Symbiotic Relationships- Pt 1
Symbiosis – A relationship between two groups that work with and depend on each other.
Mutual symbiosis – A relationship between two separate groups that work with and depend on each other whereby both entities benefit.
Parasitic symbiosis – A relationship between two separate groups that work with and depend on each other whereby one entity prospers and the other entity is severely damaged.
About a month ago, ASA Midwest held a General Contractor/Subcontractor open forum discussion on the topic of “more efficient project management and coordination” from a general contractor’s perspective. There were both general contractor panelists and subcontractor panelists involved. Much of the discussion dealt with what the subcontractors needed to do for the project to be successful. One of the points brought out was that the subs need to have the “right person” running the project. This person needs to be knowledgeable about the project and their scope of work, have good communication and coordination skills, and have the authority to make decisions on the project.
I totally agree with this, it was not that far in the distant past that we would get a job and then send a foreman out to the site to get started without any knowledge of the project; our scope; our safety and production expectations; and dare I say, sometimes they would not even have a set of plans and specs. Our past is also littered with the history of grabbing a high performing tradesman and without any training or supervision bestowing the title of foreman on him, and sending him out to manage a project and a crew. What were we thinking? We were setting them up for failure. We were setting the project up for failure.
From a subcontractor’s perspective, it is imperative that the general contractor also has the “right people” running the project. In most cases, the general contractor has more control over the subcontractor’s productivity and therefore profitability than the subs themselves. How is this possible you ask, the general contractor did not do the estimate, set the labor budget, hire the tradesmen, or direct the sub's employees. Well, the general contractor has full control of the “Big 3 C’s” - Coordination, Communication, and Conditions. If the trades are poorly coordinated and scheduled; if the access to vital information is impeded, delayed, or non-existent; or if the project site resembles a trash dump in a swamp, the chances of the subcontractors achieving their bid productions are slim to none. As production goals are missed, what little profit there was in the bid is lost, frustration and animosity take hold among the players involved, and everyone on the project loses. I do not know about you, but I have been in the industry long enough, and had enough self-inflicted losers, that I do not need the “practice” on a loser project caused by factors out of my control. The last time I looked, I think that the reason we are all in business is to make a profit, we are not 501C charitable organizations.
In my next newsletter, I will expound upon the topic of symbiotic relationships, and discuss how subcontractors and general contractors alike should proceed in the future to complete successful and profitable projects.
In the meantime, work safe, work hard and have fun!