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Profile of an Estimator

Home is the sailor; home from the sea, and the hunter home from the hill.—Robert Louis Stevenson

It’s been nearly 10 years since I penned a piece that enumerated the various qualities of character that comprise the consummate estimator. I said at the time that it might sound like a restatement of the Boy Scout Law, and indeed it might. Several weeks back, I received some jarring news that, curiously, made me recall what I had written back then. For reasons that will become clear, I find it quite appropriate to revisit that listing of qualities here and now. And so, paraphrasing, I offer an enhanced version of that list:    


Diligence. It is a profound perseverance and an almost-fanatical meticulousness that enable an estimator to glean the most and best possible information from the conceptual set of design documents that are offered these days. It is only with the diligence of an ant that he is empowered to derive and present the cogent, quantified analysis of a proposed project that is required of him.


Creativity. The proficient estimator must possess a creative imagination in order to visualize a designer’s intent in the absence of expressed detail. This is particularly essential when dealing with the abstract drawings that are typical of the budget process.


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. Timeliness is the art of knowing how much of that above-referenced diligence one can bring to bear before the window of opportunity slams shut.


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 cool under fire. Focus comes with years of practiced discipline, and with a balanced lifestyle that promotes clarity.

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. Fortunately, if we demonstrate honesty in all of our business transactions, our reputation for trust spreads throughout our network. Conversely, if we falter, even once, and our duplicity becomes known, our standing and our effectiveness are damaged, sometimes irreparably.


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 to and deal with any number of circumstances that confront us.


Consistency is the resistance to acting outside of a working set of principles—such as the ones above—that we have established for ourselves and that others depend upon.


Integrity could be described as the sum total of the above traits.


The reason I am reminded of these traits and reprise them at this time rests with the recent and untimely passing of a friend and colleague, Mike Roper, and thus the opening quote from the poem, “Requiem.” Mike was what I would call a bidmeister extraordinaire, without reservation. His skill enriched those around him in every respect. Anyone who knew him professionally or personally—whether from his hometown of Chicago or his adopted home in Phoenix—would agree that Mike embodied all of the qualities of character described above, tempered with a healthy dose of wit and wisdom. His colleagues will sorely miss him, and the entire drywall estimating community is in some way diminished with his passing. Rest in peace, Mikey.

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

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