The construction business has always been one that’s emphasized networking and relationships. It’s how subcontractors get on preferred bid lists and increase their chances of winning work, so it’s no surprise that when it comes to material suppliers, relationships are just as vital.
Why the Contractor/Supplier Relationship Is So Important
Trade contractors are in constant competition to win bids, and they can be under intense pressure. When it comes to where they get their building materials, most will appreciate a space in which they feel they have a trusted partner on their side – someone who truly values their business and wants to see them succeed.
A lot depends on the supplier for subcontractors: they’ve created a detailed estimate for the GC, and they need to meet the time and budgetary promises they’ve made – otherwise not only could they lose profits on a particular job, but they also run the risk of damaging their reputation for future work.
So, having a supplier they can trust to fulfill orders on time and at the agreed-upon price is essential to completing the job, maintaining their good standing, and making profits. Contractors need a supplier who is:
– Upfront about how they’ll honor quoted prices
– Knowledgeable about current supply chain issues
– Responsive and available for questions and changes
Challenges between Suppliers and Contractors
Of course, it’s not always possible to deliver on everything that was requested at the time of bidding. One influential factor, especially in recent years, is that environmental and economic events – trade disputes among major powers, the Covid-19 pandemic, the Suez Canal blockage – can wreak havoc on an intricate global supply chain, increasing lead times and making it impossible for suppliers to stock materials they planned to have.
There’s no way around shortages and delays like this, and contractors know it, but it’s still an area of contention. After all, no matter what is happening in a given part of the world, the contractor has signed an agreement on the timing of the project – and the bigger the job, the more each subcontractor’s schedule depends on others.
In situations where suppliers have more control over outcomes, the keys to maintaining relationships and fostering trust are service and transparency.
How Building Material Suppliers Can Work Together with Contractors to Increase Profits
Rather than thinking of the relationship with your contractors solely in terms of customers purchasing items from you, view it instead as a mutually beneficial partnership. The more you can gain a contractor’s trust, the more likely they’ll be to turn to you as their primary supplier.
When you have a list of contractors who you know view your business as their first choice, you can get proactive by asking ahead of time which upcoming jobs they plan to bid, or even using a news source like Construction Journal to get alerted to projects they might be interested in that you can then pass on to your contacts.
With your expertise, you can settle on pricing that both helps the contractor to win the job and earns you a profit. Remember that keeping the contractor’s business for this and future jobs is more important than making a few extra dollars on a particular order, so use discounts and bulk pricing where you’re able in order to help out. After all, when they win, you win.
Tips for Improving Your Relationship with Contractors
There are a few things you can do to make sure you’re providing the best service for contractors:
Diversify your inventory. As long as you’re not violating any terms with manufacturers, order your supplies from a variety of sources. Make sure you can offer up similar items as replacements in the case of a supply chain or logistics problem, and be knowledgeable and ready to make those kinds of suggestions. If contractors know you have backup plans available for them, they’ll feel more comfortable relying on you for their materials.
– Perform complimentary takeoffs. Contractors are busy, and if you can take measurements and counts off their plate upfront, they’ll appreciate your help. A cloud-based preconstruction platform like STACK makes it easy to quickly perform takeoffs for your contractors, and as an added bonus, you can attach your products as items and assemblies to generate a quote for the job, making the process simpler for all involved. Include things like sales tax in your quotes so there are no surprises.
– Communicate clearly and frequently. When issues arise, and even when things are going smoothly, your best course of action is to overcommunicate. Send regular reminders about when supplies will be delivered and triple-check where they should be deposited at the jobsite. Contractors have so much going on that it’s tough for them to keep track of material management, so be sure you’re reaching out right away when there’s any possibility of delays.
– Offer expertise and be a trusted adviser. When you get new products, let your contractors know. Read up on information provided by manufacturers and share it. You can even consider hosting classes, especially during the off-season, where you can teach contractors about the latest materials and help their newer employees get up to speed. These types of events serve as excellent marketing for your business and continue to strengthen your relationships.
By treating contractors as partners on the same team, you’ll be able to nurture good business relationships and retain customers for the long haul.