If you want to get into installed deck sales by hiring a contractor to do the installs for you, then the best contractor you can get is likely already one of your customers. Before you make that choice, however, there are a couple ways you can go about hiring out the build work.
You could just hand off the job to one of your good customer crews and let them handle the project entirely. That’s fine and it works for some lumber dealers. However, those dealers may not be aware that there are good margins to be made by serving as the general contractor. If you want to take advantage of those margins, you need to be aware that along with the margins comes more responsibility for the job and in many states you have to be licensed as a general contractor (GC).
Contractors and Contracts
Assuming you’re going to serve as the GC on the build, I can offer some advice in choosing a subcontractor. As a deck builder and now a lumberyard owner, I can really tell which contractors know what they’re talking about and which ones are constantly coming in with problems. Try as you might, sometimes you can’t educate those problems out of a person. Really get to know your contractor customers before selecting them to do work on your behalf.
After you get to know your contractors, I recommend that you work with just one or two of them. Have them do the building for you as a subcontractor. State laws vary on contract agreements between subcontractors, so make sure you look into your state laws. For us here at The Deck Store in Minn., we have an annual agreement with our subcontractors that cover things like insurance issues, worker’s compensation and job-site behavior.
Then at the start of every job we have another, very specific contract. These contracts spell out exactly the deck specifications, materials, cost and how much the sub will make. Before the job takes place, you’ll want to have these two agreements in place. Essentially, you want an agreement with your customer that spells out how much and when you get paid, and one with your subcontractor that spells out how much and when they get paid.
When you give a crew a job, you can’t just turn it over and walk away. The person who sold the deck should be on site occasionally to make sure things are getting done correctly and also to serve as the conduit between the homeowner and the subcontractor. Some homeowners by this time start having selective memory. If you allow them to give direction to the subcontractor, the project is going to look different than you probably thought it was. The homeowner should only communicate with you on any issues and not with the contractor. If the homeowner gives too much direction to the contractor, they may end up with a lot more deck than you expected them to get.
Because of these relationships, be sure to have a good communication system in place. Before the job I have a pre-production meeting, which is a scope-clarification meeting. Also, during the process of the job I recommend that you show up either in the morning or the evening to talk about what progress has been completed with the project. If you stop by in the evening, you can also make sure that any materials shortages or changes are taken care of for the next day’s crew.
At the end of the job, make sure to meet with the contractor and the homeowner in person and do a final inspection of the deck so you can pass the job off and get paid. At the end of the job, it’s also a great idea to spend more time with the homeowner while they’re excited about their new deck. Use this time to ask for referrals and testimonials, as well as look for opportunities for other work such as doors, windows or a remodeling project. Be sure to keep in touch with a satisfied homeowner. By staying in contact with them, you can build a beneficial relationship for years to come.