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Partnering With Sub-Contractors

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It’s almost a given some days. You get called out to replace a heating and cooling system and discover a serious mold problem or realize the building is not up to code in some way. In order to do your job, you have to help the homeowner figure out who to contact to get the ball rolling on other issues he might face.

As HVAC contractors seek to be the one-stop shop for their customers, they sometimes find it is more economically feasible to partner with other contractors to fill in the missing skill sets in their labor force. This can be a great situation or it can create some serious problems.
Fortunately, there are several ways you can successfully partner with sub-contractors to keep your business booming and your customers happy.

Network with Other Service Businesses
If you plan to recommend another contractor to your customer, you want to be sure that they will treat your customer as well as you would, or maybe even better. Your customer may wind up only associating the experience with your company, even if it was a different company that didn’t provide excellent service.

Your role as intermediary is to make sure whoever you recommend is excellent. The best way to insure this is to get to know other contractors in your area. Join the local chamber of commerce, join a networking group for service businesses, and talk to your customers. If you notice a customer has recently had work done, ask who they used and if they are happy with the service.

Over time, you’ll develop a list of local businesses that provide various services. It’s a good idea to have several in each niche you can turn to for help, as one might be booked up and your customer may need something fixed now so he can have heat or air conditioning.

Make Your Expectations Clear
If you agree to refer another business, sit down with the owner over a cup of coffee or lunch and have a discussion about your expectations. Be polite, but make it clear that:

  • You plan to refer him, if he’d like
  • If you refer him, you are putting your name and reputation on the line
  • You expect employees of his company to treat your customers with respect
  • You hope he’ll refer you to customers as well and will do the same for him

This is not an easy conversation to have, but if you’ve developed a relationship through the networking channels mentioned above, it should be easier to talk through your expectations. You are going to send business his way and aligning your name with his, so if he balks at your concerns, you may want to reconsider referring this particular contractor.

Follow-Up with Customer
If you refer another business to a customer, take the time to follow up. Ask how the customer’s experience was with that company. Would they recommend the company?

If the customer is displeased for any reason, ask how you can make it right. No, it wasn’t your fault. You trusted someone else, but remember that the customer will associate this with your business as well. You may need to serve as the mediator between that company and your customer to make sure the overall experience is positive.

Hire a Company Yourself
Another option is to hire the sub-contractor to complete part of your work. This might behoove you if you have seasons that are particularly busy and you need extra hands to meet the demand, but your company isn’t yet in a position to hire those hands full-time and pay benefits and all the other expenses involved in training new employees.

If you choose to hire someone to do part of the work on a project, make sure they completely understand your company policies and customer service goals. Take the time to have them sign an agreement and complete at least a few hours of training in these areas.

Make sure the temporary hires are supervised by a senior technician. Never leave a temporary worker to complete a job alone as it may result in damage to your company’s reputation.

Be Selective and Be Aware
Be selective about who you recommend to your own customers or allow to take on work for you. While a company may have done excellent work when John Doe owned and ran it, things can change. John Doe may sell the business or hand it over to Junior.

This is where it becomes important to follow up with your customers and make sure they are happy with the service. If you start to get complaints about a company, you can try to meet and see if these issues can be fixed, or you can simply move on and not recommend them any longer.

Working with other contractors can be a scary proposition. You are putting your reputation on the line. However, it can also be rewarding and can result in new referrals as they tend to flow both ways. Only you can decide if you want to work with others.

Lori Soard

Posted In: ACCA Now, Building Performance, Management, Money, Residential Buildings

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