The Who, Why, and How to Building Relationships in Construction
The saying "it's not about what you know, it's about who you know" is always something to keep in mind throughout your career, no matter the industry. And anyone experienced in the construction industry will tell you that the relationships you create throughout your career and projects can lead to more jobs in the future.
As a contractor, there are several people, agencies, companies, colleagues, and more that you will work with to help you execute a job and these are the partners you should be trying to improve your relationships with at all times. So you might be asking:
We've answered these questions below.
Who Contractors Should Improve Their Relationships With
To answer this question, you need to think about who you deal with during an entire project timeline because everyone involved is a stakeholder within that project. As a contractor, working with subcontractors, architects, engineers, estimators, suppliers, and government agencies are the standard project partners. Since they are the organizations and colleagues you work with the most, they're also the people that you should always be looking to improve your relationships with as those relationships will help lead to the common goal of doing the best job possible. Each role is important and plays a key part in completing the construction project at hand. Here is a brief summary of each role listed above:
From a general contractor's perspective, these are the individuals who you will probably be in contact with the most during projects. They are hired by general contractors to do specific labor on a job site such as framing, electrical work, plumbing, or any of the other more niche tasks. Subcontractors are often working very closely with the rest of the on-site crew so it's important to work well with them because you might want to hire them again in the future if they did a great job.
One way to improve your relationship is to keep an open line of communication between you and the subcontractors to ensure the job is progressing and any issues can be resolved as soon as they arise.
Architects are professionals trained in the art and science of building design. They develop the concepts for structures and turn those concepts into images and plans, which eventually become homes, office buildings, landmarks, stadiums, or any other facility you can imagine.
It is beneficial for general contractors to be present during the design phase with architects. This will ensure an understanding of the vision of the project on both sides. This also allows contractors to voice any restrictions or limitations to architects so that they can be solved in the design phase instead of later on when it could cost money and time.
Meanwhile, an architect's work should not end once the design phase is over. An optimal practice is to have them make weekly/bi-weekly inspections on-site to ensure the project is following the design plan.
It's important to recognize that the role of an architect probably won't be necessary with every project, but they're still a key factor in a large portion of construction projects, especially when buildings are involved. This is why it's especially important to work collectively with them and engineers.
Field and project engineers plan, design, develop and manage projects for the construction or repair of buildings and a wide variety of other construction projects including city infrastructure and planning. They may also specialize in foundation analysis, building and structural inspection, surveying, geomatics, and municipal planning. As such, engineers are one of the most involved roles in any large-scale construction project, making it vital that you have a good working relationship with them.
Engineers basically work with the architect to take the design stage to the next step and put it into action. Some of their primary goals include ensuring structure strength, design limitations, and technical analysis of the design. This means that a general contractor will have a similar relationship with them as they have with the architect, but the engineer will most likely be able to communicate more clearly with the contractors and project managers due to their experience and familiarity with the terminology.
As a contractor, you don't always have to be present for the technical analysis. Everyone has a job to do and it's important to know what your priorities are. However, understanding the structure goals and limitations before the project is important. That's why meeting with the engineers before the project should be on your priority list to ensure construction will go according to plan. It will also help to meet throughout the project because if problems arise during the building phase, engineers can offer solutions that can fix the process.
This feedback loop between engineers and architects and project managers will only strengthen the construction industry as it will create more efficiency in the planning process.
The role of construction estimators is to analyze costs and prepare estimates for construction projects. They may specialize in estimating costs for civil engineering, architectural, structural, electrical, and mechanical construction projects; or they may specialize in estimating costs for one construction trade in particular, such as electrical.
Working with estimators is an important factor in keeping your construction project within budget. With material, labor, and equipment prices rising, it can be hard to create a budget by yourself or at least stick to the original plans. And while the project managers are normally in charge of the building, architects and engineers can be in charge of exactly what materials are going to be required for the job. Creating effective relationships with both can ease any conflicts that might arise between the two should project managers think that any specific material is too expensive and they need to find an alternative.
Estimators make it easy for general contractors to understand the cost of the project, or at least come up with a potential forecast of what it will cost. It is good practice to establish communication with them for each stage of the project to ensure there are no surprises in the amount of money and materials needed, especially in the early stages of building and material ordering. It will also help you come up with solutions for any unnecessary or excessive spending.
Government agencies are another great opportunity for contractors to build relationships. A lot of the time, government agencies are the ones that created the contract for the project that contractors are bidding on, making them the majority stakeholder in the project. Collaborating effectively with these agencies and showcasing great work can lead to more jobs and successful contract bids because these agencies often take note of who does great work and value relationships with their contractors.
As a general contractor, suppliers can often be called the backbone of your project. Without the proper equipment and materials that they provide, there is no job and timelines will never be met. Communication, like in all work relationships, is important to successful results here. The relationship between general contractor and supplier should be give-and-take instead of push and pull.
Suppliers should offer fair, but competitive, prices and be able to find the desired equipment and materials for the project. In return, it is proper etiquette for general contractors to provide notice of when items are needed, pay on time, and put in a good word about the supplier if they did everything they were supposed to do effectively.
Overall, the rapport that is built up in supplier and contractor relationships goes a long way in ensuring project delivery.
Why These Relationships Are Important
Positive workplace relationships are beneficial to both the workers and the company in the short term and long term.
In the short term, a positive relationship between you and your industry colleagues will create an engaging environment surrounding the project at hand. An engaged workforce will bring efficiency, communication, and quality work which results in clean execution. Overall, you're creating a better environment for the workers and project stakeholders, as well as delivering a quality job for the customer.
However, short-term benefits aren't enough. The long-term benefits are what you should work for in the construction industry. If the short-term benefits of creating positive relationships within the workforce can be repeated, customers will want to repeat their business. With repeat business, we now have more jobs and can use the partners that we trust and have built strong relationships with to help us complete more projects. As shown above, having connections to reach out to for every stage of a job is important in all aspects including time, cost, and planning.
When looking at each connection separately, we can start to understand the importance of tying them all together to build a strong career in construction with is beneficial if you're looking to rise up through the construction ranks. The more senior you get, the more cross-collaboration will play a role in your career. Learning to develop these relationships from the start is important both personally and professionally. For example, when forming relationships with subcontractors, it can save you time in the future to have a set crew for each angle of the job (plumbing, electrical, etc.) instead of constantly putting out jobs for subcontractors to bid on, you can skip the lengthy process of going through pre-qualification and have your team set from the jump.
As soon as you are set to start planning for a project, the architect you have worked with numerous times is already planning how the structure will be built and communicating the limitations with you and the engineer. They've now incorporated your capabilities and understanding and know that they should be thinking about the trickle-down effect throughout the design process.
Government relationships play a key role in future projects due to the fact that the government is always planning new construction projects and working with a ton of agencies to deliver them. Every industry and agency picks their favorites when it comes to getting a job done and who wouldn't pick the company that they know can execute the job? The same goes for construction and it is ideal to be known as a reliable project manager as this will fill your schedule up with projects every year.
Lastly, having a strong relationship with suppliers is a must. Without reliable suppliers, you will constantly have to waste time and money on finding the right equipment and materials for the correct time frame. Fortunately, technology is making the equipment rental process much easier.
Here at DOZR, we make renting heavy equipment simple, allowing contractors to rent from local or national suppliers all in one mobile experience while only needing one credit application for all of them combined. And there are similar companies that are changing the material supplying industry as well.
How to Effectively Start and Maintain Relationships
Starting a relationship in the construction industry can be as simple as working together on a project but maintaining a positive relationship with team members is what separates the great businesses from the good ones. Ways to attract team members into doing more business with you include:
Positive and Professional Communication
Working for someone that is too aggressive is a drag that can make the overall work environment undesirable. Instead, we must understand we are working with team members and industry colleagues for positive, long-term goals. Regular check-ins and progress meetings on a formal communication chain allow us to align our goals for the project with precision. Great contractors are able to resolve problems in positive ways and this is what will show the industry that working with you is beneficial to them.
Have a Plan and Follow It
Each project should be planned from start to finish before it begins. Your team will appreciate doing a job that is thoroughly planned and communicated as it makes everyone's job easier. Even when a job is planned from start to finish, it is vital to have proactive solutions for unforeseen circumstances which means it is optimal to go into projects with backup plans and risk aversion as well.
Be a Strong Listener
What is the point of building a working relationship with someone that never wants to hear other perspectives? Understand that your team members are experts in their fields and listen to their interjections on the project. As the general contractor, you do oversee the entire operation, but there is a lot of room for opinions and suggestions from the team which can result in better execution.
Trust Your Colleagues
As previously stated, everyone you collaborate with is, or are least should be, an expert in their field. Communicate the project plans and changes to them and trust them to make intelligent suggestions and execute a good job. Make sure to ask any questions you might have to the appropriate person, whether that's the estimator, architect, engineers, or government agency. During check-ins let them speak and voice any concerns. You are in this together and your process should reflect this. There is a fine line between communicating the vision of the project and doing someone's job for them. Crossing that line can lead to a bad reputation among partners in your local area.
The last tip to improving relationships in the construction industry is the most personable, showing yourself to your team members. It is hard to build any sort of relationship without seeing or talking to your workers. Making the time to visit the site and spend time behind the scenes goes a long way when it comes to getting to know your team and building a bond that can be carried over to future projects.
The role of the general contractor is a position that requires several collaborative relationships in the construction industry. The best contractors are the ones that are known by everyone in their local area as great colleagues and great at their jobs - especially the leadership function of their jobs. Subcontractors, architects, engineers, government officials, estimators, and suppliers know them and enjoy working on projects with them because they know what they are getting. Incorporate the tips above in your daily work routine, do a great job with every project you take on, and watch as business floods your way.