Subcontractors play a key role in helping Gaspar's Construction in Seattle get its jobs built. At Gaspar's, trade contractors usually do anywhere from 60% to 70% of the work on a project, and sometimes even more. "We don't even do the framing," assistant general manager Sarah Gaspar says. "We do the finish work and supervise the project."

Last January the company decided to sponsor a breakfast for those all-important subs, some of whom have worked with company owner Rich Gaspar for 20 years. More than 25 companies were invited, including framing, electrical, plumbing, drywall, HVAC, cabinet installation, and demolition subs. About 75 people attended. Sarah Gaspar says the company got a 90% turnout. The breakfast was a catered meal held at a conference room in a local hotel.

Gaspar held the breakfast to encourage a team effort among subs and to get feedback on the company's estimating process, as well as other issues. Right now, Gaspar's Construction sends its subcontractors plans and walks them through the site, prior to subcontractors submitting a price for their work. Subcontractors at the breakfast suggested that with more information on the scope of work at least a week prior to the project walk-through, they could prepare more detailed cost figures. Gaspar found out that subs wanted "more information and more time to process it. They wanted more breakout from room to room in the scope of work."

Other topics raised at the breakfast were site clean-up and job safety, because "we recently had some injuries on the job, and we wanted to highlight for them the importance of job safety," Gaspar says.

Gaspar estimates it cost the company approximately $1,500 to sponsor the breakfast. She says that Gaspar's Construction now plans to hold its subcontractor breakfast annually.