Your subcontractors suck because you do

Everyone sucks and they wont stop sucking until you do!… stop sucking that is.

We’ve all heard the refrain and we’ve all said it. Finding quality help is the one is the #1 complaints of  most contractors in this business and I am no exception.

2016 was a big year for me and my remodeling company. We broke the million dollar sales threshold for the 2nd year all while juggling 3 flips with overall spending close to 2 million. I had my fair share of interactions and sub contractors. It was because of this increase in volume and then subsequent need to sub out more work that I had a high number of relationships and jobs go south with sub contractors. Everything from framers refusing to fix a wall that was built 1 foot short to an electrical sub who told me that he needed to adjust his contract price 1 week into the job by 120%!  YES!!! not 20%, but 120%. He said his computer wasn’t working right.

Those were just a few of the battles I had to deal with. All along the way I kept trying to make adjustments to my process.

My first stop was to stop fishing for subs on the internet via the usual meat markets such as Craigslist or Home Adviser but rather go to my colleagues and ask for referrals. Seems like a full proof plan but it also proved to be just as unpredictable and loaded with characters, hacks and un-professionals.

My second step was to go back to the contracts and the specifications and make sure before the next jobs that everything was crystal clear and laid out ahead of time to make sure that there was no confusion. What can go wrong with that? Same results: Broken promises, shotty work, delays, complaints, poor communication and overall frustration.

The light went off this week when I received a text from one of my subs ( A little back ground) He does absolutely high level quality work but is one of the worst communicators and business men I know. I constantly have to jump through his hoops to keep him happy and make sure he doesn’t walk off the job for some slight that he may feel. I often refer to him as my lover. Someone who can woo me back time and time again but someone who I could never get married to. Anyways his latest text was another in along series of whines in how the contract for the job that he agreed to was too low and that I should know this next time before I bid the job.

Oh yeah the light….

The light is-

IT’S MY FAULT  Its me who has consistently and habitually accepted and allowed the mediocrity in my subs for years. I rationalize their un-professionalism and trade debauchery with phrases like “the devil you know vs the devil you don’t” “at least he shows up”  or “his price was good” etc, etc.

The light is -

I AM THE PROBLEM  I often listen to Tony Robbins and one of his go to philosophies is that in order to make any kind of lasting change you have to raise your standards. The buck has to stop with me and until I demand more of myself and my life I will continue to attract and accept mediocrity in my life and my business.

The light is-

NOTHING WILL CHANGE UNTIL I DO If I”m brutally 2 beer Nate honest and look around my own life and business, I know that I will never be able to identify, let alone demand a higher level of work and professionalism unless I make the changes in myself first.



Nathan Dishington has been a General Contractor in the greater Boston area since 2002.  He shares his experience, advice and anecdotes from the wild world of residential remodeling to TRY and help bring some sanity for both contractors and homeowners alike.


Nathan Dishington

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