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What Every Contractor Must Know Before they Hire a Subcontractor

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Business Advice

There are many reasons to hire a subcontractor. Either you’re too busy and you don’t have the time and you need the help of an outside source. Or the work you need to get done happens to fall outside of your realm of expertise. And, in the landscaping industry, where much of the work is either seasonal or temporary, hiring a subcontractor is a great idea.

However, once you’ve decided to take an outside source under your wing, there are a few things you need to consider – namely, who you’ll be hiring to represent your business to your customer. Know that you, the contractor, are completely responsible for the work a subcontractor does. Therefore, you are responsible for any mistakes, problems or confrontations that could arise due to their actions. Bearing this in mind, it is absolutely critical to ensure the people you hire to represent your business fit the bill, in terms of excelling in the work you need done and in terms of creditability and liability. Here are some things every contractor should know before they hire a subcontractor:

Before the job:

  • Your subcontractor is insured – always be sure to ask to see their certificate of insurance from your subcontractor. If you’re dealing with a subcontractor for more than one year, be sure to check for up-to-date certificates. Ensure your subcontractor is both insured for liability, in case they break something, and workman’s compensation, in case they injure themselves.
  • Your subcontractor is licensed – Rules and regulations vary from state to state and province to province, so be sure to check the licensing laws of your local legislation.
  • Make sure your subcontractor has a degree, a minimum of 4 years working experience in the industry, and an absolute minimum of one year experience working as a foreman.
  • Be sure to ask for references – your subcontractor should be able to provide you with at least 3 references that you can contact directly.
  • Ask to see samples of the subcontractor’s work.
  • Make sure your subcontractor’s staff is trained, licensed and insured.
  • Devise a written contract between yourself and the subcontractor. In the contract, lay out what you expect from the subcontractor and how much you will pay, who’s responsible for what, who is responsible for mistakes/errors. Also, ensure your subcontractor will make changes and repairs after the job is completed. In other words, do what you need to do to adequately protect yourself and your business.
  • Walk through the site with the subcontractor. Make sure they understand exactly what needs to be done, how it’s going to be done, and who’s in charge of getting it done. Leave no room for error and no need for guesswork.
  • Make sure you are able to communicate well with your subcontractor. You’ll be working closely and when that person is representing your company, you want to make sure it is someone you get along well with.

During the job:

  • Make sure your customers are not bringing their concerns to your subcontractors. Make yourself readily available and keep the lines of communication consistently open between you and your customers so that your customers know to come to you, not someone else onsite, with their questions and concerns.
  • Set up an office file for your subcontractors. Document all your interactions, transactions and conversations, including phone calls, emails, contracts, certificates and licenses.

After the job:

  • Do a walk-through with the subcontractor to make sure the job was completed as expected. It’s a good idea to bring a checklist with you and mark off any things that need to be repaired and redone.
  • Ensure the demands of your contract agreement are met and you are more than satisfied with the completed work.

Share your experience with hiring subcontractors – Any other tips or advice?

Landscape Management Network is a collection of systems, tools, and training to help great contractors build and manage great businesses. Visit the LMN website.

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