Very few people in the modern construction industry are a jack-of-all-trades. Those that are tend to perform work deliberately and often at a slower pace than the schedule demands. The typical solution for this problem is hiring a subcontracting crew. Whether your crew is a massive team or a one-man army, you will want them to perform the work relatively quickly but with a high enough quality that you can stake your reputation on it.
These requirements mean that finding the right type of subcontractor is never easy. Teams that look good on paper can often disappoint. Others may do excellent work on one job and muck up the project on another. To help you locate and hire the best teams possible, here are some strategies you can use:
Networking to Find Subcontractors
Word of mouth is the absolute best method you can use to find reliable contractors who produce quality work in an efficient manner. Ask friends, neighbors and fellow builders in your trade who they would recommend. If your competitors want to be tight-lipped, you can ask others in your trade which subcontracting teams they work with the most.
For example, which insulating crews come on after framing is complete? Are there specific drywall crews that come in after them? Great subcontractors often know who the other high-quality crews are and can introduce you to the people they work alongside most frequently.
Suppliers are another excellent source of leads. Tile distributors may know which tile contractors get the most contracts, and lumber yards may be aware of who orders the most framing materials in town. If all else fails, take the time to notice jobs happening in your neighborhood or on your side of town and ask who is performing the work.
Here are some tips for hiring contractors:
- Have crystal clear descriptions of the overall project in addition to the sub team’s individual scope of work. Provide any drawn plans or written specifications your team will need to be clear on the expectations.
- Solicit bids for the specific work needed, not a general one-size-fits-all estimate that will later get revised.
- Only work with contractors who are licensed and insured. Without their own liability coverage, they can quickly add risks and expenses to a job site. One lousy sub can ruin a project and a general contractor’s reputation.
- Make your contract as specific as possible. Include:
- Scope of work
- Schedule for work to be completed
- Agreed upon bid price
- Payment schedules and information
- Written warranty of accountability for subpar or faulty work
- Clean up and debris removal
- Any consequences or penalties for missing deadlines or providing inadequate work. Firing a sub is easier if you have in writing why their performance failed to honor the contract.
- Avoid agreeing to advance deposits unless you have a history with the sub. Offer to order your own materials if disputes arise.
While hiring your subcontractors, you will also need to outline an “order of operations” so that crews are not coming in on top of each other and teams are not waiting for someone else to show up. A roofing crew arriving to an incomplete deck will be a waste of their time and yours.
Likewise, follow through with your promises to receive respect and repeat contracts in return. Nothing ruins a builder or general contractor’s reputation like their sub crew placing a lien on the property after they failed to get paid.
Above all else, cover your legal bases by arranging contracts and hiring crews that will not add to your own business’s liability. Subs must come on-the-job prepared with their own insurance or else your own responsibilities could get much more complicated/