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Build Strong Relationships with General Contractors

Originally published
Originally published: 11/6/2020

As a specialty contractor, maintaining collaborative and fruitful working relationships with general or lead contractors is critical for success. Strong partnerships build trust, help ensure work is done more efficiently and lead to winning more bids in the future.

Establishing these relationships can be difficult, however, when you’re tasked with projects that are larger, complex and more data-driven than ever before.

If you’re managing your own subcontractors, it’s probably easy to understand a general contractor’s point of view. Like you, general contractors face a balancing act in effectively tracking a subcontractor’s work while at the same time, respecting their expertise.

This can be difficult when manual processes or outdated technology stifle communication and lead to issues with change orders, paperwork, materials and permits. Whether you’re managing a subcontractor or working with a general contractor, the right mix of technology and best practices will help you avoid common problems that can diminish trust and negatively impact the partnership.

To build long-lasting relationships with general contractors, consider these tips that are designed to improve and streamline your operations and help your business grow.

Ditch the paper and move beyond manual processes. Most general contractors are looking for specialty contractors that use modern technologies and up-to-date software rather than relying on manual processes. Many of their clients demand real-time data that some subcontractors can’t easily provide.

Jeremy Larsen, vice president of products at Viewpoint, explains the added benefits of moving away from paper and manual processes. “By moving to an integrated, cloud-based construction management solution that nets you real-time data and decision-making abilities, your business will run more efficiently,” he says. “You’ll also unlock a competitive advantage that will go a long way toward building stronger business relationships and winning more bids.”

Set guidelines and expectations from the start. Ensure your roles and responsibilities are written into the contract. Terms and conditions should be clearly defined, including project specifications, expectations, timelines and all aspects of remuneration and payment methods. This is also a good time to shine if you have the proper documentation in place, from licensing and bonding to special certifications and union payroll ability/documentation (if needed).

“The general contractor should walk you through all aspects of the project, the technologies and platforms used, communication practices and procedures, to name a few,” Larsen says. “This should also include a rigid overview of safety procedures and practices. Setting these clear expectations can save time, money and help avoid costly problems or delays.”

Communicate often. Collaboration is the glue for any successful construction project.

“Communicating project changes consistently, working with real-time data and systems and delivering information ahead of schedule will go a long way toward ensuring that everyone is on the same page,” Larsen says. “With an integrated, cloud-based construction management solution in place, you’ll be able to capture, view and share real-time project information and automate workflows for processes like time entry, invoices and change orders to deliver more productive, higher-quality work.”

In addition to delivering project information on a timely basis, strive to ensure the lines of communication are always open and that you can quickly address questions. Initiate frequent check-ins to match performance with outlined expectations to continually improve the relationship. Being open, honest and transparent will build trust and respect and increase the odds of repeat work.

Document digitally. A key element of ensuring compliance and project quality is documentation, so it’s important to have a fluid system of record-keeping in place. This means easy-to-access, correctly-versioned documents in a central location, with an effective means of distribution and backup copies in place.

“Unfortunately, many specialty contractors still rely on physical paper, file cabinets and other manual means of document and data collection,” Larsen says. “These methods are not ideal as documents can take longer to find, are easily lost and might not be recoverable in the case of a disaster, such as a fire or flood.”

Modern cloud-based construction management solutions feature powerful document management functionalities that allow you to go paperless with guaranteed digital audit trails that are consistently backed up.

Whether a single-page document or hundreds of pages of detailed plans, drawings and specs, these documents can be quickly accessed, updated and shared when needed. Intuitive versioning controls and alerts when expirations or new information is needed ensure that teams are always working with the latest information in hand.

Evaluate your performance. At the end of the project, take time to analyze the relationship. Sit down with the general contractor and review project milestones, such as your ability to meet cost estimates and deliver the work on-time and in compliance with all aspects of the contract and regulations.

Conversely, ask the general contractor if there are areas in which you could improve. You might find that many contractors appreciate this extra effort, and it will likely not go unnoticed when the next project’s bid packages are sent out. Plus, this review could help your company identify areas where it can improve.

Capture important details. Leverage technology to increase the level of detail captured on projects. Take photos or record evidence of why work cannot be completed to clearly define liability responsibilities. Report delays caused by weather conditions. Log incomplete tasks and defects ahead of walk-throughs.

Being data-driven and transparent goes a long way toward building solid working relationships. Why take a chance by playing the data guessing game with manual processes and outdated technologies?

Consider making the transition to a modern, integrated construction management platform to meet today’s modern project demands. Doing so will improve quality and productivity, streamline workflows, reduce overhead costs and boost bottom-line profits.


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