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Estimators: The Cornerstone of the Business

Have any of you estimators ever been referred to as a cornerstone? Probably not, but I believe that the estimator is the very foundation of a solid construction operation. The company you work for could have a few “superheroes” in the field, and I am not saying that they aren’t very important to the company, but the field can only work within the parameters (of the budget) as established by the estimator.


How many of you have given thought to your responsibilities as an estimator? Have you ever considered the number of people depending on your skills?


Depending on the size of the firm you work for, your decisions will impact as few as a couple of people to possibly more than 100. Obviously your survival depends on your earning power and possibly that of an immediate family. This in itself is not much different from what every working person encounters. However, when you consider the implications your ability has on the viability of the firm you represent, the role of estimator looms large indeed.


No single entity in a construction firm has as much impact as the estimator. A good estimator will keep profitable work flowing into the firm. An overly cautious estimator will slowly deplete the resources of a firm due to lack of backlog. An estimator who throws caution to the wind will most likely load the firm up with cheap work.


Project managers bask in the sun and, in most cases, enjoy higher pay and more lofty status. Most PMs will take all the credit when things go well and turn on the estimators when a project turns ugly. How many times have you heard a PM say that he made a handsome profit because the estimate was outstanding? Everyone in the firm takes pride in a profitable, well done job. That glow everyone shares is possible because you, the estimator, put the pieces together; your skills made it happen.


Not only are you directly responsible for the fiscal health of the firm, you have a great impact on moral. Nothing sinks moral faster than jobs with little or no margin. Margins usually don’t evaporate-most likely they never existed.


Poor estimates sometimes show up at bid time when everyone looks at the estimator and wonders, Why we are 25 percent lower than the next bid? It is usually not a result of you being 25 percent smarter than the others, but rather that you missed 25 percent of something. In this scenario, you at least know going in that you have a problem. How about negotiated work, or bids where you have no knowledge of what the competition quoted?


Can the PM team recover the cost on a job that needs 155 MSF of 5/8″ gyp when your estimate calls for 15.5 MSF?


Remember you are The One—and tell your boss I said you are the cornerstone of the company and should be paid accordingly.


Next month we will expand on the qualities of exceptional estimators.


About the Author

Charles Mahaffey is president of Accuest, LLC, Marietta, Ga. Accuest provides estimating and consulting services for commercial drywall subcontractors.

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