What you need to Know:
The fundamentals of construction are similar to the everyday activities of many other businesses. In construction, you have
all the tasks as in most businesses, such as documentation, communication, contracts, purchasing material, managing
people, etc. As in any business, the success of the construction project is only as good as management and the people
actually doing the work. Without proper management, such as scheduling, the project will most likely be one of confusion and
conflict or even failure. One of the major fundamentals is being able to choose quality subcontractors. I have always had the
philosophy that I needed to know as much or more about the task that the subcontractors were going to be completing.
Having this knowledge should give you an advantage in selecting a quality subcontractor. During my thirty-four years in
construction, I have worked in seven different states and have noticed that even though it might be a different state, the
subcontractor personalities are the same.
The following is a list of the Top 10 Subcontractor Personalities:
This subcontractor is a businessman. His bid will be competitive and reasonable for the job that is being subcontracted. He
will do everything that he says or is obligated to do by contract. He has a clear knowledge of the project and makes sure that
he has qualified people to man the job. There is communication as to scheduling and production. If there is a potential
problem, he will notify you and try to find a solution. His paperwork is kept up to date and will correct any mistakes in a timely
manner. This type subcontractor is an asset to any project and will make a project a pleasurable experience.
This subcontractor as stated seems to have an attitude problem. He will give you the impression that he is doing you a favor
to do your project. His bid will normally reflect this attitude and be three times more than what would be expected to do the
job. He will let you know how much better he is than any other subcontractor and how busy he is in order to justify his
outrageous bid. Most of the time this subcontractor is over extended for the amount of people that he has working for him. He
does not really care if he gets the job or not but if he does he will make three times more than it is worth. This type
subcontractor is not normally a good subcontractor for your project.
This subcontractor is new to the subcontractor business. He has properly worked at his trade for a number of years and
thinks it is time for him to make all the money instead of his boss. He will probably know his trade but may not have a clue to
all the other aspects of being a subcontractor. His low bid will reflect his needing to get a job and his not knowing every
aspect of what will be required of him. You will probably get more for your money because he is normally out to prove his
ability and will probably be receptive to changes without extra cost. The working relationship of this subcontractor is usually
good and he will usually do a good job. One thing to keep in mine is that his bid was low and may require assistance with a
little more money to complete the job.
I Did Not Figure That Subcontractor
This subcontractor and the ones below could eventually become problems during the construction project. At least once or
more during the project, this subcontractor will come to you and say, “I did not figure that”. This is where it is good that you
know something about this trade’s work. You would think that if you gave him the plans and he gave you a bid, that his bid
would be a complete job. Now you are at a time when you do not know if the subcontractor is just trying to get more money or
if he really did not figure the job correctly. The first time this comes up it is very important to sit down and go through the job
thoroughly. The decision to pay or not will be yours but more importantly is to not have it come up again at a later date
concerning something else.
This subcontractor is one that may need to be watched especially when he says, “No Problem”. This subcontractor’s
intentions are usually pretty good but his ability can sometimes be lacking. He is eager to please but sometimes seems to not
listen or hear everything that might need to be done. If you accept “No Problem” and leave and come back at a later time, do
not be surprised if things are not as discussed. This subcontractor is normally all right to work with but extra effort has to be
made to make sure that all instructions are understood. This sometimes may require show and tell instructions.
I’ll be Back Tomorrow Subcontractor
This subcontractor can be one of the most frustrating subcontractor types. He can tie your project and disrupt any
scheduling that is in place. He will give you some excuse for not being at your job the next day. This might be all right for one
day but when he does not show back up when he said and does not call, your job will begin to be affected. This can be made
even worse when it becomes a habit at least once a week. Then you will be faced with the decision, do I get some else and
loose time or continue on with this subcontractor and loose time. Any way you go the project suffers the delay and affects
other subcontractor work.
This subcontractor can be one of the most annoying. He will remind you of a child that has to have his way. It seems that
someone is always getting in his way and preventing him from doing his work. In a construction project one of the most
important things is being able to work together. If you have one subcontractor that thinks no one should be around him or
touch any of his things, you have just obtained another child. You will get where you hate to see him coming because he is
never satisfied and is continually whining about something or someone else. Normally the best solution if possible is to
schedule the work so this subcontractor is always in the building by himself.
This subcontractor might be a framer or any subcontractor where you are handling the deliveries. This is the first day on the job putting down bottom
plates. With the number of framers that are on the job, it will be a week before he needs rafters. The first thing that he says when you get there is “Where
are my rafters? ”. If you do not organize your lumber deliveries and have lumber delivered too soon, you take the chance of having the wrong lumber cut
up for shorter lengths. This subcontractor will usually continue this questioning all the way through the project if it is not discussed. I normally tell them,
“When you get to the stage where you need the material and do not have it, then complain but until then I will handle the deliveries”. If this is not done
they will keep you ordering deliveries prematurely or continually going to the lumber company.
Friday to Friday Subcontractor
This subcontractor seems to always be struggling to make it from Friday to Friday. You may sometimes feel sorry for him because it seems that he works
hard but never seems to get ahead. Whether it is because of personal or business problems, he never has enough money to meet all of his obligations.
There are sometimes complaints from his workers that they did not get paid or were unable to cash their checks. For this reason, it seems that he has
more of a personnel turn over than other subcontractor types. Most of the time this type is tolerable as long as his problems do not become your
problems. Sometimes a conversation to try to get a clearer picture of his circumstances is helpful but always be cautious not to get to involved monetarily.
We Don’t Do It Like That Subcontractor
This subcontractor type can be very aggravating especially if he thinks you do not know anything about his trade. The best approach is to have enough
knowledge about the trade in order to know if he telling you this because it is true or that it is better for him. Sometimes it does not matter how they
normally do it but how this project might require the task to be done. That is where it is very important that you be able to tell the difference and be able to
convey this to the subcontractor. If you are able to do this and the subcontractor sees that you know what is required, he will usually stop making this
Although being familiar with all the different type of subcontractor personalities does not guarantee the selection of qualified subcontractors, it may help
you be aware of some of the problems you may encounter in a construction project and the reason why.
Category Construction Glossary