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From fencing worker to super-installer

In the previous issue, I wrote about the super-installer – and that it would be a nice objective to see whether you could double the number of metres you currently erect in a single day. This provoked a lot of reactions. Like whether I realised how much hard work goes into installing a fence? Or did I think that most fencing installers stand around doing nothing half the time?

And, of course, those readers had a valid point. If tomorrow you can simply double the number of metres, then there's something not right with the way you’re working now and you must always have been going about it in the wrong way. And it also depends on how many metres you currently manage. It's easier to double 20 metres than 200 metres.

Nonetheless, we do see big differences in the market. I recently enquired on Facebook about how many metres fencing installers can do. The question asked was based on a twin wire fence, 1.4 metres in height, with all the posts in their own concrete foundation. Also on the assumption that there were no access problems at all along the entire fence line and all other conditions were ideal. How many metres can you install with a team of two persons? The answers varied between 40 and 100 metres.

The latter was for installing metres for large industrial projects. It’s easier to get the metres done for these than it is for a fencing installer who mainly gets jobs for 40 metres here and 120 metres there. The industrial fencing installer is also under more pressure to be quick, because the competition for these big projects is tougher and the installation price is lower.

But it’s true for both of them that it could still be done faster. And both of them would earn more if they were faster. Assuming they wanted to, that is. Because that’s where it all begins, of course. If you’re an average fencing installer, erecting an average number of metres for an average wage, but that wage is enough for you to get by on and live a happy life – then there’s no need to get any faster. In that case, carry on as you are and don’t let me get under your skin.

Alternatively: if you do want to become a super-installer and do want to earn more than all your former classmates, who went and learned a ‘real’ trade: it can be done. I'm certain that any installer can become a super-installer, provided he wants to. It’s common in our industry to hear people say that they’re ‘just’ a simple fence worker, or that a fence is ‘just’ a fence.

They’re made to feel insecure by all those people who declare that you’ll end up in the gutter if you don’t do well in school. Or they feel that the electricians, bricklayers, decorators and all the people on the construction site look down on them because the latter went and learned a recognised trade. At a college. Or they allow themselves to be pressured by customers, who at the very end of their construction project, when the building has already been handed over, the garden already landscaped and the driveway already paved, forgot that they needed a fence as well – and no longer have a budget for it. Those are the people who state that a fence is ‘just’ a fence. Because they need it done on the cheap.

But it’s a load of nonsense. A fence is a useful thing and customers benefit if it is properly and solidly installed. Fencing is in demand throughout the world and that demand is only going to get bigger. The fencing industry is an industry like any other and there is just as much money to be earned. We know a lot of fencing installers who’ve done very well by installing fences. And if they could do that, without fencing school, without help from someone who took them by the hand – then why can’t you?

You have to want it. You have to be prepared to invest in yourself. You also need to persevere and be disciplined – two characteristics you can train yourself for if you think they’re not currently your strong points. If you have the willpower, you’re bound to be successful. Because the basic circumstances are perfect for any fencing installer. You can train every day. Had a bad day? Tomorrow you have an immediate new opportunity. We’ve created a small roadmap to help you on your way. Good luck! <

The Roadmap to become a Super-Installer

Step 1

Make up your mind that you’re going to become a super-installer. Right now, while you’re reading this. Because you think it would be great if you were one of the best installers in the industry. Because you want to be rich. Because you want to drive the smartest car in town – in itself the reason is unimportant, as long as you take the decision. Say it out loud.

Step 2

Set yourself a big goal. A goal that makes your heart beat considerably faster, but is still realistic. You could declare that you want to be able to put up 6 kilometres of chain-link fencing in a day, but then you’re not being serious. Twice as many metres as you currently achieve would be a great start, but any other goal is also good as long as you feel that achieving it will make you really proud of yourself.

Step 3

Set a deadline for when you want to have achieved the goal from step 2. A goal with no deadline isn’t a real goal but merely a dream or fantasy. Just like the goal, the deadline has to be realistic. Doubling the metres tomorrow is not going to happen of course. But what if you take a year in which to train yourself? To think up things that will make you quicker? To try out tools, that could help? Would it then be possible?

Step 4

Draw up a list of things you can do to become better and quicker. I had a few examples in the previous column: Make a plan for each project first, so you spend the least time walking around empty-handed. Set a goal for where you want to get to each day. A couple of metres more every day. It forces you to think during the day about how you’re going to achieve that. Dare to improvise a bit more. Dare to ask for good tools – and then take good care of them. Above all though, make your own list instead of copying mine. If you’re a good fencing installer, you know it all better than I do anyway, ha-ha. Take a notepad and create a list of at least 20 different things you can do.

Step 5

Sort the list into order of importance. Choose the items on the list that will help you get ahead the most. Not the ones that are the easiest, or the most fun, but those that help you to achieve the biggest leaps. Write those at the top of a new sheet of paper and start carrying out your top point today. Work on it a bit every day until you get the hang of it.

Step 6

Think about whose help you need. From now on, ask your wife to kick you out of bed an hour earlier so you beat the traffic jams. Then you’ll have the first win under your belt. Above all, talk to your boss about your goals and ask for his support. It’s also to his advantage, so he’d be foolish not to help you. Ask the salesperson who measures up your jobs to take a good number of photos of each project from now on. Of the fence line and of the environment. So that on the way back from today’s job, while your colleague is driving, you can preview tomorrow’s job and think about how to set out the material the fastest.

Step 7

Make a list of any obstacles, the things that are preventing you from achieving your goals. Does the jack hammer keep cutting out because there’s a break in the cable somewhere? Make sure it gets repaired. Are your work shoes uncomfortable? Lash out 200 euros and treat yourself to some really good shoes that you can walk in all day with no discomfort. Does your colleague keep on about wanting to go and get a can of Red Bull or a Twix bar from the petrol station? Ask your boss for a different colleague.

Step 8

Think about additional skills and knowledge that can help you to advance. You might want to be able to dig holes faster, or to improve your ability to read technical drawings. Put every skill down on paper in a list. And when you’re sitting on the sofa in the evening, don’t watch some dumb Netflix series, but go to YouTube and look up videos on how to dig post holes quickly, or on understanding technical drawings. Each evening you can find something that you can then try out in practice the very next day.

Step 9

Combine all the points from the previous steps into a single overall plan. Get an unused school notebook from your son or niece, write Super-Installer on the cover and write down in detail how you’re going to make yourself a Super-Installer. Writing it all down will make it real for you. It will take up your Sunday afternoon, but it will be time well spent.

Step 10

Keep at it until you’ve reached your goal. Never give up. Every time you take two steps forward, something will happen to push you back one step. Sometimes you even have to go back two or three steps yourself. But that’s not a bad thing. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day. A setback is more of a lesson than a failure. You wanted to become a super-installer, one who is twice as fast as other installers and you’re still on your way to achieving that goal. You’ll get there if you just persevere.

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