From the plumber whose work is always on time and under budget, to the electrician who goes above and beyond the scope of every contract, the ideal trade contractor is a partner worth nurturing. As growing numbers of remodelers subcontract more of their work, they're going to new lengths to ensure that, as one remodeler put it, “when I make a call, they'll come running.”

Freyenhagen Construction production manager Dan Wegner shows a detail on his tablet computer to plumber Dave Rabenberg.
Jeremy Freyenhagen Freyenhagen Construction production manager Dan Wegner shows a detail on his tablet computer to plumber Dave Rabenberg.

In Billings, Mont., a tight labor force makes Freyenhagen Construction extremely dependent on skilled tradespeople and trade contractors. Besides paying his trades promptly, Jeremy Freyenhagen asks them what he can do for them. Here's what he's learned, in his words, and in order of importance:

  • “It's very important to them that they work for a company like ours that really appreciates the quality of work that they do. We don't ask them to cut corners or do things with cheaper materials or unproven techniques.
  • “Our employees respect them and their employees. They genuinely like one another and enjoy working together.
  • “Their loyalty is tied directly to our loyalty to them. We don't jerk them around and ask them to look at jobs they won't get, or price them against inferior competitors. We bring them the work and ask them to price it fairly and in a way that ensures it will be done right.
  • “We schedule them accurately. When we tell them to be at the job, it's ready.
  • “We're flexible with them, and they appreciate that if they have some other job that's very pressing, we cut them some slack to get it done if it doesn't affect our schedule.
  • “We share the credit. Next month, one of our recent clients is having a barbecue for our crew. Of course all of our tradesmen will be invited to attend.”
  • This generous attitude helps Freyenhagen Construction provide a three-year warranty on its workmanship. “I've never had a tradesman refuse to come back and fix something that was their fault,” Freyenhagen says.