If you look outside your window as you drive to work or have caught a glimpse of the Denver skyline lately, you’ve most likely noticed that the construction industry is booming. While this has provided a multitude of opportunities for people to jumpstart careers and businesses, it has also brought about a few challenges that many companies are working through on a daily basis. One such challenge that seems to be front and center for most contractors is the overall shortage of resources – qualified craft workers, equipment shortages, material shortages, etc. As a general contractor, we see this challenge particularly in the subcontract market, which has a direct impact on our ability to produce reliable and accurate project schedules and budgets.
Over the years, we have found that one of the key ingredients to navigating these challenges is to develop and maintain solid relationships with our subcontractors and strategic partners. These relationships allow us to have open dialog with these teams to assess schedule and budget issues, not only as they develop but hopefully prior to us breaking ground. At the end of the day, it is all about effective communication among project team members. If you can establish this strong communication early on in the project, you can leverage these relationships when challenges present themselves over the course of the project – and you know they will because this is construction, after all.
Strong relationships are a two-way street: You have to be willing to listen if you want to be heard. It’s important to try to understand the challenges that any particular subcontractor is facing and work to help mitigate these issues. If you can do this, the subcontractor will oftentimes move mountains when needed.
ECI starts this process in the pre-construction phase. We sit down with key subcontractors and discuss the potential challenges that they see so that we can help them address these issues. Our team finds out what the subcontractor needs in order to have the best opportunity to be successful on the project, e.g., asking how they can provide the most efficient workflow, schedule, and area. Following this process typically sends you to the top of the subcontractor’s list for scheduling – and your project schedule and budget benefits directly as well.
One way that ECI accomplishes this is to monitor and cross-check schedules when we have the same subcontractor on multiple sites in an attempt to limit schedules stacking on top of each other. Unfortunately, this is sometimes unavoidable, but it is always helpful for everyone to know the plan well in advance so that we can devise a strategy on how to achieve the work, rather than figure it out once it is too late.
When it comes down to it, treat your subcontractors well and they will return the favor. There is a reason it is called a project team – every team member and subcontractor has a very important role in the success of a project. As a general contractor, our role is to figure out how to manage this potential and allow the team to work as efficiently as possible. If we can do this, the rest of the project takes care of itself.