Signs of Shoddy or Untrustworthy Subcontractors

If you’re the owner or operator of a contracting business, chances are you regularly deal with subcontractors for various needs. Selecting quality partners in this area is very important, as poor subcontractors may lead to several issues, from shoddy work to projects that aren’t completed on time and more.

At QuickED, we’re happy to offer various services to contracting business owners, from continuing contractor education to license renewal services throughout Utah. We’re also here to provide basic expertise on some of the simplest parts of running your business, including hiring quality subcontractors and avoiding low-quality partners here. Let’s go over some of the telltale signs of a contractor that can’t be relied upon and shouldn’t be hired again in the future.

signs shoddy untrustworthy subcontractors

Poor Communication

First and foremost, communication is a vital element in any work, whether it’s a full-time employee or a subcontractor. When you’re dealing with poor communication, the onus is often on you to keep in touch — which can be difficult when your business operates on strict deadlines.

One way to assess this is by gauging how long it takes for a subcontractor to get back to you with any little bit of information. If you’re the one who has to keep initiating communication, or if your subcontractor has a habit of taking long periods of time without responding, that’s a major red flag.

However, this isn’t the only form of communication issue that may arise. Some subcontractors are awful at communicating on the job site itself; for instance, it’s your responsibility as a business owner to know exactly what’s going on there. If you’re not receiving any communication from a subcontractor, that’s a major problem and a sign of poor communication overall.

Can’t Commit

Labor shortages have been a major topic in the contracting world over the last 18 months, and this only re-emphasizes the importance of working with subcontractors you can count on to show up when they say they’re going to. A firm commitment is something you should demand from any contractor or subcontractor, especially in an area where labor can be hard to find.

One of the most common signs of a poor subcontractor is their inability to commit to projects. I.e., they’re always “too busy” or have another job lined up that takes precedence over yours at that exact moment. This can lead to a lot of wasted time and money on your end, as you’ll often have to reschedule projects or hire someone else last-minute to fill in the gaps.

Another sign of a poor subcontractor is one who always seems to have an excuse or a reason why they have to push back or start a project a little later than was planned. If they’re constantly starting one task before another or continuously delaying projects without giving you an explanation, that’s another sign of poor commitment and something to avoid in the future.

Won’t Agree in Writing

Down similar lines, there are many cases where contractors and subcontractors have to craft written agreements for various reasons. This could be anything from an initial contract to a change order or an addendum, and everyone must be on the same page when it comes to these documents.

If you’re having trouble getting a subcontractor to agree in writing to any of your requests or changes, that’s a huge red flag. It means they’re not trustworthy, may not be reliable, and likely won’t stand by any agreements they make. This can lead to a lot of frustration down the road, so it’s best to avoid these types of subcontractors altogether.

Poor Organization

It’s also crucial for subcontractors to be organized and professional in their dealings with you, regardless of if it’s a one-time project or something that will occur regularly. If they’re disorganized and difficult to work with in any fashion, they’re likely not going to end up being a good fit for your contracting business.

Many subcontractors have trouble being organized when dealing with multiple clients or jobs at once, which can often lead to confusion and lack of accountability. This is especially true if they’re not keeping good records or constantly losing important paperwork. If you see any of these signs in your subcontractor, it’s best to end the relationship before it gets too complicated.

One particular area that you may notice regarding organization from a subcontractor is documentation. There are many areas within the contracting world where good documentation is key, and if your subcontractor falls short in this area, it can lead to all sorts of problems. Poorly written proposals, shoddy workmanship, and a lack of communication can all be traced back to poor organization skills on the part of your subcontractor.

Too Close to the Client

Finally, one particular issue that sometimes comes up with subcontractors is a prior relationship with the client you’re working for. This could be anything from a client’s friend or family to simply someone they’ve dealt with in the past and developed some sort of previous relationship.

Sometimes this works out fine, but if you notice that your subcontractor is spending time with the client before working with you, it’s best to close them out and move on. This can lead to all sorts of problems down the road, as they may start giving preferential treatment to the client instead of you. Additionally, they may divulge confidential information you’ve shared with them in confidence or simply try to take over the entire project themselves.

For more on the signs of a poor subcontractor that should cause you to look elsewhere for your business or learn about any of our online contracting education or other services, speak to the staff at QuickED today.