Tips for better outcomes on contractor projects.
By Michael Fortinberry
“Work smarter, not harder.” It is a classic cliché, but what does it mean for a manager trying to oversee a paint contracting project? As a division of the world’s largest coatings company, we have learned a thing or two about executing quality work. In this article, we will share some insights into setting good expectations, getting the best pricing, and then finally managing project execution, safety and quality.
First step is deciding what work you want done. It sounds simple, but it is foundational to a good outcome. We call this the “scope of work.” Fully documenting the scope of what you want to get done and clearly communicating expectations to your painter are critical to your project’s success. Many of the problems we encounter stem from early misunderstandings between the parties, about what exactly needs to be accomplished. A scope of work can rarely have too much detail, so invest the time to get it right, before you try and get pricing. The extra effort here can save you real money later.
While bidding is a common pricing approach, we actually generate lower average pricing through what we call “negotiated market pricing.” This works best when you have recurring projects in the market, such as seasonal maintenance or regular renovations. The first step is to understand the labor rates for your market. We maintain a national database to facilitate, but in your local area, you can generally learn this by speaking with contractors or maintenance staff members. Second, production rates, the amount of work that can get done per day, are relatively established (and can be easily researched!). Third, understand the materials and quantities needed for your project. Armed with this information, you can talk to your contractor from a position of strength, knowing what it will cost them to get the job done.
A word of advice… We do not recommend being too tight on your contractor’s margins. If a contractor is going to lose money, he or she may feel more inclined to cut corners, or find ways to regain profitability. Having a mutually respectful relationship with your contractor will ensure they are protected and you end up with a better complete project. Finally, when selecting contractors, don’t forget to check for licensing and insurance. Don’t just get a COI and trust it. Have your insurance provider review the details to verify it.
Once you have a contractor and a price, the hard part begins: project management! In contracting, project management is what often differentiates a successful job from one that fails. Communication is key to great outcomes, so plan it to be both consistent and detailed.
To start, having a very direct conversation with your contractor about exact staffing and execution expectations is of utmost importance. How many people will they staff, when will they start, who exactly will be supervising, and how late will they work? These are all details you should be sure to discuss prior to your project’s start. This is also a good time to talk safety. From PPE (personal protective equipment), to compliance with OSHA rules, to following the correct procedures for any chemicals that may be used on the job. Good safety starts before the job does.
Another process we recommend is a daily “check in” with the contractor each morning. You should discuss progress, open issues and the objectives for that day. Finally, quality control is not an “after the fact” exercise. Many of the quality measurements start at site preparation. Discuss with the crew supervisors the measures of quality they consider important. When the job is done, the deliberate processes above will have all the parties happier with the process and the end results. Further, they will save you money by preventing costly mistakes.
The management of these logistical processes, project coordination, pricing and more, is what we do for clients every day. We hope this quick overview will help you to “work smarter” and be more successful in your next project.