5 Ways Subcontractors Can Boost Response from Their GCs
It can become downright frustrating when you need to hear back from someone, and they haven’t responded. Unresponsiveness may start as an annoyance that can escalate to irritation and might further intensify to the point of exasperation. How in the world can you do your part to keep the project going if the information you need isn’t forthcoming?
Curtailing “the chase” for information from the general contractor is vital to performing well and completing the job as specified. So, how do you stop the hair-pulling moments and move to better communication with your general contractor? The following are five strategies for boosting response from your GC.
1. Understand the GCs Requirements from the Start
Understanding the GCs requirements starts by reading the contract and other project documents.
Provisions like RFIs, submittals, change orders, daily reports, and other things like drawings, product selections, test data, specified documents, and submittal procedures are found in the contract documents. Requesting information that has already been spelled out is a waste of time for you and, more importantly, a waste of time for the GC.
Advanced Tip: Project Manuals are easier to digest when using the Table of Contents and the Appendices. By scanning one or both, you may find what you’re looking for more easily.
2. Know and Use the GCs Preferred Means of Communication
Be collaborative in every way you can. Some requests for information must be accomplished through the electronic or manual means specified in the contract. Other ways to request information may be less dependent on prespecified forms.
The first step in knowing how the GC prefers to communicate is knowing the contact person the GC has in place. Who ya-gonna-call? Don’t ask Jimmy in the back office if the person you have been told to communicate through is Bob, the project manager.
The second step is knowing how Bob wants you to communicate with him. Even these choices must be narrowed. Does Bob want face-to-face talks, or will the phone do? Does he prefer email, text, or other means of written communication? If Bob doesn’t tell you what he wants, ask!
Advanced Tip: Another way to help determine the “how” of communicating is to think through what must be expressed before deciding “what” means to use. Will a quick text be sufficient? Or will a lengthier email be necessary to convey enough information? Perhaps a heads-up text, “I sent an important email,” will be needed if Bob prefers texts.
3. Attend Meetings
There is more to attending meetings than just putting your butt on the seat; put your mind in the game. Arrive on time and participate.
In meetings, both planned and unplanned, what you must strive for is clarity. And the essential clarity part is probably the most challenging – Listen!
Advanced Tip: Take notes. What you write, you remember. Plus, if you’re unsure of something that was discussed, you can use your notes when making further inquiries or requests.
4. Be Easy with Your Requests
A straightforward method to make it easier for your GC to respond is to make requests as simple as possible. For example, ask one thing at a time – even if you need to know about five things. After you receive the first response, ask about the next item on your list.
In keeping with making your requests simple is understanding the difference between what is important, what is urgent, and what is critical.
The definition of each of these words:
Important: of much or great significance or consequence
Urgent: compelling or requiring immediate action or attention
Critical: of the nature of a crisis; threatening a seriously bad outcome
Something important might be the need for a final say on the substitute material to be ordered by Wednesday next week.
An urgent matter may be the discovery of a design flaw in the blueprints affecting the work you’re dealing with today.
An impending structural failure, overnight misdeeds such as thefts, or any situation that endangers the project or the people on site is critical and must be handled swiftly.
When your GC knows that you understand the difference in the nature of the words and circumstances, the responses are much more likely to be forthcoming.
Advanced Tip: Take the emotion out of your requests for information. Angry or whiney messages are not only annoying, but they’re less likely to achieve the desired outcome.
5. Master the Art of Follow-Ups
OK, the GC has not responded promptly even though you’ve done everything listed above. You’ve played the game right. You’ve been fair.
You’re forced to follow up to get the requested information. And you don’t want to be put on the list of nags. One step to avoid the nag tag is to be proactive in sending your requests in the first place.
In your original requests, let the GC know you will get back in touch if you do not receive a response after a specified period. It is a built-in deadline for the GC and one you can safely follow up on because you’ve already let them know your need and the timeframe required.
Remember that reminders must be short, neat, and straight to the point.
Advanced Tip: Your calendar is a tool that when used wisely, makes your follow-up tasks easier. Note when you said you would follow up; if the answer has not come by that time, send the reminder.
Make Certain Communication Protocols Are in Place Internally
Whether you or a team member is requesting information, having a system in place (which covers the five ways mentioned above) is imperative. From who makes requests to how they’re made must be a part of the protocol. It is a simple formula – “tell all the people all the rules all the time.”
Tell all the people (those who need to know) all the rules (the processes and procedures) all the time (through written documentation.)
Reflection: How can you improve your system for boosting response from the GCs you’re working with?
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