Monthly Archives: May 2011

Who is Responsible For Winning Projects?

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

Electrical Contractor:

  • Marketing
  • Awareness of capabilities
  • Marketing
  • Relationships with vendors and manufacturers
  • Marketing
  • Relationships with subcontractors
  • Marketing
  • 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.

#$@! Electrical Specifications #2

First, I have changed the name of this series of posts to reflect the subject matter more accurately. Instead of just strange specs, I will be writing about all the problems I have with electrical specifications.

The following paragraph is dangerous. The author went to great lengths to make sure you are responsible for every electrical item, on every plan sheet, on every page of the specifications, for every trade.

“Bidders shall determine the contents of a complete set of drawings and be aware that they may be bidding from a partial set of drawings, applicable only to various separate contracts, sub-contracts, or trades as may be issued for bidding purposes only. The complete scope of work for the electrical trade in this project is illustrated on the complete Contract Documents which consist of the combined Architectural, Structural, Plumbing, Heating, Ventilating, and Air Conditioning plans and specifications. Each Bidder shall thoroughly acquaint himself with all the details of the complete set of drawings and specifications before submitting his bid. All drawings and specifications form a part of the contract documents for each separate contract and shall be considered as bound therewith in the event partial sets of plans and specifications are issued for bidding only. The submission of bids shall be deemed evidence of the review of all drawings, specifications, and addenda issued for this project as no allowances will be made because of unfamiliarity with any portion of the complete set of documents”

My first impression after reading this was that the author pulled together every CYA phrase regarding documents he could find. Each sentence from this paragraph is something I have read in another specification. 

This type of wording is an attempt to make you responsible for the electrical work the engineer missed. It is an effort to save the engineer time and money by moving design responsibility to the subcontractor.

The good news is that you do not have to accept this kind of wording. Use the proposal layout discussed in my previous post. List the documents you are bidding on (presumably the electrical drawings and specifications), and exclude the offending specification section(s).

I will repeat again what I have said in earlier posts. Even though the courts in most states have found that the electrical contractor is not responsible for the engineer’s design, you should still protect yourself. Paragraphs like the one above are the reason you should limit your scope in bid proposals.