As a business owner, making the most of your money is critical. Improving and making changes to your property can create new business opportunities, but first, you need to find the right person to do the work. For large projects, finding a good general contractor is essential. Before you commit to someone, you want to make sure that the contractor has a good reputation and relatively few contractor complaints.

Finding a Reputable Contractor

Asking other business owners for recommendations is the simplest route to finding a reputable contractor. Once you have a few names, meet with each contractor. Ask questions to learn more about her experience, such as:

  • How many projects like this one have you completed?
  • What problems have you run into on projects like this one?
  • What permits will be required?
  • What types of insurance do you carry?

After meeting with the contractors, get a written estimate for your project. Review each estimate carefully and ask for clarification. If the contractor hesitates or puts off providing a written estimate, consider it a red flag.

As you narrow down your candidates, take the time to look up their reviews and confirm that they have the appropriate licenses for your state.

Looking up Contractor Complaints and Reviews

Contractor reviews offer insights on what it’s like to work with your potential contractor. Keep in mind that clients are more likely to leave bad reviews than positive ones. If the contractor provided references, contact one or two of those as well.

Many business websites include reviews and references, but those are likely curated. A better source is a third-party website such as Yelp, Angie’s List or Houzz. The Better Business Bureau also publishes complaints and reviews companies, so that’s an essential place to look for reviews as well.

Looking up Contractor Licenses

As you narrow down your search, check to ensure your contractor is appropriately licensed. The National Association of State Contractors Licensing Agencies is an excellent place to start. This website connects you to state licensing agencies. Once you know your state licensing agency, you can check the contractor license number if you have it, or you can do a license lookup by name.

For example, in California, you can do a CA contractor license lookup at the Department of Consumer Affairs Contractors State License Board website. On the CA website, you can search by license number, business name or personnel name. You can also use the website to file a complaint.

Hiring Your Contractor

Once you’ve found a licensed contractor you feel will complete the work to your satisfaction, let him know you’d like to move forward. The next step is working out a contract, which should include specifics around the type of work that’s going to be done, what permits are needed and when payments will be made.

The contract should also address how changes to the project are handled and the warranties involved. The warranties may be from the contractor, the distributor or the manufacturer depending on what the warranty covers. Your contract should also address subcontractors and the expectation that those subcontractors are also licensed and insured.

Payments should be staggered throughout the process. The final payment should be after all work has been completed and you’ve had the opportunity to inspect it. All payments should be through a traceable payment method (not cash), and save all the receipts.