Keep your contractor happy

However hard we work at supporting our clients, in most cases we’re judged on the end product: the standard of the repair, improvement or adaptation, and that largely comes down to the quality of the contractors that you work with. They’re an essential part of the process but sometimes their importance is neglected, and unsurprisingly they then go to ply their trade elsewhere. This means that many agencies become over-reliant on a very small pool of contractors and all the risks that entails.

In this two-part blog, I’m going to run through 10 ways that you can keep contractors happy and in turn deliver a better end product to your clients.

1. A regular flow of work

The traditional nature of grant-funded works is that it can be a bit stop-start. Agencies race to spend as much as possible before the end of a financial year and then have little in the pipeline for April and May. Then it’s summer holidays and things don’t really pick up again until the Autumn when there’s another push to spend before the end of the financial year again. Smoothing out the flow of work will help prevent contractors needing to look elsewhere – which also means they’re more likely to be available when you need them for an urgent project.

2. Fair tendering

Procurement practice and ethics are far stronger now than when I started work but it’s worth remembering that contractors often know each other, especially in small towns. Make sure you have an open approach to tendering and selection and be seen to follow it.

3. Pay quickly

An obvious one, but sometimes it’s easy for an invoice to sit on a file for weeks while minor issues are resolved that can be outside of the contractor’s control. If you can, pay promptly – and always see if your client is happy for you to pay the contractor directly.

4. Be reasonable about variations

For any building job, particularly those involving existing buildings, there’s potential for unforeseen works. Not that this should be a blank cheque, but if there are items that genuinely could not have been foreseen then it is reasonable to expect them to be paid for. Sometimes this includes the client changing their mind, but this should be managed so that it is fair to both parties.

5. Prestart meetings

It’s not unknown for clients and contractors to fall out – but often it’s down to a misunderstanding or even a lack of understanding. I strongly advocate holding a pre-start meeting for every job where you introduce the client and contractor to each other, discuss the sequence of events, any other considerations and who to contact if there’s a problem. Use a simple agenda, record all the information and share the details (triplicate forms are great). A leaflet telling the client what to expect can help too. If you invest a bit of time in setting jobs up to succeed, they’re far less likely to go wrong. You can concentrate on delivering great projects rather than fire fighting.