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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm new to General Contracting and just starting out. Just started my business about a year ago. I have a friend who is a personal trainer at a gym. I got a call and they wanted some remodeling done. They needed some doorways opened up, shower installed, electrical work, and some other things. I brought in a plumber and electrician who were recommended from a friend of mine who uses them all the time on his jobs. I have brought them in on one other bid i did, but that is the extent of my experience with them.

So i show up at the gym to meet with the plumber and when i show up he is talking with the gym owner about running plumbing to hook up a washer. Ok, no big deal. Im thinking this will all be part of my bid. So i met with the subs and the gym owner and we walk through what the gym owner wants in terms of a shower and electrical changes. I go back a second time to discuss some other options and the gym owner has some electrical stuff she wants done at her home, so i give her my electricians number. A week later i get bids back from the electrician and plumber and i put together a bid and itemize everything like they want. I add 10% to the electrician and plumbing bid and then my charges for the rest of the work. I bid it low because i wanted the job. My buddy texts me and says the owner was really impressed with my professionalism and attention to detail. Im thinking things are looking good. They originally told me they want the project done before the first of the year. I send the bid over the last week in November.

A few weeks go by and i get a call from one of the ladies that works at the gym. She says, "Hey we have the electricians number, but not the plumber. Can we have his contact info?" I think to myself, they have the electricians number because i gave it to the owner, now they want the plumber? I don't want to be difficult, as i need the job, so i give her the number. She ends the conversation saying sorry its taken so long to get back to me, they are still trying to figure out what they want to do and they should know in a couple days. My immediate thought is that money is tight and they want to do the minimal amount of the remodel and their biggest desire is to put in a shower. I get the feeling they are trying to cut me out of the project, but i need the work so I'm trying to be easy to work with.

So that phone call was about a week and a half ago. The couple days went by that they said they needed to figure out what to do and i knew that the window for completing the project was too short to finish before the first of the year, so by yesterday i decided to text my buddy who works there. I texted him and said, hey whats the status of the job. Im assuming i didn't get it, but just want to know what the deal is. He says, "Didn't the owner contact you?" i tell him no. He says a member stepped up and offered to do the job for a free membership for his family and the guys that work for him. He said they were going to use me and they were all really impressed with me, but they couldn't pass up this barter with a member of the gym. I was pissed that the communication was poor on their end, and now I'm wondering if they used my electrician and plumber.

So here are my questions:
1. If the gym did use my electrician and plumber, is it unethical that they cut me out of the deal?
2. Should i be upset at my subs if they did do work for them? Is there some unspoken rule if a GC brings you to a job, you need to communicate with the client you work for the GC if they try to get you to come do the work without the GC?

Again, I'm new to being a GC and have zero experience in this area. My gut tells me i got screwed, but i could be wrong. Appreciate you input and maybe what you would have done in my place. Thanks and have a merry Christmas.
 

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If your electrician and plumber did the work you brought them in to look at, you got screwed. If they did work unrelated to what you brought them in for, it's kind of a grey area. Some may say the electrician would never know the client if not for me, therefore I should be involved in all work he does. I don't really agree. If it's related to the project I am GCing,it goes through me. Plumber and electrician know that it has to go through me. If we are doing a kitchen and the homeowner asks the electrician if they can fix the doorbell, electrician will usually just do it, but generally will give me the courtesy of a "hey so and so has a few small items they want me to look at when I'm done with the kitchen".

If they used your electrician and plumber, you need to find a new electrician and plumber.
 

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Free Enterprise.

That's what it's called.

You are free to hire any sub you wish to.


And......hold on to your hats, folks. I know this is difficult for some of you to believe, and will disagree with the FACT until the day you die, but:

The customer is free to hire anyone they wish as well.








I'll let that sink in for a moment.















Yes. that's true. GCs do not own the customers. That's illegal.


Now, yes, while it's true GCs are free to make their own rules about how they run their businesses, that does not give them totalitarian power over forcing customers to abide by them. If your customers and subs don't want to play by your rules, you have two choices: Find new subs and customers, or realize you need to change your rules.



Them's the facts, folks.
 

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Thom
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480 is correct, it's a free country.

If you wish to control the process, learn to price all the phases yourself. Don't talk to the subs until you have the job sold. Don't be so accommodating to your customers either. Just because they want the information doesn't mean you must provide it.
 

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If they're part of your team they should be part of your team and not weasel you. If they want to get their own jobs great but if you line up the work they should say, 'Talk to the General'.

If there is other work the customer wants that isn't part of the original job the sub should have the courtesy to give you a heads up to make sure you're not getting your toes stepped on. As the GC if the work isn't part of our contract then, sure, go for it.
 

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One thing you could have done differently is met with the owner to discuss the scope of work and then have your subs meet you an hour later and you walk with them without the owner. If the owner insists on coming along play nice, but after the walk you tell the subs they go through you. They are free to go around you if they want, but if you're not ok with it then you won't be using them next time. As a GC I have more work for my sub than one client.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I agree i don't own my subs, and it is a free enterprise. But i think it's unethical and dishonest to not communicate with me. I will call the plumber and electrician tomorrow and find out if they did any or all of the work. If they did, I won't be using them in the future.

The hard part with this whole process is i really need the work so i am trying to be very flexible. If i didn't need the work, i would not have given them the plumbers contact info. I would have asked why they wanted it. I am hoping if I'm not a pain in the ass it will land me more work. Again, i know they liked me and i know i would be someone they call in the future. If i make a big deal of this, i might not be on their call list. Again, if i had work lined up and wasn't desperate, this would be a different story. Im just in a hard place not having work at the moment.

Thanks for the input guys.
 

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I would be willing to bet that they did do the work. Why else would the owner need their numbers? They basically chose to not work with you in the future. As a sub, I know what the expectations are of the GC concerning our working arrangement. It is likely that both of those guys also desperately needed the work and chose that job vs possible future work with you. While I don't agree with their ethics, it does happen. Take the advice of others here who say to control the job from the first meeting. Your methods in dealing with the owner and the subs left you wide open for this to happen.
 

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There isn't a code of ethics in this business. Everyone in the industry has his or her own personal code, and you need to find the subs with whom you can work. You should communicate clearly with subs you are contemplating bringing on a job. If they haven't worked with you before, they may go ahead and cut you out of the deal anyway, in order to keep the bird in hand.

When someone compliments you on your professionalism and attention to detail, you can kiss the job good-bye. They're trying to make you feel better about the fact that they took your detailed quote and gave it to a lowballer.

Learn to price a job based on your requirements, to include the minimum of detail in your quote (or get paid to write more detail), and to get right down to closing the sale. And yes, learn how to price the subs' trades.

Don't feel bad about not getting the job. You weren't going to get it anyway. Next time, though, you might not waste as much of your time writing a spec for the lowballer.
 

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....I am hoping if I'm not a pain in the ass it will land me more work. Again, i know they liked me and i know i would be someone they call in the future. If i make a big deal of this, i might not be on their call list. Again, if i had work lined up and wasn't desperate, this would be a different story. Im just in a hard place not having work at the moment.....
I appreciate your situation; and being nice and likeable is great. But it's wasted on customers who care mostly about price - they'll go with the cheap PITA every time. Every single time.

Focus on closing the sale.
 

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It appears that you were never getting the job since the inside guys was going to do it.

I am just wondering, if they came to you after the proposal but before talking to your subs, and told you they were bartering, would you have opposition to them using your subs?

If you were losing the work anyhow, why not let them get their piece?
 

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480 is correct, you don't own your subs or clients.

In a few years, when you have some seasoning, you will realize this was a waste of your time. Happens to us all. They used your scope and bid and gave it to a handyman or side job joe.

Lose those subs numbers and get new ones if they did the work. You should respect yourself enough to expect mutual respect and trust amongst your trade partners. I have only had one sub go around me, during the middle of a remodel. I was just getting started as well. He lied about it, I fired him and never said a good word about the man. He is an employee now. Probably because he burnt bridges with too many builders. I dont own the subs, but they are working under my umbrella, on my project, i am their client.

I also fired the client from any future work.

On the same note, I bid work pretty regular that the client can't afford when they get my price, but still need some work done. If they seem like good folks, I give them my subs contact information. That way someone on our team makes some money. That's why we are in business.

At every projects completion, I give my clients a project book. Warranty information I have registered for them, owners manuals, prints, and a list of my subs used on their job. That way if they ever need a sparky, plumber, HVAC contractor, ect... They can contact them directly. Good client service and my trade partners get a never ending list of clients from every job we do together.

Mutual respect and trust.
 

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As a general CONTRACTOR you enforce your will through executed contracts that secure for you cash or the right to obtain or withhold cash.

So you need to close your sales and get funds asap. Then you have power over the customer. Many here, myself included would not make a client proceed with a contracted project that they dont want to do any longer. But once you have their eggs in your hands this type of bs will happen with less frequency.

You need to execute subcontractor agreements which specify required performance of both parties. Who gets paid when. Who gets back charged when. Who is indemnified to whom when etc.. Some subs wont sign them, just like some gcs wont use a subs contract. The person who writes the contract is the power in the relationship.
 

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If a gc gives a client my number that means they want me to deal with them,if they want me to sub they do not give them my number..pretty simple

That's exactly how we work with the GC's we work for. I ask em up front, who's signing the check. You'd be surprised at how many of them just let the homeowner pay me directly. Course, if the GC's paying me, I tack 10% on to cover their workmans comp & I those that don't already know this, I inform before I accept the job.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
It appears that you were never getting the job since the inside guys was going to do it.

I am just wondering, if they came to you after the proposal but before talking to your subs, and told you they were bartering, would you have opposition to them using your subs?

If you were losing the work anyhow, why not let them get their piece?
In my mind this whole situation would be different if they had COMMUNICATED what they were doing. Im an understanding guy. If they have someone in house going to do the other work, and the gym wants to hire individual plumbers and electricians, have at it. Just communicate thats what you are doing. To bring me in and have me bid a job with my subs, then use my subs without telling me is shady. Yes i now know it's my fault for giving them my subs numbers. The plumber i take full responsibility for, but the electrician number i gave her way in the beginning when she said she had some electrical stuff she needed at home.

If the would have said hey we can't afford to do some of the remodel, but we really need a shower and this electrical work done thats it, then i would have told them to contact the plumber and electrician, unless they wanted me to run the project then i would attach my 10% fee as the GC and oversee it. But since there has been zero communication, I'm frustrated.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Ok couple questions as to how you guys would have handled this situation?

1. Would you have not brought the plumber and electrician on site? Just show them a plan? Im not experienced enough to know what their prices would have been, so i needed them on site or have them look at a detailed plan.

2. What would you do if a client calls and asks for your subs numbers? What do you say and how do you say it?

3. What do you communicate to your subs if you bring them on to a site where there is potential for a client to snag a business card or get contact info from them directly? Again i know i don't own the subs, so do you just have an agreement that if a client asks you to do the work without me, the subs need to communicate that on this job, they work for the GC?

Thanks again for your help. Appreciate the wisdom and insight.

The cost of this "education" for me is $7k in profit!! You only learn by making mistakes right? :)
 

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their are so many factors that determine who the clients will deal with
maybe the client didnt like you, or liked the subs better,
Maybe it was your inexperience that shied them to deal directly with the subs
money does have alot to do with it, but so does your experience.
dealing with HO's you need to be a great salesman.

maybe the subs will get screwed over too.
its a tough business in tough times.
i wish you the best of luck
 
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