How Not to Lose the Trades You Have

Finding skilled tradesmen has become increasingly difficult. So the last thing a builder wants to do is anything that might damage relations with the trades they currently do business with.

“Consistent, detailed communication is key,” says Scott Paige, vice president of operations for Mattamy Homes’ U.S. Group. “Our trades manage their workflow based on the communication we have with them, and at the end of the day if we aren’t communicating with them on the [same] level of how we communicate with our internal employees, we’re doing [those trades] a huge disservice.”

To find areas where it could improve, Mattamy Homes recently created a trades council within each of its seven divisions across the U.S.  Each of the councils has as many as seven members representing the various trades whom Mattamy works with on a regular basis.

The councils hold monthly meetings to discuss their various projects — what’s going well and what, if anything, Mattamy should improve. Council presidents then share that feedback with their Mattamy representative each quarter.

“We know there’s always room for improvement, and there’s no better way to find out how than to ask our trades directly,” Paige says. “Sure, we already know about many of the things they tell us, but it shows the trades that we’re listening and want to continually improve. We’ll follow up with them later on to tell them about the changes we’re making, and we think that goes a long way.”

Strong two-way communication is just one of the key areas to focus on. Paige also notes a few others to help strengthen ties with trades:

  • Pay them on time, every time. That one should be obvious. If, for example, you are continually delayed in adjusting purchase orders when changes occur, the time it takes to re-issue a corrected purchase order is costing both parties money. Over time, those little things can add up to real dollars.
  • Understand your trades’ work capacity. They need to know as early as possible which jobs and how many will be coming up. And you need to know realistically what can be accomplished within a specified time frame. Together, you are creating a mini business plan because each of you depends upon the other to succeed.
  • Above all, focus on job readiness. Consistently having the jobsite prepped and the materials ready in advance will give your trades the confidence to send their best crews. Having the site ready allows them to do their job more efficiently, and helps to ensure the project — and the others that are currently or soon to be underway — stay on schedule.

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