Construction is not a solo gig. No matter what part of the building project you put together, you can't do it alone. When you need the input of another specialist or require an extra set of hands, you'll need to outsource to a contractor. And that brings in a whole new set of problems, right? Now, on top of everything else you have to do, you have to manage subcontractors.
If you've ever outsourced to subcontractors before, you'll know the conundrum: they're not your employees, but they do work for you. So, how do you manage subcontractors without overstepping your bounds? How do you avoid micromanaging them?
Don't worry, we've put together the ultimate guide to managing subcontractors. Here's everything you need to know!
What Exactly Is A Subcontractor?
A subcontractor is a person or company that you hire to complete a specific part of a larger project. Often, subcontractors are freelance tradies who work for themselves.
Subcontractor vs Contractor
Contractors and subcontractors often work together on projects to bring them to fruition, but they ultimately have different responsibilities and tasks.
A contractor manages the overall project with a general understanding of all the aspects of the job. A subcontractor is more of a specialist in a particular field.
Contractors have a direct relationship with the client, so they often act as a go-between when there are questions or points that need clarification. They can then communicate this information to the subcontractors.
When you hire a subcontractor, it is important to remember that they work for themselves. They might report to you, but they do not become your employee when they agree to take on the job.
Tips On How To Manage Subcontractors
In an ideal situation, subcontractors always arrive on time and get the job done right every time. But no construction project ever runs precisely to plan, does it? Your responsibility as a contractor is to find the right subcontractors who you can trust to get the job done. When you neglect your management responsibilities and ignore common sense hiring tactics (such as not hiring the cheapest contractor just to save money), you run the risk of shoddy work that you'll ultimately need to redo. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to manage subcontractors to ensure you find the right one who will get the job done to schedule and to standard. Here are some of our top tips for managing subcontractors.
Prioritise Good Communication
While you expect your subcontractor to keep you informed of progress and issues, it is just as much your responsibility to ensure you equip your subcontractors with all the information they need to get the job done safely and on time. Therefore, it is up to you to confirm your subcontractor has access to the information they need before they begin work. You will also need to keep them updated on any issues or changes to the schedule that might affect them, such as a delay in shipping materials or mistakes made by other subcontractors.
As you already know, a building project has an untold number of moving parts. Delays in one aspect have a knock-on effect which can ultimately delay the whole project. When you prioritise good communication with your subcontractors, you will save time down the line.
Ideas For Communicating With Subcontractors
- Hold regular meetings to keep everyone informed and running on schedule.
- Encourage your subcontractors to speak up about any concerns or safety matters.
- Cc subcontractors into email communications that affect their work.
- Make notes or keep a diary log of meetings and private conversations with your subcontractors. Keep these notes on file in case you need to clear up any communication disputes.
- Encourage everyone on site to work as a functioning team by creating opportunities to bond. You might host a weekly barbeque breakfast, or a pub run on Friday afternoon, or get creative in showing your appreciation when the team exceeds goals.
While you're not employing them in your staff, subcontractors still report to you. The work they do will ultimately reflect on you as the contractor, so you must ensure you're selecting the right subcontractor.
- Ask for three to four references.
- Enquire about their past projects.
- Ensure they have the correct licences for the task.
- Determine whether they have any active litigation.
- Determine their level of understanding of hazard and safety standards.
Invest In The Latest Tools/Software
Field management software is a lifesaving tool when managing your subcontractors. It can handle everything from scheduling and communications to finances and workflow. While a field staff solution is a lifesaver for keeping your company in constant communication, it also allows you to link in your subcontractors to keep them up to date with timelines and your expectations. Here's everything you need to know about a field staff solution.
Be Very Transparent With Payment Terms
- When writing up a contract for your subcontractors, always include details on how payment will work, such as:
- How often you will pay them (weekly, half before the job and half after, or all at the end)
- Details on your billing cycle (perhaps they will expect payment within a week of invoicing you, but your bookkeeper only works once per month)
- The amount you intend to pay them, whether as an hourly rate or as a whole sum.
There will be a lot less stress for everyone involved if the job details are clear; that includes payment terms.
Follow-Up Regularly - But Don't Micromanage
Subcontractors often work freelance because they enjoy the autonomy of working for themselves. Which means they won't take kindly to being micromanaged. It's important to select a subcontractor that you trust so you won't feel the need to stand over them.
So without micromanaging subcontractors, how do you ensure that they get the job done how you want it done? You need to be perfectly clear about your expectations, and put everything in writing. Be clear on aspects others might not consider, such as:
- How you expect the final result to look.
- How do you expect the final result to function.
- Whether you expect a progress result at the end of every week.
- Who's job it is to liaise with suppliers/clients/other contractors.
It's also important to provide them with context - after all, they don't work for you and might not know you and your ways as well as your employees do. Whatever your expectations, make sure you're perfectly clear from day one.
Best Tools For Managing Subcontractors
When managing subcontractors, you need to screen them, induct them, check their compliance and certificates, track their progress and pay them on time. The best tools for managing subcontractors are the tools that will remove stress by automating as much of the process as possible.
AroFlo is here to help you manage subcontractors, whether you prefer to work on a mobile phone, laptop or desktop. We designed our software to automate much of the work that goes into managing subcontractors, whether you need:
- Time tracking
- Timesheet information
- GPS tracking
- Job costing
- Progress report capabilities
- Whole employee communication.
You can use our field staff management software to oversee your team remotely - subcontractors included.
ProjectManager has a feature specifically for connecting you with your subcontractors, allowing you to add subcontractors into your digital landscape to keep them on top of any information they need to do their job. It is also customisable to allow you to lock them out of any information you want to keep within your company.
QuickBooks is a full-featured business management platform that allows businesses to keep track of their accounting, payroll, invoicing, inventory, and accounts. QuickBooks' easy billing and invoicing capabilities will help you keep up with managing subcontractors by taking the stress out of your finances. With QuickBooks, you'll never forget to pay a subcontractor again.
WorkBuddy bridges the gap between your business and your subcontractors. You can organise your subcontractors with the assigned jobs view and control what jobs they can access. With this field app, your subcontractors can:
- See a list of jobs posted to them
- Get instant notifications on your phone when they receive a new job
- Prioritise their day with a running job sheet.
Are you managing subcontractors the right way?
Here's the bottom line: treat subcontractors fairly and with as much respect as your own team. Pay them on time and be reasonable in your expectations. Beyond being a sign of decency, it will ensure better project outcomes and a happier work environment.