I live in a world of professional quarterbacks with golden arms. These guys can pass with the likes of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, “The Buck” that is. My job as a General Contractor for Dishington Construction can often be boiled down to simply getting my subcontractors to own their Sh#*! It starts with texts at 6:30 in the morn
ing, voice mails at coffee break and face to face buck passing all day long. The framers blame the foundation guy, the finish guy blames the plaster guy, the flooring guy blames the painter and the painters! Hell they blame everyone and on and on it goes. And don’t talk to me about logic or common sense, that would be too easy. We are talking about highly trained excuses makers that can always find a way to skirt their responsibilities when it comes to schedule, quality and inevitably, dollars. It is a rare sub who conducts 100% of their business in a truly professional manner and that is the unfortunate truth of our industry.
Where to start?
First we need to clarify if we are talking about “General” Contractors or “Sub” Contractors.
. Hopefully if you are hiring for this role you are going to need someone who already does this as a rule. Because if he doesn’t already have this trait then I can guarantee that he’s not going to start on your job.
Subcontractors- or i.e., sub trades need to be managed vs a GC who is hired to do the managing for you. But if you are hiring specific contractors yourself here are a few key tips in order to make sure the own their part of the project.
Details. (Even more important than getting it in writing) The details of expectations, schedule, scope etc. All these things need to be communicated well in advance. If it’s a painter the details include the type of paint, amount of prep, dust control, etc. You should also discuss the schedule such as when he starts and ends each day, how many guys will be on the job and how long does he expect the job to take. Realistically, the average homeowner is simply not going to know all the questions they should ask a particular sub contractor. Most times they are just hoping that they hired the right one and they will do their job
Equip them- The most important thing that you the homeowner, GC or client can do is ask your contractor this ONE question. This 1 question will save you from a mountain of canned excuses that many contractors deploy. Ask them EXACTLY what they need from you in order to perform their job 100%. Whether its materials, access to the job or a list of items completed before they arrive, make sure that you know and agree what these things are and provide 100% of them. Leave just 1 thing undone and I guarantee when he doesn’t show up the next day he will say it’s because that 1 thing was not done and that is why he could not be there.
Get it all in writing…. If possible
Inspection- This is one of the hardest parts of both my job as a GC and a homeowners job when overseeing subcontractors work. We often doubt ourselves when it comes to evaluating work that we are not necessarily experts in. After all we want to defer to and trust the expert that we hired, whether that is the Mike Mulligan and Mary Ann digging the hole for the foundation or Fabricio the painter. We may see something that we think doesn’t look right but can easily back down to a strong argument from the “expert”. This step albeit difficult still needs to be done. A close inspection of all work needs to be done in order to insure that you are getting exactly what you agreed to and are ultimately paying for.
Bottom line. If you make it very clear that you will not tolerate excuses then most likely your contractor will go the extra mile to make sure you are happy. Ok, fairly likely….hopefully.