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How to Manage Subcontractors Effectively

By Leppo Rents
August 9, 2023

Subcontractors are construction professionals hired to complete certain elements of large building projects.  

Every construction project is different, and subcontractors can fill a variety of roles. Depending on the project, they could meet with clients for upcoming jobs, they could be tasked with calculating costs for materials and labor, tracking timelines and budgets, and overseeing teams of other subcontractors.  

Since so much responsibility may rest on an individual subcontractor, building a relationship based on good communication and trust is very important. It’s also critical to find the right subcontractor, one that you can also trust because the success or failure of your work is reliant on them.  

In this article, we will discuss choosing the right subcontractor, tips on minimizing issues that may arise on the job, and creating a relationship that will last through future projects.  

How to Choose a Qualified Subcontractor

For a project manager, choosing an unqualified subcontractor can be a disaster. They can cause delays at work, risk the safety of you and your employees, or cause legal and contract problems as well as business risks. Before hiring a subcontractor or hiring based on someone else’s recommendation, ensure the subcontractor is qualified.  

Initial Review of a Subcontractor 

As a standard practice, you should qualify the subcontractor before hiring them. To pre-qualify a subcontractor, you should do the following: 

  1. Follow up with previous clients and references.  
  2. Confirm all licenses and certificates.
  3. Investigate any claims filed.
  4. Check their safety records.
  5. Verify that they are insured.

While much of this is good business practice, it is important to have a standard process in place for vetting and reviewing subcontractors. Make sure to follow the practice for every subcontractor. 

In addition, meet with the company and project team to review them in person. Talk to them and see if you have a connection. Are they trustworthy? Will they make a good addition to the team? Do you feel like they will build trust with the client? Sometimes the most important step in managing a subcontractor is taking time for that initial meeting. 

Put Contract Details in Writing

Handshake deals and verbal contracts are not foolproof. Be sure to draft a legal contract that states everything in writing. A legally signed contract will give you legal rights if a subcontractor doesn’t hold up their end of the bargain. 

Details n the contract should include: 

  1. Specific duties assigned to the subcontractor and contractor.  
  2. Details of deliverables (dates, assigned parties, etc.)
  3. Scope of services
  4. Work restrictions
  5. Quality Standards
  6. Additional terms and conditions

As a business, you should have legal documents on hand and ready, but it’s always a good idea to review them to ensure they still provide you with legal protection. Regulations and laws can change, and subcontractors may ask for revisions to the document. Regular legal reviews can ensure your protection is still sound.  

Plan the Project Thoroughly

All successful jobs start with a good plan. Without a well-devised plan, no one will know how to get from point A to point B. Proper planning ensures that all elements stay organized; otherwise, the result may be dissatisfying.  

Before jumping straight into things, make sure all elements are well-prepared. Include subcontractors and involved parties in all meetings. Tips on how you can do this: 

  1. Plan a workflow. 
  2. Create a master schedule.
  3. Utilize material procurement.
  4. Note all safety concerns.
  5. List any additional issues.

You’ll want to clearly define the expectations for the subcontractor in the planning, and it should align with the contract. The contract should be signed before the project starts, so the subcontractor will have the opportunity to provide feedback during planning. It is still important to create as detailed a plan as possible and to identify potential problems and challenges early so you aren’t asking too much of the subcontractor or leaving yourself at risk of the subcontractor not completing the work you need them to. 

Be Professional

Always be professional. Even though you are the client, and the job needs to get done, providing the subcontractor with the support they need to succeed will ensure a better project for you and the owner. When you are happy about their work, commend them for a job well done. Make them feel part of the team and speak to them as a professional and your subcontractor team will hopefully be willing to go the extra mile for you.  

Establish Good Communication

Subcontractors are vital to the success of the project. For this reason, it’s important to establish a good line of communication. For example, before construction begins, a site preparation contractor will typically prepare the site for work. However, the project could be delayed if this contractor isn’t current on schedule or scope changes.  

Set up regular status reports and meetings with a set agenda so everyone has access to the latest information.  

Document Everything

Make sure all aspects of the job are documented. This includes all work done, money spent, time consumed, issues raised, and measures taken.  

Since contractors are often not directly involved in subcontractors’ work, a detailed document that gives instructions on what is expected of all parties will act as proof in case any problems arise. Furthermore, these documents can be used to defend all decisions made.  

Encourage Team Morale

While holding regular team-building activities with all stakeholders and team members may not be possible, taking time to get to know your subcontractor, asking them how things are going, and keeping them involved in the other work can boost team morale. Maybe have dinner brought to the jobsite if a team is working late, or invite all the subcontractors to the building opening. Little steps like that will make you a contractor they look forward to working with.  

Pay on Time

Unfortunately, delayed payments are not unheard of in the construction industry. While there are various reasons for this, do your best to avoid late payments. Regular payments are not only a sign of a good business to work with, but they can also prevent problems for the subcontractors and their employees.  

Supporting Contractors and Building Companies

Today, contractors, subcontractors, and the professionals that build are on the front lines of supporting our world. From a new office building to remodeling a home, to repairing our infrastructure, their work is critical to everything we do.  

Leppo Rents is proud to support the construction industry not only with top-of-the-line construction equipment and repair services but also a partnership that helps contractors and subcontractors succeed in their work. For the latest industry news or anything related to construction equipment sales and rentals, visit our blog 


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