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10 COMMANDMENTS FOR THE CHIEF ESTIMATOR

  1. Provide Leadership – Your success as a Chief Estimator will be proven by how well your estimating department runs in your absence.  The Chief Estimator must see himself as the leader of his company’s estimating team.  A leader is not a manager.  Proper leadership will make good estimators into great estimators.  Have you ever wondered why a team will fire the coach when the team fails to perform?  Because the coach has been unable to bring out the best talent in his players.  You must know your estimators’ abilities and use your leadership and influence to bring out the best in them.  You must lead them to become the employees that you desire.  You must become what you want them to become.  If you want organized employees, you must be organized.  If you want detailed oriented employees, you must be detailed oriented.  You must be focused, organized, and visionary.  Setting an example is one of the most powerful qualities of leadership.
  2. Provide Structure – Providing the proper structure will be one of the best things that you can do.  You must establish company non-negotiable procedures that everyone must follow.  Do not micromanage, but provide the proper structure for your estimators to perform per your standards and guidelines.  When I say structure, I mean estimating procedures you have established that will ensure that estimates are completed to your satisfaction.  This can be done while allowing estimators the freedom to use some of their own techniques.
  3. Know Your Market and Competition – As your competitors begin to create a backlog of work, you should notice a rise in the bid results.  However, when competitors need some projects, you will notice the prices become aggressive.  It is wise to keep your bid results and know how many projects your competition has been awarded.  Sometimes you will see the number of bidders decrease as contractors reach their work load limit. So, bid accordingly.  Adjust markups, etc. based on the current trend.
  4. Provide Solutions – You will never fix any problems with your team by screaming and placing blame.  The only way to fix problems is to provide solutions.  You must be the leader who provides solutions.  It will serve you well to seek solutions from those you are leading.  You will be surprised at what can be accomplished if you don’t get concerned about who receives the credit.  If someone on your team has a great idea, don’t take the credit for it.  Nothing will cause loss of respect quicker than this.
  5. Track Production – It will prove helpful to track the production of your company and each estimator.  Not all estimators are created equal.  Each will perform at different levels.  One cannot estimate ten $100,000 projects in the same time it would take to estimate one $1,000,000 project.  By tracking each estimator’s production volume, you will know where your horsepower is within your department.   Their record will provide you with the data you need to motivate, correct, and reward their efforts.  A simple spreadsheet with the project name, estimators’ names, type of project and the bid results will prove to be most useful in leading your department.
  6. Inspect – There is a basic principle of leadership and that is “you get what you inspect, not what you expect.”  Develop the skill of checking on an estimator without him thinking you do not have confidence in him.  Asking simple questions about quote requests, subcontractors contacted, and takeoff completed will help you assist him to finish the project in a timely manner.
  7. Do Not Overload – You must know how much each estimator can handle.  Giving someone more than what they can estimate within a certain period will prove to be detrimental to your success.  Estimators will begin taking shortcuts and using averages that could give you an inaccurate estimate.   When you assign a project to an estimator, you should have an idea of how many hours or days it will take to complete.
  8. Do Not Procrastinate – As soon as you have a project that you want to price, you should immediately delegate the project.  If you are missing deadlines on a regular basis, you might need to take a look at when you are assigning work.  You must assign a project to your estimator as soon as possible.  An estimator needs appropriate time to evaluate his workload when accepting a new project to estimate.  It’s unfair to assign an additional project to an employee if they do not have adequate time to do a proper estimate.
  9. Grow Your Employees– One of your best skills as a Chief Estimator is helping your staff reach their full potential.  It is easily forgotten that our employees are our greatest asset.  Look for employees that have the potential to become quality estimators.  Provide training opportunities for those who possess a desire to become a skilled estimator.  Investing in the right estimator will pay huge dividends.
  10. Reward – It is a proven fact that inadequate financial compensation is not the only reason that good employees quit.  Research has proven that employees need to feel appreciated and have their skill and abilities recognized.  When an employee goes the extra mile and gives additional attention to a project, you should let them know that you noticed, especially if you were successful on the project bid.  When you notice hard work and dedication, it will serve you well to reward your estimator.  It could be a gift certificate to a local restaurant or grocery store.  You could give them an additional personal day when the bidding schedule has lightened up.  Never forget, the greatest asset of your company is your employees.  Treat them well and they will treat you and your company well.  Most individuals do have financial goals set for college tuition, vacations, new vehicles, and retirement.  Therefore, annual bonuses based on an employee’s production and success rate is a wonderful incentive to keep a quality estimator