How GC's Choose Subcontractors for Their Construction Job
By Nathan | Posted on June 21st, 2016
As any general contractor knows, despite the skill level and professionalism of their own employees, it's a subcontractor who can make or break a job. Contractors can be both a superintendent's delight and worst nightmare. For all intents and purposes, when they're working on a project site, subcontractors are the employees of the GC, even though they're not. Certainly, clients don't know the difference. As a result, unprofessional behavior and shoddy work by subcontractors are laid at the feet of the contractor. And in addition to having a potentially adverse affect on a firm's reputation, subcontractors can cause plenty of other problems, ranging from project delays to safety issues. So selecting the right subcontractors for a project is no small ordeal. Contractors looking for subcontractors is such a big thing in fact, that academic studies have been conducted on this issue.
The authors of a white paper financed by the Housing and Building National Research Center explain that so much research and related surveys have been done on construction subcontractors, that researchers have been able to develop computer algorithms that can select attributes of the best subcontractors. According to the paper, there are forty six separate qualities that general contractors are looking for when making their hiring selections. But the computer didn't decide this on its own. Instead, it looked at data compiled both from surveys and questionnaires filled out by a number of experts in the construction industry.
What to look for in a subcontractor
What contracting firms are looking for in subcontractors isn't surprising. Ones who charge reasonable fees are a plus, of course. But what contractors are also looking for in subcontractors are ones who are conscientious about work quality and habits. They also want to work with subcontractors who:
- have proven work histories
- have good reputations
- are specialists
- can guarantee quality control
- don't have disruptive work habits
- practice good safety habits
- don't create unnecessary messes or noise
- can keep up with the contractor's schedule
- work well with suppliers, and delivery issues are minimal
This dependence on subcontractors isn't unique to American firms, either. While other nationalities may assign different values to the criteria of hiring subcontractors, the paper shows that they are essential to construction internationally.
As construction firms struggle to find qualified employees, and are becoming increasingly reliant on the services of an electrical subcontractor or a mechanical sub among many others, what are the best ways to guarantee dream temporary employees? Asking friends and other contractors is one time proven way, while other methods might be to inquire at specialty suppliers, or talk to homeowners who recently have had work done. And once a firm finds the right subcontractors, they should hang onto them with both hands, as the need for these specialists will only increase as we advance into the 21st century.
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