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  • Writer's pictureYvonne Root

Subcontractors in Construction – A view from both sides

Updated: Jun 23, 2020

Subcontractors in Construction – A view from both sides

Subcontractors are not alone

Listen Subcontractors, more than once I’ve heard construction business owners mention one of the reasons they decided to go into business was because they wanted to be the boss rather than take instruction from the boss. Some have even jested that their elementary report cards often had a notation stating, “does not play well with others.”

Truth is, “playing well with others” is a major part of owning a business in the commercial trades. A business in which one must take care of his portion of the work while striving to make it easier for the general contractor and other trades on the jobsite to take care of their portions.

Subcontractors and General Contractors

The symbiosis which takes place between GCs and subs is rather a sight to behold. Negotiations, contracts, and agreements all come with understandings on both sides of the table. You do this, and I’ll give you that, is what it all boils down to.

Yet, we all know there are times when things go awry. There are times when things go off-kilter and must be put aright before the journey to completion resumes. Following are some areas which can become sticking points.

Subcontractors take another look

Here are some complaints GCs have mentioned when it comes to dealing with subs.

Not getting paperwork signed

“My sub hasn’t given me signed paperwork which is my route to paying for their completed work.”

Make it easy for people to do what you want them to do. Want to get paid in a timely manner? Be sure you’re following all the rules laid out by the GC – including giving them the signed paperwork (also in a timely manner.)

Submittals are incomplete

“It can be any number of items, lien-waivers; payment package; drawings; schedules; diagrams – we need it all in order to complete the project, to satisfy our owners, and to meet legal obligations.”

Subcontractors who submit the appropriate documents show that they’ve read and paid attention to the contract.

Subcontractors avoid these additional mistakes

Bonding bait and switch

“When subs assure us they are in compliance and they are not, we have a major problem.”

Just do the right thing. If you’re only bonded to a certain amount say so. Period.

Going behind our back

“We don’t appreciate it when we find we have subs stepping on our toes with the owner or someone else.”

Having a complaint in which you skip the general contractor and go to the owner is bad business all the way around. Do your best to have all your meetings with the GC in order to make everyone happy. This article explains some of the problems associated with skipping the GC to go to the owner.

Too many scope gaps

“When subs complain there is more work than they thought, we know they missed too many things on the bid. We’re hesitant to work with them again.”

Do your due diligence. Read it all. Look over the plans, carefully and thoughtfully. Train yourself to look for the details if you don’t already have that skill.

What general contractors want       

It is really rather simple. This is what GCs want from their subs.

“We want subcontractors who can deliver on their promises.”

“The subs we want to work with are those who make us look good to our clients as well as our potential clients.”

“They make our job easier rather than adding headaches to the mix.”

“They are clean and pick up after themselves as well as others without thinking in terms of ‘it’s not my department.’”

“We can trust them to do the job without calling them all the time to see that the work gets done.”

“Bottom line, we want subs whose own company goals and values align with ours in providing excellent service and products to our clients.”

How subcontractors can deliver

Finding ways to be “the” sub GCs want on their team isn’t always about being the lowest bidder on any given project. Much of the work is accomplished by having your team show up and be up to the challenges they will face on the jobsite. Going the extra mile and being the team player, listening to what the general contractor wants, and acting in ways which are beneficial to all wins the day.

Schulte and Schulte is a virtual firm with clients from all across the United States. We provide the “Corporate Accounting Office” for small to medium commercial construction trades.

It is our aim that this article (among our growing library of construction-centric informational articles) is helpful for those in the construction trades. Want to know more about us? Call Toll Free: 866-629-7735 Or, get in touch here.

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