OE Construction Corp

How to Make Subcontracting Simpler – and More Successful

How to be more successful as a construction subcontractor – our thoughts…..

When a “Subcontractor Specialist,” such as; a plumbing contractor, utility contractor, earthmoving contractor, and so on, is under the leadership and contracted to work for a General Contractor (GC), the smart Subcontractor Foreman realizes that the relationship he or she establishes with the General Contractor’s project senior field leader (Superintendent) needs to be positive and proactive.

In this article I’d like to address how a Subcontractor Foreman, representing a Subcontractor Specialist, can project a positive presence and be proactive in connecting with their General Contractor Project Superintendent. 

Positive in Presence

This is where first and lasting impressions are made.  The Subcontractor Foreman can promote collaboration and a good working relationship with the GC Superintendent assuming the Subcontractor Foreman’s attitude is upbeat, positive, and committed to the completion of their portion of the project.  This collaborative and positive attitude will help both the Subcontractor Forman and the GC Superintendent throughout the project duration.

Consider a few positive actions with working with a GC Superintendent:

  • Introduce yourself to the GC Superintendent upon first arrival.  Don’t wait for them to come find you.
  • When you meet the GC Superintendent, shake their hand or in the case of COVID-19 maybe a quick nod and look at them confidently in the eye.  The lack of eye contact by the Subcontractor Foreman could signal weakness, being unprepared, and “I really don’t want to be here.”
  • Make it a habit to start your arrival each day asking the GC Superintendent, “How’s it going?” and following that up with “Anything new developed?” 
  • Monday’s arrival should include the “look ahead” for that week of work. Many Subcontractor Foremen don’t speak up about the day or weekly plan, but those who do communicate with the GC Superintendent are one step ahead.
  • When someone brings a negative situation to you, adapt an attitude that includes, “OK, that doesn’t sound great but let’s give our best shot here and see what we can come up with to solve the issue.”  GC Superintendents love the Subcontractor Foreman who sees problems as opportunities.
  • Let the GC Superintendent be the first to know good news.
  • Once in a while, bring food to a meeting (if allowed on the jobsite).
  • If your team is celebrating with a lunch, invite the GC Superintendent.
  • Be sure to introduce the GC Superintendent to your workers when the opportunities arise.
  • Drop by the GC Superintendent’s office or work area on the way out every day.  If he (or she) is there, make some small talk. Share what you completed and where you would like to start the next morning

Never miss an opportunity to make a good impression with your GC Superintendent – make a sincere effort with everyone on the job site.  

Proactive in Connecting

Being positive is important but actually engaging the GC Superintendent requires an intentional effort. Subcontractor Foremen that have a focus, a plan, and want a good job site relationship based on transparency and trust always come out ahead. Your proactive efforts to connect with the GC Superintendent will help build both your crew and the Subcontractor Company reputation as a “preferred subcontractor.”

Consider a few proactive actions when connecting with the GC Superintendent:

  • When giving the GC Superintendent your week’s schedule (aka, the Look-Ahead), be sure to point out what actions by the GC and other Subcontractor’s need to be complete or out of the way to help you and your crew meet the schedule. 
  • Keep your GC Superintendent updated each day (sometimes more than once a day); this will help build a good line of communication with the GC Superintendent.  Many Subcontractor Foremen tend to avoid their jobsite GC Superintendent and that’s exactly the wrong thing to do.
  • During weekly jobsite meetings be a good listener, take notes, and engage the discussion periodically. Offer to assist another Subcontractor if it will help you with your schedule (like moving materials or other items in your way).  Such an effort sends signals that you are a team player.
  • Ask the GC Superintendent to come by and inspect some of the efforts of your crew (maybe it’s a tough area to work around, the work is extremely complicated, etc.).  Better to get the GC Superintendent’s thoughts on “quality of work” early. This effort also sends a signal to the GC Superintendent that you are not afraid of their presence or an honest assessment.
  • Work to develop a daily “hi-lo” update for the GC Superintendent and deliver it verbally. When a challenging issue arises, especially one that the GC Superintendent knows about, take the lead on trying to resolve the issue. Take up the challenge, letting the GC Superintendent know that you are “on it.”
  • Place some simple “signage” in your work area that communicates where tools and materials are to be kept, organized etc. This is really a big deal for many GC Superintendents as they like to see organization from their Subcontractors.  Also make sure your work area is clean and the crew is disposing of trash and other items in a timely manner each day.  Don’t leave a mess for others.

There are a host of other proactive efforts that you can take as a Field Foreman and Leader when reporting to a GC Superintendent, but the primary focus should be that you are proactive about getting in, performing and promoting a quality and safe work site, and over-communicating your progress.  If done right, you will find the collaboration and communication efforts help build your relationship and the Subcontractor Company relationship with the GC Superintendent and the General Contractor Company.  This process will make the project go faster and smoother and also put you in a good place to win additional work with your customer (the GC Contractor). 

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