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Contractors should take a leaf out of Taylor Swift’s playbook by revealing more of their values.  

Michael Chesterman
Michael Chesterman December 17, 2020

I am intentionally being provocative to get people’s attention with such a heading. It has been a very taxing year for all of us and speaking for myself, I have reached my full quota of being serious, safe, and sensible!

However, despite applying such a bizarre comparison strategy, stay with me and hopefully I will convey an important message for contractors to contemplate.

Firstly, this is not an article about the music credibility or otherwise of Taylor Swift. However, for the record, I am a fan.

Rather, I am focusing on how she has built a formidable business empire, largely by increasingly conveying her values and beliefs. It is no longer just about the music for Taylor.

A recent example of this is her battle to obtain ownership of the masters of her early albums. Many artists over the years have signed recording contracts where they concede ownership of their music to the corporate boys in suits.

She has leveraged off her social media influence (140 million on Instagram and 88 million on Twitter) to present her case clearly and concisely for obtaining ownership of the masters of her first six studio albums, recently sold for over $300 million.

There is a complicated back story behind this dispute and I am not entirely siding with her in terms of the position she has adopted. However, what I admire is that she is prepared to put her credibility and reputation on the line and argue her case in a crystal clear manner. In doing so, Taylor has opened herself up for criticism but she has just continued undeterred in her quest to get ownership of these masters.

There are other examples of Taylor putting her reputation and credibility on the line. In recent years she has become very politically active. A recent online article in Forbes entitled From Bad Blood To Lover: How Taylor Swift Became The Most Powerful Voice In Politics needs no further comment in terms of her influence.

It is irrelevant to me what her political beliefs are. The point I am making is that she is now prepared to convey her political beliefs.

Also, Taylor has fought and won a huge battle with Spotify that her music, and indeed all music, should not be free to steam to the financial detriment of musicians. An article entitled Taylor Swift Fought Spotify For a Huge Win For All Musicians again needs no further comment.

What has any of this got to do with running a construction business?

I would argue plenty.

I am of the view that for too long contractors have represented themselves to the marketplace in a very narrow, cautious manner.

When I look at most contractors’ websites, I rarely learn anything other than what they specialise in and any awards they may have obtained over the years. I am virtually always none the wiser in terms of their values other than general assertions that they represent good value for money and excellence in everything they do.

I am of the view that in 2021, such limited disclosure to clients will just not cut it. If Taylor Swift were still singing songs of the same type she wrote as a 15-year-old girl and not giving any insights on her emerging beliefs and values, I believe she would barely rate a mention as an influential artist.

In terms of contractors, I want insight that demonstrates to me that they are on a change and improvement journey, encapsulating such additional things as:

1. Staff and subcontractors working in a safe and healthy environment, free of discrimination, and supported by appropriate training, education, guidance, and supervision. I believe that happy and valued people generally create greater outcomes.

2. A commitment to preserving the environment.

3. The extent local businesses and workers are supported.

4. Only safe and conforming Australian standard products and materials are used.

5. Staff, subcontractors and suppliers are paid all amounts due under contractual obligations.

6. The increased use of social media to convey information quickly and directly to the marketplace. Like many people, I am time poor. I require information to come directly to me.

7. The extent innovation is an ongoing feature of their operations.

I accept that not all contractors have a business profile where all of the above will be a major feature of their business. However, to the extent relevant, I believe that contractors must in a transparent manner be prepared to open their business up for greater analysis of their values and beliefs.  In doing so, they may well make themselves targets for criticism so an important aspect of such an approach will be adequately addressing negative responses.

The important message I am trying to convey to contractors is that in 2021, contractors must be prepared to disclose to the marketplace more insight than competitive pricing and good quality work. These things will always be important but, increasingly, people like me will be looking for much greater insights into the operations of contractors to assist in determining whether to engage them. As a business operating in the construction industry, we at Helix are looking forward to taking our own medicine and demonstrating to you the journey of a man…

and his band of misfits to be more like Taylor Swift 😉

All of us at Helix would like to take this opportunity to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  Please do not forget that the period between 22 December 2020 and 10 January 2021 are not business days (under QBCC Act and BIF (SOP) Act) and are not included in calculating due dates.  For more on counting dates click the video below from my colleague Janelle Kerrisk.

We have had a different year in 2020 with tremendous up and downs but always consistently working with the best clients. 2021 is set to be a bigger and better year for Helix and we cannot wait to work with you!

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Not intended as legal advice. Read full disclaimer.
Michael Chesterman
Michael Chesterman December 17, 2020

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