Overcoming Roadblocks: Streamlining Construction Estimator's Job Scoping and Estimating

April 20, 2023
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Construction estimators wear so many hats, have so many responsibilities, and juggle so many tasks at once. It’s no wonder these professionals feel stressed all the time. I know this from experience. When I first got into estimating, I was shocked at how many parts of the job process require the estimator’s time and effort. A huge bottleneck that takes up a ton of estimator’s time is the scoping, estimating, and proposal process. 

                I have done HUNDREDS of demos with contractors & estimators since launching SpotOnSite. This is an accurate example of what happens when they get a new lead: 

                You get an email from your sales manager stating, “New lead. Please see the info below.” You immediately scroll down and look at the details. You gather those details and create a new customer and a new deal inside of your CRM. You check your schedule and the location of this property and notice that you will be relatively close to the area on Thursday, so you plan to scope the new property then. Thursday morning arrives and you are about to leave the office to begin scoping your projects. You pull up Google Earth and search for the property address. The map takes you to the properties that you need and one by one, you print the aerial maps of the projects. You grab the maps, your wheel, a pen, a clipboard, your phone, and keys and head out to scope the jobs. When you arrive at your location, you jump out of the truck, grabbing your wheel, the map, clipboard, pen, and your phone before you shut the door. It’s time to officially start scoping.

                The lead that was given to you stated that the customer was looking for your “recommendations.” Ah, don’t you love those? You don’t know what’s important to them, you don’t know if they have $5,000 to spend or $50,000 to spend, you don’t know where to start. So you start by looking at all the liabilities. You start with the potholes. When you walk up to your first pothole, you first mark the location using your best guess on the printed Google Earth map and write a “1” right next to it. You tuck your pen in your ear then grab your wheel and measure the length and the width. The length and the width are 10’ by 6’. You turn your map over and write “1. 10 x 6 patch.” Finally, you pull your phone out of your pocket and snap two pictures of this pothole. You repeat this process with a mix of potholes, concrete sidewalk sections, and many other repairs that need to happen until your job scope is complete. Congratulations, you finished your first scope of the day. After your third job, you check your watch and it states 1:37 PM. You now need to head back to the office to begin putting all your documents together.

                On the way back to your office, you get a call from the concrete foreman stating that the project they are working on has sprinklers that randomly turned on and they just got done pouring fresh concrete. He needs the sprinklers turned off immediately. You pull out your phone and look for your customer’s phone number by digging through your email. You find it and call the number. After getting ahold of your customer, they contact their maintenance guy who is able to shut off the sprinklers. Whew, you just put out another fire. 

                You finally arrive back to your office at 2:07 and pull out your laptop, your phone, and the maps. You first need to transfer all of your photos from your phone to your computer, so you create three separate Google Drive folders and label them by their job name. In each folder, you upload your photos. This takes about an hour. Once completed you flip your map page over calculate the square footage and linear footage totals of each scope and categorize them by repair type. You are now ready to start your estimate.

                You open up your estimating program, take the measurements and the repair types, and create an estimate based on time, labor, production & material. The estimate is complete, time to turn this into a professional-looking proposal. You fire up a Word document and create a table so you can enter your proposal line items, their unit costs, and their total costs. Once that is completed, you copy your standard terms and conditions below the table. You are an estimator who wants to provide your customer with a next-level presentation so you want to build a professional-looking map now on Google Earth. So you grab your marked-up map fire up Google Earth and try to replicate this in a much fancier way. Once your map is complete you take a screenshot of the map and copy and paste it into your proposal. Finally, you want to upload some photos. One by one, you add all 27 photos into your Word document displaying two per page. Once you’re done sizing all of them, your proposal is complete! Now time to turn this into a simple PDF and wah-lah you can send your proposal via email to your customer. Your first proposal is done and it is 3:43. Two more to go…

That story was my life two years ago. Just to complete one, professional-looking proposal took an unbelievable amount of time, steps, and programs just to accomplish what I was after. The great news was that my clients LOVED IT. The not-so-great news is that my sales production was held back SIGNIFICANTLY due to all of these steps. I didn’t even divulge into the other 50 things that were diverting my attention and focus like other jobsite fires, customer calls asking to adjust proposals, gathering documents for awarded projects, etc. As an estimator, “busy season” is more than just busy.

                This is EXACTLY why we developed SpotOnSite. To give maintenance estimators TIME back in their day without having to sacrifice presentation, accuracy, and communication. That simple hour of putting together the Word document adds up over the course of a season. Here was the math I calculated. 

During my estimating, I would send out an average of 3 proposals per day. Let’s say the estimate itself took between 10 – 30 minutes to complete depending on the scope. There is at least an hour there. But putting together the proposals took an additional hour each. Let’s do the math:

3 hours x 250 bidding days = 750 hours / 10 working hours per day = 75 Days were spent making our proposals nicer. HOW NUTS IS THAT!

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