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“Try to remember the kind of September, when grass was green and grain was yellow.”—Tom Jones/Harvey Schmidt

Well I’ll be damned if you didn’t finally hit on one! And not just another mid-size build-out like the ones that have been trickling down the pipeline for months, but a full-blown exterior/interior, triple-scope, multimillion-dollar plum of a project. You just got off the phone with the GC’s chief estimator and you’re still blinking from the fireworks that went off in your head when he told you they intend to award the job to your firm. So deer-in-the-headlights dumbfounded you were, that you stuttered and stumbled over a few obligatory words of gratitude and hung up without discussing any details. After all, the devil is in the details, and you wouldn’t want to spoil this savory moment by unearthing some Faustian flaw, would you?

Well OK, a moment of shell-shock is a forgivable first reaction to being slapped upside the head with good fortune, given the circumstances. It’s been many moons since you’ve hit pay dirt like this—longer than you’d care to admit. Then too, even though you’d worked on it for weeks, fruition on this particular bid had been no more promising than on any number of large projects that you’d been “in the hunt” on, to no avail, so the call was more or less unexpected; in fact, it was out of the blue. But now you’ve pinched yourself, or slapped yourself or whatever you do to wake up to reality, and are wondering what to do next, because the steps in the process of securing the sale—steps that were once second nature to you—are now languishing from disuse on the seldom-trod back alleyways of your mind.

Not one to be destabilized by this sudden turn of events, you calmly sit down at your desk, take out a clean legal pad, and make a list from memory. You recall that there are a number of tasks that an estimator performs before handing the project off to the management and production teams—urgent tasks if, like this one, the project has been bid and performed in phases and the superstructure is nearly in place, just waiting for the skin subs to mobilize. But back to your list.

First, you will naturally call the GC back (immediately after completing this list), and confirm or clarify a number of items that will help you launch the rest of your job start. First, you’ll ask for a letter of intent and what contract amount you can assume. Terms are usually pre-determined either by the terms of your proposal or by the GC’s typical contract being included in the bid docs, so all you really need at this point is an LOI and an amount to get the ball rolling, although you’ll need to start pressing right away for a contract for other purposes, like bonding, if necessary. Of course, the award amount may vary due to alternates, value engineering offered, call-back items, or potential discounts previously discussed, so confirmation of the bottom line is vital.

Next, you’ll ask for an updated schedule to be forwarded (the master schedule included with the bid documents is probably already obsolete), but in the short-term, a best-guess verbal cue will give you a tentative date to start arranging for insurance coverage, material delivery and manpower mobilization. Finally, you’ll want to arrange for a preconstruction meeting between the GC’s onsite management team and your designated management/production crew for the job, to confirm logistics, manpower expectations and site-specific issues—the sooner, the better.

Now that you’ve got the GC issues listed, you focus on your in-house job start. Before any other consideration, you know you must alert your production department ASAP, because a job this size with a semi-urgent mobilization is possibly going to create a manpower gap that will take no small measure of time and effort to fill, unless current projects are winding down and ripe to feed a new manpower demand (fat chance). In any case, you, the estimator, are the vanguard—the first alert, if you will—of this crucial development, and clear, concise and immediate communication with all in-house departments regarding this development is vital.

Equally as important, the designated material suppliers must be notified immediately so that prices can be finalized and confirmed, and amounts can be ordered and allocated. An added incentive to calling your supplier: You are now so slammed with job start activity that you request that he put together a submittal package for you. After all, having quoted the job, he is immediately familiar with the components, and providing submittals is a symbolic way of staking his own claim to the award. He is only too happy to comply. Delegation rocks.

Now you are knee-deep in myriad in-house activities: setting up a pre-job meeting with the management/production department, preparing a budget, generating a schedule of values, ordering a bond, requesting an insurance certificate. But you’re getting all the help you need from your colleagues, who are more than eager to share in the good fortune that is now flowing through all the channels of your organization. It is humming.

By week’s end, you are exhausted from the upheaval, but it’s a good kind of tired—a feeling like meeting with an old friend you haven’t seen in years. But something’s troubling—you can’t help thinking that you’re forgetting something important, until a colleague reminds you.

Oh yeah. Last but not least: the happy hour celebration. Congratulations, brother. Life is good, once more.

Vince Bailey is an estimator at E&K of Phoenix.

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