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

Learning How to Get a Construction Project Started Out Right

John Gets Excited About His First Meeting with Gene

As usual John had been on the go, nonstop, trying to keep construction projects moving forward, collecting money, paying bills, meeting with new potential customers when he realized, he had six projects that needed proposals. As he thought about this, he realized it had been more than two weeks since he had talked with Gene about how to do proposals.

He picked up the phone and dialed Gene’s number. “Hey Gene, this is John, have you got a few minutes?” “Sure,” Gene said, “What can I do for you?” “I just realized that I’ve got six projects that need priced. This reminded me of our conversation a few weeks back when you offered to go through your bidding process with me. Does that offer still stand?”

“Sure,” said Gene, “when would you like to meet?” John thought for a minute realizing he wasn’t sure when he would have time to squeeze this in. “I don’t know Gene, as usual I’m booked pretty full.” Gene waited for a minute and then said, “I understand. Think back to what you said in our previous conversation. Do you remember how frustrated you were?”

“Your situation isn’t going to change until YOU decide to make it change.”

John rubbed his forehead. He knew Gene was right. “Okay”, John said, “I can squeeze in an hour or two Saturday. Would that work for you?” Gene shook his head and smiled, remembering what it was like to be where John is.

Then he said, “John I appreciate where you are, but the process of getting from where you are, to where I am, isn’t going to happen in an hour or two. I’ve been doing it for forty years. If you can commit to four hours Saturday, I will be glad to meet with you.”

“Realize, YOU are the only one that has the power to make this change.”

John sat there with all the things that needed done, bouncing around in his head. Then he thought about how tired he was of feeling out of control. Once again, he knew his mentor was right. Gene had taught him so much about construction and how to build things.

Now it was time to learn about the business part of construction.

“Okay,” said John, “How about we meet at noon on Saturday and I’ll bring the pizza.” Gene said, “That sounds great and we can get started, but that’s all this meeting will be…getting started. Like I said before I’ve being doing this for years. It takes work, it takes commitment, but the end result is worth it.”

“It’s more than just learning. It’s a lifestyle change.”

“John, most people in construction never learned the business side of operating a business. This is where they struggle until they get to a point where they give up. Bring an open mind and an open heart and be ready to have them both filled.”

“Nothing is going to change until you take action and do something.”

Now John was getting excited and looking forward to meeting with his friend and mentor and making some changes in his life. He was beginning to realize that a getting a construction project started out right, begins long before any construction takes place.

How To Put The Pieces Of The Construction Proposal Together

The Last Piece Is Always the Most Fun

If you’ve ever done a jigsaw puzzle, you know how frustrating it is to get to the last piece…and you can’t find it anywhere. This is the same frustration a customer feels when they don’t have the full picture of what is to be included in their construction project.


Giving the customer a complete and thorough proposal gives them the full picture.


Doing puzzles growing up I remember when getting near the end of a puzzle the level of excitement would begin to amp up. In the accelerated push to get it finished more people would get involved, in the rush, often a piece would get lost. Finding the missing piece and putting it in made the picture complete.


There’s a real sense of accomplishment when the last piece of the puzzle is put in place.


It’s the same finishing a proposal…the final piece is now in place. The hard work of gathering the info, preparing the Scope of Work, and pricing are done. All that’s left is putting them together to provide a clear picture for the customer.


Jane Smith’s laundry/sewing room project.


Start with the Proposal template.

Insert the customer information in the open areas at the top of the first page as it pertains to the project.

To: This is the name of the person who requested the proposal or is responsible for the project organization.

Re: This is a name describing this specific construction project.

For: This is the party or organization for who the project is going to be done for.

At: This is the address of where the construction project is going to be performed.

Copy and paste the description of the work to be performed and material to be supplied from the Bid Sheet on to the Proposal template. (See below)

Next, take the prices from the Worksheet for each individual described action on the Proposal and place it on the right side of the page. At the end of each section put the total price for that section. (See below)

Now that the description of the work to be performed, the materials to be used, the prices for each action and the totals of each section have been placed on the Proposal template, it’s time for the project to be totaled. Complete the Proposal by defining the payment schedule, determining the date in which the Proposal will expire and the duration of time to complete the project. The only thing left is signing of the document.

Once the proposal is signed, I recommend following up with a Contract. Even though the signed Proposal serves as a legal and binding document, there is nothing in the Proposal about when the project will be started. The Contract also includes more detailed customer information, a list of any referenced documents, a place for construction funding information, property specifics and legal terms and conditions.


We’ll look at a Contract in the next post.

If you’ve found this series on the “Blueprint for Building a Better Proposal” helpful and you or someone you know would be interested in the templates for Building a Better Proposal, keep checking back. In the next few weeks we have a big announcement coming.

How to Be Sure You Don’t Overlook Something…

 

 

 

 

 

When Gathering Information for A Construction Proposal

 

You or someone you know has experienced a construction project horror story. A dream project that somewhere along the way turned into a nightmare. A communication disconnect that caused the customer and the contractor to be at odds.

 


Why is miscommunication in construction so common?


In the first post of this Blueprint for Building A Better Proposal series, I wrote about this communication problem and that a better proposal is the contractor’s responsibility. Contractors don’t start a construction project with the intention of a misunderstanding…so why is it too often the result?


Most people in the construction trades, learned their specific trade, but were never taught how to do a proposal.


In the second post of the series I explained the parts of the proposal system. In the third, I went through the different steps of the process

 


In this post we’ll break down STEP 1 – Gathering Information:


The first information you should gather 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 it more usable, or is it just because they want to? Knowing the why early helps determine a clear direction going forward.


Unless the customer has a full set of blueprints and specifications, a site visit should be one of the very first parts of this step. Every individual project is as different as the customer is. Without blueprints, specs or seeing the existing location the chances of giving the customer the project they want, is almost impossible.


Information that needs to be gathered:

  • Project info (customer name, mailing address, project address if different than mailing, phone number, email address, project overview, 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 part is to not overlook something.


 

Use whatever way works best for you to gather the info. Early on I used graph paper and a clip board. I continued to go through different processes before getting where I currently am.


After the graph paper I developed a printed Bid Sheet that had a pre-determined list of the different construction tasks that might be needed. Next to each task there was space for writing down a brief description, dimensions, specific notes, drawings, etc. Having a pre-determined list is a great way to minimize the possibility of forgetting something.


Now I use the same basic Bid Sheet on a Microsoft Surface tablet and can either type, write or draw right on the document. This streamlines the process and reduces the chance of something getting overlooked.


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 end up unhappy.

 


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


Next week we’ll take the information gathered on the Bid Sheet and turn it into a Scope of Work.

 

 

How to Be Sure You Don’t Overlook Something…

 

 

 

 

 

When Gathering Information for A Construction Proposal

 

You or someone you know has experienced a construction project horror story. A dream project that somewhere along the way turned into a nightmare. A communication disconnect that caused the customer and the contractor to be at odds.

 


Why is miscommunication in construction so common?


In the first post of this Blueprint for Building A Better Proposal series, I wrote about this communication problem and that a better proposal is the contractor’s responsibility. Contractors don’t start a construction project with the intention of a misunderstanding…so why is it too often the result?


Most people in the construction trades, learned their specific trade, but were never taught how to do a proposal.


In the second post of the series I explained the parts of the proposal system. In the third, I went through the different steps of the process

 


In this post we’ll break down STEP 1 – Gathering Information:


The first information you should gather 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 it more usable, or is it just because they want to? Knowing the why early helps determine a clear direction going forward.


Unless the customer has a full set of blueprints and specifications, a site visit should be one of the very first parts of this step. Every individual project is as different as the customer is. Without blueprints, specs or seeing the existing location the chances of giving the customer the project they want, is almost impossible.


Information that needs to be gathered:

  • Project info (customer name, mailing address, project address if different than mailing, phone number, email address, project overview, 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 part is to not overlook something.


 

Use whatever way works best for you to gather the info. Early on I used graph paper and a clip board. I continued to go through different processes before getting where I currently am.


After the graph paper I developed a printed Bid Sheet that had a pre-determined list of the different construction tasks that might be needed. Next to each task there was space for writing down a brief description, dimensions, specific notes, drawings, etc. Having a pre-determined list is a great way to minimize the possibility of forgetting something.


Now I use the same basic Bid Sheet on a Microsoft Surface tablet and can either type, write or draw right on the document. This streamlines the process and reduces the chance of something getting overlooked.


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 end up unhappy.

 


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


Next week we’ll take the information gathered on the Bid Sheet and turn it into a Scope of Work.

 

 

How To Build A Better Proposal

 

 

 

 

One of The Foundational Building Blocks of a Successful Company

 

Small and medium size construction companies struggle with preparing detailed and accurate proposals. This problem isn’t restricted only to small companies. It begins there, but only gets worse until they either get big enough to absorb the costs of guessing at project costs or give up trying and quit.


When I started doing construction forty plus years ago, I had no clue how to prepare proposals and like every other small construction company…I guessed. I used a common method called, trial and error. Doing proposals this way is a real crap shoot and doesn’t leave much room for mistakes.


Preparing accurate proposals that communicate clearly doesn’t have to be a roll of the dice.


Early on I began working on a proposal system that worked for me. It has gone through years of experimenting and tweaking to become what it is now. Over the last fifteen or twenty years I’ve been asked multiple times by other contractors who saw my proposals how I did them. I just assumed that everybody else was doing something similar.


Several years ago, it hit me that this wasn’t the case after being hired by other contractors to do proposals for them. This is when it became apparent that there was a real need for a proposal system. I kept pushing this down the road until God hit me upside the head with a board and pointed out that my system could help other contractors.


I’ve been busy with construction projects and life in general and continued to procrastinate developing a system that other companies could use. Earlier this year I decided I better get to work on this before I get hit in the head again.


I’m happy to announce that we are currently in the final stages of preparing a proposal system that will be made available for other contractors to use. It’s currently being tested by independent contractors. We are rebuilding the Solution Building website to allow for downloading the proposal documents. It’s not just for general contractors either, it will work for any of the construction trades.


This proposal system will include templates for:

 

  • Bid sheet – A Word document with all the construction sections and individual items already listed out with space for filling out the scope of the work to be done, dimensions, materials, locations, etc., as needed for communication.

 

  • Worksheet – An Excel spreadsheet with all the construction sections and individual items already listed out with optional overhead and profit markups inserted in the appropriate cells.

 

  • Estimate – A word document with spaces to fill in the pertinent information, i.e. customer’s information, what will or will not be supplied by the contractor, the scope of work, the estimated price for each specific element and a total estimated price.

 

  • Proposal – A word document with spaces to fill in the 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.

 

  • Contract – A word document with spaces to fill in the pertinent information, i.e. customer’s information, list of referenced documents, construction funding information, property specifics, project start date and legal terms and conditions.

 

  • Proposal-Contract – A word document that is a combination of a proposal / contract in one.

 

It also will include a data base for material and labor costs:

 

  • Data Base – An Excel spreadsheet with prices for material and labor for a wide variety of specific construction tasks. This information will be copied and pasted to a blank worksheet.

Clear communication between contactor and customer is difficult, especially when there isn’t any. Last week I wrote about the importance of communicating clearly through proposals and reasons contractors avoid doing them


Next week I will break down the proposal process even more.