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Construction - 4 min read

Speed and Quality: Managing Construction Subcontractors

Jason Hook

Head of Sales and Marketing

Aug 17, 2016 9:24:00 AM

The building industry knows that time is money.

However, completing jobs on budget and on time can be more of a nice ideal than reality. Construction projects have many moving parts, and just how quickly they can be completed falls onto contractors, subcontractors, vendors, suppliers and even the weather.

Here we explore how project managers can ensure their subcontractors don’t just complete work on time, but do so to the best standard.



It’s up to project managers to ensure that each subcontractor knows their role and responsibilities. The project manager is the lead decision maker and the one who drives motivation for all involved. When a leader delays any decision-making process, it delays everyone. As project manager, you need to be aware and informed so everyone else can stay up to speed.

Timelines, plans, costs, and deadlines must be communicated effectively. When communication is clear and succinct, workers know where they need to be and when. And that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to ensuring quality and speed.

4 time saving email templates 

Plan your day ahead

Put yourself in the contractor's shoes. They need to plan their day ahead of time. They need to know where their focus should fall and what they should be mindful of. For example, subbies at times can work with tunnel vision, which can impact the project they're working on and not in a positive way. Things like placing greasy or dirty tools on a client’s furniture, or running duct pipes though inappropriate places (like a living space when they should be in the wall or ceiling) compromise quality and speed.

By planning ahead, you can give your subbie the details in advance and communicate any special requirements like protection of surfaces, accessing the site and clean up processes. For mechanical subbies, get clear about where they need to drill, cut and notch framing. If notching is excessive, you may want to seek expert opinion from a structural engineer. In these situations, quality is crucial.


Prepare your schedule

Subcontractors aren’t always born the best at schedulers in the game. If they have other fires to put out elsewhere, you may find your project comes second on their list of priorities. Another rising problem is when they’re out of town (or have gone out of business) by the time you need their services.

You can’t expect your subs to drop what they're doing to be there on your demand, all the time. Give them some leeway, anywhere between a few days to a week before needing them. Keep them up to date on schedule changes. Ensure the resources your subcontractors need arrive on time.

Make sure that you pay them on time - and if for whatever reason cashflow is tight, communicate this to your subs. Nothing can slow down the speed and quality work of your workers more than not being paid. Many contractors take on jobs fronting many of the costs at the start.

Given the nature of their work, they’ll appreciate this and probably show up on time the next time you call!


Organise your space 

Another thing that slow subs down is not being able to find the resources they need at the time they need them. Make sure your workspace is organised, and remove any opportunity for confusion where possible.

Keep your workers up to speed on project needs, customer expectations and any supplier or vendor emergencies. Time management is essential for speed and quality.


Prequalify your subcontractors

Most subcontractors are competent and timely with their trade. However, in some situations, they may work with cheaper resources than the job specifies. Other times they’ll work faster and sacrifice quality by cutting corners and produce poor craftsmanship. 

Save yourself time and peace of mind by pre-qualifying your subs. Select those you’ve worked with before and those who have a good reputation. Communicate the importance of project specifications and quality standards and include these in their contract. 

Quality should never be sacrificed for speed because in most cases you'll find yourself going back over things to rectify shoddy work. Check out our article on underperforming subs to see how to manage these sour situations.

For more information on running a smooth building business, get your copy of our free Builder's 10 Minute Toolkit below:

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