Builders Blog

Why our inspections benefit our members

03 January 2017 11:21

Since 2011 all new members joining the FMB have undergone an independent inspection of their work as part of the application process. What’s more, from the start of this year, the FMB took the decision to roll-out inspections to all members, however long they have been with us. Why? Because we want the FMB name to be synonymous with quality. The more membership is valued in the eyes of the consumer, the more work FMB members will get.

Inspections are carried out by the British Board of Agrément (BBA), the UK’s leading organisation when it comes to testing, inspecting and certification services for manufacturers and installers. Using independent inspectors puts credibility at the heart of our membership criteria. Our own research shows that fears over cowboy builders are preventing thousands of consumers from having work done in the first place – to the tune of £6 billion a year. That’s £6 billion of work that is lost because home owners feel unable to trust tradespeople to do a good job.

We want to be able to shout about how great our members are and the best way to do that is via independent inspections. By inspecting all firms, we can loudly proclaim that the FMB badge actually means something. We are the only building trade organisation to inspect all of its members and we’re constantly championing this so that would-be home improvers and custom builders know where to go for quality, trustworthy workmanship.

And that’s a message we’re getting out there all the time. In the last year the FMB has increased its consumer marketing activity and with 2016 being our 75th anniversary, there’s plenty more on the cards. Being able to say that FMB members are independently inspected gives us a unique selling point that other organisations just don’t have. We’ve lasted that long because consumers trust us to operate to the highest standard and that’s a strength we’re looking to build on.

Top 5 tips for marketing your business

03 January 2017 11:08

For many small business owners, marketing can seem like just another thing to do on top of the day job. But while the idea of marketing and getting acquainted with social media can fill many companies with dread, it is vitally important to ensuring future business. Here are our top 5 tips for getting to grips with the basics of marketing:

1. Know your market. There’s no point in producing great flyers or adverts and putting them in the wrong place. Work out where you customers are likely to be and target them with flyers through their letter boxes or in local magazine and shop windows.

2. Make your website your shop window. If you’ve not already got a website what are you waiting for? It’s estimated that 90% of the UK population use the internet and it is often their first port of call when looking for a local tradesperson. Your website doesn’t need to be huge; a few pages showing off some of your recent work and explaining what you do is better than having no online presence at all.

3. Don’t be invisible. When you’re on the job make the most of free advertising opportunities by putting a board up outside the house or a banner on any scaffolding. Your van is one of your biggest advertising assets so make sure you get it professionally Written with your company name and contact numbers plus your website (and don’t forget the FMB logo if you’re a member!)

4. Create relationships. Word of mouth is one of the greatest marketing tools in the construction industry. If you do a good job for one person the chances are they will recommend you to friends, neighbours and family who are looking to get work done. Ask happy customers for testimonials and included them on leaflets and websites to spread the message far and wide.

5. Make the most of freebies! Social media accounts have the potential to reach hundreds of customers and they’re totally free to set up. Investing a small amount of time in creating a Facebook page and uploading images regularly will pay dividends in the future.

Create faster and more accurate quotes and estimates

23 June 2016 14:48

Our builders often find that they’re spending too much of their time trying to create accurate quotes for their customers. One of the primary reasons for this is that they’re trying to create estimates using their knowledge of previous jobs and putting this together on a notepad or an excel spreadsheet.

We asked Joanna Mulgrew, product director at HXBL Building Software, to look at ways our members can use IT and technology to streamline this process and produce more accurate quotes. 

Joanna said “The reason some builders take so long over their quotes is they still produce them based on their past experience and basic pen and paper methods. Even those who have taken the right steps towards technology have struggled to make it work for them.

On top of this research has shown that 88 percent of spreadsheets are known to contain errors, so this highlights the need for builders to up their game to make sure the prices they quote are a true reflection of how much a project will actually cost.  If not, many will not only spend too long putting together their quotes but also find their profit margins are continually squeezed, resulting in some making a loss on jobs they were hoping would give them a clear margin.

Those who insist on 'guesstimating' or using a pen and paper method to produce quotes will get left behind as their competitors adapt to new technologies. The recession became a real leveller for the build sector. With money so tight, those who were able to demonstrate to clients where the money was being spent were the ones to pull through and are now reaping the rewards. There is no need to be a busy fool and the sooner builders realise this, the better for their own business and their customers.”

Customer Dan Bull of Bull and Son Ltd Building Contractors agrees.

”We used to do our estimating the old fashion way using just pen and paper but soon found that HBXL’s EstimatorXpress was not only much faster but much more detailed in the final quote. We did consider using a quantity surveyor for a time but they can be costly and we are not always certain exactly where they pull their prices from! With EstimatorXpress we have more control to tailor our material costs as well as adjust our overhead to meet our business needs. The software takes a lot of the guess work out of estimating and ensures that we have a better chance to win work and turn over a profit. We don’t regret changing over to the HBXL software and would recommend others do the same.”

Research carried out by HBXL backs up the claim that by using EstimatorXpress not only speeds up significantly the time it takes to produce estimates but improves the win ratio and accuracy of the quotes.

With EstimatorXpress builders cut the time spent estimating by 39 percent, equating to a staggering 32 days a year!

Nearly 75 percent of EstimatorXpress users also reported an increase in profits once they had started using the software, the main reasons given being the accuracy of the estimate, plus the level of detail and professionalism of the reports.

And when asked if they would recommend using EstimatorXpress, a resounding 94% said that they would.

ROI Calculator proves value of software

For those still unsure on whether investing in HBXL’s EstimatorXpress will provide a decent return on investment (ROI), boss Adrain Wild has devised a handy online ROI calculator.

Taking seconds to fill in, it highlights the value of the time builders spend putting together their estimates. It quickly becomes apparent that by using software to assist with the estimates will soon save builders thousands of pounds.

For further information please visit or to work out the ROI please visit

Putting the customer first

08 April 2016 10:09

Good customer service is key to success for many small businesses especially those whose main source of business is recommendations. We've all experienced good customer service but the chances are it's the bad experiences you'll remember. Recent research shows that UK consumers are three times more likely to tell friends and family about a bad experience than a good one, so making your mark for the right reasons is vital to winning more work through word of mouth.

Here are our top 3 tips to delivering memorable customer service for all the right reasons.

1. First impressions count. Before you've even met your potential customer, they will have made a few assumptions about you based on the way you, or your voicemail, answer the phone. It's not always practical to pick up especially if you're up a ladder or demolishing a kitchen so more often than not your voicemail message will form the first impression. It sounds simple but make sure your voicemail is professional and states your name and your company name so they can be sure they have the right person. Let them know when you expect to return their call (eg. We'll get back to you within 24 hours) and don't forget to change your message if you go away on holiday. If you are able to pick up, again start with your company name so they know they have the correct person and keep your tone friendly but professional. For most people having building work done is not an everyday occurrence so putting them at ease will help.

2. Don't be judged by your cover. You've heard the phrase never judge a book by its cover but it's so easy to do. When you go out to quote for a job make sure you're well-presented and displaying your company logo proudly on your polo or jacket. Customers expect to see a bit of dirt on your boots but don't turn up caked in plaster and always offer to take your shoes off or wear cover shoes to protect carpets. If you're a member of a trade association such as the FMB make sure to display their logo too to show you've met the standards to be called a Master Builder.

3. Communication is key. Relationships often break down due to poor communication. Make sure you give your client regular updates of what you expect to achieve and if you do get called away to an urgent job elsewhere let them know when you expect to be back on site - there's nothing more worrying to a customer than a builder digging foundations then disappearing without trace for 3 days! Unexpected problems and delays can have the potential to derail a good working relationship so make sure you let your customer know of any issues or problems you encounter straight away. Explain to them what impact it will have on both timescale and budget and offer them a solution to the problem. If any changes are made once work commences put it in writing along with additional costs then of a dispute does arise further down the line you both know where you stand



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