Building Relationships: One Construction Project at a Time
Strong relationships between general contractors and subcontractors are an important component of a successful project. These relationships don’t mature overnight, and it takes time and effort from both parties to build a level of trust that evolves into a strong working partnership. Putting in the work to build these relationships can be mutually beneficial to both parties and pay off for years to come.
So, how do relationships between and subcontractor and a general contractor start? Sometimes a general contractor needs additional bid coverage for a project or is expanding into new areas. A subcontractor might be looking to break into doing larger projects or branch out into other sectors of the industry.
Regardless the how or why, they usually begin with a single project, a single bid. Here are some tips for both general contractors and subcontractors to follow to build strong relationships through every step of a project from the initial bid phase all the way through project completion.
During the Bid Process
If you’re bidding to a general contractor for the first time this is your opportunity to make a strong first impression. In addition to a competitive bid, you need to prove that your company is the best choice to perform the work. This means putting together a proposal highlighting your company’s level of experience, expertise, knowledge base, and capacity to perform the work.
A strong portfolio of past projects, sound financial footing, and stellar safety record are great ways to make your company stand out from the competition. Be sure to ask any questions if you are unclear on the scope or scale of the project and always attend any pre-bid meeting the general contractor holds.
When bidding out projects, make sure your invitations to bid (ITBs) are easy to understand and provide as much information and documents necessary for subs to submit a bid. Make sure the scope of work for each trade is clearly defined to avoid subs bidding on work that they assume might be part of their bid.
Communicate any due dates or prequalification requests as far in advance as possible to give trade contractors ample time to ask questions and compile all the necessary information and documentation. Hold a pre-bid meeting or site visit to and answer any questions that subs might have. Be responsive and timely when a sub reaches out for more information on a bid and make sure any plan revisions or addenda gets distributed to all your bidders.
After Bids Are Awarded
If you’re awarded a contract, you need to meet with the general contractor to discuss the project schedule, key milestones, logistics, safety plan, and payment schedules. Review the contract and ask to make any changes to any unnecessarily unfavorable conditions or clauses in the contract.
If you weren’t awarded a contract, ask the general contractor for a meeting to go over why you didn’t win. Regardless of whether it was an uncompetitive bid, lack of experience, or failure to provide required documents or prequalification forms, you should try and find out what you could do better to improve your chances on your next bid.
Meet with all your awarded subcontractors for an in-depth review of the upcoming project. Leverage their knowledge and expertise as you develop the construction schedule and project timeline. Lay out expectations for safety meetings, daily reporting, and how and when information is to be communicated. Make it clear that any issues or complications should be brought to you immediately so both parties can work to resolve them as quickly as possible and keep the project on track.
Make yourself available to any subcontractor you didn’t award a contract to so you can explain why they didn’t win. Providing transparent and honest feedback to a subcontractor, especially one bidding to you for the first time, will help them submit a better proposal next time. It’s also a good time to build rapport with subs you haven’t worked with to ensure they will bid on future opportunities you send their way.
Show up to the jobsite every day with the tools, equipment, materials, and workers you need to get that day’s work done. Make sure your workers act and perform their duties safely and professionally. Practice good housekeeping and clean up after every workday, picking up tools and equipment and disposing of any construction waste as you go.
Keep in contact with the site supervisor and project manager with updates on your progress and advise them immediately of any issues or potential delays that might impact other subcontractors on the job or the overall project timeline.
Communication is key to every successful construction project. Check in on all your subcontractors throughout the project and be available to discuss how the work is progressing and monitor their performance. If you’re keeping your subs in the loop on any potential changes to the schedule or scope of work, it’s easier to work together to develop a solution rather than expecting them to be able to just go with the flow.
When issues arise, and they will, be professional and respectful of the other person’s opinions and suggestions. When something goes wrong on a project it’s easier to resolve the problem if everyone can work things out with a rational and respectful discussion rather than simply pointing fingers and laying blame. It’s easy for tempers to flare when things aren’t going right so it’s always best to let cooler heads prevail.
After the completion of each project, general contractors and subs should get together to do a post-mortem. Items to discuss should include what worked, what didn’t, what issues arose and how they were handled, and how they might handle them in the future. This should be an open and frank conversation to work through any disagreements and difficulties so that these items can be addressed and corrected before the next project.
Once a project has been completed successfully and both parties are satisfied with the outcome it’s just a matter of rinse, wash, and repeat. As time goes on, and more successful projects are completed between a general contractor and a sub, that level of trust and mutual respect will strengthen and grow into a strong relationship and partnership that both parties will benefit from for many years.