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How Professionals Hire and Manage Subcontractors in Construction

Hiring subcontractors is common practice in the construction industry, and with good reason! Subcontractors are specialized workers in their respective fields providing high-quality work for construction projects. They often provide their own equipment and materials, have relationships with suppliers, are experts at their craft, and reduce a General Contractor’s legal liabilities.

The tricky part is sifting through the masses to find reliable subcontractors that best suit the needs of your particular project. As the General Contractor, you are responsible for the subcontractors that you hire. Your name and reputation are on the line and you must trust the subcontractors to provide the quality and standards of service and execution that define your company. 

How to Find Subcontractors: 4 Ways That Work Best for Our Team at Global Construction

  • Ask Friends in the Construction Industry

While your direct competitors might not be willing to help you, complimentary service providers might. Go through your list of contacts and pinpoint those who’s quality and workmanship match your standards and start reaching out. Pro Tip: Know of a company that recently relocated or went out of business? They might be even more willing to share, as it comes at no cost to them. 

  • Look on Social Media Groups and Internet Forums

LinkedIn and Facebook are great sources to find quality subcontractors. Groups such as “Construction Purchasing Agents, Subcontractors, and Suppliers” or “UAE Subcontractor Find Work & Jobs” can provide a great place to scout potential candidates. Pro Tip: Consider posting about specific needs and asking other members for recommendations. 

  • Ask Your Trusted Current or Past Subcontractors

Since subcontractors are specialized, they are always working with or around other subcontractors on your projects and others. As a result, they will have direct knowledge of not only the quality of the work being done by the other subs, but of their timeliness and ability to work well with others. Pro Tip:  Don’t forget to ask your subs who NOT to work with, as this can weed out potential candidates you may have found from other sources. 

  • Ask Your Speciality Suppliers

Your specialty suppliers will for sure have clients who are subcontractors, as they will be shopping for supplies just like you! Consider the products that you stand behind and pop in to ask your rep or the business owner who else they sell to often. Pro Tip: If you have the opportunity, ask for contacts who have been purchasing from them for years, as a sub who has been in business for a while is most likely doing something right! 

Once you have created a list of potential candidates, it is now time to vet them! We suggest you always interview them in person, (on a job site if possible) as your gut instinct when interacting with them, paired with the quality of work gleaned from a site visit will be your two most important indicators of potential success. 

Pro Tip: Don’t forget to look at the subcontractors’ schedule and inquire about projects they’re already working on. You’ll want to make sure they have enough capacity to meet the demands of your project in the required timeframe. 

Finding quality subcontractors is just the tip of the iceberg. It takes years to build relationships with them and requires constant and ongoing assessment and training. In order to uphold our standards of quality and provide each client with the most well-suited team for their specific project, here at Global Construction we curate, develop, and manage our subcontractors on a daily basis. 

What is Subcontractor Management?

Subcontractor management is the constant and ongoing process of evaluation, training, and collaboration that allows us to deliver the highest quality construction services to our clients. It requires continuous adjustments and active participation from our Project Managers and Superintendents as they oversee the projects from start to finish.

“We are constantly collaborating with the subs to ensure proper procedures, workmanship, processes, and quality” – Denis K. CEO, Global Construction

But this process is not the same for every construction company. In fact, the subcontractor management process can vary drastically from contractor to contractor, with the “set-it-and-forget-it” method often adopted by those with lesser industry experience.

Is There a Standard Method for Subcontractor Management?

Nope. And if someone says there is, you should run in the opposite direction. When working with professional construction companies, this process will vary from project to project, depending on the site-specific requirements, project scope and size, and specific client needs. One subcontractor is never a universal fit for all jobs, and they must be selected based on who is best suited for the project

For example, you might have a subcontractor who specializes in painting and has flawlessly executed the interiors of multi-family unit turns. However, would this sub be the right fit for painting the exterior of an industrial building? Maybe, maybe not. Do they have the proper equipment, qualifications, licenses, and experience to tackle exterior painting? 

Similarly, you might have a subcontractor who excels at interior finishes but has employees who do great work but are a little rough around the edges. Would you want to hire them to complete work inside a building that will continue to operate during construction? Most likely not. 

At Global Construction, we are very selective about which subcontractors we choose for each job. They must have a history of experience in the specific task, carry the proper licensing, have the necessary equipment, be familiar with any particular safety protocols, demonstrate an expert understanding of the required materials, and have a keen awareness of our needs and expectations for each individual project.

“It’s very rewarding once you have assembled a group of subcontractors and the project is executed efficiently.” – Bill Bryant, Project Manager, Global Construction

How Do You Manage Subcontractors in Construction?

The truth is, you, as an owner or ownership team shouldn’t be managing them at all! It takes years to develop a relationship with a subcontractor and time must be invested in order to learn their strengths, weaknesses, level of performance, and specializations. Plus, navigating insurance requirements, net payment terms, proper scheduling, are often complicated and vary depending on project scope. 

You might be under the impression that a professional subcontractor will be an expert in their trade, however, this is often not the case. At Global Construction, our CEO, Project Managers, and Superintendents are all experts in specific aspects of construction. Master Plumbers, Foundation and Concrete Specialists, Lead and Mold Remediation Technicians, and Interior Finish Professionals, all team members play an integral part in the oversight and education of our subcontractors, ensuring that our standards of quality are always maintained. 

Investing in and growing with subcontractors is the best way to maximize quality and productivity and reduce turnover. However, there are times when hiring a new subcontractor is necessary. Once you have found potential candidates, you can follow the steps below to continue the hiring process. 

7 Steps to Hire Subcontractors for Construction

    1. Perform a Background Check

Background checks allow you to spot potential red flags immediately and provide information including criminal history, driving record, employment history, credit history, places of residence, etc. Plus, it is completely legal for an employer to run a background check on any person performing work, even an independent contractor. 

    1. Ask for References (and Call Them!)

These days it is easy to pass off a list of references that look great on paper. However, it’s all too common for the applicant’s best friend, mom, or significant other to be the one answering your call, singing praises for the applicant. In order to ensure that your potential employee’s references check out, it is important to ask targeted questions that only a qualified reference would be able to answer. In addition, asking these types of questions will provide you with all the necessary information to make a qualified hiring decision. 

Consider asking the following: 

    • What was it like working with “So-and-so?”
    • How well did this person get along with the other subcontractors and members of your team?
    • Did the work get done on time and with the desired level of quality?
    • Did they charge a fair price?
    • How was their communication throughout the project?
    • Did they cost you any additional money?
    • Did you have any problems working with them? 
    • Anything I might want to know about working with this person?

    Be sure to get specific details and be wary of generic responses. Try asking more targeted follow up questions as well, using jargon only an actual employer would understand. 

  1. Ask for Photos of Past Work

    Subcontractors who do great work will be proud to show it off! You should never encounter hesitation when asking about previous projects and the candidate should be able to show you a range of examples dating back at least a few years. If they don’t have photos themselves, they should be able to list the specific projects and direct you to their previous employer’s websites or social media so that you can see examples. 

  2. Make Sure Subcontractors are Bonded and Insured

    All subcontractors must carry Commercial General Liability Insurance and Workers’ Compensation Insurance. IRMI recommends a minimum of $1,000,000 coverage for both types. 

  3. Require Quality Control Plans

    At Global Construction, our focus is on quality and expectation is a minimum of 8/10. Our desire to deliver a top-quality project requires a three-tier quality control process. It starts with the Subcontractors, then Global Construction’s Superintendent, and finally Global Construction’s Project Manager. Ultimately, the field superintendent is responsible for checking each subcontractor’s conformance to shop drawings, design documents, material deliveries, and all proper construction means and methods. 

    In order to ensure we meet our quality minimums, our subcontractors must have their own quality control plan which is expected to convey the methods they will employ to control the quality of their work and installations. The Subcontractor’s Plan should include the activity descriptions, the inspection procedures, how reporting and follow-up will be done, and how steps for correction and improvement will be taken.

    This plan should include:

    • Administrative & General Responsibilities
    • Training & Certifications
    • Best Practices for Execution of Work
    • Preconstruction & Construction Activities & Procedures
    • Inspection Activities & Procedures 
    • Sample Quality Control Reports
    • Submittal Review Procedures
    • Methods for Corrections
    • Close Out Activities Checklist
  4. Prepare For and Conduct Final Subcontractor Interviews

    Once you have narrowed down your potential candidates, it is time to conduct final interviews. The interviews with subcontractors require that you are familiar with their scope. The following are the steps that you should take in preparing for these interviews: 

    • Read the scope sheet before beginning your review of the contract documents. 
    • Make note of facts stated in the documents that are not on the scope sheets for discussion with your team members and ultimately your subcontractor contacts. 
    • Review subcontractors contractor’s means and methods of delivering their scope. 
    • Carefully note all adjustments and be certain that the subcontractor provides a value for this adjustment. 
    • Take bid information carefully, exclusions, additions, alternates, allowances, and their bid value. 
    • Exclusions and additions mean incompleteness or inconsistency, be certain to qualify each item carefully. 
    • Make sure all subcontractors submit sub-agreements packages, proper insurances, and schedule of values (if applicable).
  5. Create and Review Your Contract

Pro Tip: Don’t choose your subcontractor based on the cheapest price or if a sub makes promises that seem too good to be true. Choose one who you think will get the work done with the highest level of quality, the least amount of trouble, and who will ultimately give you a fair price. Once you have made your selection the final stage of the process is to create and review the contract. While this section could be a post in itself, here are the major categories you will want to include in your contract:

    • Description of the services and materials the subcontractor will provide
    • Scope and price of their work
    • Standards of quality
    • Warranties for defective products or workmanship
    • Work and payment schedule
    • Worksite cleanup and debris removal plans
    • Insurance requirements
    • Termination and non-compete clauses
    • Hold harmless or indemnity clause

While the tips above are a great place to start, “Our guidelines for finding, hiring, and managing subcontractors aren’t created and then set in stone. They are part of a living document, constantly adjusted to build upon whether or not the subs are fitting the needs of our clients, our company, and our goals for the future.” – Erik Good, Senior Project Manager, Global Construction 

Do you have experience finding and managing subcontractors in construction? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

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