It’s been said that being a general contractor is a hard way to make an easy living. There are many moving parts out of our control—from plans and specs to ground conditions, subcontractors and suppliers to old-fashioned conflict. Our clients expect smooth scheduling, top quality and to stay on budget. 

With that goal in mind, the nature of our business relies heavily on our subcontractor selection. Jaco has created an impressive portfolio—and much is attributed by teaming up with the right people for the job. Finding and hiring a good subcontractor is a skill that a general contractor should develop and master.

So how do we find the right subcontractors? Here are six factors that help us decide:

1. Proper Bidding

Everyone wants to win the contract. When your bidding, we want a scope that is inclusive, accurate in quantity, realistic in scheduling and properly priced. We will also ask for bid forms with bonding, insurance and (per project) alternate pricing. Don’t forget that the goal is to do the work and be profitable. 

2. Scheduling

Be a pro-active scheduler. The clock on our timeline has started ticking. Communicate your schedule to us and follow through. Issues? Now is the time to let us know.

3. Man the job

You’ve been selected – that’s great!  Now it’s time to effectively staff the project. If it requires 10 men, but you only have 5…this will be a problem. You see it time and again, improper staffing and scheduling will kill a successful project’s timeline and budget.

4. Read the contract

We get it—you’re in the heat of the moment and ready to get started. In this business there are a lot of contracts. However, this document lays out how we want this project managed. No surprises, no guesswork. It outlines our expectations and includes critical information such as scheduling, change orders, submission chains, payment, handling disputes and more.

5. Cash flow

We need you to be good at your company’s finances. There are many responsibilities a general contractor has—at the risk of sounding harsh, making your payroll isn’t one of them. That is another reason we really do want you to read the contract. When a subcontractor is asking for money before it’s contracted due date, we may worry it is a reflection of poor business practices. An underfinanced subcontractor can quickly affect the project’s staffing, timeline and budget and may result in termination.

6. Teamwork

Teamwork creates a synergetic environment. It is essential when you are working toward a common goal—whether it’s subs from another trade on the project or the project manager.  A teamwork mindset will improve communication, accountability, quality of work and enhance health and safety.

When we are choosing between hiring ABC Electric vs. DEF Electric, we have much to consider. If ABC is cheaper, has a small crew of untrained staff, difficult to reach, and typically adds too many supplements; whereas DEF is slightly higher in price, but has a full crew of trained staff, reliable and fair on change orders...the choice would be easy: DEF Electric.