Thursday, May 11, 2006

For the Love of Subs

by Kris Sawyer, President
Redlands Construction

As a general contractor, trade partners, often called subcontractors, who are part of our company team, are the life blood of our business. Without them there is no business. On the other hand, they also can make or break a general contractor’s reputation. This fact is so important that I usually find a project at my own house for a new sub to do before using him or her on one of our client projects. This gives us the opportunity to work together and find out if our work style is compatible; if we click.

It’s taken a number of years to develop a solid working relationship between our trade partners and myself where there is a clear understanding of expectations and mutual respect. I need to learn what was important to them, and then, most importantly I have to treat them well.

It is very important to our clients that our trade partners who supply labor and skill to our projects as part of our team also have the same values about quality of workmanship, communication, customer responsiveness and respect for our customers’ homes. My trade contractors are the face of my business.

As such, our sub contractors are very much a part of the Redlands Construction vision and are truly valued. Our subcontractor agreements include both their responsibilities to Redlands Construction and to our clients as well as individual protections for them, too.

They are paid just as we are; they receive a 1/3 deposit upon acceptance of the agreement with progress payments laid out in their agreement based on completion of certain project benchmarks such as the completion of the rough inspection.

From a subcontractor’s standpoint it’s important to check out a general contractor before deciding to work with him or her. Check references of other subcontractors they use regularly and ask questions like:
What is most important to the GC and in what order? Quality of work, cost, or time frame? Does this fit with what’s important to you?
Is the job site ready and prepped for your work when you arrive?
Are the project specifications clear and concise? Are the plans detailed with all the information necessary to do your job properly?
Does the GC pay on time?
Does the GC have a subcontractor agreement?

It’s just as important for a subcontractor to check out reputation and references before deciding to work with a general contractor as is the reverse.

Deciding to work with a particular general contractor can be a big investment for a trade partner or subcontractor and that decision should not be taken lightly. As a subcontractor, make sure you do your homework before making your decision.

As a general contractor, I know that treating subcontractors well, and making sure there is good communication pays off, and everyone wins!

Kris Sawyer is the president and founder of Redlands Construction, Inc., a residential remodeling company based in West Roxbury, MA. She can be reached at 617-469-9012 (


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