Ever hear the saying “don’t put all your eggs in one basket?” The theory goes beyond groceries and actually bears a good message to general contractors managing their subcontractor base. As strange as it may seem, all the same principles apply.

In any thriving construction practice, when projects are introduced, there is a unique set of needs obligatory to each differing scope. By nature, different locations and conditions require unique sets of resources, even within a similar prototype. I was recently sitting down with a client who confirmed that the same subs in every project create a “tunnel vision” that isn’t healthy to remaining competitive.

It’s fair to acknowledge your subcontractors’ strengths in timeliness, capacity, and craftsmanship for each specific job and choose the best suited candidate without feeling like you’re “playing favorites.” Recognize the needs of your close subcontractors, however also respect the unique needs of a project and the best fitting business partner.

A recent article of Construction Executive Risk Management highlights that it’s helpful to “Outline a clear, detailed, scope of work so that when evaluating the subcontractor there is a well-defined set of requirements to check their qualifications against. Define the scope of the project verbally and in writing. Not only does this serve as a record, but it allows the subcontractor to look at each piece of it. The process of defining the scope of work as an opportunity for the subcontractor to:

  • identify conflicts or challenges associated with their scope of work;
  • speak about the proposal; and
  • come to the table with solutions, ideas and problems that could occur.”

The system of “we owe them a job” typically doesn’t ensure the optimal outcome. Sure, it’s much easier to say this without feeling the pressure of a trusted subcontractor partner asking for participation, however in the larger picture, work is able to be more detail focused when each trade is paired with its best equivalent.

It’s challenging having the perfect sub for each specific need set, but this is why networking is so critical. Being open to creating new relationships through trade shows, construction executive sessions, and real estate summits are all ways to surround a GC with ways they can capture the value of variety in subcontractors.

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