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From time to time, you will go out to see a potential client about doing work for them and they’ll ask if they can choose their own subs for their job.

Too many contractors are so anxious to get the job they’ll agree to anything to be selected to do the work. Their thinking is that a little of something is better than a lot of nothing. A contractor used that exact phrase with me on the phone the other day.

Understand that almost always, the reason the home or building owner wants to hire their own subcontractors is because they believe they can get their job done cheaper. That’s the bottom line. They can save your outrageous markup if they hire the subs themselves.

But they don’t understand how jobs go together. They think that when you agree to let them hire their own subs, since you’re going to be on the job anyway, you’ll supervise the sub and make sure they do their job correctly. If the sub doesn’t show up on time, doesn’t keep the job clean, plays their radio loud, smokes in the home, and/or doesn’t do the job that they were hired to do, it’s your fault. You’re the general contractor, aren’t you? You should know how to get things done. If things go bad, they might even expect you to pay to make it right, since you didn’t control the sub.

Gang, I can go on and on about how this plays out, and some of you have either participated in or witnessed this scenario at least once.

The best approach is to stay out of an agreement like this. If I’m the general contractor on a project, the ONLY situation where I would agree to a building owner hiring their own sub is if the sub can work entirely on their own, either before I start work on the job, or after my portion of the job is completed. If you’re smart, you’ll explain that to the owner right upfront. If they still want to hire you, then go for it. If they expect anything else, wish them well, get on your horse and head for the barn.

Issues like this are some of the many “sales opportunities” discussed in our book, Profitable Sales, A Contractor’s Guide.

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