10 Tips for Managing Construction Subcontractors More Effectively


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There are so many reasons why subcontractors are needed in any construction project. They fill up the labor shortage of a construction firm while offering their specialized skills. Their expertise can help the contractor deliver a satisfactory result to the client. On the other hand, subcontractors also benefit from contractors, mainly by keeping them in business.

In other words, there exists a give-and-take relationship between a licensed contractor and a subcontractor. It needs to be maintained to work harmoniously and reach each of their goals with the general contractor serving as the lead. Remember that the subcontractors’ performance will reflect on the performance of the general contractor, so the central project team should be more attentive when managing their stakeholders.

And if you are wondering how you can improve the collaboration between you and your subcontractors, below are some useful tips you can try to have a more efficient time managing construction while using their services. 

Managing Construction and Subcontractors

Managing construction projects is already a daunting task. Your very own construction crew management already requires too much effort in a day, so handling stress from tracking your subcontractor’s work is something you’ll want to remove from the equation. Fortunately, there are several ways to manage your subcontractors more efficiently and ensure that you get the most of their services. These tips include:

1. Qualifying your Subcontractor 

In a construction project, you will need more than just one subcontractor. Some areas where you’ll need specialized skills include masonry, concreting, HVAC, electrical, painting, mechanical, roofing, plumbing, and tiling. With these many subcontractors to work with, it can be a real headache when you don’t choose the right teams to work with.

Just imagine all those stakeholders we mentioned above, making mistakes after mistakes. It will surely cause delays in your builders schedule and going over the budget. Hence, it is essential to check and qualify your subcontractors before writing a contract with them.

The right subcontractor shouldn’t be that difficult to find. We have a previous blog listing useful tips on choosing the right subcontractor to work with. In qualifying subcontractors you are working with for the first time, you should: 

  • Check their previous projects – their process, work ethics, results
  • Confirm if they are licensed or if they have any certification
  • Investigate for any claims
  • Check their safety records
  • Find out if they are insured
  • Ask for any legal history

If you have been using the same subcontractors in your previous projects, you can qualify them by checking whether their license and insurance are already expired. Never work with aa subcontractor without a valid license as it will put you at a compromising position when you find issues you need to settle legally.

2. Setting Expectations Before Construction Starts

Just like how clients give their requirements and standards before signing a contract with a project team, you should also lay down clear expectations before your subcontractors. Define the work process and quality you want to see from them. Never just assume that they know what to do. This is why it’s helpful to have a project management software where subcontractors can collaborate with you and reach you anytime they feel unsure about a task.

Remember to put your requirements in black and white, preferably in your contract, so you can gain legal rights to complain when the subcontractor isn’t able to deliver what is asked from his team.  

That said, specify the following in your subcontractor’s contract:

· Responsibilities of the subcontractor and contractor for each other

· Details of deliverables

· Scope of services

· Work and authority restrictions

· Quality standards

· Other terms and conditions

You can check with your legal counsel whether all scope in your contract is valid and to see to it that you didn’t forget anything that may be crucial for your project. Share this with your client, so he knows about your agreement with your subcontractors and avoids future confusion.

Finally, you have to give your subcontractor a sense of security too, by detailing all the support and efforts you will provide to help them do a better job. 

3. Planning the Project Well

As we always mention, planning is probably the most important part of a construction project. Without proper planning, the construction process will be disorganized and results can be disappointing. So before walking into the site and start any activity, make sure that all elements needed in construction are well-prepared. That includes the use of subcontracting services.

Since you will need subcontractors to complete crucial parts of the project, you need to invite them during the pre-construction phase for the following:

· Planning of workflow and writing the master schedule

· Materials procurement

· Safety concerns

· Other concerns that may affect the work of the subcontractors

4. Proper Scheduling

Phases in construction are interdependent with each other. One phase will serve as a prerequisite of another phase. Ductwork may need to be finished first before the electrical team can lay down their wirings. Electrical and HVAC subcontractors may need to layout their system before the concrete subcontractor can continue pouring cement. Hence, it is vital to keep all stakeholders on the same page. 

Using a construction schedule software like Pro Crew Schedule can effectively keep all subcontractors and the project team updated on each other’s progress so the next dependency can prepare for its turn. 

Schedules should then be written, specifying all the work scope and the due dates for deliverables. Milestones should also be noted so that project managers can easily track the progress and adjust if the project is falling behind the builders schedule.

5. Team building

It may not be necessary, especially since construction is a fast-paced business, but getting together with all of your stakeholders for matters that are not work-related can later develop a good work relationship. It shouldn’t be a whole day even and you should make sure it doesn’t interrupt your project schedule. A simple team dinner will do to have everyone in the team to get to know each other. 

6. Treat Your Subcontractor Professionally

Although you are the client of your subcontractor, you should be careful to deal with them professionally. Provide them with the help they need as you’d like to receive support from them. Try always to pay them on time. Commend them on their excellent work to boost their morale as you would for your own crew members. And finally, communicate with them regularly like they are a genuine part of your team.

7. Establish Open Communication with Subcontractors

Subcontractors play a crucial role in the success of your project, most notably your concrete subcontractor. As they will cover a considerable portion of your work, you will need to communicate with them often to check on possible issues, track progress, and identify their needs. 

Replacing emails, printed documents, and phone calls with project management software can be a more efficient channel for communication. Through software, information is sent through the cloud in real-time hence keeping your subcontractors always updated. Using the cloud, double-entry can also be avoided and mistakes in the process will likewise be prevented. Furthermore, confusion and misunderstanding can be eliminated. As a result, the contractor and subcontractor can have a smoother time working with each other. They can build a longlasting work relationship that will help both in furthering their businesses.

8. Regular Progress Reporting

Unlike the traditional construction setup where subcontractors can only update their general contractors during meetings, they can already send their progress reports daily through project management software.

As we mentioned earlier, a lot of construction tasks are dependent on each other, so subcontractors must relay their daily accomplishments for others whose tasks require their output to prepare. In the reports of subcontractors, you can request them to: 

· Note their daily achievements

· Milestones

· Unplanned activities and time span

· Costing

· Issues encountered

Dealing with problems immediately is one of the reasons why subcontractors should report to their contractors regularly. This way, more significant issues that may lead to change order can be avoided. 

9. Documenting Everything

Documentation is highly essential in construction. Every activity is done at the site, money spent, time consumed, problems encountered, and countermeasures should be declared to achieve transparency. This will be useful later on when turning over the project and the client throws issues at you.

Since contractors and his project team are not directly involved in subcontractors’ work, a documentation of what they do becomes the contractor’s way to understand their job. This way, the contractor can defend the decisions he made with his subcontractors when it is already time to submit the project.

Bonus Tip: Don’t Delay Payments

Delayed payments are becoming standard in construction but try as much as possible to avoid it as they need it too to sustain their job. Apart from being recognized for their excellent output, subcontractors would love to receive their payment on time. It serves as the ultimate reward for their efforts and is also a way to establish a lasting relationship. Also, let’s face the fact that money is the most excellent motivator in this industry.

Key Takeaways

Contractors and subcontractors should have a good work relationship so they can both produce excellent output. They are partners in achieving their goals and satisfying the building owner. To do that, contractors should qualify subcontractors and set their expectations once they sign a contract. Subcontractors should be a part of the planning stage too and once the project kicks off, clear and transparent communication should be established. Team building and paying on time also helps motivate subcontracts and make them more manageable. All these tips can help the project team have smooth sailing ahead.


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