7 Tips for Selecting a Subcontractor

Published April 28, 2014 by Whirlwind Team

hiring a subcontractorA business is only as good as its employees. Your subcontractors will be the face of your company whenever they are on a project for one of your clients so you need to hire the best available. But how can you determine the best subcontractors?

Here are 7 tips to help you distinguish between subcontractors that will make your business shine and those who could put a damper on future work.

1) Rely on Dependable Word of Mouth

Word of mouth has always been the primary method of getting business because it means satisfied customers think well enough of a company to recommend it to friends. The construction business is no different. Since the world of construction in any given location is relatively small, it shouldn’t be difficult to find subs by asking other general contractors, project managers, and business owners who have recently built.

If a subcontractor is garnering good word or mouth it’s a good sign that you will be gaining a valuable employee.

2) Check Previous Work

You don’t want to just rely on what others think, however. You need to see the subcontractor’s recently completed work just as your client asked to see your previous projects. No two people look at something the same way. The work done for your colleague may not compare well to your needs.

3) Ask for References and Testimonials

Like any employer you will want to have references of others the sub has worked for. But don’t just collect the references, actually follow them up. While previous employers may not come right out and say there was a problem because they are afraid of stirring up legal trouble, you can still usually tell if the relationship wasn’t great. There may be hesitancy about recommending the sub or the conversation will be extremely vague.

If all they will give you is work dates that could also be a sign of problems. Nobody balks at talking about good workers and offering glowing testimonials.

4) Look at Several Subs

Start with a list of names and develop a short list. At this point any subcontractor on the short list should be able to do a good job. Now you need to find just the right one for your job. You want to look at cultural and personality fit as well as expertise in the type of work you need done. Let’s face it, if someone rubs you the wrong way you won’t like his or her work either, no matter how well done.

5) Compare the Right Criteria

Don’t just look at pay. Find out:

  • Availability for your project dates
  • Flexibility when the schedule is shifted
  • Expected working hours
  • What equipment is available to the sub?
  • Is the sub insured properly?

It won’t do any good to sign a subcontractor who can’t work on your project at the time you require.

6) Describe the Project in Detail

Tell each sub under consideration exactly what the project will entail and have them explain their approach. Look for signs of confusion or weakness in knowledge related to your specific project. Even if they haven’t seen your building site they should be able to present an implementation plan and estimate the length of time it would take to complete their part.

7) Don’t Lowball on Pay

You have gone to a lot of trouble to find the exact right person. Be prepared to pay a fair rate for doing the job. If your offer is too low, the sub may be insulted and refuse to work for you and will likely tell others that you don’t pay well. This can narrow your choices next time you need a subcontractor.

Do your research and find out what the appropriate wages are for the type of work being done. You can talk to the same people who recommended the subcontractor as well as look online for a website that compares salaries in the region and by specialty.

You want to look good for your client so you will get good word of mouth. This means anyone who deals with your client in your name, be it employee, subcontractor, or anyone else, must represent you well. Define your project and use it to find possible subs then check each one against these 7 criteria.

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