Stuff new estimators should know.

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Lesson #1

Not a day goes by that my phone doesn’t blow up constantly. Usually around Lunch Time and again at 4pm. I will say that I am deeply jealous of Cliff because he refuses to take calls on his Cell Phone unless it is an emergency. It took him years of yelling at people, threatening their physical well being, and doing everything in his power to completely ignore it but people know that you have to call his office if you want to reach him.

Today I was reminded of what it’s like to beblueprint-964629_640 new to the industry and feel unsure about your value as an estimator. Right before lunch I got a call from both the Estimator and the Foreman on his project, trying to figure out what the hell was going on. We quickly tracked it down to the job site having a different Finish Schedule from the Bid Documents. The Foreman was concerned because he was being told to perform scope he had not been aware of, and the estimator couldn’t figure out what exactly had gone wrong.

I forgot for a moment, just how “green” this estimator is. He was pretty dire on the phone and sure that he had just missed something and it we were going to eat it. I logged onto his machine to pull up onscreen and see what I could find.

One of the first pages showed the area in question as: “Not in Scope – existing finishes to remain.” I then flipped to the finish schedule and found a designation for the B.O.H. Color. This leaves a bit of a conundrum because it’s clearly excluded but referenced elsewhere. As I was on the phone explaining to the estimator that he hadn’t screwed anything up, Cliff leaned over to become a part of the conversation. His advice to the estimator was: “It doesn’t matter that it’s on the finish schedule, the plans tell us to ignore that area!”

We then instructed the estimator to reference the Date on the Bid Documents and compare it against the Plans referenced on the contract. He needed to make sure that what we agreed to in the contract was the same thing he based his estimate on. If not, then we might be in a bit of trouble. Wilson & Hampton have a core belief that if we screwed up, we fix it on our dime. Sometimes, that amounts to a lot of dimes. Luckily in this case, the plans in the contract and the plans in the Bid Docs, were dated the same. He looked through his email to make sure he hadn’t gotten any addendum’s or updates since the contract, and was relieved when he realized he hadn’t.

He was dreading the phone call to the Contractor. So my advice was to just be upfront about it: “You know you are right but if he can show otherwise we’ll fix it.  Just tell him we’ll proceed with the ‘disputed’ work as T&M and as long as they will sign the tickets, we’ll take care of it. If it turns out it wasn’t an extra, we won’t bill them. Besides, if he starts to be a dick to you, you’re confident enough now that you can be a dick back!”

In the end,  the work was done on T&M. We will get paid for it, and the General will keep the customer happy. I forget sometimes what it’s like to know what has taken me years to learn. This was a good experience for our Estimator and a good refresher for me. If your just starting out, surround yourself with people who want to help you learn. Understand the reality that there are usually going to be 1,000’s of questions that will need to be answered on each project. Your Job is to answer them. The more you try to answer from the beginning, the less you will have to answer at the end.


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