Communication key with subcontractors

Subcontractors are a vital part of most construction jobs, big or small. A study by NAHB showed that constructing a single-family home uses 22 subcontractors on average. If the job is more complex, that number just goes up. Often, subcontractors will have their own subcontractors (sub-tiers), adding more complexity to the equation.

Managing subcontractors is a difficult job, one that can spiral out of control and leave the jobsite in chaos. But your project needs these experts, and employing their skills has benefits in both the quality of work and labor costs. They can get the job done faster and better than workers who aren’t trained in their specialty.

Even better, a well-managed and happy subcontractor can become a trusted partner for years to come, helping general contractors achieve great results for their clients and see overall business growth. Clear, proactive communication is vital to developing these relationships, and it must start from the beginning.

Hire Quality Partners
If you want to create a long-lasting partnership with a subcontractor and want to spend less time managing them, be sure you’re hiring the best talent you can. Do the work to pre-qualify the subcontractor to ensure that they have what it takes to do the job, including labor, schedule, cost and safety.

Does this subcontractor have enough manpower to get the job done on time? In today’s construction labor market, this can be especially difficult for a subcontractor, so check this requirement out thoroughly.

Does the subcontractor have good cashflow and reserves? This is important because it can sometimes take up to 60 days to get paid after submitting a pay application.

Are they bonded and insured? This will ensure that you’re not on the hook if they default.

How is their safety record? Do they have a low EMR rate? Do they follow good safety practices? Unsafe workers on your job site can endanger everyone.

How is their customer service? They may interact with your clients while on the job. If so, will they represent you well?

Making sure every subcontractor you hire is a professional that you can trust sets you up for a smooth relationship built on trust and mutual understanding.

Make Communication Easy
Clear and open lines of communication will make your work with subcontractors easier and more productive. Lay your processes and reporting requirements out from the beginning, preferably in their subcontractor agreements, and be transparent about every step.

Daily reporting and coordination are vital when working with subcontractors. It’s important to hold regular meetings, follow through and check in. Otherwise, workflow schedules can come off the rails, meaning lost time and productivity. General contractors and subs must be in constant communication to address any issues that might hinder the work.

The easier you make communication and reporting, the more likely your subcontractors are to follow through. And the easier you make the process on yourself, the more likely you are to stay informed about the job.

A quality workflow and reporting app can make this process quick and painless, and an app’s mobile capability will put the info you need at your fingertips, even if you’re in the field. If you’ve been a slow adopter of technology for your construction business, now is the time to find a mobile solution and put it to work for you.

The field of construction technology is booming, with solutions to fit most needs and budgets. Technology can simplify your job and increase productivity, keeping your jobs on schedule and using available resources to the best possible effect.
If you make working with you easy in every aspect, the best subcontractors are more likely to partner with you again.

Make Sure They’re Paid
Be sure to pay all subcontractors in a timely fashion. From an office standpoint, aim for cutting payment time from 60 days to 30 days, or ideally within one or two weeks of submission of pay applications.

Anything you can do to streamline the subcontractor pay process is time and money well spent. In this aspect, too, I recommend that you take advantage of available technology to help pay happen faster.

Your subcontractors need good cashflow to keep working and get your job done well and quickly. And, they’ll remember which general contractors are fast – and slow – to pay, and that information will factor into their decision of whether to work with you again.

Keeping Great Partners
The more you invest in improving and streamlining your interactions with subcontractors, the better your relationships with them will be. When you can bring the best specialists in your market to a job, you will continually exceed your clients’ expectations, making your work sought-after for years to come.

Excel sheets and paper reports aren’t the best way to communicate with your subcontractors anymore. Leverage mobile technology for this task, and you’ll see happier subcontractors, more efficient jobs, and better productivity overall.


Stan Singh is Director of Product Management at Raken where he works closely with superintendents and foremen in the field to help alleviate their pain points associated with job site documentation through the use of technology. Based in San Diego, Raken provides innovative mobile technology to streamline field workflows for construction workers. Raken’s “digital toolbox” connects the field to the office with daily reports, time cards, task management, project insights, photo management, and more.

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