Trust: from the perspective of a general contractor

Let's get to know and appreciate each other.

In one blink of an eye we decide if someone is friendly enough to take one step forward together. And in the second blink we decide if they will be able to accomplish something with us. This isn't trust, but simply the beginning of building something great together. At 8020 Builders it isn't enough to build great things. For us to be satisfied with our performance we need to establish trust and strong, meaningful relationships with all of the people who help us bring projects to life. 

Can you remember a first hand shake with someone you wanted to do business with? 

Most likely a sense of hope was wrapped in that first handshake and a desire to learn more about the details of what it would look like to work together. Before you knew it a contract was in place and you were off to the races feeling like you had a relationship that was strong enough to not only weather tough times but to overcome any obstacles that challenged the project's success.


Engaging early in the life of a project gives us both an opportunity to get to know each other and appreciate each other. Ideally, the foundation of trust is built early in a project's life.

Pre-construction is:

The process of defining parameters, identifying hazards, and bringing solutions to the table so that we can begin to build trust through the actions we take together.

At 8020 Builders our goal is bigger than building projects, our goal is to do the right thing at the right time for the right reason. Before we set out to build we declinate our compass to your vision and prepare for the challenges that every project inevitably throws at us. 

Pre-construction is a bridge building opportunity that takes us from a superficial relationship to trusting relationship before ground breaks on a project.

By building trust in pre-construction we can avoid many of the situations that keep people in superficial, low trust relationships. ***HOW?***

In contrast, consider this example of  a project that was procured hard-bid style to illustrate how unexpected issues can become trust breaking problems:

The project is awarded to the lowest cost bidder and the lowest cost subcontractors. These team members have been brought together by one common factor-their proposals were the least expensive. This could mean they have some incredible cost advantage in the industry or it could mean they already screwed up and will be looking to be made financially whole throughout the project. As an Owner, you'll never know until it's too late. One thing you do know, however, is that you have NOT been brought together based on your common interests, shared vision, project delivery philosophies, or your moral and ethical standards - building blocks for establishing trust. This is your choice, but be prepared for the resulting relationship...

Workers start digging and encounter a differing condition than what they expected when they put their estimate together. Here is how the conversation unfolds:

  • Sub-contractor: We didn't anticipate the amount of work it's going to take to accomplish this task. We didn't include the upgrade cost of the equipment or the labor time required to work through this surprise in our estimate. The equipment and manpower required to work through this unexpected issue will require a change order.
  • General Contractor: Well, we gave you all the drawings before you bid this project...
  • Owners or Developer: We thought we were clear about the conditions and our expectations...

and the trust in the team erodes. unforeseen issue by unforeseen issue.

Destroying trust doesn't always end relationships. We may continue working with people and companies we don't trust. Doing business together isn't typically an accurate measure of loyalty or trust. It can sometimes simply mean we have a superficial relationship with a team who is at least competent enough to complete a project. Think about how many loyalty cards you have in your wallet for discounts at the grocery store. Are you loyal or do you simply enjoy the discount you receive on your favorite brand of coffee?

How can you tell if you are in a low trust, superficial relationship? When trust is destroyed we may end up more connected to the idea of how right we were and how wrong the other person/company was. You can imagine the dialogue in your mind, can't you? 

  • "If they would only take responsibility."
  • "So and so is such a bear to work with."
  • "Don't they even understand what this is doing to the budget/timeline/relationship?"

At 8020 Builders we understand there is a middle space between a conflict presenting and the meaningful resolution of said conflict where trust is built.

We don't expect perfection in our projects or our people.  Mistakes and unforeseen issues are inherent in our business.  Internally we focus and train our team how to respond when things go awry; how to engage in that middle ground to build trust. How we choose to navigate creative tension, surprises or unforeseen conditions on projects, and conflict, either builds trust or destroys it.

The 8020 Method is based on a solutions focused, growth mindset culture. Solutions either build trust or they don’t. The ones that do super-charge our relationships.

We know emotion can run high in this process. Our people expect that. We don't view emotions as negative things to be managed, controlled or mitigated. but as valuable insights into how we can engage to care for the relationships involved in solving issues before they become problems.

Our people appreciate that it is this work that builds trust and we embrace it.  

Reflection Questions:

  • How does doing business with someone who isn't resourced or capable of navigating conflict affect the outcome of your projects?
  • What are the unforeseen costs associated with doing business with people you don't really trust?
  • How has a superficial relationship cost you in the past?


Lexi Steele