Fix Forward Profile: Jenna Ohlson

Cape Town – In the latest of our entrepreneur profiles, Fix Forward is proud to introduce Jenna Ohlson – one of the first woman to join our ever-growing team of skilled trade professionals. Jenna took time out of her very busy schedule to answer a few of our questions about joining the team, breaking through in a male dominated industry and what she does to unwind, amongst other things.

Fix Forward (FF): Thanks for taking the time to chat to us Jenna! Could you tell us a bit more about your where you’re from and your background in the plumbing profession?

Owning my own plumbing company has been my dream since the age of 14 when I would accompany my dad’s plumbers to jobs and soon developed a passion for plumbing myself.  Growing up with a father who has been self-employed all his life since qualifying as a plumber 60 years ago , this was the way of life.

My dream became more realistic after I had completed my studies as a Plumber in 2012 and went on to study Business management in 2013 and 2014 ,while working for a Construction company as a Junior Quantity Surveyor. The knowledge, determination, guidance and amazing relationship that stemmed from this experience impacted my life forever.

One day I decided that I had to move on to the next level of my life – I was working for the sake of working and had no passion for what I did; I knew I was destined to be my own boss, to live my passion and use what I had studied hard for to my own advantage. So one day in 2016, I resigned and enrolled at the Centre For Entrepreneurship’s Business Management course and the next chapter of my life began!

While getting JIG Plumbing off the ground I worked at a Construction company from 2016 to 2017 gaining knowledge in working with and prioritising the different trades required to renovate and repair fire damaged homes and insurance claims. During this time I also completed a solar installation plumbing course funded by the Institute of Plumbing South Africa.

After being nominated as a De Beers initiative beneficiary in 2017, I was able to buy the vehicle, material and equipment I needed for my business to really take off!

FF: How did you come to join Fix Forward?

A friend at the Centre for Entrepreneurship suggested I contact Fix Forward and explained that they were looking to help create exposure for small businesses such as my own.

 

Fix Forward’s Jenna Ohlson on a recent project

FF: Congratulations on being one of Fix Forward’s first woman trade professionals! Have you faced any challenges climbing the ranks in a traditionally male-dominated industry? 

Thank you! I am both honoured and humbled to be one of Fix Forward’s first females on board. I find that people are always surprised when they come to learn I am a plumber or they may underestimate my abilities – which is frustrating to say the least. However, in the construction industry, work is scarce and opportunities are few, so you need to be resilient.

Being a female business owner in this industry you need to be extra tough – physically, mentally and emotionally. My goal is to be the best at what I do and to prove to people that a female can do the job even better!

FF: What are your areas of expertise?

Plumbing, Solar Installations, Quantity Surveying and Project Management. I have extensive experience ensuring a project sticks within budget, is on time and adheres to the client’s specifications. Besides plumbing being my passion, I have a love for construction as a whole. Project Management and Quantity Surveying go hand-in-hand when running your own company so I hope to soon further my studies in Construction Supervision.

 

Ever the professional – welcome to the team Jenna!

FF: How do you unwind outside of work? What are you passionate about?

Now that I am living my dream, I relax by walking alone on the beach to admire the outdoors or taking my dogs for long walks in the forest. Weekends are all about family time and I love getting out and about with my daughter and husband.

FF: What are your goals professionally and how do you see those being achieved with Fix Forward? 

My goal is to have two teams of reliable and professional plumbers and an administrative assistant working for me full time within the next two years. After that, I’ll able to focus more on the business aspects and growing the company to provide opportunity to more plumbers. I am hoping that through Fix Forward I will receive a steady flow of work to accelerate my vision and help me become a better entrepreneur holistically so that I may reach my full potential.

Do you have more questions about your upcoming project? Contact Us and we’ll be sure to point you in the right direction!

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Questions to Ask Your Builder Before Starting Your Project

CAPE TOWN – With a lot of people planning construction or renovations for the second half of the year, we often get asked a few fundamental questions from clients who might not have had much previous experience in undertaking major construction work. With that in mind, we asked Fix Froward founder, Joshua Cox, to give us some insight into valuable questions you should ask your tradesmen before signing on the dotted line.

CONTRACT

The contract between your contractor and you should be fair, clear and reasonable. Make sure to carefully read the terms in order to ensure that they represent what both parties agreed to. The contract should include several components which will be further detailed below.

Key Question: What is included and what isn’t?

Most important is to check that the contract clearly outlines the description of what will be done, with a detailed costings per stage. It’s critical that you check which of the materials and/or fittings will be supplied by the builder, and which you will be supplying. For fittings in particular (e.g. basin, shower screen, etc), if it is not noted on the quote who will supply it then it’s difficult to make an argument for the builder supplying it, even if it has been agreed to verbally.

WORK BREAKDOWN SCHEDULE (WBS)

This is a step-by-step breakdown of works to be conducted by the contractor by breaking them down into detailed components. These smaller, more manageable components are categorised by size, duration and responsibility.

Key Question: What we do if there are changes or additions we want to make along the way?

We recommend that any changes are captured in writing, signed by both parties with a clear description of the changes and the associated costs. The best way to record this is in a ‘site instruction book’. Ask that builder has one of these onsite at all times to record any changes.

 

With Fix Forward, it’ll be ‘Job Done’.

PROJECT TIMELINE

A project timeline plots the scope of works against the time it takes to complete it. Put differently, it determines the order of works as well as the beginning and end date of each phase. This enables the contractor to determine a project commencement and completion date, which must both be clearly stated in the contract.

Key Question: What are the timelines for each stage and have you factored in some time for weather and other delays?

On this end, we recommend that your builder maintain a daily site activity log that accounts for the work done each day. This can be signed by both parties to remove any room for error.

SUPERVISION

With so much that could potentially go awry on a building site, it’s vital that your tradesmen is on-hand to supervise the project and ensure compliance. We recommend that you ask the builder to be on-site at least once daily, to monitor progress, discuss plans for the next day and note any changes or additions.

Key Question: If the main tradesmen is not on site, ask who would be the person that you should speak to to ensure continuity.

PAYMENT SCHEDULE

As the name implies, this part of the contract specifies when payment to the tradesmen is due. This will vary depending on the project size; smaller jobs require 50% upfront and 50% on completion, whereas bigger projects are paid on a phase-by-phase basis.

Key Question: Are there any hidden costs?

On larger projects, there may be a need for additional certification in the form of certificates of compliance (CoC’s) for specific tradesmen such as plumbers or electricians. Be sure to communicate with your tradesmen whether the costs for these certificates are included or not so that there are no surprises down the road.

Do you have more questions about your upcoming project? Contact Us and we’ll be sure to point you in the right direction!

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Fix Forward Tradesman Profile: Kevin Fortune

CAPE TOWN –  At Fix Forward, the main driving force behind everything we do is empowering entrepreneurs so that they in turn empower both themselves and their communities.  With most of our tradesmen originating from communities that have experienced a great deal of hardship, we are especially proud of their journeys and the obstacles they have overcome to become successful businessmen. Kevin Fortune, the latest tradesman to join our team, is just such an example.

Kevin grew up in Grassy Park, but now  lives in Capricorn near Muizenberg – just a short distance from Fix Forward’s Cape Town office. A widower, Kevin delved deep into his work after the loss of his wife and is a self taught handyman with over 25 years experience. With a passion for building and renovation, Kevin’s positive attitude and strong will made him a perfect candidate for our entrepreneur development program. We recently caught up with Kevin to chat about his experiences since becoming part of our team and where he envisions himself in a few years.

FF: Tell us about the beginning of your journey into the craft of building?

Kevin Fortune (KF): I started off doing small projects and building work in Grassy Park where I come from originally. I did odd jobs within my surrounding community and I slowly gained traction with a reputation for quality work. From there on my area of work expanded and, through word of mouth and improving client relation skills, my freelance business was born.

FF: What are your areas of expertise?

KF: I have an array of skills. My mentor specialized in engineering and passed on a lot of amazing knowledge that helped me to get an excellent grounding in all aspects of building. Although I am proficient in all building and handyman maintenance work, I have developed a speciality in swimming pools and am able to build, maintain and repair swimming pools from start to finish.

FF: What are your passions outside of work?

KF: I like to view life with a ‘glass half full’ attitude. My wife passed away a few years ago but I have three beautiful children; my youngest daughter is heading to high school next year so I spend whatever leisure time I get with my family. I’m a reborn Christian so my Sundays are sacred and a special time for me and my family – the privilege of now living close to the sea also allows us those long walks on the beach!

 

Kevin Fortune outside Fix Forward HQ

FF: How has joining the Fix Forward team helped you on your journey as a builder?

KF: They’ve brought something completely new to the table for me – Fix Forward has  helped make my goals visible and provided me with a new perspective. Fix Forward gave me the necessary tools and structure that helps me manage my time better and, in essence, allows more time for me to enjoy life and what I do without wondering what is coming next. Fix Forward has taught me to put even more emphasis on the client, and that communication is key between all three parties. It’s such a blessing to know you have someone behind you that supports you when you confront problems and gives you guidance as to how to deal with anything that comes your way.

FF: A large part of Fix Forward’s focus has been Community Development. Are you active in your community? 

KF: Absolutely! We have community soccer and netball teams which I like to support where I can. I also have four gentlemen who I have taken in to teach my skillset which helps them achieve their goals like I am achieving mine. Whenever there are smaller jobs which I can’t attend to, I send one of my guys on my behalf and I’m always encouraging the clients to give me feedback as to their experiences with them. This helps them to gain more experience, and to exercise the skills I’ve taught them. I also strive to encourage an appreciation for my guys to see the clients for the value they are bringing by trusting us with their work.

FF: What are your goals for yourself with Fix Forward?

KF: After meeting with my Fix Forward coach, we identified a few areas that I would really like to develop further,  including bookkeeping and marketing myself. Sharpening my building skills with new techniques is also an ongoing process I’m very excited about. Time management is also a must so that I can prioritize my tasks and better manage mine and my staff’s days.

It’s amazing the new doors that are opened when a company puts its faith in you and allows you to grow personally, as well as together. I’m very optimistic about the future!

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Grace & Saskia Join The Fix Forward Team

CAPE TOWN – As we prepare for a big year, we are proud to present the two newest members of the Fix Forward team –  Grace de Jager (Operations Coordinator) and Saskia Schroder (Client Services). Having both recently graduated, Grace and Saskia impressed us with their passionate enthusiasm for fostering South African entrepreneurship.

We sat down with Grace and Saskia to chat about their new roles and aspirations.

1. How did you come to work at Fix Forward? What is your background?

Grace (G): Born and raised in Cape Town, I graduated from UCT as a social worker at the end of 2017. I have always had a heart for empowering others and seeing people reach their full potential. I believe that relationship is one of the keys to enabling others and seeing people flourish, as people journey together in life. After knowing Josh and hearing about the vision of Fix Forward, I was excited to get on board!

Saskia (S): I finished studying a BSc in Genetics and Biochemistry at the end of 2017 and wanted to start working straight away. I really wanted to learn administration skills and develop myself in a business role so when I received the application manifesto for Fix Forward from a friend, I was quick to apply.

2. What is your role in the team and what traits will help you succeed?

G: Formally I am the Operations Coordinator. My role is to give input to the operational side of Fix Forward, from streamlining systems to daily tasks. In addition to this and being a part-time professional photographer and videographer, I give insight into the marketing and creative component to Fix Forward. I will also be overseeing the recruitment and training processes. I think what will help me succeed is the fact that I have a diverse set of skills, and am therefore able to operate in a few capacities which is something I really enjoy doing.

S: I am the Client Services Officer. I love administration and am an organized perfectionist. Nothing satisfies me more than to do a job to the best of my ability and ensure that everyone is happy with the final product.

3. Had you heard of Fix Forward before working there?

G: Yes, I have known Josh for a few years from our church community and so had heard what Fix Forward were doing.

S: No, but that’s not surprising as my focus was pretty much always on my studies.

4. Has anyone you know used Fix Forward or been part of the program?

G: I know a few people who have used our services, but do not know anyone who has been in the programme.

S: Not yet!

 

Saskia (L) and Grace (R) outside Fix Forward HQ

5. Where do you see the company going in 2018?

G: I see big things for Fix Forward this year! Knowing that we are investing more of our finances and manpower to see the business grow, I believe that we have the potential expand to other parts of South Africa and begin to become a household name in the industry.

S: I see the company really growing with the launch of the new app and with the goal of launching in Johannesburg at the end of the year. There is so much room for this company to grow and there is such a need for this kind of work in South Africa. Everyone we speak to buys into the vision of Fix Forward.

6. If you had to describe Fix Forward in under 10 words, how would you?

G: Fix Forward makes any job a joy while empowering others.

S: A company with vision to see South African businesses thrive.

7. What inspires you most about South Africa / Cape Town?

G: I love the diversity of South Africa. I am inspired by this diversity and the vision to see the divide between different South Africans broken.

S: The hope people have for the future and the potential this country has for greatness.

8. Fun fact about yourself?

G: I’m addicted to coffee. Real coffee! Not the fake stuff.

S: My dream is to manage a wine farm.

Thanks for chatting to us Grace and Saskia – all the best for a busy and successful year ahead!

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Fix Forward’s Guide to Choosing a Builder

CAPE TOWN – Selecting a builder to build or renovate your home is undoubtedly one of the biggest decisions of the whole project. With so much at stake when it comes to choosing your contractor, we sat down with our Operations Coordinator Armien Harris – an expert with years of experience in managing high-end building projects – to chat about selecting the right person for your specific building requirements in our latest post.

1. Building Scope

Firstly, consider the scope of work and aim to get an experienced builder used to working on those type of projects. After years in the industry, contractors often begin to specialise in particular aspects of construction. Outline what the unique or challenging aspects are of your project and then focus your search on specialists in those areas.

 

Fix Forward Plumbing

Kitchen specialists install a new kitchen for a recent client

2. Only Use Trusted Tradesmen

In the building industry, referrals and references from previous clients or associates are invaluable. Some contractors are excellent salesmen who might sound accomplished, but a quick call to a previous client would soon reveal that their workmanship was poor or their attitude unprofessional. Be sure to obtain references from as many sources as possible and verify previous work quality.

Ask for information on the project that he is currently busy with. Visit the site and speak to the owner. If the builder is in financial difficulty on that project, then chances are that he needs your project to finance the completion of that one. Chat to us about builders you can trust!

Here are a few more handy points to consider:

 

  • Obtain Quotes from at least three builders
  • Make sure your builder is registered with the NHBRC and other professional associations. Please note though that NHBRC registered contractors are not always quality builders. If the builder is registered, you can also get a Bank Grading on them.
  • Check that your builder has a valid insurance policy in place to adequately cover the project and personal liability
  • Check the registration details of the electrical subcontractor and the plumbing subcontractor that your builder will be using with their respective associations. This is very important. Electricians who are not registered with the Electrical Contracting Board of S.A. are not permitted to sign an Electrical Compliance Certificate.
  • Be aware of items that have been deliberately excluded by the builder from his quote. You will have to install and pay for those items yourself. Check if that item is excluded from the other quotes as well so that a proper comparison can be made.
  • Avoid lump sum quotes. Having a breakdown of the various items gives you better control and a better basis for comparison.
  • Apart from the quote that your builder will give you, which you will be expected to sign, make sure that you have a valid building contract signed by your builder and yourself in place.
  • Make sure that you have a payment schedule worked out before you sign any contracts. You will be investing a lot of money in your building project. Consider contracting a Quantity Surveyor to cost and run bigger projects.

 

A few of Fix Forward’s finest!

Skip the hassle – use Fix Forward

With Fix Forward you can rest assured that all of our tradesmen are rigorously screened before acceptance. We contact up to three references, review multiple past projects and conduct a thorough round of interviews and assessments before any applicant is accepted.

Once part of the Fix Forward platform, all of our have full access to our e-learning training and workshop on how to further professionalise their businesses and deliver great service. Furthermore, all of our subcontractors are registered with the regulatory boards as required so all work exceeds SABS standards.

Lastly, in order to ensure customer satisfaction, all of our tradesmen are required to maintain a certain user rating based on our customer review system.

Once building is underway Fix Forward will visit larger projects, both during quoting and when the project is active, to provide clients with advice and ensure that builders keep on track with the work. This is especially valuable for people who haven’t yet had experience in overseeing building projects.

Skip the hassle and use Fix Forward for professional service that’s quality guaranteed!

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Fix Forward Client Profile – Erika Espach

In the latest installment of our Client Profile series, this month we spoke to Erika Espach – a Project Manager at an Engineering Firm in Cape Town who recently repainted her property with the help of Fix Forward tradesman Herbert Makamba.

Erika had originally tried another painting service but was unfortunately left unimpressed by their unprofessional attitude, so she decided to keep looking. Having found Fix Forward through a friend’s Facebook recommendation, Erika was intrigued as to how Fix Forward differs from other service providers. Her friend Johaan, who wrote the original Facebook post, has worked on numerous outreach programmes and therefore seemed like the perfect person to ask. After receiving assurances that our project is a worthwhile one, Erika decided to take the plunge and get in touch.

When we received Erika’s request for a painter, we sent one of our best, Herbert Makamba, to go and quote. Describing Herbert as efficient, punctual and polite, Erika was satisfied that he was the right man for the job, however she just wanted some clarity on our fee structure and how the system worked for tradesmen like Herbert.

 

Herbert Makamba hard at work.

We informed Erika that Fix Forward takes 15% of the total job value, added on as a mark-up on the tradesman’s price, so the tradesmen don’t lose out. This fee helps us cover our administration costs as well as some of the costs of providing our tradesmen with entrepreneur training. It also allows us to provide our unique tradesmen guarantee – something that gives clients like Erika real peace of mind.

Satisfied that the tradesmen entrepreneurs are not losing out in anyway – in fact, they stand only to benefit by joining our platform. Erika proceeded with Herbert for her painting requirements. Suffice to say, she was left a very satisfied customer indeed!

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Rigorous Selection Process

A room filled with skilled tradesmen from the townships around Cape Town. We handpick the very best of these artisans: individuals with initiative, integrity and drive, who communicate well, and already have experience in dealing with customers but are not able to market themselves sufficiently to secure ongoing work.

Exceptional Recognition For Cabinetmaker, Shamieg Rayban

When a client sends you an official letter as well as a R1,000 voucher for your own personal use as a token of thanks for a job well done, you know that you’ve completely surpassed their expectations.

Skilled cabinetmaker Shamieg Rayban recently completed a contract at Western Province Golf Union’s Royal Cape offices to the value of over R80,000. As we mentioned in a previous post, they were delighted, and so were we. Then Shamieg received the following letter as well as a voucher that he used to buy himself a tablet for his business, increasing his productivity and enabling him to communicate even more effectively with his clients.

By doing a contract to the best of his ability, pulling out all the stops to ensure that the customer was completely satisfied and offering the brilliant client service that has impressed us from the first day we met Shamieg, he has been handsomely rewarded, not just in terms of the actual gift and letter but by the acknowledgement of his calibre and professionalism.

To say that Shamieg is over the moon is an understatement. We are grateful for the opportunity to demonstrate what he, and our other skilled tradesmen of trust are capable of.

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.

Refer A Skilled Builder and Win!

 

We are calling on all of our supporters: Please help us in our search to find outstanding builders in your local community and stand to win 15% off the labour value the next contract you log with us!

Fix Forward is now offering general building services as well as painting, paving, tiling and carpentry. We have two outstanding building contractors on our books already but we need more.

To qualify for the discount:

1. Share this post with a friend who may know a good builder;

2. Comment below if you yourself have used someone that you think would meet our strict selection criteria, or

3. Refer them via our website at https://fixforward.com/more/refer-a-tradesman/ – make a note that it is is response to this post in order to stand in line for the discount.

Our biggest marketing tool is word of mouth so we are confident that with your help, we will find the right people to help bolster our offering whilst providing them with the tools they need to make their business a sustainable success. Thank you for the invaluable part that you play in our story.