It seldom occurs to homeowners to ask a contractor for professional references. This is an entirely legitimate question and concern. A professional contractor brings many business enterprises to the table to help complete all of the work they perform in a year. Their performance on your job is dependant on the level of the other professionals they have on their team. They can only be as good as the weakest link in their chain. What if their cabinet maker is less than adequate and the custom cabinets they are proposing for your job are a very important element of the whole project they are proposing for you? Does the contractor possess a trustworthy reputation among peers, suppliers, trade partners and other people involved in all aspects of the industry? Ask the contractor for references from his associates. If there is a large element to the contract that you are particularly concerned about, ask to meet and visit the trade partner or suppliers’ facility. Ask those other professionals about their relationship with your prospective contractor. If you determine there might be a strained relationship or worse below the surface, you could become the unfortunate benefactor of that relationship failing. All professional contractors have a reputation in the industry. You need to ask enough people to find out what that reputation is before you are in the contractual relationship. The length of the relationship is generally accepted as the best indicator of the success of the relationship. Just as in marriages, it takes a lot of concerted effort to stay in a relationship and make it work over the long haul.
Another type of professional reference should be from the financial industries associated with your prospective contractor. A professional contractor should be willing to provide enough financial information so that you can determine the stability of the company. In general, banks will not share any information because of privacy issues, but if a contractor offers financing, it is fair to trust your prospective contractor’s relationship with the lender.
If a supplier will not do business with the prospective contractor, why would you? Chances are, when a supplier will not do business with a contractor, that supplier has not gotten paid for products or services. Let something like this speak very loudly to you that this contractor is not a good character.
Unacceptable: The contractor has burned a lot of bridges with trade partners and suppliers and has a reputation amongst trade partners and suppliers for being difficult to deal with. He won’t give any references. He is on a COD basis with some/all suppliers and trade partners. He has no established credit.
Good: The contractor is willing to share the names and contacts of all of the members on the team. He has a good working relationship with them.
Better: In addition to the above, the contractor shows evidence of long, healthy relationships with trade partners and suppliers.
Best: In addition to the above, the contractor will show testimonials from trade partners and suppliers on their team. The contractor will help you visit or talk with all other important team members so you are assured of the compatibility. The contractor is willing to speak openly and honestly about the professional relationships he has fostered over the years. The contractor might even have won industry-wide recognition for his professionalism.