Vince Bailey / July 2022
I can see clearly now, the rain is gone … — Johnny Nash
Having been a commercial drywall estimator for more years than I will confess to, it stands to reason that I have held that position with a number of different employers. Statistics bear me out on this. One site claims that the greatest portion of construction estimators (39%) stay with the same firm for only one or two years. My personal ranking falls closer to the 17% who stay loyal for three to four years. Nevertheless, my name has somehow been identified as an estimator who bounces around quite a lot and my contact info has been shared with employment services (headhunters) nationwide. The point of all of this is just that I’ve been inundated with countless ads for drywall estimators and the listed requirements are similar to the point of redundancy: five years minimum experience in commercial drywall; must be proficient with (insert estimating program here); positive sales record; team player; able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, etc. Never have I seen the most important prerequisite a successful estimator can attest to: clarity required.
Many’s the time I’ve itemized the hardships that must be endured by diligent bidmeisters everywhere: unreliable technology, unreasonably long hours, ridiculous deadlines, outrageously inadequate bid docs, ruthless GCs, poor compensation, etc. So how does an effective quantifier navigate these treacherous obstacles and maintain the focus needed to reliably deliver thorough estimates in a timely manner? You guessed it: through clarity of mind.
That’s simple enough to say, but how does one gain and maintain such clarity? There are a number of ways that a dedicated exactimator can cultivate and sustain a state of clarity. Certain stress-reducing methods have demonstrated their value in this regard.
Exercise. Regular exercise can be a great stress remedy, and it can help to ward off any stress-related physical ailments, such as heart disease and elevated blood pressure. In a job like ours that requires long periods of sitting, there’s nothing more refreshing than a long walk, a ride on the bike or a visit to the gym. As difficult as it is to carve out an hour in a busy work day, the benefits in efficacy will pay off in spades.
Camaraderie. Cultivating friendships in the workplace can also provide a valuable defense against the gloom that comes with ambiguity. There’s nothing like a sympathetic ear for releasing frustrations, and only a colleague who is personally familiar with the particular grievances can commiserate thoroughly.
Get away from it all! Most bid activity comes in waves, so when the first signs of a trough appear, taking some vacation time is an excellent remedy for deflecting imminent overload. Most bidmeisters that I know take little or no time off, which is ironic because they are invariably the ones most in need of it. If it’s at all affordable, a trip out of town with some planned activity involved is the best for putting the bid load out of mind. Fishing, hunting, skiing or just exploring any new surroundings are all great activities for cleansing the skull of those job-related demons and for reinvigoration.
A good night’s sleep. According to multiple studies, seven to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep is essential for daytime clarity of mind. Sleep aids, such as CBD, can be helpful in this regard, but might also contribute to mental cloudiness. For me, this is the lesser of two evils, as lack of sleep is more destructive to daytime clarity than a little chemical fogginess that can be warded off with a strong morning coffee.
The eyes have it. Clarity of mind goes hand in hand with clarity of sight. Estimators depend on sharp eyesight to identify and interpret images on a screen for extended periods of time. Having the eyes examined regularly is a defense against the kind of fuzziness that obscures critical detail. Bidmeister veterans are more susceptible to such visual maladies as cataracts and macular degeneration, so eye exams are essential to staying sharp as years go by.
Don’t bring work home. One other device that works well for me involves keeping the lines between work and home very well-defined. That is why in every job I’ve ever worked, I’ve declined the offer of a laptop and opted for a desktop computer. I would much rather spend a little extra travel time if I have to work a Saturday to meet a deadline, than have that little heart-attack machine in my house at night.
There you have a short list of stress-reducers that can give rise to clarity of mind. Some or all of them should become habitual for the kind of clarity that brings success to the sometimes overburdened bidmeister. And to all you headhunters looking to recruit good estimators, your ads should include clarity required.
Vince Bailey is an estimator/project manager working in the Phoenix area.