Signs of a Great Contractor

In Industrial by Greg Gordon

When it comes to building or expanding your commercial space, contractors can make or break your experience. A good one is worth their weight in gold, keeping you on time and within budget. The challenge is finding an excellent contractor who can also capture and deliver your vision. But, if you know what to look for, a match can be made. You want to identify the best person to meet the needs of your growing business. When interviewing contractors, keep an eye out for the following signs.

They are Licensed and Bonded

Unless you want your project to get hit with a stop-work order, it’s important to know that your contractor is fully licensed, bonded and sufficiently insured. Most licensing for commercial contractors can be easily verified online. But you’ll likely need to go the extra mile to confirm that they have valid insurance and a bond in place.

They Have Good Time Management Skills

contractor - watch face with brown leather band

A good contractor shows up on time for planned meetings with clients and brings projects to a close by the deadline. If a contractor is unable to manage their time efficiently, it can cost the client money and induce frustration. Certainly, there can be good reasons for delays on a project (e.g., prolonged inclement weather conditions or natural disasters). But good contractors know to prepare for some lost time when making their estimates for clients. If your contractor isn’t MIA on the job site and shows up on time for meetings, it’s a good indication that your project is a priority.

Their References Check Out

If this is your first time working with a particular contractor, ask for and verify their references. No legitimate contractor should have problems with giving the names and contact information of several recent clients. Those who do may be trying to hide bad reputations in the industry.

They Present You With a Workable Plan

contractor - man working on blueprints

Solid contractors are realistic about time frames and won’t over-promise results that will be difficult to deliver. They understand the importance of scheduling subcontractors in a logical order so that crews don’t have to return to finish jobs. Prior to the launch of any project, hold a pre-construction meeting between the parties involved with the project. Here, the chain of command is established and safety protocols detailed. Failing to arrange this meeting with the subcontractors can lead to confusion as the project progresses.

They Have Good Working Relationships with Subcontractors

Reliable and dependable subcontractors dramatically impact a project, positively or negatively. Therefore, it’s important that the contractor you choose has unquestionable relationships with the subcontractors on the job. If there’s a history of bad blood between a sub and your contractor, it could adversely affect the project’s outcome — not to mention the bottom line. A single instance may be overlooked. But if you can’t find subcontractors who want to work with your contractor, it’s a definite warning sign.

Workers are Cross-Trained

contractor - man welding steel beams

Workers who are certified to operate several types of heavy machinery can save both time and money on a build. The same goes for frame and trim carpenters who can do the job from start to finish.

They are Competitively Priced

When is a deal too good to be true? If a contractor’s bid is more than marginally lower than the competitors, you have to wonder why. Does the contractor use cheap materials to bring the price down or hire anyone off the street to do the labor? That’s not a good deal, that’s a recipe for disaster. Competent and trustworthy contractors submit reasonably priced bids on jobs.

contractor - muddy work boots

The Superintendent Has Mud on Their Boots

A super who spends all day in an air-conditioned trailer with their feet propped up on a desk can’t stay on top of quality control. Neither can they ensure that the job specs are being followed to the letter. If your superintendent sports muddy boots, that indicates they’re involved on site, making sure the job is being handled correctly.

They Have the Right Equipment

contractor - orange crane at construction site

When you need particular heavy machinery, like a crane, only a crane will do. Contractors of good repute own or have access to all the equipment they need to successfully complete the project within the deadline.

They Keep You in the Loop

Good contractors practice regular communication, even when it comes to negative news and setbacks. If you’re awaiting a shipment of marble to arrive from Italy but it gets delayed, you need to be made aware. It’s not necessary for a contractor to stay in daily contact with clients. But anything that could potentially cause a problem should be communicated promptly.

Workers Receive Adequate Safety Training

contractor - yellow hard hats

Sometimes, contractors hire extra crew members for specific jobs. All workers on the job site, however, should be sufficiently trained in operations and safety. Failing to train the entire crew could bring a host of costly, avoidable problems and OSHA violations.

They Take Responsibility

No client wants to hear a long list of excuses why a project can’t be brought in on budget and on time. Yes, unforeseen events can drag a project out longer than anticipated. But your contractor should always accept responsibility for the problem and be ready to deploy Plan B.

They Put it in Writing

contractor - man signing contract

Verbal agreements can hold up in court, but it’s far easier to trust someone to honor an agreement when it’s spelled out in black and white. Sometimes, during the course of a project, changes need to be made. These changes should be detailed in writing and signed by the parties. A reputable contractor won’t balk at signing off on these terms.

They Have Good Interpersonal Skills

Contractors need to communicate effectively — with the labor force, clients, authorities and subs. If they are prone to slamming doors, cursing or yelling, they may lack the necessary ability to convey important information civilly to those who need to know.

They Have a Reliable Support Team in Place

contractor - team in business meeting

The best contractors want your build experience to be flawless. To that end, they should have a planning and design team on standby to deal with any problems that might crop up along the way.

It’s possible that a good contractor might fall short in a couple of categories — after all, they’re human. If they don’t cut safety corners or dismiss your concerns about the project’s direction, it’s usually fine to give them a pass on minor matters. Identify your nonnegotiables and know what you are and aren’t comfortable with. And remember, always keep in mind the importance of trust and communication.