When the recession hit the construction industry in 2008, many subcontracting companies went out of business. The surviving subcontractors scaled back considerably to avoid over-extending their companies. Consequently, as the industry has rebounded over the last 2-3 years with increasing projects, there have been fewer subcontractors to bid and subsequently work on those projects. Getting subcontractors to respond to bid invitations has become a serious problem for General Contractors, which has forced a change in communication.
Here are some helpful suggestions for General Contractors…
1. Make your Bid Invitations Stand Out
Subcontractors receive many “Invitations to Bid” each day in their emails mixed in with countless “Notices of Addendums” and “Reminders to Bid” and hundreds of other emails. Make your bid invitation stand-out by personalizing it with your company’s logo, your client’s logo, and different font types and colors. Since most people are visual, this will get your subcontractors’ attention. It is also helpful to introduce your company with a link to your website or company profile. If a subcontractor doesn’t know anything about your company they are less likely to respond.
2. Target Bid Invitations to Qualified Subcontractors
Before emailing bid invitations, make sure the subcontractors are experienced and qualified to perform the work specified for your project. Since subcontractors are bidding on fewer projects, they are more responsive to opportunities in their “wheelhouse” because they are more profitable. If it’s your private subcontractor, you should update their company’s qualifications at least once a year to confirm what they do, who they do it for, and how well they do it. If you’re searching for new subcontractors, there are construction networks that collect and maintain qualification information on subs that will help you select the right company for the project.
3. Make Your Plan Room Easy to Access and Use
It’s essential that you provide your subcontractors with quick and easy access to your project’s documents – plans, specifications, and addendums. If your subcontractors have difficulty logging into your FTP site or trouble navigating once there, they will most likely not bid your project. Also, separate the documents as individual files – drawings and specification divisions – and label properly. This will help subs find the documents they need quickly. It’s also helpful to make your documents keyword-searchable to expedite the subs’ time in your plan room. If you don’t have the tools or the time to customize your plan room, there are companies that provide that service.
4. Communicate Quickly, Often and Personally
Being more responsive to your subcontractors will lead to quicker responses and more bids from them, particularly when answering their “Requests for Information.” General contractors have found that answering their subcontractors’ questions or addressing their concerns by phone rather than email helps build a strong and lasting relationship. An increasing number of general contractors are proactively calling their subcontractors two to three days after sending the bid invitations to answer any questions and using the opportunity to encourage them to bid. It’s more difficult for the subcontractors to decline the general contractor when they have spoken with them because the relationship became more personal. Communication doesn’t end with the subcontractors on bid-day. When your project’s GC award is announced, update the subcontractors that submitted a bid with that information even if you weren’t awarded. They will appreciate the update, which will encourage them to bid your next project.
5. Maintain Good Relationships with Your Subcontractors
Good subcontractors are critical to the success of a general contractor. Their experience and qualifications will help you win more work when bidding and reduce risk on your job site. It’s important to build and maintain strong relationships with your subcontractors. Visit with them on your current job sites, at association meetings, and industry networking events. Provide professional training for them in the areas of business and safety. Some general contractors even conduct social events once or twice a year for their private subs to express their appreciation and to stay connected. If subcontractors feel they are part of your team – and not just a number on bid-day – they will be there when you need them.
Ed Haege is the Project Communications Manager at The Blue Book Building & Construction Network. He began his career in the construction industry as a News Reporter for McGraw-Hill Dodge before joining Dutch Boy Waterproofing, Co. as their Sales/Estimator. He later returned to McGraw-Hill Dodge as a Regional News Manager.
Ed joined The Blue Book Network to manage the Research & Development Division and became the BB-Bid Product Manager. His construction bidding knowledge and experience was instrumental in the creation and development of BB-Bid, The Blue Book Network’s bid management system, as well as: SyncWare Plan Room, Vu360, Quick Quotes for Equipment, Materials, and Products. His most recent project is ONETEAM, a bid management and collaboration platform. These workflow solutions are used by General Contractors, Subcontractors, and Facility Managers.