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Kevin Ahern

By: Kevin Ahern on April 6th, 2021

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Subcontractor vs Partner: A Comparison for Remodeling Projects

Industry Knowledge

General contractors typically work with two types of professionals during a standard remodeling project: subcontractors and partners.

The relationships with partners and subs can be delicate. It takes years for a general contractor to learn how to manage these relationships effectively, to ensure that everyone gets what they need at the end of a construction project. 

Whether you're new to the industry or simply seeking some information about construction industry functions, it's important to know how these three distinct groups work together as they create beautiful buildings, additions, and remodels throughout the state of Connecticut.

Litchfield Builders has been in business for over 25 years, and we've learned a lot about how to maintain balance and good communication with partners and subs. We thrive on these relationships. Here's what we've learned in our time as a general contractor. 

Subcontractor Or Partner?

Subcontractors are contractors who play a specialized role in remodels and building projects. Typical examples of subcontractors include plumbers and electricians. General contractors work with subcontractors of all kinds including framers, painters, carpenters, floor layers, roofers, masons, bricklayers, drywallers, and concrete contractors. There are more subcontractors than you can imagine, including specialty subs that handle glass and glazing, ironworkers, excavators, and more. 

Partners are industry professionals that general contractors must work with in order to complete their work. The best example of a partner is architects. These professionals create the designs that are passed along to general contractors during a standard remodel.   

Working With Partners

Why the Relationship Is Important

It's vitally important for architects and general contractors to maintain a smooth working relationship throughout any project they're working on together. A good working relationship between these two groups leads to a smoother and more successful remodeling project. In addition, generals and architects who work well together can refer each other to clients, when it's a good fit. 

Maintaining Good Relationships With Construction Partners

There are many ways for generals to maintain good relationships with partners. 

  • Maintain open lines of communication. Hopefully, you have a strong administrative staff that can respond to inquiries and alerts you to phone calls quickly. If not, stay on top of email and voice mail. Meet your partners where they are, using their preferred method of communication whenever possible. 
  • Be professional. Maintain a respectful relationship with your partners, always presenting your best side when working with them. If a disagreement should arise, compromise is important. Try not to involve the client, but settle issues with your partner as a team. 
  • Give referrals when appropriate. Think of your partners when you’re trying to help out clients. If you know the right person for the job, let your client know. Always remember partners who have done the favor of referring you. 
  • Go the extra mile for small shops. Architects with large, professional firms often have the resources they need to be independent during a job. Meanwhile, some architects operate out of their homes with little help. For partners with little administrative staff, give help when it's warranted to keep the project running smoothly. 

Working with Subcontractors

Why the Relationship is Important

General contractors rely on the services of good subcontractors to keep their remodel projects running smoothly, and subcontractors rely on general contractors to stay busy. Each one needs the other. If you're able to find and maintain relationships with the right subs, you could work with the same professionals for years. 

Maintaining Good Relationships With Subcontractors

Respect is key to a good working relationship between a general and sub-contractor. If you're a general, that means doing what you can to maintain positive relationships with the subs that you work with. 

  • Give notice when possible. Don't ask for all your work at the last second, but give sufficient notice for subs to manage their schedule and fit your jobs in. 
  • Know how to choose the right sub for the job. Just because a sub can do the work doesn't mean that sub is the right professional for the job. Knowing how to choose the sub who can work best under the circumstances can help prevent problems.  
  • Know when to break off a relationship with a sub-contractor. If a sub-contractor has become unreliable, don't drag out the problem until it becomes unmanageable. Break off relationships with subs that can negatively impact your work or the work of other subs on your job site. 
  • Check sub references. If you're working with a new sub, check their references with local material suppliers before assigning the work. Is the sub reliable? Do they pay their bills? 
  • Be fair when there's a problem. If you've experienced an issue with a sub-contractor, be willing to speak up and say something. If the problem is on your side, be willing to admit to your mistake. 

Become a Pro at Relationship Management 

If you're a general contractor, one of the best things you can do for yourself and your business is to learn how to manage relationships between subcontractors and partners. You need your industry partners to get the work done.

The easier you are to work with, the easier it will be to find work, finish work for your clients without delays and mistakes, and the more rewarding your work life will be. 

Litchfield Builders is an industry leader in commercial and residential construction in Connecticut. For more information about finding the right general contractor, conducting a home improvement project, and increasing the value of your home, check out our "How to Choose a Professional Home Remodeling Contractor"

How to Choose a Professional Home Remodeling Contractor

About Kevin Ahern

Kevin is the Co-Founder of Litchfield Builders, an award-winning, industry leader with a reputation for managing projects others shy away from. They are known for their high-quality work, customer service, and reliability and though still relatively small in size, Litchfield Builders now competes with some of the areas largest firms in both the residential and commercial arenas.