5 things tradies can learn from the collapse of Condev and Probuild

The collapse of Condev and Probuild has devastated the industry, with many Tradies subcontracting to these giants feeling the effects.

Some have already started to fold under the weight of missed progress payments, unable to pay wages and purchase materials for other projects.

So, what can you learn from these collapses to better protect your trade business in QLD?

Here are 5 things you can consider when looking at these collapses, and how you can protect your business against them.

1. Protect yourself from rising material costs

Some building material costs have risen over 80% in the last 18 months.  This increase can represent the difference between you making a healthy profit and no profit at all.

If you are a member of the HIA or Master Builders QLD, please reach out to their legal teams and ask for assistance with your contracts, to ensure you are as protected as you can be.

Use provisional sums or prime costs where appropriate. Unfortunately there are only limited scenarios where you can use these.  The challenge here is that the bank (or financing institution) needs to accept your contract, and most of the time they are looking for absolute certainty in pricing to protect their own interests.

Finally, if you are engaged in a domestic building contract and have a dispute around rising material costs, the QBCC has setup the Accelerated Builder / Consumer Dispute Framework, where you can get help mediating with your client.  This can be used for any contract entered into after July 2021.

2. Protect yourself from inclement weather

In the last 12 months we have had nearly 60 days of wet weather in QLD!

While there are only limited things you can do to progress a project in the rain, one thing you can do is protect your ground and working area from weather as much as possible, so when the rain stops you aren’t waiting for several more days for the ground to dry up, or doing any rework.

Ensuring access roads have a top layer of recycled roadbase, and that your site has a slight fall where needed will help you get moving quicker after rain.

Secure and cover your materials where possible, and any finished surfaces, so you aren’t doing any rework and can use your materials immediately instead of waiting for them to dry out.

If appropriate, you can also roll out tarps to keep the ground as dry as possible.

Use a tradie diary app to keep track of weather conditions on-site, so you can submit EOTs and NODs easily, using accurate data.

3. Build up your “Oxygen Tanks”

In business, cash on hand is Oxygen!  Without it, even with a full book of work, your business can run out of cash and become a small business statistic very quickly.

When you are in the situation of relying on progress payments to fund your wages and material purchases, a single missed/delayed progress payment can hurt.

Try to build up enough cash in the bank to cover off 60 days of operating expenses at minimum.  This gives you room to ride out the storm if one of your key clients goes bust.

If you’re in doubt as to how to go about this, talk to your accountant or financial advisor.

If you run into problems, communicate with your creditors!  Most creditors don’t want to see you go out of business, so they are open to negotiation on payments, and even rates.  Non-communication can have you ending up with a court date, when a simple phone call could have avoided it.

4. Invest time in getting your quotes correct, and check your contract scope

Investing the time to correctly quote your work is vital in the current industry climate.  This includes your initial takeoff, any special conditions or clarifications, and a realistic expiry date.  Although you are not usually bound by a quote, it does help the process go smoother if there are not hidden extras when you go to contract.

Use estimating software that does takeoffs, rates and quotes.  This not only speeds up the quoting process, it also increases accuracy.  Good quality estimating software can also benchmark your current quote against others you have done that are similar, making sure you are on-point with your pricing.

Double check your measures and make sure you’ve clarified anything that is ambiguous.  Include provisional sums for anything not easily quantifiable.

Make sure you include an expiry date so you get the opportunity to re-quote with rising material costs

Once your quote has been accepted and you a reviewing the contract, make sure the scope matches what you have quoted.

5. Work with multiple builders

One of the knock-on effects for some subcontractors working for Condev is that they are now left with little work, and no upcoming pipeline or progress payments.

This adds pressure in 2 ways.  Firstly, they may not have enough cash to continue to employ tradespeople while they are sourcing other work, and they also have to scramble to source work quickly.

Working with multiple head contractors/builders is akin to not putting all your eggs in one basket.  It keeps you a little more insulated from a single client going under.

Use a tradie job app or other construction software to keep up with the workload.  It makes scheduling easier when you can see all of your work, visually, in one place.


In this article we looked at Probuild and Condev, and how you can protect yourself against future collapses as a Tradie.

In summary:

  • Protect yourself from rising material costs, through provisional sums, prime costs, and a thorough understanding of your contract.
  • Protect yourself from inclement weather, by keeping your access roads usable, and your finished works and materials as dry as possible.  Use a tradie diary app to keep track of weather conditions on-site for easier EOTs and NOD later.
  • Build up your “Oxygen Tanks”, by putting aside the cash now, or organising an overdraft facility.
  • Invest time in getting your quotes correct, and check your contract scope.  Put a reasonable expiry date on your quotes, and clarify anything that can be ambiguous.  Use estimating software for speed and accuracy.
  • Work with multiple builders, so you don’t have all your eggs in one basket.  Use a tradie job app or other construction software to keep up with the workload.