I live in a world of professional quarterbacks with golden arms. These guys can pass with the likes of Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. Pass “The Buck” that is. My job as a General Contractor can sometimes be boiled down to simply getting my subcontractors to own their shit.
It starts with texts at 6:30 in the morning, voice mails at coffee break, phone calls at lunch and face to face buck passing till bedtime. The framers blame the foundation guy, the finish guy blames the plaster guy, the flooring guy blames the painter and the painters??? Hell they blame everyone! We are talking about professionals here, highly trained excuses makers that can always find a way to skirt their responsibilities when it comes to schedule, quality and inevitably, dollars in the most elaborate and creative ways. It is a rare sub who conducts 100% of their business in a truly professional manner and that is the unfortunate truth of our industry.
Where to start?
Details. (Even more important than getting it in writing) The details of expectations, schedule, scope etc. All these things need to be communicated well in advance. If it’s a painter the details include the type of paint, amount of prep, dust control, etc. You should also discuss the schedule such as when he starts and ends each day, how many guys will be on the job and how long does he expect the job to take. Realistically, the average homeowner is simply not going to know all the questions they should ask a particular sub contractor. Most times they are just hoping that they hired the right one and they will do their job
Equip them– The most important thing that you the homeowner, GC or client can do is ask your contractor this ONE question. This 1 question will save you from a mountain of canned excuses that many contractors deploy. Ask them EXACTLY what they need from you in order to perform their job 100%. Whether its materials, access to the job or a list of items completed before they arrive, make sure that you know and agree what these things are and provide 100% of them. Leave just 1 thing undone and I guarantee when he doesn’t show up the next day he will say it’s because that 1 thing was not done and that is why he could not be there.
Get it all in writing…. If possible
Inspection– This is one of the hardest parts of both my job as a GC and a homeowners job when overseeing subcontractors work. We often doubt ourselves when it comes to evaluating work that we are not necessarily experts in. After all we want to defer to and trust the expert that we hired, whether it’s Mike Mulligan and Mary Ann digging the foundation for Popperville’s new town hall or Fabricio the painter finishing your deck, we may see something that we think doesn’t look right but can easily back down to a strong argument from the “expert” we have hired. This step albeit difficult still needs to be done. A close inspection of all work needs to be done in order to insure that you are getting exactly what you agreed to and are ultimately paying for.
Bottom line. If you make it very clear that you will not tolerate excuses then most likely your contractor will go the extra mile to make sure you are happy. Ok, fairly happy…. likely….hopefully…maybe…. Good Luck!