In his 12 years at the helm of Steven Cabinets in Minneapolis, the custom cabinetry firm his father started in 1964, Doug Steven has learned a lot about working with general contractors. With some he has an ongoing, mutually beneficial relationship. With others he doesn't.

"The general contractors who are good to work for are the ones who take the time to establish a relationship," Steven says. With a good relationship comes communication, trust, and loyalty. "Those contractors get a lot more out of their subs," he says. Remodelers who fail to communicate schedule changes or who oversimplify the scope of work at the bidding stage cost Steven money and don't earn his trust.

Many times remodelers don't practice what they preach when it comes to subcontracting work. "They sell themselves to the client as being worth the extra money," Steven says. "And then instead of delivering with top-notch subs, they sometimes go with the low bidder to keep their price to the client lower." Those remodelers end up paying for that choice in other ways, including with their reputation.

Steven's most effective business relationships are with contractors who know his price and the value of his service and product. When they have a client whose expectations match his offerings, they don't need to seek out other bids.