Flooring Takeoffs

Mistakes Were Made – Now What?

Tips for success with remote estimating

Remote estimating can be a great way to grow your business – if you do it right. More and more people are coming around to this idea, but there are still plenty of companies that have reservations. Maybe they’ve tried it before and been burned, or maybe they’ve never tried it all. Either way, there are some valid concerns about the process and those deserve to be addressed.

As the owner of a business that does outsourced takeoffs, I’d love nothing more than to tell you that we’re 100% accurate and that we’ll get every job exactly how you want it the first time. Anyone who has worked in construction, though, knows this isn’t realistic.

So let’s just start here: mistakes will be made.

If we can all agree on that, then we can get to work on the next question that usually pops up: “How can we avoid this from happening again?”

Let’s first run through two of most common objections I get to outsourcing your takeoffs:

“Nobody is held accountable if something gets missed.”

Every takeoff service you come across, including ours, is going to have language to the effect of, “the client is responsible for reviewing the takeoff before submitting a bid.” Now, having been on both sides of this setup, I can understand how this can feel like the estimating service just passing the buck. Think of it this way, though: wouldn’t it be the same way if the estimator was in the office right next to you? But I get it: the relationship is designed to be transactional, so it’s all too easy for us to just point the finger at each other.

Picture of two Spidermen pointing at each other, representing a contractor and an estimator.

In the end, your name will be on the bid proposal, but we’re also very invested in providing the most accurate takeoffs possible for you. When I worked for a flooring company, the consequence for failing to do so would be losing my job. In this situation, it would be losing your business.

“It takes me longer to review someone else’s work than to just do the job myself.”

In the short term, this is 100% true. There will be a ramp up period where both sides get familiar with each other and start to build the trust that’s necessary to cut down on your review times. Both sides should be aware that it will probably take a few projects for everyone to get comfortable with the new setup.

This can be a hard transition, too, since the whole point of outsourcing takeoffs is to save you time, right? Putting in the extra time at the beginning will pay off quicker than you think.

If you’re still unsure about using a remote estimating service, or you just want to improve your relationship with one you already use, here are a few tips to help things run more smoothly.

Schedule Job Reviews

Job reviews are important. We all know it, yet it’s one of the first things to get skipped over when the schedule gets tight. When using a new estimator, making reviews a priority, especially on those initial projects, can save you a lot of trouble down the road. Communication is always important when dealing with construction bids, but it’s even more crucial when dealing with a remote estimating company.

As an estimator, I want you to ask me questions. There are few things more discouraging than just sending estimates off into the void and never hearing anything back. That feedback is important, especially if it’s negative. I love to learn new things or better ways of estimating certain products, and that’s only possible with feedback.

Pablo Escobar sitting alone on a swing. Pretending that he is an estimator who sent off a takeoff and never heard anything back.

It also helps to have a clear understanding of the goal for each job review. All too often, project manager and estimator show up and say, “Let’s run through the job.” That can work if you’re side by side physically flipping through the plan set, but it’s not a great strategy for remote reviews. If you’re the project manager, have specific questions that you need answers to. If you’re the estimator, have documentation to back up your assumptions.

Outline Your Scope

While an estimator is getting more familiar with your company, you may have to spend a little extra time making sure they’re clear on the scope to be covered. We might only deal with commercial flooring companies, but not everyone bids the exact same materials. Maybe you don’t do hardwoods or deal with any poured surfaces. Maybe there’s a regional company listed on the Finish Schedule that self performs all their installs. These are details that you’ll have to pass along to your new estimator.

An estimator should be held to a baseline standard of knowledge and competency for doing the takeoffs, and that is fair and reasonable. Expecting the same standard from them about your company and its inner workings is not.

Agree On Procedures

I think this is the biggest source of frustration when outsourcing your takeoffs, but it’s also the most fixable. Before you ever get started on a takeoff, at a minimum, the following should be agreed upon:

  • How will we communicate?
  • How we will share plans, totals, updates, etc.?
  • How will job reviews be scheduled?
  • What is not included in the totals?
  • What are the payment terms?
  • How are revisions handled?

This could be a much longer list, but these are, in my opinion, the most important starting points to be on the same page about. Go through all of this together, put it in writing, and make the document accessible to both parties. If anyone new ever comes to the project, show this to them so that they can get up to speed quickly.

At the end of the day, misaligned expectations are responsible for much of the frustration with remote estimating. All is not lost, though: we would all do well the remember words from the wise Monster of Cookies.

Picture of Cookie Monster with the caption 'C is for communication'. Tweak on the famous 'C is for cookie' phrase.

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