It’s All Good (Part 2)

Vince Bailey / June 2018

I can’t complain, but sometimes I still do…—from “Life’s Been Good” by Joe Walsh

Driven by a gnawing sense of guilt that many of my past articles may have inadvertently cast our profession in a less than favorable light, I set out last month to dispel those notions and to perhaps cultivate an appreciation for all of the underlying benefits that we bidmeisters enjoy. After all, recent studies show that the demand for construction estimators will soon outpace the numbers in residence. Consequently, I feel some responsibility for attracting some new blood to our prestigious vocation by highlighting some of its more attractive aspects..
    
My approach to this positive presentation was (and is) rather unique: I called on a number of my number-crunching colleagues all scattered across the country to give their firsthand accounts regarding the inherent but understated perquisites that adhere to our craft. Surely anecdotal evidence would be the most effective way to present our case. And while Ray’s take on job security was somewhat underwhelming, and Brian’s testament to prestige was less than inspiring, and Chris’s evidence for mediocre compensation came up a bit short on the encouragement I was looking for, I remained steadfast in my mission. There are bidmeisters out there who are bullish on their chosen profession. It was just a matter of finding them—and find them I did.
    
Bruce from Las Vegas became absolutely animated when I called and asked him about the non-pecuniary benefits of our profession. He summed up the source of his enthusiasm with just one word.
    
“Golf!” he thundered from his office in Henderson. The depth and volume of his exclamation caused my cell phone to go dark. He expounded on his response when I called back.
    
“The thing I love most about construction estimating,” said Bruce, “is the way it provides a front for what I really do for a living—I play golf, full-time when the seasons allow.”
    
Bruce went on to explain that he purposefully builds and maintains a burgeoning clientele through social graces and skills on the links surrounding Sin City. He divulged that virtually all of his projects are negotiated with GCs who are fellow golf fanatics—that he rarely, if ever, works a hard bid against a hard deadline.
    
“Must be nice,” I observed. “But I can’t imagine having the time to golf that extensively and still keep up with my bid calendar,” I added, wistfully.
    
“What bid calendar?” he chuckled. “Here’s how my calendar reads: golf at Cascata, golf at Dragon Ridge, golf at the Arroyo at Red Rock, golf at Paiute, golf at Royal Links—and on and on. You have no idea how many courses they have around here. It’s a full-time job just trying to hit them all.”
    
“But where do you get the time to do take-offs, procure pricing or write proposals?” I wondered, innocently.
    
“That’s what project engineers and interns are for,” he scoffed. “Listen, Vince, I have one hard-and-fast rule to share that’s been the key to my success as an estimator.”
    
“And that is?”
    
“I never let estimating interfere with my golf game.”
    
I took this as good advice and a good tribute to our profession.
    
Next, I called Dave in Denver, who was most enthusiastic about sharing his take on one of the many benefits of membership in the fraternity of bidmeisters.
    
“I’m pretty partial to all the outside activities that estimators typically participate in as part of the job,” he stated, emphatically. “Between the second-tier subs and vendors who take us out, and the entertainment we provide for the clients, I’m constantly out all over town.”
    
“See, this is the sort of underplayed perk that I’m looking for: hometown activities,” I said. “What kind of activities do you guys do in the Mile High City?”
    
“Plenty. There’s Rockies, Broncos and Nuggets games. There’s concerts at Red Rocks. There’s NASCAR and other races at the Colorado National Speedway. There’s always something happening at Elitch Gardens. With all these extracurricular activities, I’m out of the house more often than not.”
    
“And you’re not worried about spending too much time away from home?”
    
“Have you met my wife?”
    
“Well, yeah, now that you mention it …”
    
“I rest my case,” he chuckled. “Estimating and the outside activities that go along with it have kept me out of harm’s way for many a year.”
    
Jeff in Phoenix has his own take on a non-pecuniary benefit of being an estimator: lunch.
    
“You know, these vendors around here know every good place there is to feed in this town. There’s mac-cheese muffins at The Duce, chicken and waffles at Lo-Lo’s, chili rellenos at Los Dos, pizza at Bianco’s, brisket and beans at Little Miss BBQ. I’ve been out to lunch so many times this week, I’m gonna have to work the weekend to make a deadline.” He patted a swollen tummy. “Well worth it, though. I’d say one side benefit worth mentioning to being an estimator are the free lunches.”
    
Well, there you have it direct from the trenches. While job security, prestige and the pay may not be stellar, golf, ball games and food go a long way toward compensating. And for those college grads contemplating a career in estimating, I can only add that all these years of being a bidmeister—well, for me it’s been more fun than a tornado in a trailer park.

Vince Bailey is an estimator/project manager working in the Phoenix area.