Myron “Butch” Ledworowski, CR
Li'l America Builders
Middleton, Wis.
Big50 1994

Save them time, schedule them efficiently, pay them quickly.

I present a preliminary proposal to the clients. If they agree to move forward, I schedule the subs to spec and bid their part of the project. This saves subs from bidding projects we might not get. Once we get their hard numbers and specs, our bottom line changes only slightly, keeping budget numbers on track.

Two weeks prior to start, we notify all subs when they will be needed for both rough and finish. Our lead follows up to fine-tune the details a few days before project start. The work area is clean and ready when they arrive. We only have one sub on site at a time. We will assist them in moving in a tub, pulling a wire, etc. If we can save them from sending two men, we all save time and money. Then we pay them within five days.

Susan McDowell
McDowell Inc. of St. Charles
St. Charles, Ill.
Big50 1999

Jim Ledermann, our senior lead carpenter and interim production manager, takes the lead in this area. He tells subs as early as he can about an upcoming job and gives them a heads-up if a visit to the job, prior to start, will be held. He also gets all the job information in writing and faxes it to them.

Ledermann recommends always keeping a list of subcontractor numbers handy — on every jobsite, in every job binder and folder —and, whenever possible, entering subs into your two-way communication system.

Always pay subs on time. We pay subs every two weeks, with all the proper documentation from them. Finally, subs take more responsibility if they have been introduced to the client, especially as “one of our best subs.”

Chancey Walker III
VB Contractors
Virginia Beach, Va.
Big50 2006

When the economy is soft, I've noticed many subs get in over their heads financially. Some think that because there is good cash flow through their company, the money is all theirs. They take too much money out of the business, thinking it is earnings. When finances get tight, they start chasing money. In other words, “Who will pay me quickest?” When a subcontractor starts not showing up when promised, there's a good chance they are chasing money.

The role of the project manager or site supervisor in the process is critical. If they are not good communicators and good coordinators, the job has little chance of being a success.

Wally Owings
Owings Brothers Contracting
Eldersburg, Md.
Big50 2001

The key to successful relationships with subcontractors starts with volume. We represent a large portion of our subcontractors' annual revenue, which is advantageous because they are more likely to accommodate us on short notice — as well as for our normal business.

Our two major concerns when dealing with subs are pre-pricing the job and a timely start.

Communication is the key to all success. It begins with subcontractors keeping current insurance information and other paperwork in our office. Typically there is a pre-construction meeting with our production supervisor and project manager to review project scope with the subcontractor. After the contract and scope of work have been determined and agreed upon, day-to-day scheduling can be determined. Add a day or so — as a buffer — to whatever is promised and you have a successful relationship.

David Tan
B Line Construction
Sacramento, Calif.
Big50 2002

Subcontractor time schedules have always been one of our biggest control issues. We establish a time commitment from subs early in the project with a pre-project meeting or a pre-project notification. In the meeting, we address areas of concern, set schedules, and establish points of contact for both parties. It's critical that the sub is aware of his direct point-of-contact for the project and knows where to get information.

We advise subcontractors weekly, via fax or e-mail, of any time changes and about upcoming projects. Subs are kept loyal to the company by the volume of work we give them, and by prompt payment.

Since subcontractors' time schedules are the hardest to control, they should always be kept first in the communication chain between the client and the contractor.