On every single construction project, communication is key. It is the key to increasing productivity, preventing delays, and certainly for reducing and resolving payment problems. As a matter of fact, improved communication could nip most of these problems in the bud. As it stands, however, construction industry communication is weak.
So how should you improve communication on your projects? Sending your foreman nonstop texts is not the answer. Neither is a flurry of voicemails. The best thing you can do might be to properly utilize notices on a job.
Construction Industry Communication Is Weak. Use Notices to Buck the Trend
Problems arise when parties fail to communicate. When participants are all collaborating and communicating effectively, jobs tend to run more smoothly. It’s usually that simple. Will delays pop up and will unforeseen roadblocks arise here and there? Sure. But when everyone’s communicating effectively, the lag time can be minimized.
Regardless of your role, clear lines of communication should be established at the beginning of a project. Everyone on the payment chain has the power to improve communication to some degree, but naturally, those at the top of the chain have the most power.
Top of the Chain (GCs, Owners, and Developers)
For parties at the top of the payment chain (owners, developers, and GC’s), set standards for communication. Demand preliminary notices or project awareness letters from everyone along the payment chain. You might not know everyone who’s working on the job (yet!), but if you lean on your direct subs and suppliers and make them lean on their subs and suppliers, then you can get everyone on the job to send notices up the chain.
It’s good to encourage project participants to send notices at the beginning of the job, but it’s also important to encourage communication throughout the life of the project. Being receptive to this type of information sharing will encourage transparency on a project. There’s no need to be threatened by any type of notice at the start of a project. Plus, when subs and suppliers know they should inform you when delays, payment disputes, or other problems come about, problems can be resolved before they transform into project-halting issues – like a lien claim.
Down the Chain (Subs, Suppliers, and Others)
Subcontractors, suppliers, and laborers can set the tone early, too. Construction industry communication is a two-way street.
An easy way to establish a relationship at the beginning of a project is to send notice. There are a few different ways a sub-tier party can go about this. For one, sending a Project Awareness Letter right after being hired can be a good way to start a job on the right foot. It’s more or less a “hand raise” – it basically says “Hey! I’ve been hired to work on this project. Looking forward to working with you!”
Of course, preliminary notice should be sent, regardless of what’s required. Most down the chain parties will have some form of notice requirement, and abiding by what’s statutorily required is a must. For one, as mentioned above, these notices inform higher tiered parties that you’re present on the job. But as an added benefit, sending required notice preserves your best leverage available: a mechanics lien. Nobody likes liens. They’re a pain to file, they can put an entire job on hold, and life is just easier when liens aren’t present. However, preserving the right to lien is still important. Liens are a powerful bargaining chip, and if payment really isn’t coming, filing a lien is a much better alternative to filing a lawsuit or going to small claims court.
Notices Build Relationships
Communication improves how you’re able to manage a project and be managed on a project. It creates strong teams that can mitigate issues quicker and create a more efficient project overall. For down the chain parties, sending notice up the chain lets everyone know who you are. Honestly, it’s an opportunity to show off. When your work goes off without a hitch, everyone who received your notice knows that you’re dependable – and sending notice only reinforces that you’re remembered. Plus, if a problem does come up, at least you aren’t coming out of the blue – the introduction has already been made with a notice or project awareness letter.
For contractors and developers, relationship-building via notices is crucial. When a relationship is present, it’s easier to talk out problems without having a major blow-up. When a sub-sub or supplier has a payment issue, do you want them to file a lien? Or do you want them to reach out to try and resolve the issue first? If one of your subs is creating issues for everyone else onsite, don’t you want to know about work goes off schedule? Establishing a relationship early is the best way to keep the job transparent.