The Missing Link: Effective Communication Between Trades
Home building is a complex operation that easily can include 50 or more companies. Too often, there is too little effective coordination and communication on jobsites between trade partners, leading to longer cycle times and potential troubles for homebuyers. Building professionals working in the industry for even a short while have witnessed the routine jobsite disagreements and finger-pointing that is best described as highly ineffective communication. As an alternate approach, the NHQ Program recommends teaming among trades to not only improve relationships with each other, but also with the builders that hire them.
For example, an electrician who was also the owner of his company, recently shared in an NHQ workshop how he makes sure that his electricians cut round holes in drywall when making repairs, to make patching easier for the drywall contractor afterwards. However, the owner of a drywall company present at the session immediately explained that by cutting round holes instead of square ones, the electrician was actually making the drywall repairs more difficult. The simple, straightforward communication that took place in that one session, reasonably resolved a years-long issue that could have been easily mediated had the discussion happened sooner.
In this case, one well-intentioned business owner had been attempting to assist another but with poor results, because he assumed he knew what was best for another trade without asking him. How about the HVAC or plumbing contractor who routinely has to remove framing members that are installed in the way of ductwork or pipes? Many of these kinds of problems are repeated house after house, because there is no effective communication on how to eliminate them.
Imagine for a moment, a different approach, and a different result. Instead of engaging in back charge wars with other trades, imagine being in partnership with other trade contractors. This sounds like a fantasy, right? Wrong. It can be done, but it requires that trade contractors take the initiative to reach out to other trades at the management level and work to understand each others’ needs.
The solution really is simple. A trade contractor who is committed to maximizing quality and profitability should take the initiative to communicate to the owners/management of other trades. As the owner or manager of the company, ask other trades’ management what your installers can do during your installations to either avoid damaging previous work or to facilitate the installation of the other trade.
Asking these simple questions will help you help other trades, but more importantly it will often make them much more open to hearing your suggestions for how they might help you. Initiating simple communication of this kind often leads trades to move beyond finger-pointing to really begin to work together to increase efficiencies, reduce callbacks, and to truly be trade partners. This can be done either directly between trade contractors, or through more formal communication structures to address issues such as pre-construction walks and builder or HBA trade partner councils.
The bottom line equation is the same: communication + improved trade relations = greater efficiency and higher profits. For more information on improving trade contractor partnerships, visit the NHQ website, www.nahbrc.org/quality.
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