Are You Kidding Me?: When Talk of “The Team” is Just Talk

General contractors talk about the “team” and “trade partnerships,” but in the current market, we find this rarely exists. Consider two recent examples our company has faced.

Recently, we were awarded a project well after ground was broken. After being given the “go ahead,” the contractor expected us to be on site two weeks after signing the contract. Then, as could have been predicted, the architect rejected our finish samples and decided to go with a custom special paint. Thus, more lead time. We worked through all the problems, expediting as best we were able and getting no additional monies to offset our efforts. We ended up pulling off a miracle, eventually completing the project and getting paid.

A few months later, we had an “opportunity” on another project with this same contractor. I follow up on this opportunity and am informed that the project management team from the previous late-award project mentioned to others within the firm that we did not “adequately” perform. Well, that job is gone…

This week, another opportunity presented itself on a project we have budgeted several times over the last six months. Our estimating/project management team attended a pre-contract scope review with the contractor. Going in, we were encouraged, as we had samples submitted and approved. We even did some preliminary drawings to illustrate what our scope was. The meeting went well until we were informed the following: the project has a 90-day schedule, we are expected to work seven days a week, AND…there will be a liquidated damage clause in our contract. We learn that there will be no money offered for us to expedite this job or for overtime, and are told, “get the job done, and liquidated damages will not be an issue.” None of these issues were part of any bid package we were privy to.

Are you kidding me? I understand that, without a project to build, no revenue is generated and nobody has a job. And I understand that price is important. But performance is what it is all about. Very few contractors bring the glazing contractors into a project early on, like they do for mechanical trades. They look at the Division 8 specification section as one they wait on to buy out.

We have to do a better job and work to change the current accepted business practices. We have to prod our contractor team members to realize that partnerships, if used correctly, are a WIN/WIN.

My suggestion to eliminating these problems is for the owner/developer/contractor to continue to have high expectations, but be realistic. Each construction project has its own challenges; many are unique to each. Involve your trade partners early, be honest about what is achievable within the budget established. Communicate what your expectations and deadlines are. Realize your glazing contractor is a critical component to your project's success. Working to establish your team early will produce a project completed on time, and with memories of how successful trade partnerships produced a project that everyone involved is proud of, and one that provides for profitable continuing trade partnership.

Diana Bernal is a marketing executive for commercial glazing company Key Glass, in Bradenton, Fla.

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