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penalty for not training estimators

Electrical contractors pay a huge price for estimating with employees who have not been properly trained. I fly a lot. Let’s suppose that I was boarding a plane and asked the pilot, “Where did you receive your flight training?”  And the pilot responded, “Oh, I have never had any official training, I just sat in the cockpit and observed. I learned how, when, and which levers to pull and knobs to turn.”  He continues, “I made a few mistakes here and there, surely I could never make one that would be fatal.”

I don’t know very many people that would feel comfortable with this so-called pilot at the controls. Answer this question, “Why do so many contractors allow untrained employees to try to function as an estimator without proper training?”  Hiring someone to estimate is quite different that hiring someone to manage the warehouse.

Here are some of the penalties for untrained and inexperienced estimators:

  1. Excessive amount of labor to get the estimate completed
  2. Lack of quality and accurate takeoffs
  3. Consistent low bid numbers or excessive high bid numbers
  4. Lack of a proper understanding of the potential labor risks
  5. Company reputation at risk with general contractors and customers
  6. Starting off young potential estimators on the wrong foot
  7. A bad bid day, especially if the chief estimator is lacking the necessary information from the untrained estimator to properly bid the project

In the last 16 months, I have heard more than one person say, “This is the way my boss wants it done.” Many times, the estimator is blamed when the boss should shoulder the responsibility for allowing someone without the skills to properly estimate the project.

Estimating is a responsibility that requires someone who knows how to read and digest the specification and translate it into an accurate complete takeoff according to the installation requirements of the project.

Quality estimating is probably the most important function that takes place daily in the average electrical contractor’s office.  More than one contracting firm has gone out of business due to poor estimating.

Many contractors are willing to pay headhunters large fees to find them an experienced estimator.  Sometimes the result maybe an employee who has jumped from contractor to another.  The reason is clear why some employees have longevity with the same employer, and that reason is proper training.

Consider the following when there is a need for a new estimator:

  1. Finding the right person is key. Find person who has the necessary qualities to become a quality estimator.  This person must be able to fulfill the responsibilities required.
  2. Invest in quality, intense training for the entire estimating department or any new employee hired.
  3. Provide him or her with good structure and organization.
  4. Lead the junior estimator into a seasoned experienced estimator.

Contractors should stop letting untrained employees perform one of the most important tasks in the company.

Stop looking for the “Bionic Estimator.” They are already employed.  Find the right person and invest in their career and you will reap the dividends. Train your estimators to produce a complete estimate, it will bring confidence on bid day.

Remember, estimating is expensive, poor estimating is costly, and quality estimating is profitable.