Who’s the right subcontractor for the job?


Teams of subcontractors can make — or break — a construction site. Photo via fb.com

Working in the field of general contracting/construction management, GC/CM, may often seem as simple as constructing a building and turning it over to the end user. However, the process provides many opportunities to positively affect the community in which we work.  

Once the building design is complete and the budgets are in place, the subcontractors and suppliers who will supply the parts, pieces and labor to create the building need to be hired.

On a typical new building, there may be over 50 subcontractors and suppliers that need to be engaged to help create a reality from the vision that’s been put on the paper.  

One of the ways that we can have an impact is through the selection of team members to work on the project.

Many times funding organizations and/or owners themselves wish to hire certain companies or types of companies to complete the project.

Sometimes that means a requirement to give preference during selection to contractors who are women, minority or locally owned — or maybe all of the above. Maybe the owner’s brother owns a business he’d like us to use. Maybe the requirement to perform long-term maintenance at a high level on the project is more important than anything else. Each project is different.

No matter the project and no matter the requirements, the role of the GC/CM doesn’t change.

We must insure the project gets completed on time, on budget and with the highest possible quality. Providing that insurance means evaluating the risk when hiring any subcontractor or supplier — large or small, experienced or not.  

Many times the preferences we are required to give during the bidding process do result in the hiring of a contractor or supplier who may not have the experience or financial strength of another.

This choice can affect the community. Should that subcontractor succeed, the impact is positive as they continue to grow their business and experience, which continues to build the community in which they operate.

The impact could be negative if they fail for any reason. At the very least, it will cost those involved with the project real time and money, but at the worst, it could mean failure of the entire project.

Our job as a project team is to use wisdom and discernment when selecting the subcontractors or suppliers, no matter how small their role.

That means understanding where we can come alongside of a less-experienced partner to help them succeed and sometimes, more importantly, where we may be setting somebody up for failure.  

The responsibility of all parties involved can be significant, and it’s important as a community we understand the risks and rewards of the process.

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