Subcontractor Relationships: The Elephant in the Room

Subcontractors, they affect all of us - everyone in the industry.

They are often the secret to our success and, unfortunately, sometimes the bane of our existence. Without them, we struggle to complete projects and deliver on our promises. When they are good, projects run more seamlessly, deadlines are met, and money is made. When they are less than efficient, problems arise, deadlines are missed, and money is lost. Maintaining positive subcontractor relationships is a critical industry topic that too few of us seem ready to discuss.

At LandSouth Construction, we have made it a point to develop experience and expertise in how we work with subcontractors. After all, they’re our partners. When they thrive, we thrive. It’s our job to do everything in our power to help them succeed. When it comes down to it, we are all in this to be successful and grow our businesses. So, if we want to make money and we want the subcontractors we work with to make money.... How do we best accomplish this? It starts with finding and keeping the right subcontractors. I have spent years in the industry as a subcontractor, superintendent, and project manager and learned a few best practices along the way. It’s time to start sharing some of the lessons I have learned. 

It’s not rocket science, but it is definitely an art. It’s a subtle but deep understanding of people; what drives them and what discourages them. We’ve failed at times. Oh, there are stories we could tell. And we have also hit it out of the ballpark, developing and strengthening relationships with subcontractors who have become reliable partners. Along the way, we have identified a few attributes that seem to be common in our most reliable and successful subcontractors, among them:

• Honesty
• Communication
• Solid leadership
• Partnership
• Sense of urgency
• Focus on success and winning

But what is the top attribute which indicates the likelihood of success. Nothing, I repeat nothing, is more important than ATTITUDE! It is hands down the most critical attribute in determining the success of any subcontractor - whether it’s specialty contractors like plumbing or mechanical, or general contractors hanging drywall. Their attitude almost always tells us everything we need to know.

What comes with the right attitude?

• Commitment to excellence and pride in their work
• Issues brought forward and solutions proposed
• Working together towards continual improvement
• Deadlines are not only met, but exceeded
• Partners and other subcontractors motivated
• Developers’ expectations exceeded

We can promote these attitudes and display them ourselves. But, this is something fundamental in a good subcontractor that needs to be present from the beginning. If they have the right attitude, hold on to them and become equally dedicated to their success. If they don’t have it, you’ll know. It will show up sooner than you would like. Attitude beats it all - experience, expertise, costs, everything. Without the right attitude, failure is almost inevitable.

The attitude is just the beginning. Over the course of the next few months, I will share with you what I have learned about identifying and keeping the best subcontractors. I’ll also provide some tips to spot problems and solve them before they become a larger issue.

We’re in this together with our subcontractors. Their success is our success. It’s time we talk about it and shed light on this critical multifamily industry topic. Time to expose the elephant in the room.

For more information visit www.landsouth.com or call 904.273.6004

ABOUT LANDSOUTH CONSTRUCTION…Building Ideas

LandSouth Construction, the Southeast’s premier general contractor, specializing in multifamily, senior living, and mixed–use development, was named one of Engineering News Record’s Top 400. Since 1998 LandSouth has transformed ideas into best–in–class communities. Headquartered in Jacksonville, Fla. LandSouth has completed more than 20,000 units including apartments, hotels, senior living, student and military housing, condominiums, townhomes, and mixed-use. For more information, call LandSouth Marketing Manager, Erica Zumstein, (904) 760-3182 or visit www.landsouth.com