I often get calls for estimating services that start with a question like “How many jobs will you win for me?”. The answer is, none, at least not by myself. Most often, an estimator is part of a team, made up of co-workers, vendors, manufacturers, general contractors and project owners. The team wins projects, not individuals. Even if you are the owner, estimator, cook and bottle washer at your company, you still have to work with people outside your company. If you are to be the successful bidder on a project, all the team members have to do their jobs.
Let’s break this into two groups, the estimating service and the electrical contractor. Here is how we divide up the responsibilities.
The Estimating Service:
- An accurate takeoff
- A thorough understanding of the project
- A thorough understanding of the customer’s capabilities
- Recommendations for labor factoring
- Recommendations for bid strategies
- Recognition of, and solutions to problems with the bid documents
- Generating RFI’s
The Estimating Service or Electrical Contractor
- Entry of takeoff into an estimating system
- Review for typos and missing information
- Vendor and manufacturer coordination
- RFI coordination
- Correspondence with the GC or project owner
- Coordination of addendums
- Awareness of capabilities
- Relationships with vendors and manufacturers
- Relationships with subcontractors
- Final decisions for the recap, including markups
- Did I say marketing?
Marketing is job one. I have a customer who wins 50% of the projects I bid for him. I have another who is closer to 5%. The difference is marketing. You can not survive, much less prosper, without friends, including customers, vendors and manufacturers. And it’s not just one person’s job. Everyone in your company is responsible for marketing, and marketing is about creating relationships. Consider the following:
- The person who answers the phone is the first point of contact, and can have a significant impact on your relationships. For instance, a moody receptionist can cause you to lose customers before you ever get a chance to speak to them.
- Estimators may be responsible handling quotes and material pricing. They are in constant contact with vendors and manufacturers. If they foster a positive relationship, you are more likely to get better pricing.
- Project managers are point people for your company. If they upset your customers, they will go somewhere else.
- And of course, there is the work most people think of when marketing is mentioned, calling on customers. It has to be done. Contractors and owners will give preference to people they like dealing with.
Let’s talk a little more about vendors. You have to work hard on those relationships. You want good pricing, and the vendors want to deal with people who pay their bills on time. They also want to work with people they can trust.
As usual, let me know what you think. Click on the comment button and drop me a note.