Finding New Contractors

This is a general question to all the port engineers / purchasers out there. Anyone who has had to hire an outside contractor for major vessel repairs or modifications. When was the last time you had to find a completely new contractor for something, and how did you find them? I’m trying to understand how we go about locating service providers. Maybe its a shipyard, fab shop, engineering firm, etc. From what I have seen, it is all about who you know. It seems that we all have personal lists of contacts for who to call for each type of problem. But what about a completely new problem, where you don’t already have contacts (and no one else in your office does). Then how do you find someone. I know many of you would tell me that a google search is where you start. But that makes me wonder if there is a better way.

Take an example of a similar industry. As a homeowner, it used to be that if I tried to hire a contractor for some home repair, I was stuck to the same problem as the marine industry. I relied on word of mouth and google searches. Problem is, none of that tells you how good the company’s really are. Then a while back, I tried this website that kept lists of local contractors that I could search for. More importantly, the contractors had third party reviews and were rated. That gave me a lot more confidence to buy the right contractor and know what to expect.

Does anyone know of anything like that in the marine world? Or is it all word of mouth and google searches?