A key decision on every new project is choosing your general contractor.

In many ways the success of a project hinges entirely on that choice.

Identifying the right partner is not an easy task, but it can be made much less cumbersome by knowing what makes a good partner, and what makes a bad one.

Here are the two things you should always look for when vetting a potential general contractor partner:

1. Determine If They Are Transactional- Or Relationship-Based Contractors

Some contractors are, unfortunately, very litigious. They use the language of a contract in order to be adversarial; to take advantage of the owners who hire them. You can think of them as Transactional-Based Contractors. They focus on transaction and will manipulate contractual conditions to their benefit.

Contrast this approach with a Relationship-Based Contractor who openly communicates about the terms of the contract and project expectations. These contractors are much more likely to respect your budget and work with you throughout the process to complete the project to mutual benefit.

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The difference between a transactional-based contractor and a relationship-based contractor is not always evident. The best way to distinguish between the two is to:

  • Check Their References. References are a valuable resource. They give you the chance to actually talk to other people who have worked with that contractor. Take the time to call and talk to each and every reference provided. Inquire about the contractor’s openness in communication during the project and how issues were resolved.
  • Investigate Their Reputation. Go a bit beyond checking provided references and get a feel for whether they are respected in the business. Be wary of a general contractor who has failed to earn the respect of their peers.

2. Trust Your Gut

In proposal situations, potential Superintendents are typically part of the initial presentation of ideas/plans. This is an excellent way to get to know the people who will be working on-site day in and day out. It’s important to remember that while the best superintendents are extremely knowledgeable about the details of each project plan, they may not necessarily be the best presenters or public speakers.

While it’s human nature to form first impressions of potential partners through this process, evaluate this first impression to make sure it is based on criteria that best serves your project. Try to:

  • Judge the presentation based on content, not on delivery (try to filter out nervousness vs. unclear communication capabilities).
  • After the presentation, ask questions that will help you identify if this potential superintendent will be commanding, experienced and organized.
  • Try to spend more informal time with potential partners – maybe coffee or lunch – to see if their personalities, values, and communication styles truly line up with what you are looking for.

Remember, knowledge and experience will serve your project far better than the ability to deliver a polished speech.

A general contractor who is relationship-based, communicates openly, and operates with the intent to provide a quality product will typically deliver an excellent experience for clients. A transactional contractor, however, can make the construction process a true nightmare. Still have questions or concerns? Call us to learn more about what to look for in a GC partner for your next project.