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Habits of Successful Estimators

a calculator and a tape measure on construction plans

Construction estimators are under a lot of pressure. Estimate accuracy is paramount when bidding work but can be difficult in the real world. And there’s more pressure to win jobs and ensure that the company’s making a fair profit. Successful estimators are good communicators who rely on the latest in technology to improve their bid accuracy and speed. Let’s look at some habits you can cultivate to make you a more successful estimator.

1. Toss the spreadsheet

Gone are the days of paper takeoffs and estimate spreadsheets. Both take too long and are prone to mistakes. Math errors can be a job killer and if you fail to include a row in your calculation, you could lose thousands of dollars. Always double-check your math, whether it’s on a spreadsheet or estimating software.
Manual processes, like paper takeoffs, create more opportunities for mistakes and just take a long time to complete. Today’s software is easy to use and completes calculations for you, saving time and money.

2. Streamline the takeoff process

Using material takeoff software will improve your estimate accuracy and speed. Software packages are available that will perform the takeoff more accurately and faster than paper methods. The software also automates calculations like area and volume, so you have less to remember. Simply highlight the area you wish to takeoff and the software does it for you. It’s made to be as easy as possible.

3. Use assemblies and templates

Assemblies and templates are shortcuts that will improve your process and help you save time. An assembly is a collection of material and labor costs that represent a finished product, like a wall or a roof. It contains all the component material you need for that assembly, plus the labor to install it. Taking off the assembly is easy: just measure the area and multiply it by the assembly cost. You won’t miss a screw or nail.
Templates are used for specific job types. They are a list of all the costs required for that type of job. They help you remember all the hidden costs that you might forget when doing a takeoff. You should have a template for each type of job you do, or you may have just one template you use for every project. has a free spreadsheet that includes formulas to help you in your estimating process. Templates help ensure that no costs are missed.

4. Good communication

Good communication is the foundation of all your business relationships, and you can’t bid a project without relationships. Whether it’s with suppliers or subcontractors, being clear in your communications with them about potential projects helps build your relationship so you can get the best price for the project.
Negotiation is also a part of an estimator’s role. You must negotiate with your subcontractors and suppliers, as well as clients, to get the job. Brush up on your negotiation and communication skills to improve your estimates and your outcomes.

5. Bid jobs with a high chance of success

This is one of the most important habits estimators can cultivate: the ability to choose jobs you can win. First, you have to know the jobs you’re good at. Look at your profit margins in the last few years and find out what characteristics the most profitable jobs share. Then, look for similar projects coming up to bid.
PlanHub can help you select the most profitable jobs where you can have the most success. You can search all the projects’ bid documents on our website for keywords that describe your work. Looking for brickwork? Type in the word “masonry” and you’ll get all the jobs that mention that word in their drawings or specifications. In seconds you have a list of projects you will be competitive with.
PlanHub can also help you analyze the competition for those projects. See how many subcontractors are looking at them, how many have downloaded the documents, and how many have submitted a bid already. You’ll instantly know how many competitors you have for that project. Using this information, you can quickly determine whether it’s worth your time to submit a bid or not.
PlanHub has an assortment of tools that will help you become a more successful estimator. Bid Navigator lets you search for projects by keyword and analyze the competition for those projects. And our Bid Calendar helps you never forget a bid’s due date. It holds all your bid deadlines in one place so you can better manage your time.
For more information about PlanHub’s tools or to schedule a demo, contact us today.

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