By Kyle Allerton

Many construction projects would never get off the ground without teams of subcontractors to help carry them out. Depending on the circumstances, however, they can either be a blessing or a curse. But it need not be left to chance. While a badly-handled relationship between the principal contractor and the subcontractor can spell disaster on an important project, you can take steps to avoid this happening. Managing your subcontractors effectively can make all the difference when it comes to successfully delivering a project.

Below are some of the most important steps to follow.

Agree On Responsibilities and Expectations Ahead Of Time

Making sure everyone knows where they stand before the project begins is absolutely crucial for good subcontractor management. Many a project has collapsed through lack of clarity and ambiguous expectations. Sit down and thrash out a comprehensive and detailed point-by-point plan of the various responsibilities and expectations on both sides. This might include such factors as:

• The scope of the work to be carried out by the subcontractor.

• Any safety requirements the subcontractor must adhere to.

• The quality standards expected.

• Which party is responsible for the supply of various materials.

• The timetable to be followed and any deadlines that should be met.

• The amount and due dates for reimbursement.

Agreeing on the various components beforehand will help to avoid misunderstandings, disputes, and delays further down the line.

Formalize Responsibilities and Expectations

Once you have agreed exactly what the responsibilities and expectations are on both sides, formalize this in a contract. Be sure to check that your subcontractor has all the necessary measures in place to meet the requirements of your project. These may relate to health and safety, quality, industrial relations, or environmental matters.

Identify Representatives

It is important to identify those who will act as the representatives for each side during the project for communication purposes. When it comes to large-scale jobs, in particular, miscommunication is one of the most common causes of errors and disputes. This may be due to information not being passed to the correct person within the organization or conflicting instructions from different people leading to confusion. Having clear lines of communication through dedicated representatives helps to avoid crossed wires.

Keep Each Other Up-To-Date

Calling regular meetings with your subcontractor is invaluable for keeping things on track. Not only will they allow you to gain an overview of how the project is progressing, but they are also an opportunity for your subcontractor to bring up any issues or concerns they might have from their end. Taking care of any predicaments at the source in this way helps to keep affairs under control before they develop into full-blown setbacks.

Obtain Signatures for Everything

In the midst of a big project, formalities can often fall by the wayside. Documents, revisions, plans, and drawings often get passed back and forth between the two parties as operations evolve. Make sure you obtain signatures or written acknowledgment of receipt for everything you give to your subcontractor. This will help keep disruptions to a minimum and act as proof that documentation was handed over if, at a later date, they should claim otherwise.

Put Everything in Writing

In a similar vein, ensure that every change to the original agreement is put in writing. This might be new or additional instructions and alterations to the schedule. If this initially takes place verbally – for example, during one of your regular update meetings – then make sure you follow this up by confirming what was said in writing. You cannot be too careful on this front. Having too much paperwork is far better than not having enough when incidents arise.

Operate a Quality Communication Policy

As with so many other aspects of business, the success of your construction project may well hinge on the quality of your communication. Make it easy for your subcontractor to get in touch with you or the designated representative for your firm. Respond to their queries or complaints promptly and communicate any issues, questions, or changes you would like to make to the project as early as is practicably possible. In addition to this, keep a record of all communications in case you should need them for future reference.

Keep Track of Your Subcontractors

Subcontractors are an essential part of many a project. Keeping track of them and the work they are carrying out is critical, otherwise, you leave yourself open to paying over the odds. Construction management and attendance tracking software can help you monitor your subcontractors easily without needing to set foot on site. The advantages of using such technology are aplenty. This includes having an overview of what stage of the project your subcontractor has reached, being able to see how close to the budget’s limit you are, and monitoring the attendance of your subcontractor’s staff.


Effectively managing your subcontractors is a critical part of any project. It may well turn out to be a major determinant of success or failure to deliver on time and on budget. By following the steps above, you can help to ensure that your projects run smoothly, allowing you to build valuable relationships with both your subcontractors and clients in the process.

You May Also Like
Read More

5 Essential Apps for Contractors

As contractors are not tied to a single office space, convenience becomes a matter of importance as they travel from location to location, keeping all their responsibilities in check.