Communication Called Key to Subcontractor Relationships

Communication Called Key to Subcontractor Relationships

Subcontractors can prove to be among a kitchen and bath dealer's greatest strengths or among its worst weaknesses. It's all in the way a dealer chooses, treats and, above all, communicates with them.

Indeed, communication is a key factor in running jobs and working with subcontractors, agrees Thompson Price, CKD, CBD, CR and president of Callier & Thompson Kitchen & Bath Appliances.

"A lot of people don't treat them well and don't want to really do right by them. But building subcontractor relationships is something that, if it's done right by treating them well, communicating and working with them and paying them on time, creates becomes a partnership. We're all in this together. This is not an independent effort. It's an effort of many different groups of people that have come together to achieve one goal, and that's to have a satisfied customer. And learning how to work with subcontractors and hiring the right subcontractors is a key factor," says Price.

He spoke on this topic at a seminar, entitled "Getting the Most from Your Subcontractors," at last month's Kitchen & Bath Design & Remodeling Expo at the Valley Forge Convention Center in King of Prussia, PA.

According to Price, since every subcontractor a dealer employs from the plumbing and electrical contractors and cabinet and tile installers to the carpenters, roofers and fabricators represents that dealer, they have the ability to make or break a dealer's reputation with existing and future clients. Thus, he stresses the importance of establishing and fostering cordial, mutually beneficial relationships with subcontractors, as they are a dealer's face in the field.

"We have a combination of in-house contractors and subcontractors, and it's building a relationship that allows them to know they are part of the family, and involving them in decision-making on things that will affect them. For example, what do we do as far as clean-up after a job? And who's going to check the job for the accuracy of the measurements?" Price asks.

Price also elaborates on how kitchen and bath dealers as well as other design and remodeling firms can effectively forge long-lasting subcontractor relationships.

First, dealers must hire subcontractors with a proven record. "Hire someone who has referrals," advises Price. "I always ask someone who [touts their skills], 'Why aren't you busy?' And that's an honest question. I think, sometimes, we fail to think about the needs of this particular contractor. Consider whether it's a one-time situation where you have to get into this job and need to find someone quick, or it's a long-term subcontractor relationship that you're seeking. That answer, I think, becomes an important part of initiating a relationship with a subcontractor."

Dealers, then, should also "have an agreement on what you're going to pay subcontractors and on the work they're going to do, as well as about what's expected of them on the job, what their responsibilities are on the job," advises Price.

To that end, "we found that doing a 'pre-flight' on every job with the contractors is an absolute, tremendous benefit to make sure we aren't making mistakes and that there's a complete understanding of who does what, and who doesn't do what."

And then, he says, dealers must pay subcontractors on time. "The one most important thing in dealing with subcontractors is to pay them on time," he stresses.

The bottom line when dealing with subcontractors, concludes Price, is to think of them as "installers for life, because it's a relationship you try to develop, and then hopefully you will have these guys all the time."