This is part of an email I received from a very frustrated general contractor:

Recently my electrician told me that the client called him directly one evening to ask why there is no electricity in one part of the house and my electrician guided him on how to reset a GFCI outlet that was purposely tripped a day before to prove to the city inspector that a circuit is GFCI protected.

When I asked my electrician how come the client is now contacting him directly without my knowledge? The electrician informed me that the client asked him for his business card and he gave it to him.

As a background to the story, I had some issues with this electrician handing his business card to my clients directly or telling them stories how he works for a lot of doctors after he learned that the homeowner is a doctor etc. until the homeowner would ask for his business card. He never tells me what he did, I always hear about it indirectly from the client.

My question is how do I deal with this? Should I remind the client that he is not supposed to call my subs directly without my knowledge “As it was stated in his contract.”

Should I terminate this blabbermouth electrician since he will not quit doing this even though his contract with me states clearly that if he does business directly with my clients he owes me 20% of the cost of the job.

I am looking for advice on this subject because I am new in this GC business and I want to do it right. Should I include anything else in my contracts to prevent this from happening again?

I responded to this general contractor by advising him to remind the electrician to keep his mouth shut on his jobs. He needs to remind the electrician to refer the owner back to him whenever the client contacts him. If the electrician won’t do that, it’s time to find a new electrician. It might be time right now.

I also told the general contractor to include a clause in his contracts that he will shut the job down if the owner goes into default on their agreement and that it will cost between $600 and $900 to restart the job. He needs to remind the owner when the contract is signed that any and all communication is to directed to the general contractor. The owner is not to have any contact with employees or subcontractors on the job, and communicating with them is defaulting on the agreement. That will hopefully get the owner’s attention.

Now, if you are a subcontractor, it doesn’t matter what trade, if a general contractor has hired you to work on a job your obligation is to that general contractor only. You aren’t working for the owner. If the owner contacts you, and it doesn’t matter why, refer them directly back to the general contractor. You don’t know what the general contractor has said to the owner, you don’t know what their agreement is and who said what, why, how or when to whom. Sometimes when the owner contacts you they are trying to bypass the general contractor and get a lower price on your work or service. That is not fair to the general, and they are the one who generated that job, not you.

This scenario has been showing up more and more over the last few years. If you’re reading this post, you need to talk to all the people you work with, regardless of whether you are a sub or a general, and make sure you’re all on the same page. This issue can destroy a business relationship as quickly as anything I can think of.

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March 8, 2021 2:23 pm

Wow, will be making sure to ammend this clause if I see this in a contract and will never hire a contractor that acts like a god all the while needing a sub contractor to fullfill contracts in the first place.

richard thomas
richard thomas
October 5, 2020 7:16 pm

I am a sub contractor, (cabinet installer and I build custom architectural /millworks items) I am in a weird space when it comes to this type of relationship where a sub has no contact with a client, the reality is it is far faster and produces MUCH more satisfied customers and prevents losses if I can directly communicate, not to downplay any other trade but what I do involves a lot of “personal taste” not MY personal taste but the clients, so if I can not ask ,confirm , coordinate ect with a customer directly it is far more likely… Read more »

Tomas Atiles
Tomas Atiles
April 27, 2019 3:55 pm

The GC who wrote in is a new GC. The focus should be on the future business, not this electrician. If you don’t like a sub or the way he/she acts on the jobsite then don’t hire them back. Simple. In response to others about non compete clauses they’re most likely only good for the duration of that project. Once the project is over it’s fair game. If a sub goes back to the homeowner after the project is over and wants to start a relationship, I wouldn’t have any problem with that. One of the main reasons people don’t… Read more »

richard thomas
richard thomas
October 5, 2020 7:31 pm
Reply to  Tomas Atiles

you are absolutely correct. the good general contractors I deal with are never concerned at all with me talking to there clients, they realize that it makes the job work better and they know that I know what I am doing. I worked my way up to owning my own business, I am not anyone’s employee, I am a sub contractor who has a lot of my own direct clientele , I get calls weekly from people wanting work beyond the scope of what I do and that would fall into a GC’s scope instead. I refer them to the… Read more »

The Flag Inspector
The Flag Inspector
February 22, 2017 9:13 am

Do I have the right as the homeowner to question the subcontracts, to provide their Names and Insurance, and Workers Comp certificate? Afterall, they are not covered by the general contractors Workers Comp.

April 6, 2017 6:15 pm

They should be covered by your general contractors, plus insurance. The general hired the trades…homeowner did not. You have a contract with the general (hopefully) and the general has contracts with subs. General pays subs, you pay general and part of that is to manage the job that they do everyday. Bottom line your agreement, homeowner is with the general you hired, not the subs. If you did not need help homeowner then you take the lead and hire and manage your own subs. Just saying you can’t have your cake and eat it too! I have a great relationship… Read more »

Edward Starski
Edward Starski
July 6, 2018 1:28 pm
Reply to  Sabrina

Are you kidding? Homeowners pay for EVERYTHING and ultimately make the final decisions. We can and will have our cake and eat it too. If I ever met a general contractor with an attitude like yours I’d fire you immediately and warn my neighbors and the online community about you. Don’t forget who YOU work for bigshot.

Dan Spector
Dan Spector
May 5, 2016 4:01 pm

Hah.. Every sub feels like he had better increase his marketing effort, try to be the “go-to guy” people tell each other about. His job is to keep his own business going. Sometimes he works for this general, sometimes others, and sometimes people call him. Get over it, general.

Deb Duis
Deb Duis
May 16, 2016 10:03 pm
Reply to  Dan Spector

If he didn’t get the job directly, then he has no right to steal contacts that were provided by other people. That’s a get lost in my book.

May 15, 2015 9:34 am

“and communicating with them is defaulting on the agreement.”

I don’t think breaching one clause constitutes “default.” This is bad advice and could wind up costing you.

Mark Brand
Mark Brand
December 6, 2017 8:14 pm
Reply to  scaredofpandas

I don’t know where to write this but I saw this article and I want to make perfectly clear that you can always write a non contestant to the subcontractor to agree to that he cannot and will not compete against you or your business.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
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