subcontractingDuring the construction of the Empire State Building, there were as many as 3,400 workers on site at the same time, and more than 60,000 tons of steel manufactured and shipped from Pittsburgh to the construction site. The general contracting firm in charge of the project – Starrett Brothers and Eken – were widely considered the best in the skyscraper business. Over the course of the 15 month construction project, they personally oversaw 3,500 men who completed more than seven million man-hours.

Even today, the construction of the Empire State Building is studied by contractors as a model in efficiency and ingenuity. Starrett Brothers and Eken were able to organize and manage all of their subcontractors, from electric to plumbing, so effectively that each subcontractor’s job was perfectly timed to be started and finished just in time for the next subcontractor to begin their work.

Subcontracting mijacWhile your next project might not be as ambitious as the Empire State Building’s goal of being the tallest building in the world in less than a year and a half, the amazing success of that project emphasizes the importance of finding subcontractors that can perform their responsibilities as effectively as possible.

As fire subcontractors ourselves, Mijac Alarm has learned firsthand what contractors (or anyone hiring a contractor or subcontractor) should look for in their subcontractors. Here are four of the characteristics we’ve deemed most important over the years:


The last thing you want is for your electrical subcontractor to disappear one day. Not only do unstable subcontractors cause delays and added costs, they can make you look bad; your client isn’t going to want to hear excuses. Ultimately, the buck stops with you.

A stable subcontractor will finish tasks when they say they are going to finish them, and will help keep your project on-budget and on-schedule.

Cash flow

Don’t underestimate the importance of cash flow when choosing a subcontractor. A subcontractor that is depending on projected cash flow to pay his or her employees could run into serious problems if a client’s payment is late. The best subcontractors will have sufficient cash flow and/or reserve capital to pay employee salaries and any other expenses that arise during the project. Don’t be afraid to ask a subcontractor about their cash flow situation; it is an important and legitimate question to ask of anyone you are relying on to get a project done.


Does your subcontractor have a reputation for timeliness? Due to the integrated nature of most projects, one subcontractor that falls behind schedule can throw an entire project off-schedule. For example, at Mijac Alarm, we are unable to install fire systems until the electrical subcontractor has wired the building. An untimely electrical subcontractor will not only delay their aspect of the job, but will push your completion date back as well!

Understanding and Expertise

Even the most stable, flush, and timely subcontractor will cause significant problems if they aren’t sufficiently qualified to complete the task they are responsible for. Before hiring a subcontractor for any project, it is imperative that you discuss the specific responsibilities they will have, and make sure they have the experience and staff to actually complete the project proficiently.

Putting it all together

Starrett Brothers and Eken proved that it is possible to organize subcontractors and thousands of workers, even without the benefit of email and smartphones, so long as you choose the right people for the job! By keeping the four characteristics above in mind when choosing subcontractors of your own, you will be well on your way to meeting or even exceeding your project goals!

For more information about hiring Mijac Alarm as a fire subcontractor, or for general information about our burglar and fire services, please contact our office during regular business hours at (909)982-7612, or visit our main website by clicking here.

Photo Credit: New York Public Library

Written and edited by: Ian Eckstein and Steve Sopkin

Comments are closed.