1) Set bid deadlines for the day after a holiday or a weekend. Maybe you’ve scheduled a weekend golf outing or a
week-long trip to the cabin. Wouldn’t it be nice to come in Monday morning and find a stack of bids for your latest project waiting at the front desk? It can be tempting to schedule bids for your own convenience, so why shouldn’t you? Hard as it may be to accept, contractors and subcontractors have lives too… and weekends. But setting aside the issues of civility there is a practical reason that you’re likely to get a better bid on a Tuesday or Wednesday: fewer potential bidders will be throwing your bid invitation in the trash or sending you a “safe” courtesy bid.
2) Ask for extensive bid detail to be turned in with a hard bid. This does one of two things: it either exposes how little you really understand about what happens on bid days, or it signals that you just don’t care how much wasted effort it takes from multiple losing bidders to try to comply with your request. Maybe both. Because of the desire of suppliers to achieve competitive advantages, sub-bids often arrive at the contractor’s office at the last possible moment possible. This is especially true when contractor selection is based on the lowest cost. Evaluations and comparisons of only the most basic bid elements are often all that is possible by a contractor, given bid deadline constraints. Consider making unit pricing submissions a requirement within some time frame, say 24 hours. Consider making them a requirement of only the two lowest responsible bidders. And think of a bid response as unpaid work for all of the bidders but one. Your contractors will get irritated if you demand too much!
3) Create poor documents and expect the contractor to flush out errors during bidding. Contractors aren’t plan checkers. They bid what they see. If the contractor is required to build to your plans and specifications, he likely can’t be held responsible for the results of defects in your plans or specs no matter when they are discovered. Contractors have an obligation to identify patent errors, mistakes so obvious they can’t be ignored. But don’t expect contractors to try to correct your product selections, engineering and applications. That isn’t their job and they’re not good at it. At least, they’re not going to do it inexpensively…
4) Process RFI’s and Pay Applications slowly. If you want them irritated, ignore Need By dates on RFI’s. Remember: to a contractor, time is money. Delay in resolving RFI’s might mean postponing work in certain project areas and a loss of overall schedule time and real money. In such a case, expect consequences. Similarly, don’t delay required action on Pay Applications unless you are wanting a confrontation. To get great work and pricing, subcontractors and suppliers need to be paid as quickly as possible. By balancing project revenue and costs, good contractors avoid robbing from one project to pay costs for another… a recipe for financial disaster. Information and money both need to flow at a reliable and contractually agreed upon pace.
5) Try to deflect change orders by expounding about your Design Intent. Clarifying design intent can be helpful in any number of situations. Why does a door swing a certain way? Why was a particular color chosen? Or why use a specific grade of steel? But this phrase about intent can irritate a contractor like no other when it is made to deflect a change request needed in conjunction with item #3 regarding poor design documents. Sorry, but your intent is not acceptable as a defense of poor documents. Nobody bid your intent; they bid what they saw in the bid document. The whole bid system is based on that premise. Imagine your reaction if a contractor said, “Well, my intent was to have built the job according to your specifications, but…” It doesn’t work as an excuse, does it?
I’m sure there are more things than these five, but these seem to be the re-occurring issues. Next week I’ll write about the 5 Things Contractors Can Do Today to Irritate Architects.