4 Steps to Strong Relationships with Subcontractors

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July 16, 2021 | Construction

For general contractors (GCs), good relationships with subcontractors are an integral part of successful construction projects. It takes time, effort and patience to develop working partnerships based on trust, and it’s worth the investment. Building strong relationships can pay you back on many projects and over a period of many years – some can last your entire career.

Developing relationships happens a step at a time, from bid all the way to project completion. Following are steps you can take to establish strong relationships:

1. Bid Process

When bidding out projects, make sure your requests for bid (RFPs) are easy to understand, due dates are spelled out, and all the information and documents are provided that subs need in order to submit their best bid.

Make sure the scope of work for each trade is clearly defined to avoid any assumptions about what needs to be included in the bid.

Required prequalifications should be announced far enough in advance so trade contractors have time for queries and to put together their documentation.

Pre-bid meetings, preferably onsite and possibly mandatory for bid submittal, are an important forum for answering questions subs may have. Timely response is key when a contractor requests more information or when plan revisions or addenda are issued.

2. After Bid Award

Hold a pre-construction meeting with all the subs that have been awarded bids. As specialists in their discipline, they should be encouraged to provide input on the timeline and construction schedule.

Clarify your expectations for reporting, communications, “toolbox” meetings, and the way issues or complications should be handled to expedite resolution.

If requested, provide candid feedback to subs whose bids were not successful. It may help them submit a better bid next time.

3. During Construction

Keep an open line of communication with all your subs throughout the project. Check in with them to discuss progress and performance. They should be apprised of changes on the project, even when they involve other trades, so they can collaborate on solutions that will affect their workflow and schedule.

When issues arise, handling them with respect toward other stakeholders makes it easier to resolve problems. You can more quickly work out a solution if you do not take extra time to place blame.

4. Project Completion

After the completion of each project, GCs should get together with the subs to discuss processes that worked well, those that did not, how issues were handled, and how they might be handled differently on a future project.

Disagreements should be resolved in anticipation of working together on another project.

As time passes and more successful projects are completed by a GC in partnership with a sub, an increasing level of trust and respect will bring about a strong relationship that both parties will benefit from for many years.


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