Hiring the Right Contractor for the Job
By: Mike Lopez
As we touched upon in our October 2017 newsletter article “The Importance of an Accurate Project Schedule” and our November 2017 newsletter article, “The Hidden Timeline of Pre-construction: It’s Smart to Plan Ahead,” contractor selection is a critical aspect of project planning that can ultimately make or break a building restoration effort. Choosing the right contractor is just as important as choosing the best engineer or architect. During and after post-bid interviews, owners and property managers often ask us, and themselves, “who is the right contractor for my project?” After all, the contractor will be performing the specified work, creating and adhering to project schedules, coordinating access to and properly protecting all work areas, attending weekly meetings, allocating manpower, handling permitting, dealing with unruly residents or aggravated tenants, etc. etc.
So how do we know which bidder will successfully execute all these tasks and more? The answer is – we don’t. Without a crystal ball or some other way of seeing into the future, we as design professionals must be honest and objective in our recommendations, and consider the following factors.
Price: In today’s world, we assess whether every penny is spent wisely. It’s not true that opting for the most expensive contractor will lead to the best quality of workmanship being performed. Nor can it be assumed that the least expensive bid is the smartest choice, or that the middle ground is the way to go. The ultimate goal is to keep costs low; however, an initial bid that’s unrealistically low can increase the end project costs and associated engineering fees.
References: This should play a major role in the decision-making process. A list of at least 3 to 5 references should always accompany a bid, so that the experiences of others who have dealt with a particular contractor can be explored.
Insurance: Department of Buildings requirements and industry standards should be reviewed in order to determine whether a bidding contractor has the proper insurance. Legal counsel for the property owner should also review the policies and confirm they are appropriate. All involved parties should be covered should an accident occur.
Past Experience: It’s important to know whether a particular contractor has previously performed the type of work they are bidding on. We wouldn’t want a roofing contractor performing facade restoration or vice versa. It’s key that a contractor has past experience in successfully completing projects with similar scopes of work to the one they are bidding on.
Post-Bid interviews: How interviewees present themselves and represent their firms during post bid interviews can speak volumes. Did they have key players such as the company’s principal or the project foreman attend. Did they answer questions honestly? Did they behave professionally? Were they knowledgeable, humbly confident, and eager to prove themselves worthy of being awarded the work?
While this decision-making process warrants a significant amount of time and energy to accomplish, having the right contractor onsite is paramount to the successful completion of a project. And while there’s no guaranteed way of knowing which contractor is best suited for the job, considering the above factors can lay the groundwork for the restoration team’s success.