5 Tips to Improve Your Subcontractor Relationships

Honesty, integrity, teamwork, respect. These are the values a subcontractor looks for in a general contractor when it comes to a working relationship.

As a GC, you may wonder why this matters to you. The short answer is – you need subs, just as much as they need you.

In recent years, the labor shortage due to the construction boom has allowed subcontractors to be pickier with the jobs they bid on and which general contractors they choose to work with. To attract the best trades, you need a solid reputation in the subcontractor community when it comes to your sub-GC relationship.

Stop doing these five things that tick off your subs and go from “It’s Complicated” to #RelationshipGoals with every sub you hire.

1. Sending out messy bid invites

When a subcontractor receives an invite to bid, this is their chance to not only win a potential job, but also to vet the general contractor they’ll be working with.

If they want the best chance of being awarded the job, the sub needs to submit a bid that fully reflects their knowledge and expertise of the project. However, if the GC wasn’t clear on the scope of work, the sub is already set up for failure.

Without the proper information, subs will have more questions which delay the bidding process. They might bid on another trade’s work that wasn’t clearly defined – or they may pass on the project altogether.

As the GC, you can avoid these potential issues by including the following in your bids:

  • A clear job summary
  • The expected project schedule
  • Any necessary financing
  • The minimum criteria needed
  • The project owner’s information

You should also separate the bid into areas or phases with the scope of work for each trade clearly defined. This allows a sub to respond quickly and accurately to the bid – with no misunderstandings.

A common best practice is to hold a pre-bid meeting or site visit where potentially bidding subs can ask questions and get all necessary information to make a well-informed bid.

2. Having unreliable cashflow and schedules

Subcontractors plan the needed labor and expenses for a job based on the owner’s payments and the GC’s project timeline. When either of these go astray, the sub is the one who suffers.

As the general contractor, you should set hard deadlines, as well as consequences for missing those deadlines, with the homeowner, consultants and the various subs hired for the project. This helps keep everyone on schedule and prevents deadlines from being missed.

One of the best ways to ensure reliable cashflow and timelines is to use project management software.

Construction technology, like Buildertrend, can house the project schedule to help facilitate material deliveries, needed manpower and changes to scope – and keep your subs in the know. When it comes to finances, speed of payment is extremely important. When payments are slow, subcontractors resort to adding more markups to help with cashflow.

With Buildertrend’s new online payment process, you can now pay your subs faster than ever. Quick payments = quick responses from your subs. Everyone wins.

3. Using outdated methods to send project updates

Communication during a build is the key to a successful project.

Keeping your subs in the loop on potential changes to the job gives them the opportunity to work with you to solve upcoming issues – rather than just going with the flow when changes pop up unexpectedly.

Construction tech is the best way to notify your subs of critical project updates and change orders. These are easily missed when sent through old school methods, such as email or text. But with Buildertrend’s subcontractor portal, they can stay on top of everything right from the palm of their hand.

Whether from their mobile app or desktop computer, subcontractors can view changes to the schedule, messages from their GC and change orders requested by the owner – all in one convenient platform.

4. Forgetting to provide updated plans and specs

Along with keeping your subs in the know of changes to project scope, you should also ensure they have access to the latest plans and other necessary documents.

When a sub is working off an old version of a plan, delays, cost increases, rework and legal issues arise. This leads to frustration for you, your client and your sub.

Use an online file storage system with clean folder structures so that your subcontractors can easily access what they need – when they need it. Buildertrend makes it easy for your subs to view documents, photos and videos and get notified when there’s an updated version. No more lost files in your sub’s email inbox!

5. Running your job sites as a dictator instead of a partner

Working with subcontractors can be tough. However, if it’s a partnership based on trust and mutual respect, both parties can thrive and the project will succeed.

At the beginning of a project, set a preliminary milestone schedule and get buy-in from the subs. They can work with you to develop reasonable durations and labor requirements and determine how best to hit deadlines. By leveraging their knowledge and expertise, your subs will feel like a trusted partner – and not your servant.

From the start, lay out your expectations for safety, daily reporting and communication. And when issues arise, as they often do in construction, be open to their suggestions and respectful of their opinions. It’s easier to resolve a problem when working together, rather than placing blame and allowing tempers to flare.

Work with your subs, not against them, and you’ll be in for a strong subcontractor relationship.

How to strengthen the general contractor-subcontractor relationship

Construction projects rely on relationships. Whether it’s between the homeowner and the developer, the contractor and the government or the sub and the GC, a harmonious relationship leads to a successful project.

To ensure your job goes according to plan and you end up with a satisfied client, you need the best subcontractors. Follow these tips to attract the best ones and your reputation in the subcontractor community will flourish.

Say goodbye to old school communication methods by investing in Buildertrend’s construction management software – and strengthen your subcontractor relationship while you’re at it. Schedule a demo today.

Already a Buildertrend customer? Improve your relationships even more with the better, faster way to pay your subs. Get started with online payments now.

About The Author

Julia Thompson Content Marketing Specialist

[email protected]

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