This Issue Really Frosts Me, and I Would Like to Know How You Deal with It.

Jerry Smith / April 2019

You are a subcontractor that has built a solid reputation for quality work, great service and responsible bidding. You submit a bid to General Contractor One and it is not accepted. It happens and you get over it. Sometime down the road, General Contractor One gives you a call and says they are in trouble on the same a project. They need you to bail them out or provide some supplemental manpower because the subcontractor they selected is underperforming. How often does it happen to you?
How would you respond when General Contractor One asks you to supply manpower and resources for a job that was awarded to a competitor?
How you respond as a subcontractor says a lot about who you are. For me, it really puts a burr under my saddle. There is the feel-good option, and there is the smart business option. It is a difficult position to be in because you want to maintain a good relationship with General Contractor One and the general contractor sees it as the right thing for you to do—help them bring a job in on time and under budget.
Considering the amount of work going on across the country, it would seem beneficial to the entire industry if general contractors would do a better job of scrutinizing potential subcontractors, making sure they are capable of performing the awarded work. Asking a few important questions during the prequalification and bidding stage could make a huge difference. Here are a few examples:

  • How much work do you have on your backlog?
  • How many employees do you have to complete that work, and are you able to secure the necessary materials needed for the project?
  • What is your EMR, and do you have a full-time safety manager?
  • Do you have a back office to support this project?

One of the biggest things my company has started doing is educating our general contractors about the distinctions between companies that have a substantial history of excellent performance and companies that don’t. We let them know who has what work in our area and let them draw their own conclusions as to who has the resource to perform well on their job.

In addition to being 2018–2019 president of the Association of the Wall and Ceiling Industry, Jerry Smith is president of Baker Drywall Austin, Ltd.