Note to estimators: I write this article assuming you have finished and reviewed your takeoff (see part 1, October 2006), and ran and reviewed all of your extensions (see part 2, November 2006); if you haven’t, you will need to accelerate the following to Warp 10. You may also want to practice some deep breathing and take any heart medication now.
You’ve come in early to get a head start on today’s bid. The coffee is fresh; the office is empty, quiet. It’s bid day, and there really isn’t much left to do. Receive a few quotes, crunch numbers, write the proposal and fax it out. No worries, no problems. All is well, right? Yeah, sure ... in a dream world.
Welcome back to reality. Bid day is by far your most challenging day. The day where it all comes together and you find out whether or not the last two weeks of estimating were worth the effort. The takeoff is done and reviewed (right?), the extensions thoroughly reviewed (right?) and all that is left is putting together your bid summary. Right? Right.
Putting together and reviewing the bid summary is the most important step in the entire bidding process. It is here where mistakes most easily occur and can go unnoticed because there is often little or no time left to review.
There are so many figures to input and review: tax percentages, “cuts and adds,” tools, trucks, lifts, job site expenses, estimating costs, labor rates, factoring and distribution percentages. Let’s not forget overhead and profit. Additionally, your bid summary is not limited to the “fill-in-the-blanks” screens of your estimating software. Your estimate review notes, proposals, vendor quotes and your boss are all part of your summary review. So make sure to schedule time for all of them, especially the boss.
Vendor proposals and bills of materials (BOMs) need to be reviewed thoroughly to discover any missing items or duplications. Always ask questions: Did they include the emergency ballasts? Lighting control switches? Dimming panels? How about Alternate No. 1? Are the transformers NEMA 4X? Did they use copper or aluminum bussing? What did the specs require? Asking and answering questions will guide you to finding the errors—both yours and the vendors.
One way to ensure a proper and thorough review is to create a process that you repeat on every bid, no matter what size or type. This will help you maintain continuity and flow on each bid you review. I recommend creating a bid day to-do list. It sounds cliché, but to-do lists are great organizational tools. Even Santa keeps a list. So make a list, check it twice and stick to it until your price goes out.
Just like reviewing your takeoff and extensions, reviewing your bid summary requires uninterrupted focus. You must be left alone by anyone not involved in your bid. Screen all phone calls, answering only those pertaining to the bid. All others go to voice mail. I also recommend a sign on the door saying “I’m bidding a job—go away!” or something nicer if you want. Just make sure everybody understands and respects your sign.
By 11 a.m., you should have a good handle on your estimate. It’s time for a break. Take a short walk, do some stretches, eat an early lunch. It is important to keep your energy levels up. I recommend eating something healthy (no sugar) and not too much. Taking a break replenishes your energy level, helps your concentration, thinking and your ability to focus.
At this time, you should have everything covered, and all major decisions should be made. It is now time to begin a slow, thorough final check of every entry in your bid summary. Check all totals for materials and labor hours, labor rates, quotation prices, OH&P percentages, taxed items and percentages, and added costs. Look at every number carefully and note all commas, periods, etc. Make sure all the values are correct. Remember, $100,000 is just a comma and a zero away from $1 million.
Once you have input all your rates, percentages, quotes, taxes, etc., you should have a final sell price. Look at this number and try to get a feel of whether it is right or not. Does it seem too high? Too low? Compare it to your historical data on similar projects. Most estimating software programs have a bid analysis feature where you can input square footage and job duration information. What do these numbers tell you? Do they make sense with what you estimated during your take-off?
Critical to success is staying relaxed and not losing control of your bid. If you have prepared yourself properly and reviewed your numbers thoroughly, everything should be OK. So stay calm, keep your mind in the game and relax—it will all be over at 2 p.m. EC
SHOOK is the president and chief estimator for his estimating company, TakeOff 16 Inc. He has worked in the electrical construction industry for more than 18 years. Reach him at 707.776.0800 or by e-mail at sfs@TakeOff16.com.