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.

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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.

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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.

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Catching Up With Kingstone – Fix Forward’s Longest Partnering Tradesman 

CAPE TOWN – As Fix Forward continues to grow and expand, the relationships we have with our tradesmen become ever more important. We pride ourselves on delivering a quality service, as well as encouraging entrepreneurship, and we could not do that without our network of highly skilled tradesmen who have embarked on this journey with us. There from the very beginning, Kingstone Katuruza was our very first tradesman back in 2010 and has been with us ever since. We caught up with him to chat about his time with Fix Forward so far…

1) Tell us about yourself and how the journey at Fix Forward started?

Originally from Zimbabwe, I am 42 and proud to call myself a business owner that specializes in the painting industry. I found my passion in 1994 back when I was working for construction companies in my homeland. Although I grew in the field, I felt that I was being taken advantage of and not getting my fair rate. I came alone to South Africa seeking better opportunities for my family and of course to learn about how things worked over here.

I met Josh through one of the elders at my church that I had done a painting job for. At the time, I was standing at traffic lights with my roller and flyers ready, trying to meet new clients. Josh took me onboard and I started with the Fix Forward training courses shortly after. The team at Fix Forward acted as my mentors for more than a year – I gained so much confidence and skills in that time.  Although I was always confident in my ability as a painter, the mentoring really developed my skills in other departments such as managing my admin, quoting and how to keep your clients happy in order to get referrals in return.

2) As Fix Forward’s longest serving tradesmen, how has your life changed since you joined the team?

My business officially kicked off in 2012 and at the time I was only getting clients in Somerset West. After getting the exposure through the Fix Forward website, I started getting jobs all over Cape Town! I was quite reliant on Fix Forward in the beginning with helping out but now I have the confidence and ability to gain new clients on my own.

Personally, Fix Forward has enabled me to bring my family over and now my daughters attend school here while my wife has also found a job. I couldn’t be happier!

 

Fix Forward’s longest serving tradesmen, Kingstone Katuruza

3) What has been the most challenging thing for you on this journey? 

Finding the bridge between me and the client was very tough, especially if you’re new to a country. Fix Forward really assisted with filling that gap and understanding cultural differences.

Now that I’ve built up that aspect of my professional service, I’d just like to get to a point where I am more recognized in the industry for taking on bigger contracts.  This will allow me to employ more people full-time and reach new heights with my business.

4) When you meet new Tradesmen who have just joined Fix Forward, what advice do you give? 

I try and live by three simple maxims, which I am always happy to pass on. 1) Keep It honest; 2) Have your agreements in place; and 3) Knowledge is power!

5) Where did you see yourself before joining Fix Forward? 

I wanted to be a mechanic to be honest, but I saw opportunities with painting and it turns out I really enjoyed it too.

6) What are your future plans? Where do you see yourself personally and professionally in a few years time?

I’d like to start an empire! I want to own a few more family businesses after I reach optimal success with my painting business and Fix Forward. My wife is in the sewing and embroidery industry and we’re already investing in machinery.

But my biggest future plan is to return to my country and start initiatives to help my people such as widows and orphans – I’ll get there one day, I know it.

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10 Questions for Fix Forward Founder – Joshua Cox

CAPE TOWN – With the first half 2017 already behind us, Fix Forward saw tremendous growth and development both in the company and its tradesmen. As the business continues to go from strength to strength, we thought it was the perfect time to sit down with our founder, Joshua Cox, to gain a little more insight into how Fix Forward came about and where he envisions it going.

1) What inspired you to start Fix Forward?  

Back in 2008, when I was living in Johannesburg and working for a non-profit, I became good friends with a tradesman named Simon from Diepsloot. Simon had done some work for me previously and he approached me to write him a reference letter to secure more business. With a bit more credibility I saw his business grow and really get somewhere, and so was inspired to start Fix Forward, initially just as a side project.

Creating opportunities for people to improve their lives, particularly people from low-income communities, has always been a passion and a drive of for me.

2) Getting started, what was most challenging for you? 

In the early days, trying to get Fix Forward going whilst fully employed elsewhere, it sometimes felt like we were making such slow progress, and that was definitely demotivating. Fortunately I had some fantastic people around me, helping with Fix Forward. They really worked hard to move the business forward and keep me motivated. They continue to serve Fix Forward as trustees.

3) What are the key indicators by which you measure your impact? 

Good question! I think the primary measure of our impact is always going to be seeing tradesmen progress and improve in both their personal and professional lives. Secondly, we need to ensure that Fix Forward remains viable as a company. We do this by setting ambitious goals and keeping a tight focus on delivering the best service we can to our customers.

4) Do you have any organisations or Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO’s) whom you consider as role models or benchmarks? 

Yes, I have always been inspired by the work The Clothing Bank does, empowering young mothers from the townships to start businesses. Similarly to us, they focus on developing the person as a whole, not just providing them with business skills. They have been hugely successful, reaching women in communities across the country.

5) Where do you see Fix Forward going from here? 

We are constantly developing our business model and adapting to ever-changing dynamics. Our next major step is making the move up to Gauteng and ensuring that our quality levels and professionalism in that new space remain consistent with our operations in Cape Town.

 

Fix Forward Founder, Joshua Cox.

6) Does Fix Forward undertake any fundraising? 

We are very fortunate to have many great supporters on board, including Investec, Builders Warehouse, E-Squared, Apex Hi Trust, the DG Murray Trust, the IDC, DHK Architects and others. These organisations and foundations have been critical in getting things going. We are about 40% self-funded at this stage, with plans to be self-funding in the next 18 months.

7) With such a brilliant business model, has Fix Forward been officially recognised with any achievements or rewards? 

We have. I am very proud to say that in 2015, I won the Under 35 Maverick award for Social Innovation and Job Creation. And, in 2016, Fix Forward was a finalist in the Cape Talk Small Business Awards and I was nominated as one of the 100 Young Independents of South Africa by Independent Media.

8) What does success look like for Fix Forward? 

I would consider Fix Forward successful once we have managed to expand nationally and are recognized as leaders in the industry with a reputation for delivering exceptional service to our clients. As a result, we would see our tradesmen’s business doing well and their lives improving through support provided by Fix Forward.

9) What differentiates Fix Forward from similar initiatives? 

Fix Forward is different to regular companies in that we are driven primarily by our social mission rather than a profit motive. We are different to other non-profits in that we have a strong commercial model  which helps us move away from being overly reliant on donors; this creates potential to scale up both our impact and our business.

10) What are the characteristics required to ensure tradesmen are successful after joining Fix Forward?  

Our most successful tradesmen all have the following traits – confidence and pride in their work, and a hunger to grow both professionally and personally in order to better improve their lives.

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Herbert Makamba’s Painting Hits New Heights

CAPE TOWN – One of Fix Forward’s most highly-rated tradesmen, painter Herbert Makamba recently wrapped up work for yet another satisfied client in the Cape Town CBD. We sat down with him recently to find out what’s been happening since we last spoke and to chat about his thriving painting business.

With over 17 years of industry experience, Herbert is our go-to guy for jobs that require a delicate touch. Fix Forward recently received a quote request to have a ceiling skimmed and repainted, from a client residing in an up market apartment in Cape Town CBD, and there was only one man for the job.

 

Herbert Makamba

When we arrived to meet Herbert on-site he greeted us with pride and welcomed us into his “workspace”. At first glance the ceiling looked pristine, with immaculate lines and a smooth finish. Herbert was still busy with some touch ups along one of the walls, where he had gone the extra mile by re-mounting the TV stand and re-laying the cables when he was done. We pride ourselves on the fact that our tradesmen always go out of their way to ensure client satisfaction!

Before answering a few of our questions, Herbert walked us through the job process and identified the areas he considers when preparing for a new job:

“First I need to carry out an inspection and some research before deciding on the paint selection with the client. After that comes the preparation where we sand, fill any holes and skim uneven surfaces. When the surface is prepared, it’ll need a few coats of primer with plenty of drying time. Then it’s case of applying a few coats of paint and touching up any missed spots.

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Fix Forward: Was there anything that went wrong on this job?

Herbert: “There are always some small bumps on any job of course; this time around I should have been surer about the paint I selected for the touch ups. One of the walls was just a slight bit darker (which I only noticed after application). I let the client know of my mistake but it turns out that he wasn’t aware of it either, the light in the apartment is quite deceiving or maybe it was part of the interior design – I will never stop learning new things.”

Fix Forward: What do you think sets you apart from other painters?

Herbert: “I keep my work spaces tidy, clean and very organised – I think the clients can appreciate that I handle their homes and businesses with extreme caution, and I am pretty good at communicating too. The faster you attend to queries the more profitable your business!

 

A proud Herbert finishes up on site.

Fix Forward: What’s the largest contract you got through Fix Forward?

Herbert: “It was awhile back, on Fish Hoek Main Road. The job required an extra 8 guys (apart from the 3 I permanently employ) and it took 5 weeks to complete, but now I know I can do any job – no matter the challenge.”

A big thank you to Herbert Makamba for agreeing to chat to us and for the excellent work he and his team are doing!

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Shepherd Mtyatya & The Fix Forward Model

As Fix Forward continues to grow and empower entrepreneurs in the construction industry, we often stop to reflect on our past to critically examine how our model is impacting the lives and businesses of the tradesmen and women in our programme. We recently caught up with Shepherd Mtyatya –  a builder and painter who joined us in 2014 – to chat about the progress made since first we met.

A consummate professional, Shepherd was previously the head of maintenance at the prestigious One&Only Hotel – a five star hotel and resort located in the centre of Cape Town’s hottest tourism commodity, the V&A Waterfront. Although the challenge and experience of working at such a world class facility was invaluable, Shepherd got the ‘entrepreneurial itch’ and decided to branch out on his own. Shortly after establishing his own Construction and Painting business, Shepherd heard of Fix Forward through his network and immediately reached out to us…

After acceptance into the Fix Forward development programme, Shepherd eagerly began participating in our business development and skill training workshops. Due to our holistic approach, his business acumen rapidly developed alongside his chosen trade skills. Fix Forward helped Shepherd to become better organised, especially with the administrative side of things with which he was not as familiar, and this enabled him to develop his business to where it is today. Based in Phillipi, Shepherd hopes to continue to grow both his skillset and his business to the extent that, in five years, he is able to employ even more staff and tackle even bigger projects.

 

shepherd Mtyatya office

A smiling Shepherd Mtyatya shares a joke with an employee at his office

Shepherd’s favourite project with Fix Forward was the renovation of over 10 schools for a local NGO. Involved from the outset, Shepherd saw the project go from a paper dream to actual brick and mortar structures that help make Early Childhood Development nurseries a lot more habitable.  Other than these projects, Shepherd and his team predominantly work on the construction and renovation of private homes.

Shepherd’s partnership with Fix Forward allows him to subcontract other tradesmen for many of his projects, thus creating a network which results in growth for all affiliated. Our comprehensive vetting procedure bridges the trust gap between the client and tradesmen by ensuring all tradesmen on the site are reputable and come complete with solid references. As a result of this, Shepherd says that when Fix Forward organises a quote for a client he knows that he’ll get the job 80% of the time. It is for this reason that he has no hesitation in recommending us to others in his extensive network. Keep up the good work Shepherd!

Want to refer a tradesmen or get a quote for a project? Please Contact Us.

 

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.