EP 123

An Open Letter to the Construction Minister - why we need Project Bank Accounts. (EP 123)



This week, Paul is joined by his close friend and QS, Chris Barber. Chris is a Co-Founder at Prosper, a platform helping subcontractors to scale their business and also a passionate advocate for subcontractors on his YouTube channel, School of Sub.

In today’s conversation, Chris talks about his recent Open Letter to the Construction Minister backing Project Bank Accounts to protect against the growing crisis of construction insolvencies for SMEs. We debate what a Project Bank Account is, whether it would bring the desired benefits and where people can sign the petition.


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  1. Implications and Opportunities of a Design & Build Contract


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Paul Heming: Hello and welcome to episode a hundred and twenty three, 123 of the Own the Build Podcast with me, Paul Heming. As per the last few weeks or months now, we’re continuing our free download giveaway and today of LinkedIn eBook, which I personally wrote a couple of years ago, called The Implications and Opportunities of a Design and Build Contract. I wrote this eBook after working for a subcontractor and it talks to both man and subcontractors about how to negotiate key clauses, what DMB means in terms of your actual responsibilities. And most importantly, I felt, at least was how to respond to comments during the design phase from the design team, which naturally are not in accordance with the contract because that’s how they roll. If you’re working on a DMB contract of any sort, I think this will be really valuable to you. So go to the podcast description, download it, and let me know what you think and let me know if you want a follow up or anything like that. I’d be happy to hear from you. In the studio today, we have got, again, a close friend of mine, Christopher Barber, who is only a few weeks ago. We completed a hat-trick with Sarah Fox, but we’re now on a hat-trick of Christopher Barber episode. So Chris is the co-founder at C-link and prosper the business that I work at, as you guys all know from listening to the show, we’ve created software that connects main contractors and subcontractors. It saved main contractors 600 hours of quantity surveying time while I front up the main contractor side. Bizarrely, considering I used to be a subcontractor, Chris Fronts up the subcontractor side and is very passionate about making subcontractors better. Chris is a bit of a champion for subbies and really talks a lot about how they can improve the way that they work, the way that they tender and the way that they run their businesses. Chris, I’m blathering on as I always do. How’s it going, mate?

Christopher Barber: It’s great to be back. Thanks for having me, mate. I’m all good. Sun’s shining. 

Paul Heming: The sun is shining and you got the hat-trick-mate. I mean, it’s you’re in highly, highly impressive company with Sarah Fox being the second person to a hat-trick have own the Build episode. So before we jump in to today’s topic, which is going to be really interesting topic because it’s something that you’ve spent a lot of time on. Talk to us, remind the listeners who don’t know who you are or don’t know your experience, who haven’t listened to the last two Chris episodes. Ta-ta, talk to us about your experience and time in construction. 

Christopher Barber: Yeah, first of all, don’t listen to episode one from myself. It wasn’t the sexiest of episodes, that’s for sure.

Paul Heming: Oh, come on mate, you’ll be too hard on yourself. 

Christopher Barber: Yeah, so just about my background. Started Quantum Survey in 2006 at tender ages 17. Working for a precast design and build specialist, one of the market leaders there. Built really good foundations for myself. And then decided to move to London to start main contracting in high end residential game, Paul. So polar opposites in terms of where we are in the industry between the two businesses. And obviously working from a go from a subcontractor to a main contractor. And then we started the business C-link, construction link back in 2015. And then having been working there now for about seven years, we’ve built up some really great relationships and knowledge. 

Paul Heming: Eight years, come on. 

Christopher Barber: Eight years. 

Paul Heming: 2015 to 2023, you’re a QS and you can’t even count.

Christopher Barber: It feels like seven. No, I mean we’ve built up some amazing relationships and I feel like my knowledge base, just working closely with subcontractors and have worked with developers over the past eight years has really kind of excelled where I was back in 2006.

Paul Heming: Yeah, I would completely agree with that from my perspective as well. It’s given speaking to developers, main contractors, subcontractors who really get a consultants a much better flavor for the industry rather than where I was before was very tunnel vision. Subbie, subbie, subbie. But yeah, no, I completely agree with that. And you have grown immeasurably since we’ve started working together. Chris. I’d say that’s largely because you work with me. That’s a different story. . So today’s show, the title of it is an open letter to the construction minister. Now I’ve read this open letter to the construction minister and we’re going to get to that. This is something that you’ve written, something which is close to your heart and close to the hearts of many subcontractors, we’re going to be talking about. We are in difficult economic times today. Talk to me about construction insolvencies.

Christopher Barber: It’s quite depressing to be honest. If you take a look at the numbers, Paul, last year, 4,332 businesses went into administration insolvency.

Paul Heming: In 2022.

Christopher Barber: Yeah, in 2022. That’s 60% up on last year. It’s the highest in over a decade. And as an industry we are the biggest contributor. We’re like a fifth of all insolvencies. And we are about, I think it’s 16% bigger than the next, or it’s actually even more, it’s 27%, sorry, bigger than the next sector, which is like wholesale and retail. And it’s just staggering in terms of the numbers. Like it is just always high. If you look at the trends, construction is always the highest contributor and that’s not just because it contributes about 7% GDP, it is the fact that there’s obviously something fundamentally wrong with the way we operate. 

Paul Heming: Yeah. Just touching on two stats that, just to draw back on what you’ve said. You said we contribute to 7% of GDP. It’s always roughly around that number. And then you said we contributed to 20% of Insolvencies as a sector. Is that correct? Am I understanding that correctly?

Christopher Barber: Yes, correct. Yeah.

Paul Heming: Yeah. So in short, something is awry. 

Christopher Barber: Yeah. We double what we should be, right, in theory. There’s something wrong. 

Paul Heming: Triple, Triple, blow man out mate. There’s your math is off today.

Christopher Barber: Yeah, sorry it’s 27. Sorry, I was thinking my math is off today. Apologies. 

Paul Heming: Off today. Unbelievable. Some kind of Qs. So clearly there’s a problem, insolvencies particularly now are on the rise in construction. Talk to me about the impact of late payments and bad debts on insolvencies. Stupid question. Perhaps.

Christopher Barber: The thing is with the delayed payments, where, who it affects, right? So let’s just say the client pays the main contractor on time and to cash flow the business for the main contractor, the 30 day payment terms, like basically credit terms with the subcontractors and then the subcontractors then have credit terms with their suppliers. So the main contract gets paid on time and then for whatever reason, if they can’t afford to pay people within that project, that subcontractor gets delayed payments further. 30 days is a massive stretcher anyway for in most businesses, but it’s structured in that way that the industries structured that way, right? Any like 14 days, another 30 days on top of that original 30 days really starts hampering that subcontractor to deliver for that project, but not just that one. All the other projects they’ve got going on at the same time. So the ripple effect is massive. It’s the reason, late payments are the reason why there’s such discord in the industry, right? Because you get a late payment from one project, you can’t perform on that project and then the next project and then the next project and then you are pissing off a load of your other clients who might be paying on time, but you’ve got this one bad project that’s hampering your ability to deliver for them. 

Paul Heming: Yeah, well you’ve worked for both main and sub. I’ve worked for sub and yes, I never experienced the case where the companies that I were working for were getting paid late. Yes, they were getting paid late, but no, they weren’t getting paid late so that it then impacted other projects that we were on. Say we were on 10 projects at once. But I definitely experienced particularly lower down the chain where I had my installers or someone like that where they were working on two projects and their other client wasn’t paying them. And that impacted us completely different project. And you can really understand kind of just from framing that as you have, the supply chain and how it filters our main subcontractor then subcontractor to installers and suppliers, that the ripple effect of one project being poor is not just that project. It echoes out across other projects and impacts other projects and it kind of helps you to understand, doesn’t it? The reason why so many projects are late, so many projects are over budget because so many things go wrong and there’s so many things at play. It’s not just the fact that it’s such a complex and challenging industry that is just a further complexity that it’s thrown in. So you have written, first written an open letter to the construction minister and you have second included within that letter a petition. Talk to us about what that petition is.

Christopher Barber: Yeah, so I had a lot of the content we push out how the narrative that I believe in is helping subcontractors, helping the industry just be better, right? And I was really focusing in on the problem of late payment. Like how can we do it? How can we make it better? And there’s, I’ve got a bit of inspiration by an ex rugby…

Paul Heming: Who are you going to say one your ex is though? Which one?

Christopher Barber: You know them all Paul, you know them all. So his name’s David Pocot. He’s an Australian rugby player, an amazing player. Even if it was a demise of English rugby, but he was standing in Australian government saying, look, we need to protect subcontractor payments. And that really started me thinking, what can we do to make a change, like sick for talking about it? Let’s try and do something about this situation. And it got me thinking the way that it could work for everybody involved in the construction. And I think there’s so many benefits as well off the back of it, which I’ll talk to you about later, is project bank accounts. Now how the project bank account would work is controlling the money basically from the client into the maker tractor’s pocket and then into the subcontractor pocket. If you solve that flow in my mind, we would solve a lot of problems that we’ve got in construction and improve a lot of and…

Paul Heming: We’ll come to it because there’s pros and cons of all of these things. I guess before we get into the detail of that, what does the petition say? What’s the crux of the petition? 

Christopher Barber: So, the crux of the petition are, this is the problem, this is where we’re at today. We’ve got an extortion amount of insolvencies happening, it’s forecasted to grow to 6,000 insolvencies in construction this year up from 4,000 last year. We’re 65% of the industry and it’s probably more, but the recent research, 65% are reporting late payments and the average time is 75 to 90 days to receive payment. It’s an insane amount, right? And there are forecasting the bad debt in the industry to go from 300 to 1 billion by the end of this year. So there’s got to be something we can do. We can’t just sit here and just let that happen. Surely there’s something else we can do. And on top of all that is the mental health impact this has on the individuals like the SMEs that I’m working with. I’ve got a bit of a personal touch on this, working with these people day in day out, understand how it impacts them mentally and do, whilst I was doing the research, I found that 90% of business owners said that late payment had affected their mental health and we’re into wellbeing and 10% of them considering… 

Paul Heming: Well, I’m sure you can attest to that. I can, we run a business, there’s been times when we’ve been waiting for payment and its hell, isn’t it? 

Christopher Barber: It’s a very uncomfortable place to be and what these people are doing and they’re doing it for their families, right? And it kind of made me a bit passionate about it, quite e motive behind it as well as the logical side of it for what I set out beforehand.

Paul Heming: So I understand that there is this challenge, Christopher, everyone listening understands it. What I do not understand is specifically what your petition says.

Christopher Barber: So the petition says that, so I’ve set out the problem, right? I’ve pulled on the heartstrings there. And what I’m suggesting is mandatory project bank accounts on all construction projects over a million pounds threshold and over. I’ve chosen that as a 1 million as a kind of discussion point in Scotland, the government they’re doing about on public contracts, they’re using PBAs on about 500,000 plus. I think that could be a bit restrictive in the private sector in terms of, because of amount of volume that’s going through. But I picked a million because I’ve worked a million pound contracts when I was make tracked and it felt like you’d have the right resource to administer a project bank account if you, yeah. So it’s more of a good feel on that size of project that from my experience, that you could administer PBA.

Paul Heming: And so your petition and your open letter to the construction minister effectively says construction insolvencies are growing through the roof. They’re three times any other sector. One of the primary reasons for that is a lack of payment. One of the primary reasons for a lack of payment is that it then impacts mental health. And by the way, construction is way out in front as well for suicides and all those other things that are connected to that as a result. So it all ties together and your solution to this is that you will be obliged to have a project bank account on any construction project over 1 million pounds. What we will do right after this break, Chris, is we will talk about what a project bank account is and actually how it would work for the developer, for the main contractor and the subcontractor, the pros to cons and all the bits around it. But you have set the scene for exactly why we should and now I’m looking forward to being convinced on the project bank account and your thesis there as well. But we’ll do that right after this break.

So I get the impression from speaking to you during the break that you are going to be using the acronym PBA quite a lot. So just so it’s clear, PBA is a project bank account. I know to most people that’s probably clear, but that’s what I’d clarify. So this part of the show, I want to really understand what a project bank account is because I reckon I could fumble my way through describing what one is and I have a picture in my mind what one is, but I have actually never been involved on a project where there is one. So talk to me right now, explain to a five-year-old, explain to my little five year old mind what a project bank account is and exactly how it works please.

Christopher Barber: Yeah. So I’ve also not worked on one with it. 

Paul Heming: So there we go. 

Christopher Barber: I’ve known people who have. So a good friend of ours, Vinny, who we’ve talked about actually in depth because I was talking to him about this idea, but essentially a project bank account is what it says it is. So the client has a project, they set up a bank account that’s dedicated to that project. There is some kind of legal mechanism that they and the main contractor have set up. And essentially the client has the money. There’s an agreed, obviously agreed value for the project and the money is designated to flow down essentially through the first two trenches, if that makes sense. So trench one will go to the main contractor and then trench two will go to the subcontractors. And that’s the idea of the mechanism that everyone can see what’s being paid, where it’s been paid. 

Paul Heming: So just let me jump in there because I always like to exemplify things on the show and also just makes it easier for me to picture it. Let’s stick, let’s keep it real simple. 10 million pound project. I’m the developer, you are the main contractor. We’ll come to the subcontractors, right? This 10 million pound project, let’s say for simple terms 900 grand, 9 million is 90% is subcontract works, 1 million is main contract works, right? So what you’re saying is the developer has their finance and they pop this 10 million pounds into a bank account of which pre-agreed, there is a million pounds allocated to make a contractor, 9 million pounds to subcontractor. And then as you execute the works, that money gets drawn down obviously depending on valuation and the like. Is that correct?

Christopher Barber: Yeah, that’s correct. Yeah. Whether or not the whole 10 million goes into it straightaway is another question because I don’t think that’s how they would do it necessarily. But you need to be cash flows that would be produced to kind of forecast what the client might need to put into the account at certain periods. But in short it gives everyone a bit of certainty from the main… 

Paul Heming: Its ring fence. 

Christopher Barber: It’s absolutely ring fence for that project. So the main contractor, if he gets paid a million pounds, let’s just say in months one, he cannot use those funds other than to pay the supply chain basically and obviously take their bit of profit on top. But it goes that the mechanisms are all attached so that that subcontractor has got a guaranteed payment. And having spoken with subcontractors a lot over the last seven years or so, been deeply discussing with those guys, a guaranteed payment is literally the lifeblood. That’s all they want a lot of the time is that it is basically cash certainty and then profitability. That’s how I look at it. When I’m speaking to them, they’re like, God, they pay on time. I want to work profit. 

Paul Heming: Small Business, isn’t it? Cash flow is what you want. It’s a, like I say, we know it, everyone knows it. So it’s interesting, isn’t it? Because when you first come across this as a printer, again, I’m going back to my perhaps tunnel vision, small minded subcontractor experience because that is my experience and as soon as you hear the words project bank accounts, a little bit of me thinks, oh yeah, but the main contract’s not going to want to do that because blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. So you feel, you have that little feeling of anxiety of you are always at the bottom getting stitched. But actually it’s a good thing for the main contractor, isn’t it? Because they’re actually getting certainty as well. You could argue in exactly the same way the subcontractor is worried the main contractor is going to use money from other projects, no different for a client, right? So in some ways it’s really good for the main contractor.

Christopher Barber: Yeah, definitely. I mean, when I was main contracting, there were certain clients that we would say, look, we need an escrow account set up because the risk is too big. They’re not from this country, they could just decide not to pay or whatever. So to protect them you would say like, can we have an escrow account? But let’s move that away from, not an escrow. Let’s have it as a project bank account.

Paul Heming: And what’s the difference between escrow and project bank account? 

Christopher Barber: It’s a good question. The escrow was, is a guaranteed impartial account between the parties. I don’t know the nuances, I couldn’t tell you. 

Paul Heming: But the project bank account is much more about tailoring it for the entire supply chain into the…

Christopher Barber: Yeah, that’s it. I mean, the escrow was just the client paying the main contractor, whereas the project bank account is a bit more, goes down a bit deeper into the supply chain.

Paul Heming: Okay. And so going back to our example then this 10 million pound example, forget that it’s imperfect, it’s always going to be imperfect at thinking about this, but we got this 10 million pound project, I’m the main contractor on the project. What are the benefits to me? Why is it good that I’m on a project with a project bank account?

Christopher Barber: Let’s say for the main contractor it’s them getting paid. There’s obviously more benefits for the subcontractor and globally as construction as I see it. So the main contractor is we’ve got certainty on payment every single month, which they need. And from then a subcontractor side, it’s that payment certainty. But if we try, I’d think I’d look at it as more of a global why we should be doing it. So first and foremost, right, transparency. Project bank accounts offer full transparency, up and down supply chain between all the key stakeholders and we know that construction can operate in a more of a clandestine way. Its signs and people don’t trust each other. That’s why we’ve got such, you know, we talk about collaborative approach, but when you’re talking the SME world, it’s less so, right? And it’s because people don’t feel like they’re being transparent, especially when they’re not getting paid. 

Paul Heming: So how is it transparent though?

Christopher Barber: It depends how you set the contractor up. I really see PBAs working quite well on two stage tenders. I think they would work really, really effectively on two stage tender because you know, you could have your fee and prelims agreed if your main contractor and then you’re like, okay, well, we’ve got to place 20 subcontractor orders, you can see what those are. You’ve got your agreed markup and measure on there and the client will be like, there’s no need for like closed envelope tenders coming in. You can see, look, a place is ordered with this contractor, it’s a million pounds, you’re paying me 10% upset. 

Paul Heming: Is that where main contractors may be hesitant? Subcontractors wouldn’t, because subcontractors would be like, yeah, there’s a million quid, pay me my million quid, happy days. But a main contractor might be like, yeah, we had a million quid allocated to this, but we would actually put your audit for 800 grand or whatever. And then they would have to be transparent with that. Or would you actually just say, this is my CSA? Yeah, there’s a million pounds allocated. Do you see what I mean? Because to some degree they might think that’s their advantage is procuring well, tendering well and getting that price at better value for them. Is that an area where it might fall down?

Christopher Barber: Possibly. And I think that’s one of the drawbacks from where a main contractor could see it. But main contractors don’t make big margins, right? We know that, you’ve had plenty people on the podcast. And I remember, I forgot what episode it was, but we’re a trillion massive, massive biggest industry, right? Really one of the biggest industries. Operating on tiny margins, which just doesn’t make any sense. I think there would be with bank accounts and maybe an adjustment in thinking around that of like, are we only charging 5% or negative 5% of we’ve heard in some crazy cases, should it be 10, 15%? Whereas then the main contractor’s like, well, I don’t need to go and get extra margin elsewhere. I could just concentrate on the quality time cost. I can just concentrate on the Q and the T, right? Not the C because I’m getting paid fairly for managing the subcontractor and it’s moving it away from the shift on the focus on the cost on the quality and the time it’s delivered in. I think there would be a general shift in that from a main contracting perspective.

Paul Heming: Yeah, because what strikes me is really interesting about this, going back to your letter to the construction minister, right? We need all these houses. There’s this huge, huge challenge in that regard. And you are writing to the construction minister effectively on the behalf of, the way I would see it of main and subcontractors, I know you are doing this initially comes from a point of passion around the subcontractors and all of the connections that you have there. But really it strikes me that the primary disadvantage of a PBA, even I’m going to roll with your acronym now, is for the employer and the funder less so the contractor because the contractor gets those things that you’ve said around certainty, but perhaps for the employer they have to fund it in a slightly different way. There’s like the setup costs around it. But it strikes me that for contractors main or sub, it’s largely a good thing.

Christopher Barber: Yeah, I would generally say it’s a good thing. I mean, you know our industry doesn’t like change, right? 

Paul Heming: Really?

Christopher Barber: So it does take a new way of thinking and getting, spending this message will probably get to people thinking about actually there might be a different way of doing business than we have been doing for hundreds of years and still getting the same results, right? There’s certain things that people would need to bring in. So like I think with a PBA compliance would have to be massively improved. Things like orders, tendering, payment notices, all these things, these mechanisms that we’ve got in contracts would have to be executed correctly. So just a general leveling up of the industry.

Paul Heming: That makes sense as well. I like that.

Christopher Barber: We doing things the way we should be doing them, not half-assed on a back of a packet, right? It we’re doing these things properly, right? That’s first and foremost, I think compliance just be upgraded. 

Paul Heming: Yeah, no it’s all of this really interesting stuff. It kind of puts a bit of a spring in myself just thinking about it. I was doing some research on project bank accounts and so on. I’m like where in preparation for this and in 2014, cabinet office announced over 5 billion pounds worth of construction projects were going to be paid through project bank accounts and that included cross rail, right? And the reason they said that, and this just wholly supports your theory, this is a quote from the cabinet office. It says, to win the global race, we must support the smaller suppliers who are the lifeblood of our economy and project bank accounts is the way that we as a government see the way that a way to do that, particularly in construction. So I think that you are very much onto something. Just paint a picture I guess of go back to your thought process around, you listen to this rugby player Pocot talking about it. It’s got you thinking about, I know you love talking about rugby anyway, but we’re not going to spin off into rugby as I know you’d like to, but you listen to him and you start thinking, God, there’s got to be something we can do to change it and you end up on project bank accounts. What are the alternatives? What were the other things that you looked at and thought, no, that’s not quite right or this isn’t quite right.

Christopher Barber: Well, there was this thing called the prompt payment charter. I looked around obviously just thinking what is there? And this prompt payment charter was, it’s a bit of old boys sat around a table thinking, oh, what can we do? Yeah, we’ll come up with this prompt payment charter of being polite. It’s been typical in the SME world, there’s nothing in there that is actually, it is great. Put something on a piece of paper, does that mean they’re actually going to do it? And I think one person got kicked off it and then had to come back and then managed to get back onto the prompt payment charter it, they just bits of paper don’t do anything. An electronic mechanism that everyone’s accountable for will make a difference and we can write up what we want. Construction app, Paul, very good example. Some lovely terms in there. If someone don’t want to pay you, you’re going to have to go jump through a lot of hoops to try and get paid and probably isn’t worth you spending the money on those legal. 

Paul Heming: But this isn’t going to stop that. Having a project bank account is not going to stop there being a dispute. But what it is going to stop is someone saying, yeah, even though you’ve won that dispute, I haven’t got any money anyway. See you later. 

Christopher Barber: Yeah, I would argue a little bit the dispute, I think you make a good point on. But what I would say is all the things that go along with executing the project bank account, like I said, we’ve improved compliance, orders, tenders, payment notices, applications, all these things being done to the correct standard and high quality standard would mean there’s naturally less disputes because the client’s seeing where that money’s going. If you are not spending that money so that subcontractor, because something’s gone wrong, it’s going to be alarm bells, right? So you are thinking, right, I need to be tight with everything. And also then the subcontractor’s going to keep up their end of the bargain. I’m not saying subcontractors are perfect, but if they know they’re going to get paid for this project, they’re going to perform for it.

Paul Heming: So if we go back to you as a main contractor, you get put on a project or you’re at tender stages as a main contractor. I know maybe you would’ve come in when it was actually secured, but let’s just like you are a main contractor and your client says to you, on this job we’re going to do things right, there’s all these problems on my previous project and we are going to do a project bank account. Honestly reflecting about, what do you think your gut instinct would’ve been, like, ugh, what the hell’s that? Or what would your view on it be?

Christopher Barber: You know what, when we talked about, I didn’t know what an escrow was until I joined the, my main contracting days. I just thought that makes sense, doesn’t it? Like having the money just, it’s there. We we’re going to get it, we’ve just got to keep up our end of the bargain, right?

Paul Heming: Just got to draw down on it. Yeah.

Christopher Barber: We do. Like, it’s simple. I never went into a job thinking, don’t want to keep up my end of the bargain and not do it, right. 

Paul Heming: That’s so true. Yeah. 

Christopher Barber: So, it’s just better that you think, well, the money’s secured, it’s there. We’ve gone through this process. It’s hard to kind of take myself back to those days, but I definitely wouldn’t have, you know me, I’m an open-minded person. I would not, I would’ve kind of jumped at the chance to do something a bit differently to be honest. 

Paul Heming: I get that echoes I think you would’ve done. Do you think there’s people listening to this who’ll be thinking what bad idea? 

Christopher Barber: Yeah. Probably the people who are still stuck on word in Excel, right? The industry we talked about, like maybe there’s an anti-competitive edge, particularly on the low margins main contractors are, that would think, oh I’m not too sure about this because I’ll make my money through cloak and dagger kind of…

Paul Heming: Not even that. No, you’re making money through intelligently value engineering. Do I want to share that with the client?

Christopher Barber: Yeah, you can, but I mean it shouldn’t take that out. The project bank account shouldn’t take that out just because the client can see you making money. You’ve agreed a contract value. However, you set it up and you execute in it. So, there is that people might go, oh well, God, you made a load of money on that account or on that project. I want money back. But where I think the biggest pushback would be is how, the industry isn’t very agile. They’re not particularly, it’s quite slow. I mean 21 out of 22 industries in technology uptake, there would be a leveling up of taking on onboarding technology to make them more efficient. Moving away from old systems that aren’t set up to run construction projects. I think you would have to take on more tech to kind of make you yourselves efficient and productive. And I think that’s where the main pushback would be or what those…

Paul Heming: Exchange management, isn’t it? So I’ve never done that before. Do I really wanted, how do I do? That’s kind of the point I was making when I was asking you what would you have done as a main, you’d pro, because I reckon I’d have been like, what’s that? What the hell’s a project bank account was? What’s this that I’ve got now? Another thing on my to-do list or to work out, I guess would’ve maybe been my instinct and it’s just change management, isn’t it? You think the biggest pushback is that. 

Christopher Barber: Yeah, I mean, you are thinking that and I would’ve thought that getting hundreds of emails each week still using fragmented systems that don’t talk to each other. Loads of administrative work on top of your day to day, right? You think, God, I’ve got to administer our project bank account. But if you can take those pain points away through tech, then executing a project bank account could be fairly straightforward.

Paul Heming: And you think about the knock on effect. Go back to what you said initially. One project stops paying, what does that do to the rest of the industry? The knock on effect is very real. And go back to your 90% or 65% report in late payment, all of these insolvencies. It totally makes sense. My final question for you, mate, it is a really interesting conversation and I highly endorse the work and effort that you’ve gone to around this petition and around this letter because it’s all in the name of almost as you said there, going into a project and holding up your side of the bargain. That’s what almost everyone wants to do. So it is only to help the industry be a better place. What are your actual hopes for this petition?

Christopher Barber: So obviously we’ve talked around transparency and compliance. I just want people to understand. I mean, I’d love it to be implemented, right? But there’s a long word ahead. We’ve got to start bringing this into discussion. I want it to be round table discussion with the powers that be right, with people start actually talking about this and maybe it start getting adopted on private projects that actually it’s not about, it’s just for these public contracts. It could be… Now actually I’m a high net worth individual. I’ve got a development I want to do, I’m going to do it for a project bank account. I want it to do the right way, not the traditional way of how it’s being done. And it ended up in a mess, actually offering security to the main contractor and everyone else downstream could make my project really attractive. I could attract really high quality subcontractors, but in how I really do see it working as well is, it kind of people thinking about what a project bank account could do for the economy as and the mental health of everyone within it. And I feel like obviously with the improved compliance, the transparency, lenders, you can see lending stagnating, projects being put on hold, project funding being pulled. If they had this mechanism in place, they could really start looking at it. Well actually the risk for this project is diminished quite a bit because we’ve got control over how the funds are done. We’ve got a visual on how the main contractor is performing. Their compliance is high. So we can lend at a better rate, better rates, more lending, more projects stimulating the economy.

Paul Heming: Yeah, no, that makes, and actually for lenders who are often worried about main contractor to go and burst, subcontractor, then having to pick up the pieces, the pieces that you’re picking up are far less fragmented and shattered all over the floor if you are picking up from a project bank account where you’ve had genuine control and oversight. So I think that it is a good idea, Chris, and I think that I will sign your petition and I also think that what I will do is put into the podcast description, a link to the petition and a link to the letter. So if you guys think it’s a good idea, we’re going to be probably talking about this quite a lot now as Chris is my business partner. And I think the most important thing is recognizing the need for change really, isn’t it? And that’s what you’ve done. It’s actually, can we do something to make this place better? And almost every single person who has ever reached out to me about listening to this podcast says, the thing that I like is a vision to like how it’s really understanding what’s going on in the industry, talking about it openly and candidly, and then making it a better place. And almost everyone I’ve spoke to, in fact, everyone I’ve spoken to, listens to the show wants the, is proud of the industry that we work in, recognizes the challenges and wants it to be better. So I am going to put that petition in the podcast description and I very much recommend everyone signs it. Chris, thanks for the energy that you put into this letter and thanks for coming on the show. The hat-trick is complete and I think I’m never going to invite you back on ever again, mate. 

Christopher Barber: Thanks for having me. I’m here for change, right? We’re all positive people. We want to make this industry better. And this isn’t the last you’ve heard of from me, Paul. Expect another one.

Paul Heming: It’s because I invite you on the show, so I’m not going to make, I’m in control of the invites. We’ll see about that. Anyway, mate, great job you on and I will speak to you very soon, everybody speak to you next week. Cheers, Chris. 

Christopher Barber: Yes. Bye-Bye.

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