the Alexandra Hospital in Cheadle for major knee surgery – we are talking complete new knee here… none of that nambi pambi ‘keyhole’ lark. They basically saw your leg off – then re-attach it with a new metal bit in the middle. Six to eight weeks’ recovery and some significant down time.

Now for any of you that know me – this is not something that I relish, as it would mean passing over the reins to the JKSL team …and not being fully involved in every decision.

Not only was I stressing about not being fully available for clients – but also the fact that on the horizon we have the annual JKSL seminar on the 19th May. Mentally working my way back I reckoned that if everything went according to plan… I could have the operation and get recovered just in time to present at this year’s event.

Just two days prior to the operation we had a breach of security at JKSL and a virus attacked our computer systems taking with it weeks and weeks of work – none of which it appears can be restored. The blame it would appear lay in the hands of one ‘Mike Clough’ who had unwittingly allowed the virus in… whilst on his remote access….

My mother (90) is getting increasingly demanding and doesn’t quite seem to get the concept of me ‘working’ – any time I get a free five minutes she seems to manage to ring with a technical query on her i-pad or a problem with her telephone. More difficult still …is not when she does ring me….but rather when she doesn’t ….and I worry about her and have to go round anyway just to put my mind at rest…

My wife has also not been well and the dog passed away….

the reason that I’m telling you all of this is because my operation didn’t take place last week due to me having high blood pressure ….

Surprise surprise.

The doctors recommended that I get a blood pressure monitor – so I ordered one from ‘Amazon Prime’ which was due to arrive one next day.

I received my text messages from Amazon saying that me delivery slot was between 11 and 12 on the Saturday and sat calmly awaiting my box of goodies.

At 11.30 I got another text from Amazon saying that they had ‘attempted to deliver the parcel but nobody was in …duuuh …. I’m in …. I’m sat here waiting???

The next text advised that they would try again tomorrow – so being the calm measured person that i am i decided to not argue and just to ensure that I didn’t miss them the following day.

On the Sunday I got a text message saying that my parcel would arrive between 1 and 2 – so this time opened the front door, opened the gate and left a note on the drive saying… ‘I’m in please just shout up’

….at 1.30 I got a text saying that they had tried to deliver and nobody was home….


I rang Amazon and eventually got to speak to an Indian call centre – ‘hello Mr. Clog you are not in …’ – I advised the lady that I was in …. not only was I in …but I had left the door open gate open etc etc

…. she said she would immediately ring the driver and get him to come back.

She then rang back a minute or so later and said… ‘he is 60 miles away and cannot come back…’

….so how the hell could he have been on my drive two minutes ago if he is now 60 miles away…????

Again….. aaaaarrrrrgggghhhhh.

‘He will bring tomorrow…’

Blood pressure – jeez it’s a wonder I’m still breathing….

Mike ‘Calm’ Clough

Lessons learned… April 5, 2017

As I get older I find myself wondering why we never learn from history? (…my wife will laugh at this comment because she knows I hated history at school and that I’m useless at remembering dates and times that relate to important events).
What I’m getting at here though is not the date when the romans invaded England or when Harold got shot in the eye – but the various improvements that we made during what is loosely called ‘progress’ – and how we have managed to get rid of these improved areas of society and go back to something less efficient.

Simple things like;

Public toilets.
How many times have you been caught short in a city center and just unable to find any loos? Then when you do find one …there’s a sign on that says ‘closed – nearest toilets are too far away… please pee on lamppost …’ Surely when these public conveniences were built somebody must have done a calculation that said… ‘there are ‘x’ number of people that require toilets so we need to build a facility at this location’. So, when they closed the toilets where do they expect people to go???
Policemen on the street.

When was the last time that you saw a policeman just wandering along the streets whistling the ‘z cars’ theme? When was the last time that you saw a police patrol car – just patrolling? There was a reason that policemen were put on the street – it was a presence that kept people in check. When I was a teenager out and about late at night – any rowdy or unruly behavior you knew that a ‘bobby’ would be around and sort it out. There have been various cut backs and money saving schemes – and this has now the local neighborhood copper has just become memory of old TV programs and fictional thrillers featuring Sherlock Holmes.

Road sweeping.

How many times recently have you seen leaves being cleaned up or drains and gutters emptied? This used to be something that was done on a regular basis to ‘maintain’ the drainage integrity. Some smart arse just cut this off the rotation and probably saved a big chunk of money – without a second thought as to the possible issues caused by blocked flow to drains and the flooding that would be caused…
Road Verge Management.

Have you noticed that its more difficult to see oncoming traffic when you reach a road junction? Have you worked out why yet? It’s because the road side vegetation is no longer managed as it used to be. The grass and weed control has been abandoned in favour of what is called a more ‘natural’ approach. This is just an excuse to do nothing and save on the budget…. but how many accidents have been caused by simply not being able to see oncoming traffic??…which is why it was trimmed back for years…
Weed control.

Japanese knotweed requires repeat applications of herbicide often over a period of several years before it is fully eradicated. Local authorities in their wisdom have seen fit to cancel regular applications of herbicide in identified JK locations. This will simply result in re-growth and a return to its original condition…meaning that previous money spent on chemical control has been completely wasted.

Local Parks

Every town should have a park that is pride and joy of the local ‘parkies’. Let’s get some flower beds and hanging baskets. Let’s get some pride back into our communities – let’s bring back the grumpy old bastard that chases the kids on bikes in the park and is proud of his herbaceous borders. Too often now we see parks maintained by idiots on gang mowers rushing around not knowing a thing about horticulture and planting schemes…let’s see gangs of lads planting and maintaining our parks with pride….

All I’m saying here is that whilst I understand the need to make savings and the need for ‘austerity’ …all I’m saying is that many of the things being cut …were there for a reason…and when you cut them …. everybody then remembers why they were done in the first place.
These jobs that have been cut back and lost were all done by somebody – and whoever these people were, their jobs have gone. Surely there are roles for unemployed youths in just road-sweeping and cleaning leaves from roads. Couldn’t we have benefits packages that were boosted if the recipient carried out labor that benefitted the community…. or would this be deemed degrading? Let’s spend more on our local parks – not less…. let’s employ people to care for our environment …

Personally, I don’t want robots doing everything and the thought of more people just sitting around playing on their Play Stations or X Box’s horrifies me…

History – lets learn from it!
Mike C