A Helper On My Site

Colin Natwijuka | 15th July 2020

A Helper On My Site

A Helper On My Site

Colin Natwijuka | 15th July 2020


Saving money through working on your own site only happens in Africa.

I did what my workers were not expecting to see as they shared most experiences of construction sites.

Putting myself to be a porter wasn’t easy, however an option it was to relate to my people and to save lots of resources; especially the construction materials and time spent on site.

I budgeted for 21 days and ended up using 17 days; meaning I saved 4 days for other business transactions.

I had budgeted for 3 porters and ended up having 2, me and another strong youthful man to speed up the bricklaying and the rest.

My budget for food was $53.77 for 21 days for 5 people, however, I ended up managing only $26.88 for 17 days for 4 people.

Having a small construction budget for materials worth $1612.97, there was only $1532.33 spent.

This information is provided to you so as to involve yourself in some commonly ignored activities to save your time, materials, money and future relationships with the team.

In terms of payments I budgeted for the four people. Those are the two porters and two skilled labourers. Here, I managed to save some dollars since everyday I had budgeted for $3.00 for a porter. {$3.00×17 days=$51}. Meaning that I got where to start from after going back to the city.

My  whole team believed in me and we worked as partners and appreciated their commitment and skills that they showed me.

Some days, I would be the one to prepare food for the site workers since we were all considered a construction team.

They first told me that I am there to monitor and reduce the risk of having site materials stolen away. One of them shared with me how they do it when they are working at a site where the owner is not cooperative. He went ahead to tell me that had I not been a good person, they would have stolen some of the building materials especially cement and nails.

Why did I work as a porter even when I could afford paying $3.00 for a casual labourer?

I love to learn by experience and that’s why I am skilled in most common activities that are done in both rural and semi-urban areas in Africa.

The exercise bit of it was awesome, builders are fast in laying bricks in order to follow the measurements of the wall. Therefore, sending me here and there to fetch more bricks and mortar was not compared to gym aerobics.

Mixing the building materials was a good experience, here I am talking of a two roomed residential house not a commercial.

I learnt how to associate with people of all classes in order to survive wherever I find myself.

There was nothing as motivating as the stories we told that eventually made the project run smooth.

Sharing all we had at the site, including food and drinks helps you to understand how other members of the community behave towards the people they don’t live with permanently.

Lessons learned from this activity:

Saving money by participation;

As you load the mortar on the wheelbarrow, you will exactly know the number of cement bags you have used and this saves exaggeration and guesswork.

For business and other working cultures, once the Directors, CEO’s and line managers get to work as a team, it will increase efficiency and cut off unnecessary costs.

Working relationships;

It’s of importance to understand the social behaviours of your team. I had one of the builders who liked going out after 6:00pm. However, at first he went stealthily without informing m. Maybe he thought I wasn’t pleased with his movement. The following day, he asked me whether it was ok with me and found himself comfortable provided work is done in the speculated time.

Comparing this experience in the business context, the lockdown has taught most managers and owners of different businesses that micromanagement isn’t a way to go provided employees can deliver results in time. No matter where someone is working from, they can deliver good results.

Micro-management brings exaggerated results, as someone cannot have time to think for him/herself. The moment you are not in their presence, they won’t perform because they(employees) are taken like robots, that is they work under your instructions.

Understanding your project better;

The builders had to follow the original plan and budget for the materials. Once there is a challenge, it becomes easy to adjust since you have all your teammates and you get to share with each other all the possible solutions for the progress of the project.

In a business perspective, since you are the vision bearer, it will save you from future project uncertainties which are detected before they happen. Employees will share with you a lot of information that may facilitate you to expand your business.

Survival Alternative opportunity;

In times of crisis, you can use the same experience to work on someone’s site to earn you some income.

In terms of business, once you are involved in the daily activities of the business transactions, it becomes easy for you to know the challenges your employees are facing and how to devise alternative solutions for that.

I worked on a one year contract in one of the biggest cosmetics companies in East and central Africa. The managing director sometimes could work with me in sales and marketing events like a salesperson.

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