In an industry faced with labor-force challenges, quality-control issues, pinched margins, and tight time lines, anyone who wants to succeed with and grow their construction business must always be on the lookout for ways to improve all aspects of its services. I would suggest that one of the most significant ways to do this is to expand your sub-consciousness. Now I know this may sound like another rant on the meaning of life, but bear with me; this time I'll keep it very simple.

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Rick Schwolsky, editor in chief rschwolsky@hanleywood.com

If you are a GC or builder bringing subcontractors onto your sites, take a good hard look at who they are, what kind of work they do for you, and how you treat them. The more competitive the market you're in, the more important it will be for you to review how conscious your company is of its most important jobsite resource–your subs. What can you do to help them succeed on your projects, from providing information on scheduling and specs to jobsite conditions and preparedness when they show up? Help them make money on your projects through coordination and efficiency and you'll become a preferred customer in terms of both scheduling and quality control.

It works both ways. If you're a subcontractor, take a look at whom you're sending to represent your business, what kind of work they do when on site, and how they interact with your general contractors. What is your relationship with your client base, how well do communication and information flow, and what can you add to your services that can help your customers improve their overall quality and profitability?

Also pay close attention to how you treat your trade employees and to whether the environment you provide allows them to do their best work. Morale is a funny thing; it can be a positive force that shines brightly in positive attitudes and quality work or a black cloud that darkens a jobsite and brings everyone down. It's contagious either way, but nobody wants to work with a company that sends disgruntled employees to their jobsites.

No matter how hard you focus on marketing and managing your projects, it all comes down to who shows up to do the work and how prepared they are when they arrive. And their output is directly related to your input. Best practices point to pulling your trade subcontractors and project managers together at the start of a project for a pre-construction huddle, maybe even early enough to catch design flaws that can still be straightened out, but certainly in time to work out efficient sequencing of each trade and coordination of overlapping schedules. Designate a point-man team with representatives from each company that can create a framework for teamwork and that clarifies the path for communication during the heat of battle.

In addition to working out scheduling issues, this group also should review plans and specs with an eye toward booby traps, tricky details, and proper ordering and delivery of materials. Then, as a group, agree on the overall planning and timing. More importantly, agree to share timely information that affects the overall plan so that everyone can adjust to changing conditions on the ground.