Blog: Working in partnership with our sub-contractors

Matt Lynch, Commercial Manager, Deeley Construction

About 18 months ago, we decided to assess the way we worked with sub-contractors and had some quite open discussions internally about the way we wanted to move forward.

Deeley Construction has an excellent reputation with clients and sub-contractors alike but we thought there was a better way of working with those businesses we employ and on whom our reputation relies.

We spoke to our contracts managers, site managers, surveyors and estimators and asked them which companies we worked well with and, also, to identify where there had been any issues. As I mentioned previously, they were open discussions and it was the right time to find a new way of working.

Initially, we sent a questionnaire to several sub-contractors and asked for complete honesty. We wanted to know what businesses thought about working with Deeley – from health and safety through to settling accounts. The feedback was very positive.

It also gave us some really useful information on the different businesses – if a sub-contractor was performing well, we didn’t want to overload them with work that would have been too much and, equally, we don’t want to be under-using them if they had proved they could meet demands without compromising on quality.

We then invited several sub-contractors, from a variety of trades, in for meetings and said we wanted to look at the relationship as more of a partnership with them. Just merely holding the meetings was a great start. You could tell that they all liked the fact we were talking to them on level terms and that began the process of building towards partnership working.

Following that process, we now have several partners from all of the major trades that we tap into and we can bring them in to discuss projects at the tendering stage of the process. They can give objective views on how quickly and how costly certain elements of a contract will be and it means we can often save our client money and, also, be much more accurate with our timescales. Everybody wins.

That’s not to say that we don’t want to hear from other sub-contractors. We do, 100 per cent, but this process has just allowed us to develop those partnerships with businesses rather than starting from scratch whenever we start to tender for a job.

This all took place prior to the Covid-19 crisis but, in my view, it has really stood us in good stead since the pandemic hit.

There were those first few weeks when the advice for the construction sector was, at best, ambiguous but we were very quick to get back on site in a safe and socially distanced way as soon as we could.

And, having had those conversations and meetings with our sub-contractor partners, it meant we had great buy-in from them and it meant we lost much less time on sites than could have otherwise been the case.

Companies such as M&T, Nedlon and Drywall – to name but a few (and there were certainly plenty of others) – meant our work on everything from care homes through to a new high-tech car park at HORIBA MIRA could continue at a pace.

So, there’s no doubt that partnership working has helped us during the crisis but I believe it is going to produce even better results for all of us when we finally get back to normal.