Canadian Contractor

10 Do’s and Don’ts of managing subtrades

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March 25, 2015 by Robert Koci

Subtrade guyI am teaching Project Management at George Brown College this semester. The following are the do’s and don’ts of managing subtrades that I proposed to my students. Do you agree?

1: Don’t be a friend

Subtrade friends will cost you over time. Price creep, special favours, “friend” deals, excuses; they will add up to higher costs and smaller margins.

2: Do match subs to jobs

Some subs are great at high end work, some are better with managing customers, some are fast, but a little rough. Make sure you’ve booked the right guy for each job.

3: Don’t expect them to care as much as you do

NOBODY cares as much as you. Subs included. If you expect anyone to care about your business as much as you, are are heading for a lot of disappointment.

4: Do constantly communicate

I’ve told my students at least a dozen times, you are not in the reno business, you are in the communication business.

5: Don’t let them off the hook

There will always be a special circumstance on a fixed price contract where the sub will lose a bit of time/money. Tough. Think of all the times he made out like a bandit at your expense.

6: Do size them up quickly

Have ways to determine BEFORE they work on your site if they know what they are doing. What does the truck look like? How do they dress? Are their tools well kept? Look for clues that work for you as to their ability to do the job.

7: Don’t be moved from your deal

There are exceptions, but as a principle, don’t be emotionally moved by some tall tale to change your deal. (See #1, above)

8: Do track their time and costs

On fixed price contacts, it’s important to keep track of their time and costs so you can do a back-of-the-envelope calculation on how they are making out.

9: Don’t rely on their pricing or timing

When doing an estimate that includes subtrade pricing, triangulate the numbers with numbers of your own.

10: Do start as you mean to go on

Set expectations high in the early stages. Go from tough to generous and you are a nice guy with a heart, go from generous to tough and you’re an asshole.

Am I wrong?

Let me know what you would add to my list, in the Comments field below

Robert Koci

Robert Koci

Rob Koci is the editor of Canadian Contractor magazine. Tel. 647-628-3597
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1 Comment » for 10 Do’s and Don’ts of managing subtrades
  1. Marci says:

    Great list!

    I would add…Make sure they are properly insured! Be sure to check and ask for Certificates of Insurance prior to starting a job.