Building Strong Contractor/Subcontractor Relationships

The idiom, “A team is only as strong as the weakest link,” is especially true in construction. Although the general contractor is ultimately responsible for managing the multitude of details in delivering a quality build, to do so, they depend heavily on their team of subcontractors.

At Eckman Construction, we understand the importance of creating reliable contractor and subcontractor relationships built on communication and trust. While our process – outlined below – is typically not related to the lowest bid scenario, it is undoubtedly the most effective when holistically considering quality, cost, and time.

Before the Work Begins

Before walking on a job site or even bidding a job, successful general contractors begin building relationships with subcontractors representing various trades. To be competitive, general contractors must have a pool of vetted subcontractors who share their work ethic and integrity. This protocol helps establish healthy working relationships while also providing enough resources to ensure competitive bidding and adequate depth of coverage for a diverse range of projects. Alternatively, early relationship building is just as crucial to top-notch subcontractors who rely on solid relationships with a few principal contractors to ensure a steady flow of new work.

Bidding and Planning Process

By taking the time to develop their relationships early on, general contractors and subcontractors have created the trust necessary for open communication. Without ongoing, open dialogue between the general contractor and their team of subcontractors, the preparation of bid packages loses efficiencies needed to be competitive. “Project budgeting and forecasting are essential to initial steps,” explains Eckman Vice President Eric Robinson. “These early planning sessions assist in creating solid contracts with owners, subcontractors, and materials suppliers. This ensures the entire team contributes to the planning phase, develops the project goals, and agrees to their specific role in meeting these goals.”

Craig Hofeling with Hofeling Electrical explains the benefits Utah contractor Eckman Construction brings to their company, along with other subcontractors, in early assistance with budgeting and project planning. “We like to get involved early. If we start in the beginning there are less problems and headaches down the road,” explains Craig. “For the owners, it is cheaper to spend the money up front than in the middle.”

As described by subcontractor Brad Becksted with MKB Mechanical, “With Eckman Construction getting us involved upfront, we can develop systems to give high-quality outcomes along with cost savings.” He continues, “We work so well together because we are a team. Eckman Construction is a family business and is personable. We share a high level of trust and operate seamlessly, including very few change orders.”

Construction to Completion

The time spent team building early on between the general contractor and subcontractors continues to pay dividends after the planning phase is complete and construction begins. During their regularly scheduled weekly meetings with owners and subcontractors, Eckman Construction relies on the continued open communication to ensure the team is well-informed and to identify potential risks to the project’s schedule or budget.

“Three of the biggest issues that can arise between contractor and subcontractor is schedule, quality of work and timely payment. At Eckman Construction, we work with our subcontractors early in the process regarding all contracting terms and continue communication throughout the project,” says Legal and Risk Manager Kristi Harris. “We strive to maintain open and positive lines of communications by acknowledging when there are potential issues to address. Our quality of work is directly related to our subcontractors’ work; we see ourselves as a team.”