Are subcontractors hurting your brand?

Construction contractor

David FullerImagine paying to have someone bring a washing machine into your house and set it up and then having to fire them before the job is complete.

This is exactly what happened to my friends last week after they bought a new washing machine from Home Depot. The wife decided that, as a treat for her husband, she would pay the $80 delivery and installation fee.

Unfortunately for Home Depot, the contractors they used to deliver and install the washing machine didn’t seem to have the same professionalism as some of their employees. In fact, the crew that showed up to install the machine looked unkempt, and as they were bringing the machine into the house, they banged into walls and corners.

After only a few minutes of watching the two “machine installers,” the husband asked them to leave and completed the installation himself. As the wife told me, “It was a complete waste of the $80 that I gave to Home Depot.”

Subcontracting is a common method of business for many organizations. With a shortage of labour and – in some cases – an inconsistency of available work, it makes sense to hire outside ‘professionals’ to do work on a piecemeal basis.

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But managing contractors can become a full-time job unless you’re prepared to set some parameters. Here are five things you can do to ensure that quality subcontractors are working for you:

Understand their scope of abilities

In hiring subcontractors, we need to be clear about what they can and can’t do.

We also need to understand the work they want to do and ensure that when we subcontract to them, we give them work that fits their abilities, skills and passions.

Check references

Before hiring a subcontractor to work for your firm and represent you to your stakeholders, it makes sense to do some due diligence. This includes checking references and doing your research.

Sloppiness or unprofessionalism can quickly hurt your brand reputation, and it’s easier to find an option for a substandard subcontractor than to repair your brand.

Onboarding is essential

Having contractors do work for you isn’t different from having employees except that the contractors are hired to do specific tasks in exchange for a certain amount of compensation, while employees are on the payroll all the time.

Unfortunately, in many cases, we fail to onboard and train these contractors to the standards we expect of our employees. Just because someone is working as a subcontractor doesn’t mean they shouldn’t follow our systems or live up to the expectations of our organization.

When subcontractors go into the field and engage with our customers, they represent our company. To this end, they need to maintain the same standards of professionalism.

Have a system of accountability

Contractors need to know what they’re being measured against and what’s expected of them. While this is no different than having employees, sometimes we feel that contractors don’t need to be managed to the same extent because they are ‘professional.’

A system of accountability ensures you’re getting what you’re paying for. If it’s delivery of products or services within a certain scope of time and quality, random test and develop systems to make sure that what you’re getting lives up to your expectations.

Give feedback and build the relationship

Just as your employees want to know how they’re doing, your contractors would like to have some feedback on what you think about their work.

If your contractors don’t meet your expectations of professionalism, they need to know so they can either step up or step out.

Also, if you’re hearing good feedback about your contractors, let them know you’re happy with them. Having strong, healthy relationships with your subcontractors enables you to build a business in a win-win manner where everyone – including your customers – is happy.

Subcontractors can damage your business if you’re not careful, just as the Home Depot brand suffered in my friends’ eyes.

However, having the right subcontractors in place with the right framework to manage them can help you build a business that establishes a great brand reputation with your customers and enables you to profit.

Without some documented standards to manage your subcontractors, your business is at risk.

Dave Fuller, MBA, is an award-winning business coach and a partner with Pivotleader Inc. For interview requests, click here.


The opinions expressed by our columnists and contributors are theirs alone and do not inherently or expressly reflect the views of our publication.

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