Sub-Contractors vs Employees – Is it Important?

Why Does Everyone Ask About Subs?

There has always been a perceived detriment associated with builders who use sub-contractors rather than their own company employees. The perception is that a salaried employee is more loyal; more reliable; more trustworthy. Many people believe this because one must assume the employee’s dedication and commitment to the organization that hired him.

Sub-Contractors, however, based upon preconceived notions, are hired guns with their own agenda and no more loyalty to the contractor than the commitment to collect a check at job’s end. This idea seems to sprout from the opposite perception from that of the employee. Because the sub is not employed directly, he does not possess the employee’s dedication and commitment.

Every Nightmare Story You have ever Heard is True!

Every nightmare story you have ever heard about sub-contractors is true. We have all heard the tales of the plumber who failed to glue a PVC joint causing a leak, then refused to return to repair it; the framing crew that failed to brace a roof properly, causing the project to fail the frame inspection; the concrete crew who left a dip in the slab which showed in the wall framing.

Why do General Contractors hire subs rather than employees? Is it an expense issue or is it a management issue? It is a bit of both. Hiring and retaining reliable employees is arduous. Presume the builder is able to retain qualified reliable help. The next step is the training and management of the help. If the G.C. (General Contractor) lacks the technical knowledge or the skill set to supervise and guide his skilled labor, he must hire a skilled manager. There is also a matter of capital investment in tools and equipment to be considered. Based upon these factors it can be argued that Subs are more economically feasible. But what of loyalty and commitment to the GC? The Sub is skilled, tooled, insured and experienced.

I believe in most cases the best artisan for a project is a sub-contractor. Simply, it is more cost and time effective to hire a properly tooled and skill-qualified sub. How do you avoid poor quality and shortcuts typical of many subcontractors? The General Contractor or a hired manager must know at least what the sub knows in order to manage his work.

Many Contractors Depend upon Trades to Manage their Customers’ Jobs

You may say, at this point, ‘well that means that the G.C. must have a lot of hands on working experience in the business. Your general contractor should not be just contractors or business owners. He must have a full grasp of what his company does for a living. He can leave no room for error on the part of his production staff and subs. Shouldn’t a remodeling firm be expert in the product or service it produces?

The last time you went to a doctor’s office, who diagnosed your ailment? Was it a salesman? Did a salesman guess at the cause of your symptoms based upon his experience in watching the doctor treat similar cases? Would you be comfortable with a salesman diagnosing your health care issues? Then why would you allow a salesman to diagnose a fix to your home care issues?

The vast majority of remodeling firms are owned and operated by salesmen who are excising their entrepreneurial muscle in an industry that is remarkably easy to enter. They depend upon the skill and integrity of their sub-contractors to manage their jobs. As the sub completes his phase and the next trade picks up, the management changes as does the motivating factors. By the way, most subs on your project are the lowest bidder. In most cases, that translates to the least able. Is the cheapest product ever the best? Will you accept the cheapest product or workmanship for your project?

The Austin market is booming currently. When I visit a job and tender a quote, I hear the same thing time and again. I hear about contractors who are inept in the most fundamental aspects required of a professional builder. Everyone has a story about a job gone wrong. HGTV and the DIY network are entertaining, but they never show the crews who do the work when the cameras are not rolling. The hazards of the job lie in those moments. The happy banter and beautiful after photos are the result of competent artisans and well-executed management skills.

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