Dollars and Cents Are What Make a Construction Project Profitable…or NOT

Having a System for Proposals, Is Better Than Just Guessing

It’s week six of learning the Blueprint for Building a Better Proposal system. As time consuming as learning new things is…John is beginning to see the benefits this proposal system will provide.

Just like building a house using a system that repeats routine actions prevents time being spent rethinking and guessing at how to do things. This system will do the same thing when preparing proposals.

As they settle in and begin the meeting, Gene tells John, “Let’s take a quick look back at what we’ve covered so far. We started by asking ourselves some foundational questions. Next, we discussed the common mistakes contractors make when bidding. Then we went over the system and it’s parts. The last couple of weeks we’ve worked on gathering information and turning that info into a Scope of Work. Today we’re going to start working on…

Pricing the Project

In this step we will determine the price for the project. Communicating a clear description of the project took place in the Scope of Work which is important in avoiding misunderstandings. Accurate pricing is equally as important.

Poor communication will cause heartache, poor pricing will cost you money.

Open the Worksheet template. This blank Worksheet is where you will paste the information from the Data Base as it relates to each of the specific tasks of the project.

The Worksheet template has six different options for overhead and profit ranging from 20% overhead and 10% profit to 40% overhead and 20% profit. You can use whichever of the six options works best for you on the specific project you’re working on.

Typically, larger projects, i.e. new construction, large renovations, remodels or large additions will use smaller percentages, while small projects will use bigger ones. You can use whichever works best for you. These percentages can be adjusted after you have finished the pricing if you want them to be increased or decreased. These documents can be modified with custom percentages as well.

Open the Data Base and prepare to copy the appropriate content into the correlating cells of the Worksheet of the project you are working on. Use the previously written Scope of Work, to determine which of the categories, specific to the project need to be used from the Data Base and copied to the Worksheet.

If more than one item for a specific task is needed, for example shingles, synthetic underlayment and metal edging, flashings. These individual items will be entered separately then added together to create one price for roofing.

You can add as many additional rows as you need, just be careful to keep the formulas intact by filling the content of the existing row to the new ones.

How to determine which tasks should be inserted into the Worksheet

Most of the tasks on the Data Base have options; determining which to use, will depend on the specifics of the project. For example, how is the excavation, trenching and landscaping going to be done…with a skid loader, mini excavator or by hand?

Once it’s determined which methods, actions or materials are to be used for a specific project, copy the pertinent cells from the Data Base and paste them to the Worksheet.

After the pertinent information from the Data Base has been placed on the Worksheet it’s time to…

Enter the quantities of the work to be done.

Fill in the quantity needed to do the work for each item on the Worksheet. This may be lineal feet, square feet, square yards, cubic feet, cubic yards or numbers of pieces. Once this is completed for all the categories, you’ll have prices for each task of the Proposal.

This system offers a constant repeatable process for preparing accurate proposals and is the difference between making money or losing money on construction projects.”

Gene looks at John and asks, “Well, what do you think?”

“Well, I thought my head was spinning before today. Now I’m getting dizzy.”, replied John with a grin.

“I know it seems like a lot, but it really isn’t, once you get started using it.” Says Gene reassuringly. “Experiment with it this week. Call if you have any questions. Next week we’ll bring everything you’ve learned together into a proposal ready to be presented to the customer.”

Guessing is not a good way to build a profitable business.

Previous posts in this series –

What is “business clarity” and how do you find it?

Learning How to Get a Construction Project Started Out Right

It’s Time for the First Meeting

Being Aware of the Common Bid Mistakes is the Best Way to Avoid Them

Constructing a Building is Better with a Plan, a Proposal is No Different

A Good Construction Proposal Starts by Asking the Right Questions

What is a Construction Scope of Work and Why Do You Need One?

It’s Friday, but Sunday’s Coming

Jesus has Risen, He has Risen Indeed

This past Sunday was a celebration.

It was a celebration because more people are continuing to gather together. We had a large turn out for the Sunrise Service and the largest group at the regular morning service in a while.

It was celebrating Christ’s resurrection from death.

That first Easter started with a lot of sadness. Jesus’s followers had had a rough few days with all that they had gone through. They were feeling lost and alone with no hope…BUT SUNDAY’S COMING.

When in a meeting last Friday, a friend said something that I hadn’t heard for a while, “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming.” It reminded me of a message I had heard from Tony Compolo in which he referred to a sermon by Baptist pastor S. M. Lockridge.

This message reminds us of the crying at the tomb, the giving up of Jesus’ followers. We can’t appreciate the Easter message if we can’t see the risen Jesus.

Easter was not born in the light of the day, it was born in the darkness of the night, we all have periods of darkness, the light comes again in the rising of the Son, our greatest strength is in hope

It’s Friday but Sunday’s coming!

It’s Friday. Jesus is arrested in the garden where He was praying. But Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. The disciples are hiding and Peter’s denying that he knows the Lord. But Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. Jesus is standing before the high priest of Israel, silent as a lamb before the slaughter. But Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. Jesus is beaten, mocked, and spit upon. But Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. Those Roman soldiers are flogging our Lord with a leather scourge that has bits of bones and glass and metal, tearing at his flesh. But Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. The Son of man stands firm as they press the crown of thorns down into his brow. But Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. See Him walking to Calvary, the blood dripping from His body. See the cross crashing down on His back as He stumbles beneath the load. It’s Friday; but Sunday’s a coming.

It’s Friday. See those Roman soldiers driving the nails into the feet and hands of my Lord. Hear my Jesus cry, “Father, forgive them.”

It’s Friday; but Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. Jesus is hanging on the cross, bloody and dying. But Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. The sky grows dark, the earth begins to tremble, and He who knew no sin became sin for us. Holy God who will not abide with sin pours out His wrath on that perfect sacrificial lamb who cries out, “My God, My God. Why hast thou forsaken me?” What a horrible cry. But Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. And at the moment of Jesus’ death, the veil of the Temple that separates sinful man from Holy God was torn from the top to the bottom because Sunday’s coming.

It’s Friday. Jesus is hanging on the cross, heaven is weeping and hell is partying. But that’s because it’s Friday, and they don’t know it, but Sunday’s a coming.

And on that horrible day 2000 years ago, Jesus the Christ, the Lord of glory, the only begotten Son of God, the only perfect man died on the cross of Calvary. Satan thought that he had won the victory. Surely he had destroyed the Son of God. Finally he had disproved the prophecy God had uttered in the Garden and the one who was to crush his head had been destroyed. But that was Friday.

Now it’s Sunday. And just about dawn on that first day of the week, there was a great earthquake. But that wasn’t the only thing that was shaking because now it’s Sunday.

And the angel of the Lord is coming down out of heaven and rolling the stone away from the door of the tomb.

Yes, it’s Sunday, and the angel of the Lord is sitting on that stone and the guards posted at the tomb to keep the body from disappearing were shaking in their boots because it’s Sunday, and the lamb that was silent before the slaughter is now the resurrected lion from the tribe of Judah, for He is not here, the angel says. He is risen indeed.

It’s Sunday, and the crucified and resurrected Christ has defeated death, hell, sin and the grave. It’s Sunday. And now everything has changed. It’s the age of grace, God’s grace poured out on all who would look to that crucified lamb of Calvary. Grace freely given to all who would believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross of Calvary was buried and rose again. All because it’s Sunday.

It’s Friiidaaaay! But Sunday’s coming!

What is a Construction Scope of Work and Why Do You Need One?

Because It’s Critical to Clear Communication, Whether You’re the Contractor or the Customer.

Last week Gene explained to John what project information needed to be gathered…

  • Project info (customer name, mailing address, project address if different than mailing, phone number, email address, project overview, budget, project deadline, any other relevant information that you need)
  • Measurements and dimensions, existing and new
  • Building materials, existing and new
  • Pictures of pertinent areas and existing construction
  • Customer’s design ideas and finishes

Overlooking or forgetting something is a sure way to lose money when doing a construction project.

This week they’re going to take the information gathered and turn it in to a scope of work. This will be the foundational form of communication between everyone involved in the process, i.e., customer, contractor, sub-contractors, employees, etc.

As they get started this week’s meeting Gene asks John if he had an opportunity to use the Bid Sheet this past week and if so, how it worked.

“Yes.” said John. “It was a little awkward in the beginning. By the time I was finished gathering the project information I was glad I had it, because there were a couple of things that it reminded me to do.”

Gene replied, “That’s great. Do you have any questions?” Not yet.” said John. Gene smiled, “You will before we’re done.”

Okay. Did you bring it with you? Asked Gene. “I did.” said John, “I’ve got it on my laptop.” Gene told him to open it up and follow along. “Today we’re going to work on the most important part of communication between contractor and customer.

The Scope of Work

What is a Scope of Work?

A Scope of Work clearly defines and explains the work to be done. It should describe what is included in each specific task in terminology that both the customer and the contractor understand. A scope of work describes the work to be done on a project, who is responsible for completing the work, how the work must be performed (techniques used), and what materials will be used. It helps in the smooth operation of a project, minimizing situations leading to disputes. It is the first step to building a mutually beneficial relationship between a contractor and customer.

Communication with the customer needs be simple and direct while explaining clearly and thoroughly.

After having gathered the information needed for the project using the Bid Sheet, write out in a few sentences, or less, of what each specific task is going to consist of. Explaining what you’re going to do in a way that a person with little or no construction knowledge can understand. Include as much detail and specifics as is needed to be clear on what is or is not included as a part of the project.

Once this process has been finished for each task included in the project, you have a Scope of Work ready to be transferred to a blank Proposal template.

Here’s an example of a Scope of Work using the information from the Bid Sheet we worked on last week.”

As they’re wrapping up this week’s training Gene tells John. “Next week we’ll get into the pricing of a project.”

The real value of this Proposal System is in the pricing.

Previous posts in this series –

What is “business clarity” and how do you find it?

Learning How to Get a Construction Project Started Out Right

It’s Time for the First Meeting

Being Aware of the Common Bid Mistakes is the Best Way to Avoid Them

Constructing a Building is Better with a Plan, a Proposal is No Different

A Good Construction Proposal Starts by Asking the Right Questions

As Long as We’re Alive Our Picture is Still Being Painted

And It Will Be a Beautiful Picture When It’s Finished

This past Sunday was Palm Sunday. This is the Sunday before Easter and commemorates Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Mark 11:1-11

As Jesus rode into town people spread coats and palm branches on the road in front of Him. This is the way the people would celebrate the arrival of kings and victorious leaders. His followers expected Him to take over the Roman government and begin ruling like David.

Looking back, we know this did not turn out as Jesus’ followers expected.

They had a picture in their minds of how they thought things would go and couldn’t see past that.

We do the same thing. We get a picture of what we think our lives are going to be…and we know how that turns out.

A man was scrolling through programs on TV when he stopped to watch a man doing a painting. He thought the painting has finished. It looked amazing and he didn’t think it could look any better. As he watched, the artist took a brush with black paint and smeared it right through the middle. It looked like it was ruined. As he continued watching, the artist used the black paint to make the painting better than it had been.

Leave the painting of your life to the Master Craftsman and it will turn out beautiful.

This is similar to our lives. Sometimes there is black paint smeared through the middle. If we will just leave the painting to the Master Artist, our lives will be better than we thought they ever could be.

This doesn’t mean that we don’t have a part to play in the painting of our life picture…it just means that we need to know who the Master Craftsman is. Keep painting as long as you live.

A Good Construction Proposal Starts by Asking the Right Questions

This Proposal System Helps You to Not Overlook Things You Need to Know

Another week has gone by and John’s looking forward to today’s meeting. As they wrapped up last week’s meeting, Gene indicated that they will “actually” learn the first step in the proposal system today.

As John goes into XYZ Construction Company’s conference room Gene is sitting at his computer with a Power Point on the big TV ready to go. “Good afternoon Gene, are you ready to get started learning the first step for doing better proposals?”

“I’ve been looking forward to it all week long.” says John.

“Okay. There’s oriental takeout there on the counter. Fill a plate and let’s get started.”

As they fill their plates, Gene asks John,

“When you begin talking with a new customer, what’s the first thing you ask?”

John ponders the question as he sets down. “I ask them about their construction project. What is the work they want done? For example, are they wanting to add on a room addition or remodel the kitchen or do they want to replace the windows? You know…

“WHAT is it they want done.”

“This is the typical question asked by most contractors. Without a doubt it’s a question that has to be asked. But, there’s another question that helps you serve your customer better and achieve their construction dream.

The most important question is WHY.

Why does the customer want to do this project? Do they need more space, does something need repaired or replaced, are they looking to make an area more usable, or is it just because they want to? Learning their why early helps determine a clear direction of ’the what’.

As the construction professional, it’s your job to guide the customer through this process. Most customers have very little if any experience doing construction projects. Often, they get ideas from DIY programs on TV or the internet, other people’s projects, etc. and they just want one of “those”, whatever that is.

Every project is as different as the customer. Without blueprints, specs or seeing the existing location the chances of giving the customer the project they want, is almost impossible. Unless they have a full set of blueprints and specifications to bid from, you need to gather the information for the specific project.”

The customer will have a vague image in their mind of what they want. It’s the contractor’s responsibility to guide them to the realization of that dream.

Information that needs to be gathered:

  • Project info (customer name, mailing address, project address if different than mailing, phone number, email address, project overview, budget, project deadline, any other relevant information that you need)
  • Measurements and dimensions, existing and new
  • Building materials, existing and new
  • Pictures of pertinent areas and existing construction
  • Customer’s design ideas and finishes

The important thing is to not overlook something.

“Use whatever way works best for you to gather the information. If you prefer to write on paper, print out a copy of the Bid Sheet template, it has a list of the different construction tasks that might be needed. Use the space next to each task for writing down a brief description, dimensions, specific notes, drawings, etc.

A pre-determined list minimizes the possibility of forgetting something.

If you prefer using an electronic device (tablet, smart phone or laptop) enter the information in the appropriate space on the Bid Sheet template.With most of the electronic devices now, you can either type, write or draw right on the device. Using the electronic form streamlines the process and reduces the chance of something getting overlooked. Be sure to keep a copy of the template for the project you are working on; this will leave a blank template for the next time.

Forgetting to include something in the proposal is a sure way to lose money.

There are over one hundred items listed on the Bid Sheet and it still doesn’t cover every possibility. Construction projects vary a lot. Even small projects can include a lot of different pieces. If you leave one of the pieces out, someone’s going to be disappointed.

If you start with a list, you’re less likely to overlook things.

Here’s an example of finding out the WHY:

When meeting with customer Jane Smith she explained that she wanted to add a laundry/sewing room to her house but didn’t know where to start or what it should include. We asked her WHY. We found that she loved to sew and did a lot of it. Currently she used the table in the main floor dining room for measuring and cutting and did the sewing on a machine in the basement. In addition to this her washer and dryer were in two separate closets in the master bathroom. Both situations were inconvenient for her.

Finding out her why helped us to present solutions for building her dream.

Here’s an example of the information gathered on the Bid Sheet:”

“If you’re serious about doing better proposals and haven’t bought your Blueprint for Building a Better Proposal system yet, I would suggest that you get that done. Then you could use the Bid Sheet this week when you meet with someone wanting a proposal. Bring it with you and we’ll go through it and answer your questions.

Next week we’ll take the information from the Bid Sheet and prepare a Scope of Work for Jane Smith’s project.”

Previous posts in this series –

What is “business clarity” and how do you find it?

Learning How to Get a Construction Project Started Out Right

It’s Time for the First Meeting

Being Aware of the Common Bid Mistakes is the Best Way to Avoid Them

Constructing a Building is Better with a Plan, a Proposal is No Different

How Will You Ever Get Where You Want by Walking in One Spot?

The Only Way to Get There is to Step Off the Treadmill

Did you know that treadmills were designed for punishment? This explains a lot.

In 1818 an English engineer named Sir William Cubitt, who was the son of a miller. Noting idle prisoners at Bury St Edmunds, he proposed using their muscle power to both cure their idleness and produce useful work.

Cubitt’s treadmills for punishment usually rotated around a horizontal axis, requiring the user to step upwards, like walking up an endless staircase. Those punished walked around the outside of the wheel holding a horizontal handrail for stability.

Punishment treadmills remained in use until the second half of the 19th century; they were typically paddle wheels with twenty-four steps around a six-foot cylinder. Several prisoners stood side-by-side on a wheel, and had to work six or more hours a day, effectively climbing 5,000 to 14,000 vertical feet. While the purpose was mainly punitive, the most infamous mill at Brixton Prison was installed in 1821 and used to grind grain to supplement an existing windmill which Cubitt had previously installed nearby.

This continuous repetitive act of walking and walking and never getting anywhere does sound like a little torturous.

Many people feel like their lives are a treadmill.

We’ve all felt this feeling of being tired of the routine of life. There is a German word for this. Lebensmüde is a compound noun made up of the words Leben (life) and müde (tired). It therefore translates to ‘life tired’. This is not how we are to be living our lives.

We all have a purpose and when we live life ignoring it we find ourselves slugging along unaware or ignoring our surroundings. The longer we walk back and forth without a destination the deeper the rut gets. When it gets deep enough, we can’t see out. It’s been said that “A rut is a grave with both ends kicked out.” It’s up to us to not get stuck in a rut.

Something is wrong when ‘life-tired’ becomes the norm.

We all have a purpose. Something that we were meant to do. If you don’t know what it is, you need to check with God. Find out what He wants you to do and then stop walking around in circles and move toward it.

Knowing our purpose is not some form of magic. It’s a direction to a destination. It’s up to us to find it and start walking.

Constructing a Building is Better with a Plan, a Proposal is No Different

We’ve Discussed the Why, Now Let’s Work on the How

It’s Saturday and today will be John’s third meeting with Gene. Even though there’s been no change in John’s overwhelming workload, today is the first time he’s not considered canceling. He knows the value of this information and is looking forward to opportunity to learn more.

It’s John’s turn to provide lunch and Gene’s in for a treat…John’s bringing chili-cheeseburgers and fries from the Burger Station. On the way to Gene’s office, the smell of those burgers is more than John can bear and he has a few fries on the drive.

As soon as John steps in the office door, Gene yells out from the conference room, “You brought Burger Station”. Over the years when John was working for Gene, the two of them frequented this fine establishment often.

As John gets lunch out, Gene says, “We have a lot to cover today, so we better get started. As we go through this today, consider the similarities of building a proposal with building a construction project. Now let’s review…

First, we started with WHY.

Why do you do what you do? Why do should you do proposals? Both of the questions are similar to the question that should be asked of a customer when they’re considering a construction project. Why do you want to do this project?

Second, we discussed that communication is the contractor’s responsibility.

We are the professionals in the arrangement. We shouldn’t expect the customer to know everything about construction. This is why they are looking to hire someone to do their project. It’s up to us as contractors to communicate clearly.

Third, we discussed bid mistakes.  

The ones that are commonly made and are costly. Being aware of these mistakes helps you know what to avoid and increases the opportunity for happy customers. Not to mention it gives you a big advantage over your competition.  

In our meeting two weeks ago (link to 1st meeting post) I gave you the bid proposal overview to take and review. Today we’re going to go through it. I know it seems like were still not doing proposals. Think about it like a construction project…

The designing and planning take as long as the construction.

Let’s start by looking at the documents included in the system and a brief definition of each.”

Bid sheet – A Word document with the various construction categories and individual tasks listed with space for filling in the scope of the work to be done, dimensions, materials, locations, etc., for each category as needed for clear communication.

Worksheet – An Excel spreadsheet with all the construction categories and individual tasks listed with overhead and profit markup formulas.

Proposal – A word document with space to fill in pertinent information, i.e. customer’s information, what will or will not be supplied by the contractor, the scope of work, the proposed price for each specific element, a total project price, payment arrangements and project duration.

Data Base – An Excel spreadsheet with prices for material and labor for a wide variety of specific construction tasks. This information will be used to fill out a blank worksheet template by copying and pasting.

After reviewing and discussing these documents and definitions they looked at the the process of doing a proposal.

STEP 1 – Gathering Information

Gathering the right information correctly and effectively is critical to preparing an accurate and thorough proposal. Once you’ve been contacted by a potential customer start by scheduling a meeting to discuss their project and find out what they hope to accomplish. At this initial meeting gather –

            Measurements and dimensions, existing and new

            Building materials, existing and new

            Pictures of pertinent areas and existing construction

            Customer’s design ideas and finishes

The information gathered at this meeting can be recorded in whatever way works best for you. The important thing in this step is to gather any and all information needed to prepare an accurate proposal. It can be handwritten on a printed out Bid Sheet template, or it can be entered directly to a Bid Sheet using a tablet, smart phone or laptop. Using the Bid Sheet minimizes overlooking things because the different areas of a construction project are already listed.

STEP 2 – Preparing the Scope of Work

After the preliminary information has been gathered it’s time to clarify the scope of the project by writing out the description of each specific task in terminology that both the customer and the contractor understand. It needs to include enough specifics to be thorough without being too technical. It doesn’t help communication if the terminology is confusing to the customer. This written description on the Bid Sheet will be transferred to the Proposal and serve as a written scope of work to be performed and materials to be provided.

STEP 3 – Pricing the Project

Next is putting prices to the project. This process involves two different Excel spreadsheets, the Worksheet and Data Base. Based on the descriptions written on the Bid Sheet, content from the Data Base will be copied and pasted into the correlating cells on the Worksheet. After the pertinent information from the Data Base has been placed on the Worksheet it’s time to fill in the quantities.

STEP 4 – Quantities

On the Worksheet you will fill in the quantity needed to do the work on that line item. This may be lineal feet, square feet, square yards, cubic feet, cubic yards, numbers of pieces, etc. Once this is completed you will now have prices for each of the different tasks listed on the Proposal.

STEP 5 – Preparing the Proposal

Now you have everything you need to complete the Proposal. You will take the descriptions from the Bid Sheet and the prices from the Worksheet and put them both on the Proposal. After filling out the customer’s information at the top of the page, the scope of work, the price for each task, the total project price, how payments are to be made and the duration of time to do the project, the Proposal is ready to present to the customer.

As they wrapped up the meeting, Gene looked at John and asked him what he thought so far. John said, “I had no idea there was this much to doing proposals.

Gene said, “I know. That’s why most contractors either guess at their bids or just give estimates…and we’ve all seen how that well that works out.

Next week we’ll dig deeper into GATHERING INFORMATION.

Previous posts in this series –

What is “business clarity” and how do you find it?

Learning How to Get a Construction Project Started Out Right

It’s Time for the First Meeting

Being Aware of the Common Bid Mistakes is the Best Way to Avoid Them

A Journey of Faith Takes Time and is Scary

It’s Much Better When We Have the Support of Others

We had another faith Sunday at church the past week. It is amazing and wonderful to hear about people’s faith journeys. Each one of us in our own unique place in our journey through life.

It’s easy to be consumed by all the things going on in our own busy lives and forget those around us. We often feel that we are going on this journey alone. We forget that there is help when we need it.

Isolation is one of the most difficult things we will ever experience.

We need to remember that everyone deals with the same struggles we do. Being willing to support those around us, even in small seemingly insignificant ways, can be live changing. The simple act of noticing people can be one of the biggest.

Being noticed validates our worth.

Both the needing and helping sides of the journey were evident in the stories shared. There were stories of the church as a whole or individuals giving support in difficult times when there was struggling. We’ve all needed this type of support in our own lives.

As I was reading The Traveler’s Gift there was an example of what a faith journey is like. In this book David Ponders traveling through time meeting with various people who give him wisdom and insight into the seven decisions for determining personal success.

David meets Christopher Columbus on the Santa Marie as he’s crossing the ocean. As the two men are talking, Columbus’s First Officer confronts the Captain, explaining that the men have had enough, and they are going to turn around and go back.

Columbus explains that they have been at sea for 64 days and only have 10 days of food and water left. Turning back would be futile. These men did not have the vision or faith that Columbus did.

It would take a lot of faith to get on a boat and set sail for an unknown destination at an unknown distance…but Columbus had a vision and faith. He believed and trusted God.

We need to believe and trust in God as we go on our journey.

It took years for Columbus to get the expedition organized. It took support from other people. It wasn’t instantaneous and he didn’t do it by himself. And neither will we.

Get support when you need it. Give support when you can. Believe in God and yourself and continue your journey.

Being Aware of the Common Bid Mistakes is the Best Way to Avoid Them

This is the First Step in Building a Better Proposal

Even though John was still overwhelmed and his schedule was packed, he knew the only way to ever get control was to keep his upcoming appointment with Gene.

John had spent a lot of time this past week considering the questions Gene had asked at the first meeting.

Why do you do what you do?

Do you love what you do?

Why do we need to do proposals?

As John was driving to the office of XYZ Construction these questions were still banging around in his head with a wide variety of answers and no real clarity.

Going in John smelled something amazing. He hadn’t realized how hungry he was. Gene was providing lunch this week and the smell made his hunger apparent.

In the conference room Gene was stirring some chili. “Lunch is ready. Grab a bowl and let’s get started.”

As they sat down Gene asked, “Did you come up with answers to the questions?”

John sat there for a minute and said, “I’ve come up with way too many answers. About the time I think I have it figured out; another answer shows up.”

Gene grinned, “That sounds about right.

The important thing is not having every answer to every question, but rather to continually be asking the questions and actively looking for the answers.

I still ask and answer questions every day.”

“A good way to find WHY answers is to figure out things that work and things that don’t. Let’s start with a WHAT question. Gene handed John some papers and said,

“What are the common bid mistakes made by contractors and how can you avoid them?”

#1 Your customers lack clarity – You remember the story I told you last week about that misunderstanding I had with a customer? This is a perfect example of how the lack of customer clarity is a problem. You need to provide a clear detailed description of the work and the materials that you are going to provide. A clear scope of work helps avoid customer confusion. The Blueprint for Building a Better Proposal will provide you a system for giving clarity to your customer.

#2 Production crews lack clarity – The scope of work not only provides customers with clarity, but it also gives the production crews a clear understanding the work to be done. This prevents subcontractors/employees from doing more or less than the project includes. Too much work done means cost overruns. Too little and the customer is unhappy. The Blueprint for Building a Better Proposal will give the production crews a clear description of the work to be done.

#3 No production budget – When the production crews don’t know what dollar amounts have been figured to do the project, they often spend more than expected. These cost overruns mean less profit.

If you take care of the pennies, the dollars will take care of themselves.

Let your production crews know how many pennies they have to spend. This will lead to more dollars of profit. The Blueprint for Building a Better Proposal will provide you with budget numbers automatically.

#4 Unsatisfied customers – Discontented customers are the worst. Not only can they be a drain on company morale, they can become serious problems that can cost you money and hurt your reputation. They’re paying you to have their dream turned into reality. When they don’t have an accurate dollar amount before the work is done, they will not be happy when it’s finished and costs more than they expected. The Blueprint for Building a Better Proposal gives the customer a clear expectation of cost before the work starts so that when it’s done for that price, they will be happy.

#5 Unprofitable projects – One of the biggest problems in construction is Guesstimates. Guessing at the amount of time and material it’s going to take to do a project is a big risk. Different size projects require different overhead and profit margins. The Blueprint for Building a Better Proposal provides predetermined options of overhead and profit when preparing a proposal. Proposals done this way can increase the profitability of your projects.

#6 Trying to do everything yourself – Most small construction companies only have a few people working. The focus is on the physical construction and doesn’t leave time for doing accurate detailed proposals. Most contractors don’t like paperwork. This leads to hasty, inadequate and oversimplified proposals. The Blueprint for Building a Better Proposal is a system that allows you to focus on doing construction while office staff does paperwork.

#7 Your bidding system isn’t customizable – Most construction projects consist of a variety of different areas of construction. You need a system that can include all or one. Because markets and geographic locations are so different, you need a system that you can adjust to your specific requirements and rates wherever you are. The Blueprint for Building a Better Proposal allows you to be able to customize proposals in these ways and more.

Gene could see that John’s eyes were glazing over. “I know this was a lot to take in and doesn’t feel like we’re getting any closer to actually doing proposals, but I assure you…

Getting clear on these mistakes will give you a head start to providing better proposals.

And next week we’ll start working on the first step to Building a Better Proposal.

Previous post in this series:

What is Construction Clarity and How Do You Find It?

Learning How to Get a Construction Project Started Out Right

It’s Time for the First Meeting

Be Careful About Giving Over Control of Your Actions to Your Emotions

Think Before You Act

We’ve all been angry at someone and done things in the heat of the moment that we regretted later.

You’ve probably heard the hunting story told by Mickey Mantle. There are several different versions, here’s one.

Mickey Mantle and Billy Martin decided to go hunting on a farm owned by a doctor friend of Mantle’s. It was a long four-hour drive and when they got there, Mantle went to the door to get permission. When the friend came to the door Mantle asked if they could go hunting. The doctor said sure, anytime Mick!

As Mickey turned to walk away, the doctor asked, could you do a me a favor? Mickey said, what’s that? The doctor said he had this old horse that needed to be put down and he just hadn’t been able to bring himself to do it. Could you do it for me? Mickey said, I don’t want to shoot your horse. The farmer said, Please Mick. It would really help me. Mickey agreed, then thought of a joke to play on Billy.

He went back to the car and said, we just drove four hours and he said we couldn’t hunt. Mickey’s voice grew angry and loud. I’ll show him, I’m going to shoot his horse. Billy said, No Mickey. Don’t do that, we’ll get in trouble…maybe end up in jail. Mickey said, NO I’ll show him he can’t do this to us. Mickey took his rifle and headed to the barn and shot the horse. Just then Mickey heard three more shots and turned around to see Billy standing there with his gun. What are you doing asked Mikey? I shot three of his cows, said Billy.

Even though Mickey’s actions weren’t out of anger, they lead his friend to act. The friend’s anger at MIckey being mistreated lead to actions that weren’t productive or helpful.

We have to be careful. Our actions might lead others to do bad things.

Another example of letting our emotions have control of our actions is the farmer who found a mouse eating an ear of his corn. When he saw this, he began chasing the mouse. He found a stick and began swinging. The mouse jumped and ran from stalk to stalk. The farmer swung and stomped and chased. When it was all over the farmer looked up and there was a half-acre of broken and flatten corn stalks.

The mouse eating the corn was not a good thing for the farmer but…

Letting his emotions control his actions did not turn out so well either!

As are all emotions, anger is from God. We are after all made in His image. The Bible is full of examples of God being angry with people that were doing things that they weren’t supposed to. One such example is in John 2:13-21, when Jesus ran the moneychangers from the Temple.

Anger can be a driving force for good, if the way we handle it aligns with God’s plans. It’s good when we get angry about someone doing something wrong. We need to have the courage to stand up against evil.

Pastor Lee told a story about a man who saw a report on the news about a plane crash caused by ice on the wings. This man was angry and being an engineer, invented a system for deicing planes.

This is the kind of angry we should be. The kind that pushes us to do something beneficial and purposeful.

Anger is a gift from God…use it wisely!