2018: The Year Ahead for Fix Forward

CAPE TOWN – While 2017 was an incredible year for Fix Forward and our tradesmen, we’re looking ever forward and preparing for an even bigger 2018. With several key milestones on the horizon, the Fix Forward team are working hard to ensure that they continue to provide increasing opportunities for tradesmen to work, learn and grow.

We recently sat down with Fix Forward founder, Joshua Cox, to discuss the key focus areas for the year ahead. Josh identified four milestone projects which are first outlined and then discussed in further detail below:

1. To better understand Fix Forward’s impact using the Poverty Stoplight measurement tool. Fix Forward are conducting a baseline assessment with 25 tradesmen at the beginning and end of the year to measure the impact we’ve made on their businesses and their lives.

2. Launch our Web Application that will make it much easier for client to log a job, receive quotes and invoices and track the progress.

3. On-boarding 50 new tradesmen funded by Nedbank.

4. Preparing to launch Gauteng operations towards the end of the year.

Book a Fix Forward Tradesman

 

joshua cox fix forward

Founder and CEO, Joshua Cox.

Poverty Stoplight

Is this a Fix Forward initiative?

It’s not actually. It was developed by Fundacion Paraguaya in Paraguay and is now being used by non-profits and governments around the world. We created an alternate version of it together with the people from the Poverty Stoplight office in SA. This additional version is designed for people who are not living in dire poverty but there is still a big need for improvements of their quality of life.

Could you explain what the baseline assessment comprises of?

The original version consists of 50 indicators relating to health, infrastructure, services, income and a number of other categories. People do a self-assessment as to whether their situation matches the scenario for Red (dire poverty) Orange (poor) and Green (out of poverty). You can check out more at www.povertystoplight.org.za.

Is this purely for research purposes? What will come of the results?

We are using it as a tool to understand the real impact that our work is having on the tradesmen as well as to see what are some other areas where we can provide support. There is a baseline assessment done now and then a follow up assessment in a year from now.

Web Application

When is this scheduled to go live?

We plan to launch in early February. The web app will be mobile-friendly too.

What are the key functionalities? 

1. Log a Job; 2. Receive Quotes; 3. Track Progress and 4. Receive Invoices. 5. Provide Feedback. We have also developed an algorithm that matches clients to the most suitable tradesman for the job.

Nedbank

Can you elaborate on this partnership? How did it come about?

We approached them in 2016 and have been engaging with them ever since. Towards the end of 2017 they generously offered to fund the training of 50 new tradesmen in Cape Town and 50 tradesmen up in Gauteng, as part of their enterprise development spend. We are extremely grateful for this partnership. It’s a very exciting time!

How will the 50 tradesmen be selected?

We are using our usual vetting process, checking that the tradesmen are reliable, do quality work and are excited and committed to improving their business.

Gauteng Office

When are you launching?

We are aiming to launch in Gauteng towards the end of 2018, somewhere in the north of Johannesburg like Fourways or Bryanston.

Why Gauteng?

There is a huge social need and a great business opportunity. Thousands of tradesmen need more business and the skills to become successful entrepreneurs. There is also a great deal of property development under way which presents us with a compelling commercial opportunity.

How will you ensure quality and consistency through the expansion process?

We are very focused on using the first 6-9 months of 2018 to develop strong business systems that can easily be duplicated to get consistency across Cape Town and Gauteng. Our app will also play a big role in ensuring that we deliver a great customer experience on each job. Lastly, we will be launching the Gauteng branch with a further 50 Nedbank-funded tradesmen who have all met our strict quality control standards.

Book a Fix Forward Tradesman

 

Fix Forward is set to launch in Gauteng in Q4 of 2018.

Fix Forward Takes on Large Projects – Part 1

CAPE TOWN – After years successfully refining our tradesman development programme and platform, Fix Forward is proud to announce that we are now able to offer on-site project management services for large projects. With professional project manager Armien Harris at the helm, Fix Forward’s new service aims to help clients minimise risk and ensure that projects are completed on time and in budget. Armien is also able to give advice to the clients and builders, given his extensive building project management experience.

We sat down with Fix Forward’s Joshua Cox and Armien Harris to find out more about this new service.

 

Joshua Cox, Fix Forward Founder

How did this new change in direction come about?

In talking to our customers we discovered that most people wanting to do renovations have little experience in managing building contractors. If you cannot afford the high fees of a full-time project manager, this can make for a pretty stressful experience! One of the main reasons that people choose to use Fix Forward is because they trust that we will send them a reliable tradesmen who will deliver a great service. Our guarantee on the workmanship gives people real peace of mind. We rarely need to visit clients on site as our tradesmen are on top of things. With bigger projects where other contractors are often involved it does take some extra effort (and expertise!) to ensure that things go smoothly. We can now provide this support to people who cannot afford a project manager.

On what sort of projects will FF be able to offer this service?

We will offer this service, at no additional cost, on all building projects over R30 000.

How will the service work?

Armien, our Performance Manager superstar will visit the site during the quoting stage, where he will be able to give both the client and the builder advice as necessary. Once the quote has been accepted he will meet with the tradesman and client on-site to ensure there is a good project plan in place that is realistic. He will then be on-site to check on the progress once every two weeks, with a telephonic check-in every other week. If there are issues that come up he will be on-site weekly, sometimes even more frequently, to ensure things get back on track.

 

Armien Harris, Performance Manager

How will this impact Fix Forward’s builders? 

The builders will benefit from the on-site support given by Armien, learning from his experience and sharpening their own project management skills. This aligns perfectly with our mission to help our tradesmen and builders realise their full potential.

Operations Coordinator Armien Harris is responsible for both recruiting tradesmen and mentoring the tradesmen while he oversees the delivering of our e-Learning programme and coaching. In this way, Armien uses his extensive experience to both directly and pass on best practice values in the construction industry. For more on Armien, check out our blog on our E-Learning Program.

What are your goals for this division?

In terms of the builders, our goal here is to bring in larger contracts for them to increase their revenue and help grow their businesses. For the customers the bigger projects carry the highest risks both in terms of stress and financial burden in the event that projects run long and builders disappear before completion. Our goal here it to make the building experience a pleasure for people. Building or improving your home should be more exciting than it is stressful. Our aim is to create that experience for our customers.

Keep an eye out for our next blog Fix Forward Takes on Large Projects – Part 2′ where we’ll chat to a recent client who was one of the first to benefit from the new service.

Book a Fix Forward Tradesman

Fix Forward’s E-Learning Program: Part 2

CAPE TOWN – Following on from Fix Forward’s E-Learning Program: Part 1, in this final post of the mini-series we meet Anack Amini and John Hopley, two tradesmen who have recently completed their e-learning modules and workshops, and chat to them about their experience of the learning material and Fix Forward in general.

Profile #1: Anack Amini (Builder)

FF: How long have you been with Fix Forward?

I’ve been with Fix Forward for one year now. It started out as just me and an apprentice in a broken down bakkie. Now I employ six people and have two company vehicles!

FF: How have the e-learning materials benefitted you?

The courses really helped me to handle my projects and day-to-day business better. I’ve also improved my planning and the way I deal with clients now.

FF: What has been the most valuable thing you learnt?

Learning about project management; the break down and guidelines provided were very useful and still are today!

FF: Has Fix Forward made a difference when it comes to gaining new and returning clients?

Yes! Since joining I have had a lot more of my quotes approved. For example, I recently landed a very large tender in Constantia so I am very happy about my journey here.

 

Fix Forward success story, Anack Amini

Profile #2: John Hopley (Plumber)

John, an experienced plumber from Athlone, joined us a year ago after being referred from a friend.

FF: What did you find most valuable about the e-learning material?

I learnt how to deal with people and how to have the right approach when things don’t go my way. Furthermore, learning about negotiation has helped me get a lot more of my quotes accepted.

FF: What was the most challenging part of the course for you?

I took a bit of time learning about technology and how to use computers, but now I can confidently say things are running smoothly and you can indeed teach an old dog new tricks!

FF: What are your future goals?

I’d like to give back to my community. There’s a lot of uneducated guys from the streets that have skill and talent but no opportunity. I would really like to develop them.

I currently employ one person full time and it is my purpose to grow that. I know where these guys have been because I was there too and I am so lucky to be given another chance, so I’d like to do the same for them.

 

John outside Fix Forward HQ

Book a Fix Forward Tradesman

 

Fix Forward’s E-Learning Program: Part 1

CAPE TOWN – In part one of two in a series focusing on Fix Forward’s entrepreneur development programme, we chat to our Operations Coordinator Armien Harris. A vital part of our business, Armien is responsible for recruiting tradesmen, providing on-site support to clients for larger construction projects, mentoring the tradesmen and overseeing the delivering of our e-Learning programme and coaching. In this post we focus on the latter and find out how Armien uses his extensive experience to pass on best practice values in the construction industry.

FF: Tell us a little about Fix Forward’s educational component?

Fix Forward is a registered enterprise development beneficiary that runs programs to develop grassroots entrepreneurs from low-income areas. We offer mentoring, e-Learning, personal coaching, and workshop sessions all designed to develop our tradesmen’s skill in managing and growing a business.

Our partner tradesmen are all in the construction and renovations industry. When these entrepreneurs succeed, the benefits spread widely throughout their communities as they hire and train more local workers.

 

Armien Harris

FF: What is the duration of the electronic courses?

The e-learning courses can take anything from a week to a month to complete, depending on the tradesman’s commitment and schedule. The workshops – which run for about 10 months – are based on the curriculum in the e-learning courses so we encourage tradesmen to develop a study plan that best suits their schedule as early as possible. Although the courses and workshops are compulsory, there are a number of different course completion deadlines to allow for flexibility.

FF: What incentives do tradesmen have to complete the course? 

The courses and workshops are required in order for tradesmen to remain on our platform. We strongly believe in education and self-improvement and have developed our educational program on these principles. We are also duty bound to ensure our clients get the service and quality that we guarantee, so constant learning keeps all of our trade professionals at the top of their game!

The courses cover areas such as:

  • Managing Finances
  • Effective Marketing
  • Professional Quoting
  • Project Management
  • Tax and Compliance

Check out Fix Forward’s E-Learning Program Part 2  where we chat to two tradesmen about their experience of the e-learning program.

Book a Fix Forward Tradesman

No More Scary Renovation Stories

Gladman Maphuma, skilled building contractor

Gladman Maphuma, skilled building contractor on the Fix Forward team in Cape Town

Any wonder the building industry has such a shocking reputation: everyone these days seems to have a horror story about a renovation project or home build that has gone terribly wrong. If it wasn’t you personally, the chances are good that you have a friend or neighbour that has a tale to tell about the nightmare process that it was.

Fortunately, if you do your planning carefully – most importantly, what you need and what you can afford – and appoint a reliable and reputable building contractor, the process needn’t be the traumatic – and expensive – comedy of errors that so many people seem to expect and, unfortunately, experience.

No matter what your building project, additions, renovations or a complete new home, the choice of building contractor is without a doubt the single most important factor in the various choices you need to make during the project period. You might have appointed the best architect, have a huge budget for top quality finishes and materials but this cannot in any way compensate for shaky workmanship and structural unsoundness.

A good building contractor values his reputation and will put in extra effort to satisfy his client in every way, but, remember choosing the right building contractor would in most cases not be choosing the least expensive one. Even the most skilled builder cannot do a good job for less than its true price.

Fix Forward’s strict selection process ensures that only the best of the best tradesmen and building contractors are invited onto our programme. Things that we check include how long they have been in the industry, whether they have an extensive and reliable network of material suppliers and sub-contractors and we fully investigate their track record, including doing site assessments and getting references from previous clients.

Getting Quotations

Ask to be provided with a detailed cost estimate and in the event that this cannot be provided consider getting quotes from other contractors who would be willing to provide you with a detailed layout. Not knowing what you are quoted on specifically is the quickest way of getting into a dispute with your builder. If you get tenders from more than one contractor, keep in mind that in most cases the cheapest one is not necessarily the best so be sure about the contractor before signing anything.

The Building Contract

Never start any building work without a written and signed contract in place between you, the employer and the contractor (in our case, the quote and contract will be between yourself and Fix Forward, as our head office handles the process). A written quotation and signed acceptance of the agreed price with protect both parties in the event of a dispute or in arbitration.

The contract should be very comprehensive without any loop holes and should be drawn up by a professional or an accepted pre-written contract. Clearly specify all work to be done on paper or plans, and clearly state project start and completion dates. Ensure a fixed price for all work to be done, and make provision for recourse against builder defaults. It is customary to include an agreement for delays and penalties, to clearly specify special items or appliances to be installed, and to make provision for disputes that might arise and that cost is for both parties in the event of arbitration.  It is also important to agree as to how the site will be arranged in terms of storage, water & electricity supply and ablutions for the workers.

Payment

Payment for large jobs is usually divided in increments of project stages completed or specialist items completed by sub-contractors where the main contractor will invoice for these items separately. Be wary of a builder who asks for large deposits before any work is carries out. Too many owner home builders have lost money with financially unsound contractors.

Your home is one of the most valuable financial assets, so you should never compromise on the quality of your home or the person you are entrusting with building it. You can rest assured that Fix Forward has done the necessary background checks to ensure that any of the tradesmen on our books are the cream of the crop, with professionalism guaranteed.

Remember that we are currently recruiting for skilled building contractors in both Johannesburg and Cape Town. We are extremely strict in terms of who we take on to our training and development programme as we only work with the best, so please read through our selection criteria on our website and refer someone if you feel they are a good match.

Source: Spancon, South Africa’s most efficient concrete slab supplier and erector.

Josh Cox: On Becoming a Social Entrepreneur

Here Josh Cox, founding director of FIX FORWARD, describes his life trajectory exploring three situations, challenges and personal and/or professional achievements that he feels have contributed to him being who and where he is today, and to enabling him to develop the concept for FIX FORWARD.

“I was one of the few white people privileged to go to a mixed race school in the 80’s and early 90’s, a situation that gave me at least some insight into the social injustices of Apartheid, as young as I was. Growing up I was also well aware of the environmental destruction taking place around the globe. By the time I turned 18 I was completely disillusioned with the world and in all my naiveté I felt very strongly that the most honourable thing to do was to “check out” of this failed society, to go into the wilderness and simply “live off the land”.

At around this time I had a conversation with my parents, explaining my views and my plan. My father’s response to me was, “But don’t you want to make a contribution?” I didn’t need days, or hours or even minutes to ponder that question. In that very instant my view of what I wanted to do with my life changed completely. Ever since that moment my life and my career have been focused on searching for opportunities to make a contribution to improving this country and indeed the world.

The greatest contribution I feel I can make is by creating and implementing a whole new idea for social development that wouldn’t exist otherwise. This is what has motivated in the years it has taken to make this idea a reality.

Growing up I also struggled to identify with my white, European ancestry, a culture responsible for most of the environmental destruction and social injustice, at least in South Africa. Put plainly I hated the fact that I was of white, European stock and was deeply ashamed of my culture, if one can call it that. I have come to terms with this, but a remnant of this view is that I’m continually looking to connect with people of races and cultures other than my own.