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.



Getting an Estimate for a Construction Project Can Be a Big Mistake

It’s Like Guessing What a Bag of Groceries Costs Without Being Able to See in The Bag



One of the most frequent questions that I get asked by customers considering a construction project is…what’s it going to cost. Don’t get me wrong this is one of the most important pieces of information needed before moving forward with a project.

The problem with answering this question comes from the lack of information available in the early part of the process. Sure, there are some basic square footage prices that can be incorporated into giving a quick price, but I learned a long time ago that giving an ESTIMATE without having enough information is a recipe for disaster.

When my customers ask me this question, I tell them it is like looking across the room at a brown paper bag full of groceries and telling someone what it cost. Before I can answer that question, I need to know what’s in the bag. It makes a difference if it is paper towels or steaks, how many and how well they were packed.

The same is true for a construction project – what materials are going to be used, how much is going to be used and how well do you want it built? There is a wide variety of products out there and it is important that your contractor asks enough of the right questions to know what and how many ‘groceries are going in the bag’.

Rarely will I give an estimate. Sometimes, depending on the project, I will for a preliminary ballpark figure. It might save both parties the time and trouble of going forward if there isn’t enough of a budget. The level of accuracy with an estimate is minimal at best.

I encourage my customers to let me give them a proposal. Even if they pay for the proposal, it is much less than the cost of the project and a sound investment. When pricing a construction project, the dollars are significant enough that you should know what to expect before you get started and run out of money.

“But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’

Luke 14:28-30, NLT

Doing an accurate and detailed proposal takes time and effort. Most contractors are more focused on getting to the money generating construction and neglect the proposal process. I’m convinced that the proposal is as important of an investment for the contractor as it is for the customer.

You can see an example of our proposals here –

The number of stories that I have heard of unhappy customers or contractors not getting paid for all the work they did is unnecessary. This problem can be enormously reduced by giving an accurate, agreed upon price in the beginning. That way when the project is finished everyone can be happy.