A key to successful projects is the relationship between the general contractor and the trade contractor. They both have to build trust and understanding about each other and the project. Successful relationships last long, generate more sales, and when one faces problems, they help each other. They both should work as one team toward one goal: finishing the project. General contractors need good trade contractors, and trade contractors need good clients – the general contractors.

Show them the pain.

This is where most contractors lack. When contractors start to face a problem, they hide it or are finger pointing at others.  Instead, you must talk with your general contractor and explain where the issue is. In most cases, you will receive help, and they will understand the pain you are suffering. Engage them to see the process you are going through; they will value the suffering you are going through. From my experience, when you share the pain with your client, you gain trust. In fact, those projects that were going through many problems and obstacles were the ones where I built the strongest relations with the general contractor.

Find better solutions or alternatives.

Your general contractor hires you because he trusts that you are an expert at what you do. He wants you to fix his problem without asking any questions, but he will also value it if you find alternative ways of doing the work. For example, facade contractors have to perform a ventilated facade executed in a special system. But if you as a contractor find an alternative way how to execute this facade in a more easier way which requires less resources and share these insights with general contractor. The general contractor will most likely accept them, and you both can then share the profit from these changes. General contractors are always giving first hand to those subcontractors who always find better, more efficient ways while maintaining quality.

Myths about contracts

Before making this article, I read many other similar articles. Most of them say that you need to clearly outline in the contract each person’s responsibilities, what happens if someone fails, etc. But let me tell you: I have done projects where the contract was 100 pages or more and contracts where was only 4 pages. Yes, 4 pages for a project with six figures for design, production, delivery, and assembly services! Of course, let’s not forget about the standard national contract guidelines that come with every contract. Once you build trust with a general contractor, you don’t need strict contracts; you know each other very well and you know what to expect. Instead of making a contract with hundreds of pages, research the general contractor. Find out how he deals with other subcontractors; most likely, he will treat you the same way. If you don’t see any red flags, all you need for a contract is to point out what work you are expecting to do with clear borders at where your scope ends.


Always share your plans with the general contractor. If possible, share documentation with your general contractor about your schedule, progress, drawings, and other documentation related to the project. Make this information always accessible. Engage in discussion and show him your interest and knowledge about the project. If during meetings you show no interest and don’t have any questions, and you say everything is clear to me and I have done this before, it will be a red flag for the general contractor. There is always something missing in documentation or unclear, engage and ask questions.

Should you go the extra mile?

A good working relationship built on trust and understanding can go a long way. It takes years to build relationships and seconds to destroy them. Delivering great service, communicating, and solving problems are part of building long lasting relationships with clients.

But should you go the extra mile if your client asks for it? Well, it depends on how many resources you need for this favor. Very often, when going the extra mile, you can lose your client. Because it can take way too many resources to accomplish this extra mile favor. So don’t fall into the trap of thinking that by going the extra mile, your client will appreciate that. Instead, try to give him other solutions or explain what concerns you and why you can’t help with this request. Don’t forget that you both have to make money.

Author – Emil Berzins. Follow me on