How to Find Quality Subcontractors to Bid on a Project

December 22, 2020

If you struggle to get bids from quality subcontractors, you're not alone. It's hard to tell from a bid the quality of work the subcontractor will provide, how you'll get along with them, and if they have the financial capacity to take on a project.

On bid day, it's a scramble to find the best price that covers all the work. You don't have time to worry about a subcontractor's performance or financial situation. That's why having a list of prequalified subcontractors that you invite to every project can make bidding more manageable and faster.

But what if you don't have a database filled with quality subcontractors, or the project is in a new location that you haven't worked in before? There are several ways to find new quality subcontractors to bid on your project.

Ask your current subcontractors

One way to find quality subcontractors in your area is to ask your current subcontractors who they like to work with on other projects. Finding out how a sub works from other subs that have worked with them will tell you the quality of their work and whether they'll operate well with others.

Asking an electrician what drywaller they prefer or a plumber what site work subcontractor they love can help you expand your network of subcontractors. You may also want to ask who they don't like working with so you can avoid potential problems.

Reach out to new subcontractors

Check local internet listings or subcontractor lists to find subs you'd like to work with. You can find these companies at local events or as members of local organizations, such as the chamber of commerce. You can even check social media to see who's active in your area.

Once you've identified subs you'd like to work with, reach out to them by phone or email and ask if they'd like to bid on your projects. Sometimes a phone call is all that's needed to establish a relationship with a new subcontractor. Make sure you check them out or prequalify them so you can ensure that they meet your requirements.

Open a local office

If you're bidding on a project outside your normal service area, you may not have any contacts or experience with subcontractors in the area. This can make finding subs to bid on a project even more difficult. You don't want to take a chance with unknown subs on a project when you're far from home.

If the project size allows it, you can set up a small office near the project so you can begin networking and have a presence in the community. The office gives you a place to meet with potential subcontractors and establishes you as a "local contractor." Subcontractors generally give better pricing to contractors they know and trust, so establishing a relationship is key to getting competitive bids.

Hold a networking event

Whether the project is out of town or in your local area, you can host a networking event just for subcontractors. This event gives subs a chance to meet you and your team and allows you to meet potential subcontractors in a low-key environment.

Today these networking events can be virtual. Set up a video conference call, publicize the date and time, and invite potential subcontractors you'd like to work with. You can start with a general presentation about what your team looks for in a subcontractor and introduce your team members. Then set up one-on-one interviews with subs who are interested in working with you.

Search directories

There are many online directories, bid exchanges, contractors' associations, or bid websites where you can search for subs in your area that perform a specific type of work. Some of the sites require prequalification, while others provide listings to anyone.

You may have to join the local bid exchange or contractor's association in order to get access to their list. If you plan on doing work in the area in the future, this is a good investment as it allows you to advertise in their publications, on their website, and at local events.

Bid websites will provide a list of subcontractors that subscribe to their platform. This means they are actively looking for work. Often you can see how long they've been on the platform, how many bids they've submitted, and how many projects they've won. This can give you valuable insight into their bidding practices.

Search databases

If you're looking for minority or diverse contractors, you can search federal and state databases that list companies that have been certified as meeting those criteria. Many states have local requirements for listing a company and require an independent review. Searching many of these lists is free.

The advantage of searching these databases is that the companies have been reviewed by the local government, which means they are established businesses with a history of performance. Looking at these databases won't answer all your questions, but it will help you ensure that a company is stable and has a performance history.

Prequalified subcontractors

The only way to ensure that a subcontractor meets your specific requirements is to prequalify them with your own criteria. This means you'll need to get a packet of information from the subcontractor and review it to make sure they meet your requirements.

Things to look at include contractor licensing, insurance and bonds, financial standing, experience with similar projects, and customer reviews. Once you have ensured that the contractor meets your needs, then you can invite them to bid on your projects.

Finding quality subs is worth the work

Finding quality subcontractors requires legwork and some ingenuity. Finding places where subcontractors hang out, like bidding websites, can be the key to developing new relationships that could lead to valuable work in the future. The value of prequalifying your bidders before a bid can't be understated, as it saves you time and money and the headache of working with unqualified subs.