Attention General Contractors: 4 Simple Steps to Get More Subcontractor Bids

By: Phil Ogilby, CEO at STACK Construction Technologies

I spent years as a subcontractor and supplier before finding my way into the world of construction technology. As the founder of a previous software company for contractors and subs, I invented the first ever “Bid Management Platform,” then spent nearly a decade working hard to convince some of the most successful general contractors in the country, that “…yes, your subs will go online and download your drawings.”

Today, there are numerous bid management solutions for GCs to distribute their plans electronically, but they still struggle to get proper coverage on bid day. Why is that? For one, subcontractors are spread incredibly thin. The volume of work they are asked to bid on has grown exponentially, which is why it’s more important than ever for you to use the proper technology to communicate with your subs. It’s also critically important that you make it as easy as possible for your subs to bid your work. Take the extra time to do so and it will pay off on bid day.

The reality is that the subs you’re asking to bid on your construction projects have many other opportunities to choose from, and a limited amount of time to get their work done. The smaller contractors may not even have a full-time estimator to devote to the task, meaning that oftentimes your project will be taken off and estimated after hours. If it’s too hard for the sub to get to the data they need in a useable format, you won’t get a bid, plain and simple.

So, what’s a GC to do? Consider these four key steps when issuing your invitations to bid:

Step #1 – Use the right software platform

Remember, if it’s “free” to you, that likely means that you are giving the software provider access to your subs and that’s how they justify not charging you. If you don’t want your subs working for your competition, read the fine print!  Many large and well known bid management software providers participate in this—claiming your information as their own and possibly sharing it with others.

That’s what makes SmartBid different–I’d recommend that you use SmartBid. Pound for pound, SmartBid is the best solution available because it is designed strictly for the success of the general contractor. They don’t have an alternate agenda or a desire to sell your subcontractor list to others, that’s simply not part of their platform.  In fact, their subcontractor platform, SmartInsight, is completely separate for that very reason, and they never advertise to your subs. Furthermore, if you do choose to have your subs join their sub platform, SmartInsight, they can consolidate SmartBid accounts for easier communication with you.  And SmartInsight is always there as a resource for you to find additional subcontractors.

When you use SmartBid to issue your invitations, your subcontractors all have FREE, integrated access to STACK’s easy-to-use, cloud-based takeoff software. With STACK, subs can perform quantity takeoffs without downloading a single page of drawings, thanks to our close integration with SmartBid. To get more sub bids on bid day, make it easier for your subs to bid your work and encourage them to leverage STACK – a tool that can help, at no cost to you.

SmartBid is easily affordable with per user pricing, even for the smallest of general contractors. Get this first step right and use the proper tools to distribute your plans and specs to your subcontractors.

Step #2 Prepare Your Documents

Using the best platform for ITBs isn’t enough. It’s critically important that you spend the time to properly prepare your bid documents to make it easy on your subcontractors to bid your work. This typically involves breaking your multiple page PDF files into single pages, and then assuring that they are rotated properly before you perform the upload. You should also take the time to rename and organize the files so that your subcontractors can quickly and easily find the information they need to bid the job. Don’t make the electrical sub scroll through hundreds of pages of architectural plans, just to find the information that matters to them.

This isn’t as tough or time consuming as it sounds! The newest SmartBid and STACK integration features now allow GC’s to use their paid STACK account to handle the file splitting, file rotation and even have auto naming of the files in advance, before pushing them electronically into SmartBid.

Step #3 – Invite the Right People

All too often, general contractors rush through the process of selecting subs and blast invitations for every job, to everyone in their bid list. Stop and put yourself in the shoes of your subcontractor. If you are constantly inviting me to bid on work that is not relevant to me, it won’t be long before I begin to ignore your invitations. My advice is, take the time to invite only those contractors that can play a meaningful role on the specific project. Your subs will be grateful to you for not wasting their time, and you’ll enjoy a greater level of sub participation on your projects.

Step #4 – Communicate after Bid Day

When your subs call you after bid day to determine your plans for the project on their trade, be honest with them. Let them know the decision you made, even if that was selecting another sub, and the reasons why. In our heart of hearts, we all desire to improve. Whether it’s quality of work, timeliness of performance, price or bonding capacity, let them know why you went elsewhere so they know how and where they need to improve to earn your work the next time.

Contributed by Phil Ogilby, Founder & CEO, STACK Construction Technologies
As a former commercial contractor and the founder of iSqFt, Phil knows the challenges that come with streamlining the bid process extremely well. His passion for technology and helping contractors to bid more work, in less time is unmatched and evident throughout STACK’s intuitively-designed, easy-to-use, cloud-based takeoff and estimating platform.

Posted in: Industry Highlights, Press

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As a founding member of the Construction Open Standards Alliance, JBKnowledge (makers of SmartBidNet) works with 20+ other construction software providers on developing data exchange standards for the integration of independent software solutions.

By using a software built on COSA standards, you're able to:
- Incorportate all your favorite software into one high-performing, multi-function construction software
- Eliminate errors and omissions associated with faulty integrations.
- Eliminate manual and spreadsheet data transfers between software.


All SmartBidNet users can utilize the integrated ConsensusDocs 721 form for subcontractor prequalification. Users can further customize those forms with the Prequal Pro add-on module.

SmartBidNet users are able to use ConsensusDocs to:
- Request standard subcontractor prequalification information at the click of a button.
- Keep subcontractors' qualifications up-to-date with easy-to-manage ConsensusDocs forms.
- Keep sensitive information private with ConsensusDocs 721 digital forms.


The Virtual Planroom Network (VPRN) partnership allows users of SmartBidNet to view, select and bid on thousands of public project opportunities from VPRN – impacting market coverage and ultimately revenue.

The VPRN is a collaboration of builders' exchanges that have been delivering construction data, news and information of opportunities at various stages of the construction process for over a century.

With this partnership, SmartBidNet users can benefit by:
- Publishing public bid projects from SmartBidnet to the VPRN Online Planroom.
- Pulling projects and documents from the VPRN Online Planroom into SmartBidNet for private prequalification and bid management.
- Accessing industry news easily within VPRN that our commercial building clients depend on daily.


Dun & Bradstreet is collaborating with SmartBidNet to improve the quality of data integrated from the SmartInsight contractor network. D&B solutions assist in data cleansing and verification by running SmartInsight subcontractor data through the world’s leading source of commercial data, analytics and insight on businesses. D&B’s global commercial database contains more than 240 million accurate business records.

Through our integration with Dun & Bradstreet, SmartBidNet users are able to take advantage of verified commercial company data integrated from SmartInsight by referencing a D-U-N-S number for each subcontractor. This integration also gives general contractors confidence in the validity of subcontractor data listed within the SmartInsight network.


ShareFile, our recommended cloud storage service, integrates into SmartBidNet for a seamless connection between both systems - allowing users to keep their project documents up to date within both platforms.

By integrating a ShareFile account into SmartBidNet, general contractors are able to:
- Upload bid project files and documents from ShareFile directly into SmartBidNet and vice versa
- Quickly add and remove project documents with real-time synchronization
- Always keep your plans within reach for any shared subcontractor in SmartBidNet or ShareFile


Our partnership with Plans4Less allows SmartBidNet users to get the most affordable pricing for same day printing and shipping for plans from the SmartBidNet online plan room.

With the option of using the integrated Plans4Less feature, SmartBidNet users are able to:
- Give subcontractors access to the reprographic services offered by Plans4Less as they view plans in the SmartBidNet Online Planroom.
- Take advantage of fixed pricing with no minimum orders required.
- Print & ship daily direct to your office or construction job site nationally via UPS.


With the STACK Estimating (formerly Cloud Takeoff) integration into SmartBidNet, all SmartBidNet users can easily open plan files and quickly perform basic quantity takeoffs from your SmartBidNet plan room.

By becoming a STACK Estimating customer, SmartBidNet users can:
- Experience real-time, collaborative estimating takeoff with your project team and subcontractors.
- Use detailed reporting to calculate the cost and quantity of materials to pull back into SmartBidNet.
- Take advantage of STACK’s pre-built catalogs to help you quickly calculate costs for specific trades based on your own rates and historical experience.


SmartInsight is an online construction network that helps general contractors find, verify and connect with subcontractors and suppliers. The full SmartInsight database of contractors is integrated with SmartBidNet for general contractors to tap into when sending project communications.

By using the SmartInsight construction network, general contractors in SmartBidNet can:
- Access a quality, up-to-date database of subcontractors for additional bid coverage.
- Locate qualified subcontractors that match your project requirements.
- Access a platform focused on streamlined prequalification with subcontractor scoring available from industry leading risk analysts.

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Cloud Storage Integrations

In addition to our preferred cloud integration with ShareFile, our users’ SmartBidNet online plan room can also integrate with these cloud storage solutions:






Google Drive








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