6 tips for managing subcontractors

By Kyle Peacock, CEO, Peacock ConstructionMay 03, 2021

Managing partnerships with subcontractors is key to a successful project, and Peacock Construction’s CEO has tips for strengthening those relationships

For most general contractors (GCs), subcontractors (subs) represent anywhere from 50-90% of a job. That’s why it’s so important to have a strong relationship with each one.

Yet navigating subcontractor relationships isn’t always easy, especially since every GC and sub works a little differently.

Here are some tips for GCs to make the most of their relationships with subs.

1. Think about each sub as a unique partnership.

Building those partnerships can take time as the GC and sub learn the nuances of each other’s businesses. To this end, transparency is critical for decreasing the learning curve and accelerating the profitability of each project.

2. Before a job starts, the GC should clearly communicate and document the requirements of the sub.

This includes sharing drawings, providing a tutorial on any technology that’s required on the job site, anticipating and proactively answering potential questions and introducing the project manager and site supervisor.

In return, the sub will ensure the cost of materials is fairly priced and that the right number of workers will arrive on time, meet deadlines and deliver quality craftsmanship. Along with building trust, this helps minimize the likelihood of a change order.

3. Have a way to easily review the daily log.

A GC should easily know how many subs arrived, when they arrived, how long they worked and what they completed.

While GCs and subs strive for productive and profitable relationships, it’s difficult to ignore when subs don’t show up, arrive late or leave early. This is a reality of the business.

To mitigate the risk of project delays and client dissatisfaction, the GC needs to have a real-time understanding of who is onsite. This doesn’t just mean the superintendent; it includes project managers, project engineers and even executives.

One way to get ahead of the issue is to have digital access to check-in logs. A quick look online throughout the day is faster and more efficient than sending a project manager from site to site to check on the subs.

4. Don’t create more paperwork than is necessary.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, subs would sign in at a job site using the old-school clipboard and pen. Now, this process has changed.

Some GCs did face-to-face health screenings and temperature checks and recorded the information on paper. This delayed the start of the job and added more administrative work as records were stacked or added to a spreadsheet. It also made contact tracing nearly impossible, and it teeters on transgressing HIPAA compliance requirements.

Once they realized that the pandemic was going to be around for a while, some GCs turned to online survey tools. This, too, is time-consuming and offers a limited view into site activity.

With survey tools, you can look back and know who was on a job site and how they were feeling that day, but it’s not clear who is on the job site and what they were doing while they were there.

5. Take advantage of newer technologies for site awareness.

The pandemic made GCs aware of the issues with their outdated job site check-in process. Paper-based logs take time away from getting the job done, make it difficult to reconcile hours worked with contracts and are a safety risk if you don’t know who is or was on your job site.

In response to the need for a better way to do health screenings and contact tracing, the tech industry responded with digital check-in apps.

Using a smartphone and QR code, anybody on a job site can easily check in or out in seconds. For example, we Peacock Construction use Safe Site Check In to create a digital record of entry and exit to manage everybody on a site.

It’s been especially helpful in managing subs. We now know who is on site at any given time, their assignment and location and the name of their supervisor.

6. Establish new protocols for more effective sub management

By looking at an aggregate of check-in records and applying data and analytics to it, a GC can identify trends in their workforce, especially subs.

For example, it’s easier to spot the most productive subs. If there’s ever an issue regarding hours worked, the digital record is proof. And superintendents can look at their phone to know who is onsite.

Depending on the needs of the GC, they can populate the check-in screens with their own questions or direct a sub to watch a video on their phone before they start a job.

Digital check-in with site awareness capabilities is becoming part of the daily protocol on job sites and are likely to be in place after the pandemic.

Along with getting insight into each job, they make it easier to manage subs. They can institute new policies and reward the most productive subs. The more insight a GC has into their job sites, the better their relationships will be with subs and, in turn, their clients.

Kyle Peacock is CEO of Peacock Construction.

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