In my December column, I recommended you review last year’s estimating strategy. By examining what worked and the reasons for losses, you understand how to be more successful next year. Well, guess what? It is next year and the estimating clock started ticking two weeks ago.

If you did your homework, you should have prepared a list of statistics on last year’s estimating. You should also be close to having a list of goals along with a rough plan for this year. Tall orders, I know. Mine aren’t finished yet either.

Remember, your team is looking to you for guidance, focus and direction. They need to know what you want them to do and how you want them to do it. Are they going to play “fire brigade” this year, putting out every estimating fire as it starts? Or are they going to be part of a proactive plan for success? Communicating a strong vision of their future will allow them to focus on the work ahead with more confidence and greater clarity.

Communicate your vision

Once your estimating plan is finished, schedule a team meeting to communicate your plans and visions. At this meeting:

°Clearly state what you expect from your team this year.

°Discuss how many jobs they need to estimate. What sizes? What types?

°Identify and clearly define the markets in which you want to win projects.

°Discuss the clients you want to solicit and how to best serve them.

Talk to your estimators. Ask them what they think, need and want. Listen to them—they might know more about the past year of estimating than you do. Compare their tales with what you experienced. You are a team. You need to become one mind, one estimating machine.

For estimators, this meeting is a chance to communicate thoughts and experiences from last year with your seniors. Talk about what worked and what didn’t. Discuss where your estimating skills are and where you think you will be six months from now.

At this meeting, the team should create a list of small goals and tasks. These should be important and realistic items that can be accomplished by the beginning of the next month. Include tasks beyond estimating, such as database maintenance, tracking reports, educational goals, etc. You should also develop a list of major goals to be accomplished by the end of the year.

Accomplish the goals

Having a meeting and walking away from it with a grand to-do list is not enough. You need to execute the plan in order to accomplish the goals. Executing your plan will not be easy when the phone starts ringing. You need to have a monitoring system—a checklist, basically something to tell you if you are staying on target and meeting all of your goals.

I recommend scheduling one-hour meetings each week and a two-hour meeting each month to check your current status, revisit the team’s goals and analyze your progress.

Adjust the plan along the way

Changes are a constant, especially in construction. What if you get really lucky and win two major projects during the first month? How does this affect the plan? What does it do to the three major projects you are working on now?

Do you still bid them? What if you don’t win any jobs during the first month? Does this mean you will have to bid more jobs next month or just bigger ones? You will need to be flexible and adjust for these issues.

Obviously, it will be easier to adjust if you win the jobs than if you lose them, so I suggest writing your plan based on the possibility that you won’t win as many as you hope.

Beyond having a great plan, a great team of estimators and a lot of luck—successful bidding is often a simple game of numbers. If you need to win two jobs now and your past history indicates you win two for every 10 you bid, guess what? You need to bid 10 jobs now!

If you think you will win two jobs by being careful and picky, and only focus on two “cream of the crop” jobs, don’t be surprised when you win neither. Your plan should include these percentage factors. So, gear your team up to bid the 10 jobs.

Get to work and work your plan. The clock is ticking. 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 sfs@TakeOff16.com.