Vince Bailey / May 2022
We are the champions, my friends; and we’ll keep on fighting ’til the end… —Freddie Mercury
Once again, I’ve received some pretty sharp reprimands from a number of my colleagues regarding a rather dark inclination in the tone of my articles as of late. My response, as usual, was just to say that “I calls ’em as I sees ’em,” and I’m stickin’ to my guns on my recent comments regarding the rough road ahead for the construction industry in general, and for commercial estimators in particular (with some notable exceptions). So far, timely developments seem to have borne out my gloomy prognostications. Then I was reminded of a long history of page-long complaints that some readers claim to be the mainstay of this column—that I’ve used this venue to post my professional grievances. I must protest these ill-conceived accusations—I will not be tagged as a purveyor of gratuitous gloom and doom.
OK, I admit that a few of my topics could be construed as negative comments on the collective fate of oppressed bidmeisters. And I confess that I may have spent a bit of space and ink on this page, complaining about the various slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that we bidmeisters endure on a daily basis: long hours, absurd deadlines, woefully inadequate bid docs, merciless GCs, sadistic bosses, job security (lack thereof), etc.
But negative in general? I hardly think so. In fact, the case can be made that these chronic snags that constantly bedevil our bean-counting ilk are merely testaments to our uncommon endurance as a group. I believe that the evils that I point out simply illustrate what a sturdy, resilient bunch we bidmeisters truly are. Only the cream of the crop can withstand such ill winds.
Oh, and what about the argument that a public airing of grievances discourages a younger generation from entering our elite ranks? I relish the misplaced perception that my column wields that much influence (thanks, just the same). But such an ill-conceived allegation merits a retort. I respond much the way I do whenever I encounter the inquiries of any young aspiring estimator wondering about the attributes of a successful bidmeister. I repeat:
Diligence. It is a profound perseverance that enables an estimator to glean the most and best possible information from the conceptual set of documents that are offered these days.
Creativity. The proficient estimator must possess a creative imagination in order to visualize a designer’s intent in the absence of detail.
Timeliness. We bidmeisters are constantly under deadline and must use our best time management skills to balance a sense of urgency with a need for thoroughness.
Focus. Urgency of deadlines notwithstanding, the adept quantifier must manage time and resources to develop fruitful avenues of research and to organize reams of information that are often presented with the orderly array of a shotgun pattern—and still keep his/her cool under fire.
Honesty. I’m sad to say that honesty is a commodity that can be somewhat limited in our industry, and therefore always in demand. Dealing in construction involves a great amount of wealth changing hands on a daily basis, and so trust becomes a treasured quality.
Courage. One of the cardinal virtues, it is the conviction to convey our truth clearly, confidently and without reservation in the face of contention and skepticism. It is the resolve to stand firm in our beliefs without regard to personal consequences. Courage is the antithesis of fear.
Sociability. It is the personal grace that allows us to build professional relationships—even friendships—in a sometimes contentious business environment.
Responsibility is the recognition that we are self-determined, proactive and willing to take control of the way we respond and deal with any number of circumstances that confront us.
If we carefully cultivate these qualities, what rewards await us (that is, in the absence of generous compensation, prestige and respect)? For me, it’s reward enough just knowing that we estimators are a vital link in a chain of people who build schools, churches, hospitals, gymnasiums and all the buildings that make our lives better. And it’s a shot in the arm knowing that every time we win a job, we create jobs that keep families together and pay for houses and food and clothes and cars. That makes me proud of my job and my colleagues. We matter.
So, the next time you bidmeisters encounter a prospective cub who’s ready to test his/her mettle, you challenge them to join the ranks of the few, the proud—the exactimators!
Vince Bailey is an estimator/project manager working in the Phoenix area.