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How to Choose Better Subcontractors – 6 Tips

One of the best ways to deliver a successful project is to choose the best subcontractors to work with. Some projects are incredibly complex and require the general contractor to outsource some of the labour. Subcontractors, or speciality contractors, are teams of people hired to work on specific tasks. They are usually experts in a specific niche, meaning that they are experienced enough to be trusted with some of the more delicate jobs. 

In any given year, most construction companies work with hundreds, if not thousands, of subcontractors. There’s a lot of technical and financial risks involved with outsourcing work to them. That’s why it’s absolutely essential that you perform extensive evaluations of possible suitors before you hire them. Even more important is maintaining friendly and mutually beneficial relationships with your subcontractors. Chances are that if you hired them for one job, you’ll likely need them again down the road. That’s doubly true if they went beyond your expectations and delivered an amazing result.

So how can you hire the best subcontractors for the job? We’ve compiled a list of our favourite tips to help you improve your selection process. 

Tip #1 – The subcontractors reputation and accountability

It’s your responsibility to select the best candidates for the job. A good way to start is to look into the number of positive reviews and recommendations they have received. This is a great way to start because it gives you a good idea of their experience and reputation in the field. To go a step beyond, we recommend making some calls to some of their previous clients to perform some reference checks. This is a fantastic opportunity to ask specific questions about the subcontractor, including their experience and accountability. 

Make sure you prepare a list of dealbreakers before you perform your research. The most important part about looking at company reviews and performing reference checks is to find the best subcontractor for your job. 

First of all, you should ask the subcontractor’s references the types of projects they worked on and the nature of their relationships, how long they have worked together, etc. Then, here are some examples of other questions you might want to ask their previous clients:
1. Can you describe their quality of work?
2. How much supervision was required?
3. Were they responsive to phone calls? Did they pick up the phone?
4. Was the project done on time? Did they arrive when they were expected to?
5. How long did it take for them to return to site to repair any deficiencies?
6. Did they provide value in relation to their pricing?
7. How was the overall experience?
8. Would you work with them again?

Tip #2 – Staffing capabilities of subcontractors

Another question you should be asking yourself is whether or not the subcontractor is equipped to handle the scope of your job. When qualifying subcontractors, be sure to ask for a detailed list of their staff that includes their experience in the field. As well, we recommend asking for a clear organizational chart that outlines who is responsible for what. This will give you a clear idea of how responsibility is deferred in the subcontractor. 

Does the subcontractors’ number of employees, experience, and specialization complement the job? If not, then don’t bother. 

Tip #3 – Make sure they have the correct experience

As mentioned in tip #2, it’s highly important that you ensure that the candidate has adequate experience to handle your job. We’ve already recommended that you perform reference checks and perform some research on their staff, but you can go a step beyond and look into their past projects.

With the subcontractor, you can request a detailed list of their previous projects asking for important details such as budget, schedule, and scope. As well, you can ask for more details on the projects they are currently working on to get a sense of their priorities. These questions can help you get a better idea of their performance and whether or not they’re able to deliver. 

Tip #4 – Does their price reflect their perceived value?

Focusing on price is a double-edged sword. On one hand, you need to be able to deliver stellar results on a fixed budget. On the other hand, it’s important to keep your priorities straight. What are you looking for your subcontractor to accomplish? 

Let’s be honest – hiring the cheapest option isn’t always the best idea. Sure, they have the potential to deliver their end of the bargain at a low cost. But oftentimes, there’s a reason why their price is so low. Whether it’s because they lack the appropriate experience, use materials that are sub-par, or offer inconsistent results, it’s important to ask yourself whether or not you’re hiring based on fit or cost. Compromising is inevitable, so just be sure you weigh the pros and cons of your available options.  

Tip #5 – Do they have the right licenses and insurance?

Another way to vet potential subcontractors is to qualify them based on whether or not they have the appropriate paperwork for your project. Most subcontractors will have the necessary legal documents to prove that they’re approved to work, but it doesn’t hurt to be sure.

Insurance is another thing to consider when selecting a subcontractor. Even if you have adequate insurance coverage for the project, a subcontractor can choose to purchase insurance to protect their staff. This way they can ensure the safety of their own workforce and share some liability in case of an incident.

Tip #6 – A proper safety plan

Construction projects have all kinds of associated risks. That’s why job-site safety should be a priority for both you and your subcontracting party. One way to mitigate any potential risks is to check with the subcontractor on their workplace culture. Do they have a reliable safety plan if something goes wrong? What have their references said about their safety performance in previous projects? Don’t forget – a serious injury or even a death can be disastrous, reflect extremely poorly on your company, and even have long-term consequences on the project.

So there you have it, our top six tips to help you find better subcontractors to work with. Subcontractors can have a major impact on how successful your project is, so be sure to take your time when qualifying them. Set clear expectations and hopefully you’ll be able to deliver a project that is both on time and under budget.


ContractComplete for General Contractors and Subcontractors

If you’re looking to digitize your construction business we recommend taking a look at the services we offer at ContractComplete. Our software is used by general contractors and subcontractors to help them create detailed quotations, keep their unit price contracts organized, and even automatically generate propose change documents and progress invoices. Further, ContractComplete allows you to store the document digitally, thus reducing the need to store a physical copy. Above all, our process reduces inefficiencies and ensures that all parties have a clear understanding at all stages of a project. 

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Having a consistent and reliable procedure in place allows for simplicity should the need for a change notice arise. We recommend outlining this process from the beginning with project owners. Most importantly, being upfront ensures that everyone is on the same page when changes happen. Being proactive requires deviation from industry norms, which at ContractComplete, we are eager and prepared to provide.

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