When the only thing dependable about your subcontractors is that they are not dependable, it’s time to change your course of action.  You can stand around shaking your head in hopes that they will show up, but the chances are, that will not work.  As a wise person once said: “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”


After all your hard work of looking for the right subcontractor you may suddenly find yourself in the awkward position of dealing with a subcontractor who simply is not dependable.  This is certainly an uncomfortable position to be in, yet you’ll need to find a solution to the problem and quickly.  Anytime you spend wishing the problem away will be time lost and added expense on your job.

Taking action is key, and taking it quickly is even more important.  As discussed in other areas of this training, you should be in contact with your subcontractors several times before they are actually supposed to show up on site. Being that as the case, they will have had plenty of warning about the start of the job, and will really have no excuse for missing their start date or subsequent deadlines.

The first thing to do is make a phone call.  Call the office contact whom you have been working with and ask what happened.  It is always a good idea to give them the benefit of the doubt.  That said, don’t get taken advantage of either.  In that conversation, you should ask why the crew has not shown up when the start date, or continuation of work, was clearly agreed to.  If the office contact cannot give you an adequate reason, then you should respond accordingly.  Let them know that their not showing up is a breach of contract.  You can choose at this time to let them get off free with just a warning, but be sure to let them know you have marked the record. Set a new date and move forward.

It is always best to let the subcontractors know that you are making note of the tardiness and that you take it seriously while at the same time affording them a break.  This shows that you are not a jerk and can be accommodating but that you will not be pushed around either.  If the problem persists, you can use the contract agreement to enforce penalties and to force them into action.  It may, however, be best to enforce the contract penalties and cancel the remainder of the contract.  The risk is that if you penalize the subcontractor, they may not want to work for you anymore and the quality of the work may suffer as a result.  Be careful.  You may not have a back up subcontractor who can step in and complete the project in a timely fashion.

The piece I want you to get here is that you can be accommodating without being pushed around.  Your ability to hold your ground is really important.  If you don’t make that statement from the beginning, chances are that you will be bullied by the subcontractor and your entire job will suffer as a result. This may seem simple and it is; however, far too many people end up pushed around because they don’t like conflict.  Consider it as conflict resolution, not as conflict.  The reality is that there will be conflict if the job does not complete on time and on budget and your bank will have no problem telling you that you owe them more money as a result of your time delay.  So, you can have conflict with the bank or you can have conflict-resolution with your subcontractors.  Either way, you need to be in charge and willing to stand your ground.  I suggest you take that stand early with your subcontractors and set the stage for success.