Presenting Your Estimate

By Stan Shook | Jul 15, 2011




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This article is for all the junior and associate estimators out there whose estimating clocks have run out. Your time is up. Addendum 7 isn’t coming, and that bid extension is not going to happen. It’s time to wrap everything up, finished or not, into an organized portfolio of solid facts, accurate figures and other critical information for presentation to your boss. It’s time to face the fire.

Here are a few extinguishing tips to carry into that fire. Hopefully, they will give you the courage and strength to look your boss in the eye with confidence and say, “I’m ready. Let’s bid this puppy!”

What you should bring to the table
Some of these are obvious, but I’ll list them anyway. Bring the entire set of electrical and signal drawings, especially your marked-up set. Bring any job-walk photos, videos, Internet maps, satellite and other images of the job site. Create a condensed subset of the architectural, mechanical and any types of drawings you think are important.

Your boss doesn’t need to see bathroom elevations. He or she needs to see building elevations, site and civil plans, reflected ceiling plans and structural drawings, especially if they show obstructions or seismic expansion joints.

Bring the complete specification manual with the most important sections, notes and details highlighted and tagged, so it will be easy to find those sections. Bring your notes, tally-sheets, scratch pads and extra pens.

Have the complete bid form, “Instructions to Bidders,” and all other required bid documents, such as insurance and bid bond forms, labor rate sheets, etc. Any official form you have to submit with your bid should be immediately presented and available. Complete these forms as early as possible, especially if it is bid day. If someone is completing them during your review, bring copies.

Bring all your bid summaries, extensions, audit trails and takeoff sheets. However, only bring necessary reports that provide clear figures and present the project accurately. Don’t clutter up the room with a bunch of meaningless papers. Give your boss impressive reports and useful information.

If you are presenting from a computer, prepare the documents ahead of time, and put them into an easy-to-find folder on the computer desktop. Don’t let the technology slow the flow of your presentation down. Even with the digital presentation, I highly recommend providing the major documents in paper form as well.

Why doesn’t the boss care?
It’s not that bosses don’t care, per se. They just have a lot on their minds. Bosses are mainly interested in big items and issues that will either make or lose the company serious money. They want to know how complete your takeoff is, what’s missing, what’s light or heavy, what areas you had to guess at (the expensive stuff), what areas have the most difficult and expensive installations, etc.

What’s important and what’s not?
The schedule is important. Whether the building is existing or new is important. Two missing duplex outlets are not. Four 4,500-lb. chandeliers are. Not knowing the distance on a ¾-inch homerun is not so important. It is important to know it on a concrete-encased duct bank with 10 4-inch conduits carrying 500 MCM wires. The generator is important, as is the main switchgear.

What you haven’t finished taking off yet is very important, too. Be prepared to offer a guesstimate of what you think it might be worth. Bring this up right away, so your boss can consider it while he or she reviews the rest of the project.

As the lead estimator, one of your primary responsibilities is to know everything about the job, especially the most difficult and most expensive installations. Your boss won’t really care if you missed $3,000 of pipe and wire, but he or she will be pretty upset if you didn’t know or inform him or her all the work is to be performed at night. Do you understand?

How much time do you have?
There will be many bid days during which you will not have much time to thoroughly brief your boss on the estimate. Know this ahead of time. Try to plan reviews around your boss’s day, not yours. Of course, bid day is bid day and bosses need to be aware of exactly when the bid is. More importantly, bosses need to know how intense a review to perform.

Is it a small, easy job with one bid item? Or is it a major project with an extremely complex bid form and an intense schedule? Give your boss the chance to make time in his or her busy schedule to review it.

Accurate and tight bids are the direct results of solid reviews. Present your estimate as completely and thoroughly as you can to your boss and senior estimating team so they can completely, thoroughly and accurately bid the project.

Just remember: never panic, and never let them see you sweat.

SHOOK has been estimating for more than 23 years. Until recently, he operated a fully staffed estimating company, TakeOff 16 Inc. He is currently focusing on writing, teaching and speaking about electrical estimating. Read his blog at, or contact him directly at [email protected].

About The Author

Stan Shook was ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR's estimating columnist from 2005 to 2012. He works as an electrical estimator in California. Read his blog at or contact him directly [email protected]





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