High Quality for Small Contractors

Many large residential and commercial contracting companies have long-standing practices in place to ensure quality construction in a safe building environment. They employ well-trained project managers, host regular safety briefings and assign people specifically to conduct quality control inspections and enforcement. These same contracting companies typically work on projects of significant size where they must award jobs to very large subcontracting companies. Hence, they are employing companies with similar safety and quality practices already in place.

Unfortunately, smaller residential and commercial building contractors cannot afford the additional manpower dedicated to quality control and safety training. Successful companies work within these constraints and facilitate a culture of awareness and the use of best practices for ensuring quality work in a clean and safe environment.

From the Top Down

Quality control is not simply an initiative for work site performance. It must permeate every aspect of a company’s operations, including office personnel and procedures, in order for a company to achieve lasting success. The best way to implement this strategy is to have all employees buy into the proper attitude. Quality control is a mind-set, and when practiced regularly, it becomes standard operating procedure.

A high level of quality throughout all aspects of your company is your greatest marketing tool. By setting the standard by which all others will be measured, your company will earn greater market share for being known as a quality company from top to bottom.

Employee retention is an important factor in delivering quality service at a consistent level. Invest the funds to ensure that all employees are covered by an adequate health insurance plan. Secondly, encourage and facilitate the ability for all employees to attend continuing education on building-related topics.  As a company owner, when I cover for a construction manager who is away in a class or attending a seminar, I find that having firsthand exposure in the field keeps me better connected with our jobs.

Subcontractor Expectations

Being proactive in the area of job site safety will typically translate into higher-quality production. Even on a tight budget, it is still possible for small companies to conduct safety training for their employees. I simply asked one of my office staff to research and download important information about workplace safety and to conduct a luncheon seminar for the rest of us in our small office. Subsequently, we are now compliant in our awareness and we are better equipped to train, inspect and enforce a comprehensive safety program on site.

Smart business managers understand the direct correlation between employing a strong work ethic and the desire to produce quality craftsmanship. It is important to hire subcontractor trades with a long-standing reputation and company stability.

Look for crews who take pride in their work and perform extra measures to protect their finished product. I look for tile and stone masons who routinely cover their flooring tile upon completion. Likewise, I appreciate the electricians who re-wrap the decorative light fixtures and ceiling fans with plastic after hanging them.

If you find yourself constantly pointing out paint overspray, un-sanded miter joints in millwork, visible sheetrock imperfections and unacceptable countertop seams, you probably have the wrong roster of subs working for you. Don’t let your job site be the training ground for subcontractors; let your competition handle those duties.

It is wise to develop a written document that outlines your basic expectations for work ethic and performance standards for your trades. Share your company policy with them and have your vendors sign a subcontractor agreement with these guidelines attached as an addendum. If you share your expectations with them up-front, you have every reason to judge their performance based on this criteria. Let them know that on-site inspections will involve both phase completion and quality workmanship as a condition for payment.

You can also ensure higher quality in your product offering by choosing building materials of proven performance and reliability. You are only as good as your warranty, and it pays to use the right products from the start. If a particular waterproofing system will virtually guarantee that a shower will not leak, or a product is available for sealing a roof deck against water intrusion, is it not worth a few hundred more dollars to ensure peace of mind while eliminating warranty calls?

Quality Relationships

While it is clear that employee training, education, material selection, job site safety and a strong work ethic are the cornerstones of building high-quality products, consider the final piece of the puzzle that will leave a lasting impression on your customers.

Make it your mission to deliver a quality building experience for each and every customer you serve. After all, it might be one of their testimonials that delivers your company its next opportunity.

Focus on the quality of your initial client meeting. During these discussions, did you allow the desire to learn more about your customer’s wants and needs take precedence over your desire to promote your company? Were you thorough in explaining the building process to them? Did they come away with the notion that you were truly looking out for their best interest? How was the quality of your presentation materials? A quality sales presentation will earn you credibility and respect from your customer.

Lastly, whether your employees are in customer relations, working in the field or behind the scenes, teach them that quality is defined by the richness of the experience and the level of a customer’s satisfaction.

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