To sub or not to sub?

We asked Scott Wilson of Wilson’s Landscaping & Lawn Service in Swansea, Ill., and Mike Callahan of Callahan’s Lawn Care in Rochester, N.Y. the pros and cons of using subcontractors for heavy equipment work. There seem to be more cons than pros, and Wilson says his company has leaned out of subcontracting.

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Callahan says he has been burned in the past by subcontractors go around his company and take the work he was trying to subcontract out. So he hired a lawyer and drew up a strict non-compete, non-disclosure form. Callahan’s also uses an online application process with “three or four hoops” subcontractors have to jump through before they get into the office.

PROS:

  • The pros are limited but you can spread out your snowplow coverage area and you can always handle more jobs by subbing the heavy equipment work out and having other guys do things such as banks, colleges, those things that we normally do. Usually there are more cons than there are pros. – Wilson
  • There are definitely some pros as far as your equipment cost in that you’re not taking a risk with the actual equipment in your overhead recovery as far as your debt, what you have for your assets and all of that. – Callahan

CONS:

  • You can lose control of the quality because even though they technically work for you, it’s not the same. You didn’t train them.
  • They might have a different style or technique on how to accomplish the work. Also they might damage a building, parking lot, curbs, lights, vehicles, and then you’re liable for that.
  • They may not show up at all because it’s not their job. I’ve had guys call and say “Hey, my equipment broke down.” We’ve just leaned out of using anyone at all. Really haven’t for years. – Wilson
  • You don’t have complete control over it. So if a piece of your equipment goes down, you’re kind of at the mercy of the subcontractor.
  • If you’re having a really healthy year, you’re not able to depreciate or write off the leasing or if you actually buy the piece of equipment. – Callahan

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