The Why Question is the Most Important One That Gets Asked the Least

WHY is That… and What Do We Do About it?

As I’m working on the workshop for Building a Better Proposal system, I was contemplating WHY questions.

Why –

  • Should construction contractors do proposals?
  • Don’t they?
  • Does a customer want to do a construction project?
  • Do we do the same things over and over expecting different results?
  • Do people in horror movies repeat the same bad decisions?

Small children constantly ask the why question, over and over and over…? You know what I mean. This is how they learn. Why do we outgrow this sense of curiosity and stop asking the WHY questions?

The answer to all questions starts with WHY.

  • Why should construction contractors do proposals?

This question is the one that baffles me as much as any. How can contractors expect customers or production crews to know what work is going to be done and what it’s going to cost without some clear communication? I don’t think you would buy a truck without knowing what you were getting. I know I would be disappointed if I ordered a new $70,000 truck and when I got it, it was a 1999 ½ ton pickup missing a wheel and the driver’s door.

  • Why don’t contractors do proposals?

The most common answer to this question is that they simply don’t know how. This is something that just isn’t taught. Most contractors start out doing construction, not paperwork. They figure out some guesstimation process and then wonder why customers are upset when they get a bill that is higher than they expected for less work.

  • Why does this customer want to do this construction project?

This should be the primary question that a contractor gets the answer to. It is more important than what. The “what” answer has a “why” answer behind it. The why question doesn’t have to be asked directly, but regardless, needs to be answered. The why is the foundation for the customer’s dream. A foundation is critical to building construction projects and dreams.

  • Why do we do the same things over and over expecting different results?

We all do this to some degree. Why? Why do we continue to repeat things thinking it will be different this time? We shouldn’t do things just because… “we’ve always done it this way”. The more we walk back and forth in a rut the deeper it gets and the harder it is to get out. I heard it said once that a rut is just a grave with both ends kicked out. Stop walking and determine if this what you want and if it’s the best plan. If not do something different.

  • Why do people in horror movies repeat the same bad decisions?

This question is a fun example of the previous one. If you’ve ever watched any horror movie you’ve seen this. The teenagers are in a dark scary place and instead of getting out they continue to hide in a basement, an attic, a cemetery, etc. The GIECO “horror movie” commercial is a great example of this.

It’s up to us to decide, are we going to do something different or stay in the rut?

These are just a few questions about construction proposals and…horror movies. 😊 We should be asking the WHY question about everything. This is the most important question there is.

We have the choice. We can just keep doing things the same way…or we can stop and ask why. Why are we doing this? Whatever “this” is. Until we answer the why question all other questions are harder to answer.

Be like a child and ask, why…why…why…why… and never stop.

How to Get All of Your Puzzle Pieces to Fit into One Puzzle

The Subject of Being too Busy is a Broken Record

The term “broken record” describes something that is frequently repeated — it refers to a damaged record that would get stuck and repeat part of a recording over and over again until you moved the record player needle.

This describes the current topic of “busy”.

Every conversation that I currently have with subcontractors, suppliers and customers, starts, ends or is all about this subject. Throughout my career in construction this has been a popular topic, but no more than now. It’s like a broken record.

Construction is where the majority of my conversations happen, but “busy” is everywhere. I’ve had the “busy” conversation with a lot of people in a lot of places, i.e., masterminds, workshops, church, etc.

The “busy” conversation is nothing new.

As a matter of fact, I’ve written about this topic since I’ve been posting blogs. In October of 2015 I wrote about easing the stress of being too busy.

Here is an excerpt of that post –

This morning as I was posting in my journal, I started thinking about all of the things that I didn’t get done yesterday. Then I began to think about how many times I have posted this same thing over and over. It sure seems that I spend way too much time feeling overwhelmed and behind. I really want to get more done!

Then I thought about all of the times that I’ve had this conversation with other people. “How is your day going? Man, I am so far behind I don’t think I will ever get caught up. I sure wish there were more hours in the day.” I have heard these or similar comments more times than I can count.

Our lives can feel like a 20,000-piece jigsaw puzzle was dumped out in front of us with no picture of what it is supposed to look like when it’s done.

So how can we get all of these pieces to fit…or can we? This is the big question. It would be nice to know what the finished puzzle is supposed to look like. This puzzle can be tough and frustrating. I think it is especially difficult for those of us who are ‘recovering perfectionists’. We want all the pieces to fit just right. To know ahead of time exactly where each piece is supposed to go. This particular puzzle, called life, doesn’t work like that.

Here are some reasons we struggle with our puzzle and some ideas to help us get our pieces to fit.

  • We pick up too many pieces by over scheduling. There are so many pieces…Start with the corner pieces. Put in the most important pieces first.
  • The puzzle isn’t going together as fast as we want. Sometimes (most times) things just take longer…do as much planning and preparation as we can before we start, but don’t over plan. Spread the pieces out, find the edge pieces and get started.
  • With so many pieces in front of us we lose our focus. After we have put the edge pieces in place…remember that we can only put one piece in at a time. Concentrate on that one. If it doesn’t fit, then pick up a different piece and focus on it.

Life is a puzzle. What really makes this puzzle fun and exciting is that while we are putting our puzzle together other people are doing the same thing and their puzzle connects to ours.

Taking control of the “busy” requires that we are clear about our mission and only pick up puzzle pieces that belong in our puzzle.

Just like a “broken record” if we don’t want to keep listening to the stuck and repeating recording…we have to move the needle.

Previous “broken record” posts dealing with busy –

How to Get Your Puzzle Pieces to Fit

Riding on a Runaway Train

Flexibly Rigid

Who Should I Blame for Being Too Busy?

Spend Time Wisely, There’s a Limited Amount

Deciding What Should be First on the List

What Makes One Rock More Important Than Another?

What Makes One Thing More Important Than Another?

What Actions Do You Need to Take to Accomplish Your Mission?

Honesty is the Best Policy When It Comes to Construction Communication

Construction Customers Deserve You Being Brutally Honest with Them

Honesty is something that is in short supply now days. It’s like we think if we say something long enough and loud enough it makes it the truth.

Being honest with people is especially difficult for amiable people with stable “Golden Retriever” characteristics, as per the DISC personality profile. (Take the personality test here) It doesn’t help that 40% of the population is this way. People with this personality just want to get along, they try to avoid confrontation at all costs.

I know this because this is a part of my personality. it’s hard to tell people things they don’t want to hear.

The honesty issue doubles when both the contractor and customer are “Golden Retrievers”. Both parties want to get along, and make assumptions based on their perspective, then are disappointed when things don’t go as expected.

In an effort to get along things get left unsaid.

As a customer you need to be willing to ask questions when you need to know something. Even with written proposals and contracts things are overlooked or misunderstood.

As a contractor you need to take time to go through the paperwork and explain things. Be willing to tell the customer the truth about what to expect through the process. This can be hard, especially when customers wants the project started today and finished tomorrow.

In this fast pace, want it now world, expectations are often unrealistic.

Setting realistic expectations reminds me of an old TV commercial. In this commercial there is a young couple and a “rough and rugged” building contractor in overalls setting at a table in a kitchen.  The contractor is explaining the construction process to them as he is writing.  

He tells them, “…when we get started, we will take out all of your cabinets and then be gone for a couple of weeks. When we come back, we’ll take out the patio door in the dining room and put plastic over the opening. It will be left that way for several days. During that time, it will leak in when it rains. Then when the countertop is installed…it will be wrong. We’ll have to order a new one and that will mean another 4 weeks wait.”

Then he slides the contract over to the couple as they look at each other in disbelief and he says, “But when we’re done, you’ll have the kitchen of your dreams and you’re going to want to kiss me smack dab on the lips.”

Then the tag line for the commercial was “Brutally Honest”. I think the commercial was for a cable company, but I’m not sure. As a contractor I certainly could identify with it though.

This was an exaggeration, of course, but there still is a level of reality in it. Construction projects by nature, with all the various parts, never go as smoothly as anyone would like.

There are going to be some bumps along the way in every construction project.

Construction customers deserve this kind of brutal honesty.

It’s hard to hear things that don’t align with the dream picture in our mind. It’s hard to tell people things that they don’t want to hear.

Setting realistic expectations upfront will reduce disappointment in the end.

Benefits to a Construction Proposal That We Haven’t Even Talked About Yet

An Overview of the Blueprint for Building a Better Proposal System

This past week John used the Blueprint for Building a Better Proposal system to do a couple of proposals. Just like when he’d learned to build a house, he had some questions.

As John smelled the pizza setting in the passenger seat, it reminded him of his first meeting with Gene. It’s hard to believe that today’s meeting was going to be the 8th time they’d met to learn this proposal system.

As they are eating some pizza, Gene asks John if he had used the proposal system this past week. John said he had. Gene asked what questions he had.

In between bites John said, “The project I was doing the proposal for was a small repair project to a deck that was settling and pulling away from the house. As I put in the numbers for digging a couple of holes, filling them with concrete and setting some posts…the price didn’t seem to be enough for the work that would be needed.”

Cartoon man looking up at large question mark

“Great question.” said Gene. “Sometimes a specific task is small or more difficult than normal. This will be determined once the quantity is entered and the price is deemed too low.

To adjust this, insert an additional row in the spreadsheet, below the row with the low price. Fill down the content from the row with the low price to the new row. Then in the description cell of the new row write small and in the quantity cell put in an amount that will adjust the price as needed for the time to do the small task. Usually the material price can be removed from the second row, due to the small task not requiring additional material. This will depend on what the specific task is. (See the highlighted cells in the example below)

If the low price is due to the task being more difficult, instead of, or in addition to being small, you will use the same procedure listed above. An example of this would be a small concrete project in the back yard where a concrete truck couldn’t get to the construction area and the concrete was going to be moved with a skid loader.

If you remember early in the process, we talked about the common mistakes that contractors make when bidding projects and one of those that this system solves is…

A construction proposal system that is customizable.

This leads to some of the other benefits this proposal system offers that we’ve only discussed in passing. These include, but aren’t limited to, a Scope of Work, a Production Budget and accurate progress payments.

A Scope of Work is important so that production crews and subcontractors know what’s included in the project and what’s not. This prevents the subcontractor/employee from doing more or less than was expected – if too much work is done there will be cost overruns, if everything the customer expects is not done then the customer is unhappy.

A Scope of Work is easy to do. It is simply saving a copy of the proposal and removing the customer’s prices for each item and the totals at the bottom of the page. Making a couple of simple changes to the document title and removing the signature lines.

That easily you have a Scope of Work

Preparing a Production Budget that can be shared takes a little more work. It involves the transferring of numbers from the Worksheet to a separate Production Budget template. The numbers that get transferred are generated automatically when the Worksheet is prepared.

We’ll wait to get into the payment application until later. For now, you just need to use the system for a while and get familiar with it.

This whole system comes down a clear description of what work the project includes or doesn’t and a consistent and accurate process for pricing.

This proposal system is the foundation for building 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?

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

The Final Step to Completing a Professional Construction Proposal

The Final Step to Completing a Professional Construction Proposal

It’s as Rewarding as Seeing a Construction Project Completed

As John is driving to his weekly Saturday training with Gene, he remembers how hard it was in the beginning to convince himself to take the time to learn this system and how glad he was that he did. He thinks back over what he’s learned over the past several weeks:

John’s getting excited as he pulls up to the XYZ Construction Company office. Today they are going to put all the pieces together, creating a finished proposal.

After Gene and John have some lunch and get caught up on the past week’s events, Gene asks John, “You know how exciting it is when you build a new home from blueprint? That is what we’re going to do today…we’re going to be seeing…

A proposal taken from blueprint to reality.

Let’s get started.

The final step in preparing the Proposal is to transfer the information you have gathered from the customer and prepared on the Scope of Work and the Worksheet to the Proposal template.

Start out by opening a Proposal template in the Blueprint for Building a Better Proposal system.

If you use a project number insert it behind the number sign at the top of the page, below the proposal title. Next insert the customer and project information in the open areas as it pertains to the project.

Insert your company name at the beginning of the introductory sentence.

Copy and paste the description of the work to be performed and material to be supplied from the Scope of Work in the body of the Proposal template.

Next, take the prices from the Worksheet for each individual task described 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. This allows the customer to see a price for each section, i.e. foundation, framing, roofing, etc.

Now that the description of the work to be performed, the materials to be used, the prices for each task, and the subtotals of each section have been placed on the Proposal, it’s time for the project subtotal to be inserted at the bottom. Insert a separate price for the sales tax below the subtotal. Sales tax rates will be determined by the location where the work is to be performed.

Now insert the project total after, “For the Sum Of:” on the Proposal both in written and numerical forms, this duplication (just like on a check) helps with clarity.

Now that you have a project total you need to determine how payments will be made. There are several different factors which can determine how this will be done, i.e. the size of the project, when material will be ordered and/or paid for, the financing of the project, your personal preferences, etc. This could be done at the completion of set production tasks, scheduled times (weekly, monthly, etc.) or when the project is finished.

Determining the date in which the Proposal will expire will be up to you. If the Proposal includes some materials that fluctuate in price often then you may want the expiration date to be sooner. A standard time frame is 30 days.

The duration of time to complete the project can be determined from the Worksheet. At the bottom of the Worksheet there are four cells, with corresponding amounts for each.

The Labor Price is the total amount of labor costfor the project. The Hours, is the total man hours needed for the project, dividing the hours by $60/hr. This hourly rate can be adjusted to whatever dollar amount you determine. The Days are the total hours divided by 7 hours of production per day. The Weeks are total working days divided by 5 days of production per week. You then have the number of working days needed to complete the project. This will then be entered into the corresponding blank space on the Proposal.

You now have completed the proposal

At this point I recommend going back through and proofreading the scope of work for each task, checking the math to make sure that the prices on the Proposal add up correctly. Don’t be surprised if a few of the numbers on the Worksheet totals are off a cent or two from the total on the Proposal. This happens sometimes due the combinations of formulas on the spreadsheet. The most important thing is that the prices on the Proposal add up correctly.

Now sign the proposal and deliver it to the customer.”

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

John smiles and says, “You’re right. It does feel like seeing a house where there wasn’t one before. It’s very satisfying.”

“Know this John, it’s also going to be similar to building the first house. You’re going to have questions, when you start using the proposal system. Start using it and let me know when you have questions. It will be tempting to go back to doing bids like you used to, but don’t.”

“Next week we’ll review and spend our time answering questions.

“Now go use this system and build better proposals.”

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?

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

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?

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

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

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

How to Decide If You Should Do Your Construction Project Yourself

Consider These 4 Points Before You Decide

I met with a customer recently about finishing a project that had been started eight years ago…it’s still not done. They haven’t even been able to live there this entire time. Yes, it was an extensive project…for that matter it still is.

They did most of the work themselves. The question is…

Were the monetary savings worth the cost of time?

As a builder, I’ve never been a big fan of DIY (Do It Yourself). The TV programs have whole projects done in 30-60 minutes. This is misleading, not to mention downright impossible.

Don’t get me wrong, the satisfaction that comes from doing a repair, changing a light switch or faucet, installing a window, building a deck or even remodeling a complete room can be extremely rewarding. The thing is…

You better know what you are getting into before you start.

Here are some things to consider before you decide:

  • Reasons for hiring a professional –

You need to consider what your skill level is and what the parameters of the project are, before tearing into it. Depending on the specific project there are a lot of things to be aware of.

Even something as simple as painting a wall can be more complicated than many people realize. If your project is going to involve things that are structural; for example, cutting an opening in a wall or building a deck, you certainly need to understand what is involved. Not knowing how to do something like this can lead to big problems.

  • Benefits of hiring a professional –

Time is a precious commodity. If you are like me, I am never able to get everything done that I want to. So, when I find someone that I can trust, who I have determined has the desire and skills to do the thing that I need done, it makes sense to pay them to do it? This allows me to be able to do something else that I am better suited for or maybe would just prefer doing.

Growing up on a farm was very “Do It Yourself. I learned how to do a lot of different things. We just didn’t hire much of anything done. Learning like this took years and lots of trial and error. I didn’t just watch a 30-minute TV program or go online to learn it.

I am sure that I could make a car given enough time and money, but doesn’t it make more sense to buy one made by professionals.

  • Reasons for not hiring a professional –

The key here is defining ‘professional’. If you’re considering hiring someone then you need to do some research. There are a lot of people out there that seem to be qualified and aren’t. If you hire someone that isn’t then the outcome might not be much different than doing it yourself.

Maybe you have the time and desire to learn something new. This is a great reason for doing the project yourself. Just be careful to not get in too far over your head. Be clear on what it’s going to take to do this.

You can save money by not paying somebody else. Just be aware that there is a lot to a project beyond the actual constructing. There will, or at least should be, time spent in researching, planning, shopping, buying, exchanging, returning, redoing and cleaning.

It is good to be physically active. Depending on your normal routine construction can be a great way to exercise.

  • Another option – Hiring a consultant.

If you really want to do your own home project, but need some help with knowing how, what, when and where. You might consider finding an experienced professional to guide you through the process. Finding the right person for this can be as tricky as anything. Just realize the value of knowledge and the benefit that it can have.

If you have questions about a construction project or know someone who does, contact us in the chat below.

It comes down to priorities. You can choose where to spend your time and money, what’s the best use of either? Saving money by spending time seems like a good plan… but is it really, if eight years later it still isn’t finished.

With over 35 years of construction experience I have determined that getting help is a good plan. I can’t do everything myself…as much as I would like to. That’s why I share the load with others.

Once you have determined that you have the ability (knowledge, time, money, and physical strength) to do your project, then by all means, go for it.

There’s nothing much more rewarding than stepping back and looking at something you built with your own hands.

Based on and revised from To Hire or Not to Hire, that is the Question, published Aug. 12, 2016