The Art And Philosophy of Estimating

Status
Not open for further replies.

frizbeedog

Senior Member
I'd like to provide you all with the opportunity to share your experiences as it relates to the transition all of you have had to make from installer to estimator, or to business owner. You may answer to all of the thoughts or questions or just some, but I think that any response you could provide would be appreciated by me and others here. I'm sure that there are ways of thinking and approaching this aspect of our trade that many of us have not considered, and sometimes new insights are needed. A place for recording the insights you have gained by both your succeses and failures, don't be shy. Sometimes one piece of information is all a person needs for a breakthrough. Without going into details about my own experiences, I'm at a point where I need a breakthrough. I need some mentoring myself and am calling on you, the members of this forum, my new friends, to light the way. I want others to learn from your wisdom too.

A few thoughts or questions to get things started, and by no means comprehensive of the whole topic.

* How did you learn estimating and who were your mentors?

* Did you struggle understanding the numbers game as you made your transition from installer to estimator/business owner.

* Was learning to sell the work difficult for you or did it come naturally?

* How much time do you spend in the details or do you trust and expect the installers or project managers to work it all out?

* Time spent with the job based on size. How time spent estimating or selling affects the end result, the profit, the bottom line.

* Learning to manage your time effectively.

* Biggest mistakes, Greatest successes.

* Your strong points, your weaknesses.

* Are you estimator and installer or just estimator?


.....I could go on but I'll leave that up to you. If this is a big subject, I apologize. Sometimes I think about big things.

I'll step aside now and absorb your wisdom.

Thank you for your participation.
 

bbaumer

Senior Member
* How did you learn estimating and who were your mentors?

I learned from an experienced estimator. He kinda took me under his wing. Didn't get upset when I made mistakes and was a real teacher. Even though I haven't worked with him for years I will never forget him and will be forever appreciative of this time and teachings about alot of things, not just estimating.

* Did you struggle understanding the numbers game as you made your transition from installer to estimator/business owner.

I struggled at first with dealing with sales reps and GC's. There is no numbers game. Just game playing by sell-outs and bid shoppers. That is the worst part of preparing a bid.

* Was learning to sell the work difficult for you or did it come naturally?

Not much experience with "selling". I did plan/spec work for the most part. There were others at my company that did sales and marketing

* How much time do you spend in the details or do you trust and expect the installers or project managers to work it all out?

I was taught to take-off everything down to locknuts and bushings. I did start to track things like #12/3/4" and 3/4" per receptacle and #12 per receptacle and other statistical data which would prove to be surprisingly consistant on similar construction (say schools for instance) but I NEVER used this data to bid a job. Only as a reality check. Still ran off every foot of pipe by hand.

* Time spent with the job based on size. How time spent estimating or selling affects the end result, the profit, the bottom line.

Estimating is a big investment. It takes a lot of time and you only get maybe 1 out of 10 jobs (give or take). I'm talking $100,000 to $2,000,000+ electrical jobs here. Takes a lot of time doing take-off, analyzing labor units, obtaining material pricing and getting lighting, gear, systems etc. quotes plus any sub quotes. Properly filling out the bid forms, getting bonds and insurance certificates etc.

* Learning to manage your time effectively.

Don't answer the phone every time it rings and let people with minor problems solve them for themselves.

* Biggest mistakes, Greatest successes.

Getting too worked up on bid day. Had this problem bad early in my estimating career because I lacked confidence. Once I figured out I could really do this and had several bids under my belt "in the middle of the pack" the butterflies went away. Well, mostly away.

* Your strong points, your weaknesses.

I NEVER sell out or try to re-bid the job to the subs and suppliers (i.e. "bid shop") after I've turned in my price to the Owner or GC. Or before for that matter. There are many who do. The gentleman I mentioned in my first answer taught me to "dance with who brung ya'". I'm not estimating that much anymore so my weakness would be being out of the game for awhile.

* Are you estimator and installer or just estimator?


I primarily do design these days. Occassionally take-off work for others but I don't regularly bid jobs.

The contractor I worked for was a "medium-sized" commercial-industrial EC. At the time they did about $12 to $15 million a year electrically. They are probably in the $20 to $25million range now. They didn't do any residential work at all. They are also a NECA (union) contractor. Hope this has helped you some. bbaumer
 
Last edited:

frizbeedog

Senior Member
bbaumer. I thank you for that detailed response, and for playing along. My purpose here is to gain perspective. I appreciate your time.
 

adamants

Member
estimating

estimating

I have only been in business for a year, but have been quoting for a long time. I was thrown into the deep end, about 2 years into my apprenticeship, and was told to quote a job. ??? i didn't know where to start, but was helped along the way and have been uoting work ever since. at the last company i worked for there wer 10 guys, 2 bosses, and only the bosses and me quoted. i only quoted security, and was the only one wh knew enough about the jobs coming in to quote them. haven't had too many mistakes, only 1 20k job where we ended up breaking even, but apart from that, not too bad.
i always sit down and break the jobs down into very small blocks, ie to install a siren, 10metres cable, 1/4 hour to run cable, 1/4 hour to fit off, 1/4 hur to programme, 5 mins to test, cost of siren, markup etc, then on to the next job.
hope this helps, keen to hear what everyone else has to say.:smile:
 

bbaumer

Senior Member
frizbeedog said:
bbaumer. I thank you for that detailed response, and for playing along. My purpose here is to gain perspective. I appreciate your time.
You're welcome. I was looking forward to reading responses to this as well. Not too many estimators visiting right now, I guess.

Also some reading:

"Minute Manager" series (more about managing time)
"How to Win Friends and Influence People" (Dale Carnegie, 1930s?)

Finally, I saw a video once on managing time. The vid said to make a task list and divide the tasks as follows, each on a separate piece of paper:

"A" items - Important tough tasks or issues that only you can solve. Not fun to do but cannot be delegated.

"B" items - Important tough tasks or issues but not as important as "A" items that you could do but so could someone else.

"C" items - Quick and easy tasks or problems. Each in and of themselves don't require much time. Small requests from others.


Now that you have your task list separated into separate piles of "A", "B" and "C" take the "B" and "C" piles and throw them in the trash. The people who need these resolved will soon figure out they can resolve them themselves and leave you alone. Get straight to work on pile "A".

Good advice or no?
 

satcom

Senior Member
I notice the Pro estimators have plenty of actual recorded job data, and they use this information to build estimates, years of experience, not much can replace it. Job conditions are another issue the pro's look at. When they assy a project, it is not guess work, but hours of units all tied together.
 

brantmacga

Senior Member
frizbeedog said:
I'm at a point where I need a breakthrough. I need some mentoring myself and am calling on you, the members of this forum, my new friends, to light the way. I want others to learn from your wisdom too.
< I'm probably not the person you want being a mentor to you, but I'll try to answer your questions. :D

How did you learn estimating and who were your mentors?

I went to Books-A-Million one day and found an estimating book; seriously. I also read a lot on the forum here about estimating. I used the book as a starting point for labor units.


* Did you struggle understanding the numbers game as you made your transition from installer to estimator/business owner.


I would say probably. I understand numbers; the hard part was figuring out which numbers I was supposed to be understanding.

* Was learning to sell the work difficult for you or did it come naturally?

Yes, and still is sometimes. I tend to let my perception of other people's (GC) experience intimidate me. If I get the vibe that they don't know what they're doing, then its easy.

* How much time do you spend in the details or do you trust and expect the installers or project managers to work it all out?

I'm all of the above, so I guess 100%

* Time spent with the job based on size. How time spent estimating or selling affects the end result, the profit, the bottom line.

The largest commercial jobs I've bid are in the $60-$70k range. On something that size I'll spend maybe 1 1/2 days. And a lot of that time is spent double-checking. My residential jobs vary from $8k-$25k; on the small stuff I spend less than 30 minutes; the larger ones might take an hour. I have an excel sheet setup for residential so it doesn't take long. I think there's a point where you can easily spend too much time. I tend to rush some of the residential jobs because I can usually glance at the prints and ballpark pretty close what it will cost. Commercial jobs I try to not miss anything because those materials usually cost more and I don't always have them readily available on the truck.

* Learning to manage your time effectively.

I won't say I'm good at that. Sometimes I'm excellent, but other times I get pretty lethargic about the job. Its easier for me to be a good time manager when I have people working for me; doing everything myself leaves my mind drained a lot.


* Biggest mistakes, Greatest successes.

"1) Sure I'll do this T&M. --- 2)"Sure I'll do this T&M"


* Your strong points, your weaknesses.

1) Confidence in my answers to and management of others; 2) Confidence in my answers to and management of myself.


* Are you estimator and installer or just estimator?


I do it all, baby! < not sure why that exclamation point is there :rolleyes:
 

nakulak

Senior Member
the thread title:

the philosophy - 1) get the money making jobs
2) get your name out there

the art 1) get the money making jobs
2) leave the non money making jobs to someone else
3) get your name out there

(just because you might overbid jobs doesn't mean you don't, say, leave the door open. you can screw up a bid and still pump the gc for information and, if you think you can make money at that price, leave the door open for the next one or negotiate. selling work is learned (for me), although I think it does come naturally to some people.)
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top