Myth No. 12 — Subs — Who Needs ‘Em

by WOHe

How many of you hate dealing with subs? Raise your hands?” When I ask that in a seminar, there are a lot of hands that go up. It’s a problem for a lot of companies. A good, professional contractor from Rhode Island has offered to share some thoughts that might help. So, if you’re one of the hands-in-the-air, pull up a seat and pay attention; there may still be time to save your bacon.

Joe Cracco, CGR, CAPS, president of Modern Yankee Builders, and a reader, sent in a question about the recent Ghost Employee column. We talked about business and he has developed a sound and dependable relationship with his trades; one similar to what my and other successful companies worked hard to establish over the years. Like many of you, we prefer the term “tradecontractor” to “sub”; it is more descriptive of what they do and doesn’t carry a negative connotation.

More and more we are relying on outside trades to perform functions that used to be done in-house. I credit the shortage of skilled labor for the increase in the consolidation within the workforce. Why? A good framing tradecontractor can stay busy dependably and attract the best carpenters because of steady work, so that’s who we use, because they’re qualified. They may cost a little more (we think) but they are dependable and professional. We need to make sure we have the type of rapport with the trades that can foster a mutually successful business relationship. This is where you have to start — no magic, work at it.


The 5 biggest heard gripes I hear about subs: 1) they don’t show up on time, 2) don’t clean up, 3) don’t come to the job prepared, 4) radios, language and dress code on the job and, 5) _______ (add your own #5). OK, What’s the fix? How many of the gripes might be substantially your fault? You won’t like my answer, you with the hands up — it’s probably all five.

Joe’s company uses a system of steps or actions I call “Gripe Stoppers.” To name a few: 1) give
trades good detail and time enough to quote what you want, 2) tell them about the jobs you got and the ones you missed, 3) discuss your schedule to get their “buy-in” with the production you need, 4) keep them posted on job progress and readiness, 5) send them a copy of your “on-the-job” customer policy AND post it at the jobsite and 6) when an employee does a good job, pay them a public compliment because “Trades are People Too!”

Joe operates in a tough and competitive marketplace (who doesn’t right?), and he needs to have a dependable source of production. He tried yelling really loud and that didn’t work as well as using good, professional management on this important part of our business. Meet with your Trades at least twice a year for an open discussion, what’s going good and what’s not; listen, and try some new things. They won’t all work but some will. Mutual respect will grow and the new things that do work will make you AND THEM money. Those of you that raised your hands, try it, you’ll like it… while you’re here. |

P.S. Have a problem working with Trades? Send questions to me and we’ll see what we can suggest, if we get a good ones, we’ll send the best one a copy of Segovia’s Pocket Ref by Thomas Glover.

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