Learn to Estimate at Your Own Pace

We have done it again with another transformation of the Candels Electrical Estimating Apprenticeship Program. In past semesters, we noticed a trend. Some students would want constant support and feedback, some would want little to no feedback and then there were always those few that fell somewhere in the middle. It was right then that we were asking ourselves how we could best accommodate these three distinct groups. Why would someone who wanted little to no support be paying the same amount as another person who is getting weekly 1-on-1 training sessions? The answer is… they shouldn’t!

The solution came to us and it felt like it was in front of us all along. Why were we deciding what you needed? The program now allows you, the student, to pick whatever level of support you want and the tuition cost would be based on that decision. Each student still gets a Course Workbook, 6-month PlanSwift license, and regular feedback on quizzes/assignments. The different tuition plans are broken out by email-only support, email plus weekly group office hours, or all that plus individual, weekly 1-on-1 support. The response we have gotten has been tremendous. Did I mention the virtual student machines loaded with all the industry-leading software?

If you haven’t had a chance to check out our new and improved program, you can learn more and enroll online by clicking here. Be sure to use Promo Code SOCIAL500 to save $500 on any of the single-pay tuition plans. For any questions, please feel free to call us during business hours at (877) CANDELS or email us at [email protected].

As always, happy estimating and please stay safe!

eBook: “Understanding Electrical Estimating” Released

Book Cover: Understanding-Electrical-Estim ating by Linda CandelsA new electrical estimating book hits the press! Candels Estimating introduces its first e-book:  Understanding Electrical Estimating

Understanding Electrical Estimating is a 12-part series which serves not only as an introduction to estimating but also operates as an essential and comprehensive reference for the seasoned estimator.

Linda Candels, one of the founding partners of Candels Estimating LLC and Candels Estimating Training LLC, opens her own book of 20-plus years of knowledge and experience to educate electrical estimators and other industry professionals.

Linda writes about the facts and includes detailed scenarios and real-world experience. Each section depicts how and why to execute your project the right way. She addresses what it takes to prepare an estimate as well as the many issues and concerns that arise while doing so–whether you’re overseeing it all or you’re out in the field.

Understanding Electrical Estimating breaks down topics such as specs and drawings, take-offs, labor adjustments, quotes, software, the detailed and sometimes tricky process of bidding, and much more. This electrical estimating book shows you how to handle and/or resolve issues at any level of your career.

Topics like:

  • Bidding and bonding essentials
  • Is that legal and up to code?
  • Who is responsible for what expense and why?
  • How do I write a winning proposal?
  • Overhead and profit – how does this affect your bid?
  • How “…your field labor will perform to the standards that you have estimated”
  • “To help win the bid, package your proposal so it stands out. For example, before bid day…”

The book lives up to its name. Understanding Electrical Estimating helps any estimator understand the ins and outs of this comprehensive field.

Have your own book! Get your download 

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Construction Proposal Letter

Construction proposal letter: This document spells out a detailed picture of everything involved to submit a solid bid. A good portion of the estimating process involves completing the take-off, checking it for accuracy, making labor adjustments, applying your overhead and direct job expenses, and deciding how much, if any, profit you want to put on the job to come up with your sell, or bid, price.

Now that you have that completed, there is a very important step before you send your price to the general contractor or construction manager. It’s called a proposal, or scope, letter. In effect this document becomes the first legal correspondence of what your price includes and does not include. You can always rely on this letter if you prepare it properly.

Construction Proposal Letter- The “must do’s”construction proposal electrical

Most companies have a standard format for completing the proposal letter.

  • Always state the project name, address and a job number, if available.
  • List the drawings and their respective dates on which your proposal is based.
    • This is very important since you want to make sure that, if by some chance you received the wrong set of drawings, as least you have documented the set you were working with. Accordingly, if you received any addenda or bid clarifications, be sure to list what you received with the date, again to cover yourself in case you did not receive a particular document.

Construction Proposal Letter: State what is included

In the proposal letter, list all the items that are included in the proposal. There is a fine line between not listing enough and listing too much, but I always like to include standard and “big ticket” items.

  • Standard items would be lighting, lighting controls, branch devices; state what you carried and what the wiring methods are for these items. For example, “lighting with branch run in MC cable with EMT home runs as specified.”
  • You can also do the same for mechanical equipment connections (don’t forget to state whether you carried the disconnects), fire alarm, tel/data, and other low voltage systems.
  • For feeders, state what you carried for the primary conduits, secondary conduits, all the way to the last point of distribution. There is typically a lot of money involved in the distribution system, so be specific about what you carried.
  • If the specs call for Schedule 80 versus Schedule 40 for the primary, make sure you spell that out in your proposal instead of generically stating “incoming service primary run in PVC.”
  • If there are any special or unusual items in the take-off, mention them in your scope letter. These could include items such as conduits to the roof for a satellite dish, spare conduits for future equipment, or special systems.
  • If your job includes fees, permits, sales tax, utility company charges, make sure that you state that in your proposal.

Construction Proposal Letter: State what is excluded

Detail the items that are excluded from your proposal.

  • Examples: cutting-patching-painting of walls, concrete housekeeping pads, transformer or generator pads, site pole bases, and concrete encasement of duct banks. If any items are existing, exclude them and make a note that they are existing.
  • If any work is by the general contractor or other trade, exclude these as well and mark them “by others.” This acknowledges the item rather than ignoring it and hoping that the general contractor will intuitively know what you are talking about.

Construction Proposal Letter: State your terms and conditions!

At the end of your proposal, state any “terms and conditions” upon which your proposal is based.

  • Length of time for which your proposal is effective
  • Typical working hours such as Monday through Friday, 7 am to 3:30 pm, excluding major holidays.
    This may sound like overkill, but you never want to get stuck paying your crew overtime because you did not exclude overtime work from your proposal.
  • Finally, make sure you clearly state what your proposal price is. I know some contractors that not only list it numerically, but actually write out the dollar amount–“proposal price is $850,000 (Eight hundred fifty thousand dollars).” Be sure to list any alternate pricing, as well, as either an add alternate or a deduct alternate price.

You have completed your bid, written your proposal letter, and now it is time to submit your price.

The Bid Process & Following-up

Construction Bid Process: Our estimating process has now taken us to the point where we are ready to submit the bid.

  • Our take-off is complete and checked for accuracy
  • We applied labor adjustments
  • We included and reviewed our quotes
  • A detailed scope or proposal letter is written to support our price

There are two bidding situations that are likely to occur: either a public bid opening or a private bid.

Public Bid Process

bid process

If your job is a publicly-funded project, it will be a public bid opening at a specified place and time meaning your are bidding “plans and specs” and usually no exclusions can be taken. In a public bid situation, you might be bidding as a prime or a sub, depending on how the job is being put together. In other words, you might be bidding on the electrical bid package or you may be submitting your electrical price to a general contractor who will be bidding as the prime. In either scenario, you typically do not get a second chance. The low number wins the job, precluding any problems in the scope review, which we will discuss later.

Private Bid Process

For privately-funded projects, the bid process is quite a bit different. You prepare your proposal the same way, but what happens when you submit your price is anyone’s game. Again, you may be bidding as the prime contractor or as a subcontractor to a general contractor or construction manager. And there is a careful strategy about to whom you submit your price, when you submit it, and the numbers you actually submit.

For example, if you have a good working relationship with a general contractor, you will probably give him a better price than someone with whom you have never worked. Even if you have worked with a contractor before, please be careful about submitting your price too early! By doing so, you make yourself a “target,” or that “number to beat.” If you get hounded for a number early, you may want to respond with something vague like, “I am think around $1 million; does that number look in the ballpark?”

Ask the GC for Feedback

Based on the feedback you get, you may have some inside information about how your bid number actually looks. Although you will have a specified date and time at which the bids are due, unlike a public bid opening, your numbers will not be read in public, and oddly enough, the low bidder may not actually be awarded the job.

How could this happen, you might ask. Well, simply, the answer is negotiation.

Before a job is awarded, the entity who has solicited the proposals will conduct scope reviews, typically with the three lowest bidders. During this process, the plans and specs are reviewed, and you will be asked whether or not you covered certain items in your scope of work. This process helps “level” the playing field and determine whether the low bidders actually covered the specified scope of work. In a private bid situation, you can “exclude” items from your bid, unlike the public bid opening arena.

During the scope review, you will have a chance to clarify why you included or excluded an item, and subsequently you may be requested to add something to your bid based on the outcome of your scope review.

“What can I do to get the job off the street today?”

There can be a lot of game playing in the bid process. The general contractor may tell you that “your price is in the mix, but someone else is lower.” In these situations, there are a number of strategies you can employ.

The one we recommend is the direct sales approach. Ask the question, “what do I have to do to get this job off the street today?” Remember, the idea is to actually close the deal! At the same time, I would caution you:

  • Never chase someone else’s number unless you are sure you can do the job for that price.
  • You should always complete a detailed take-off before you bid any job so that you know your costs.
  • Never bid a job below your cost, thinking you are going to make it up in change orders. Although change orders still are issued on jobs, the economy is not like the “good ol’ days” when the value of the change orders often exceeded the original contract value.
    • Sometimes there are bidders that put out an extremely low number. Once this bid is submitted, it now becomes the number to beat because let’s face it, everyone wants to put as much money in their pocket as possible. Again, this is a dangerous situation. The general contractor will want to buy the job for this price, yet, this low number probably was not based on a take-off, and if it was, something was undoubtedly “missed.” This may be a tough situation to combat, and again, don’t chase someone else’s number unless you can do the job for that price.

Sell your Strengths!

However, if you are privy to information about that low bidder that may affect his job performance, then by all means, sell your bid with your company strengths versus your competition. As they say, “it ain’t over, ‘til it’s over.” As with most things, persistence is key. Never give up unless you know the job is really gone.

The next and final article will summarize everything and give you some thoughts to ponder.

Tips for Women to get into Electrical Contracting Industry

WomenIn-Electical-Estimator-contractor-industryAn increasing number of women-owned contracting firms are helping to level the playing field in a traditionally male-dominated industry.
While current statistics reveal only 9.5 percent of National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) members are women-owned businesses, this number has tripled in the past 15-20 years and reflects a trend seen in physically demanding, tech-centric fields everywhere.

Here are some tips for women looking to get into the field:

  • Networking is very important for electrical contractors, and many jobs are won based on relationships that you build with each other in construction.
  • Participation in groups such as Women in NECA is extremely beneficial.
  • Get certified as a WBE. Certification as a Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE) is very important if you’re looking to do automotive industry work, federal and/or state work.
  • Encourage teamwork; it helps to foster a team-based approach involving men and women who all bring something different to the table.
  • Believe in yourself; don’t give up hope when you’re down.

These tips are just the beginning of what woman are capable of doing. Woman are strong and have a bright future in the electrical industry.

Meet the Candels Team

The Candels Electrical Estimators Team is full of real people. We aren’t a faceless corporate machine or a one-man-band. We are a team of real people ready to help you with all of your estimating needs. We’re here to help!

[tmm name=”655″]

Never Underestimate the Power of Relationships

Now that you have assessed your business, know your overhead, and have a deeper relationship with your accountant, you are now ready for the next step. You know your business, but do your potential clients know you?

We know that price is a big driver in purchase decisions; however, when a general contractor, developer, construction manager or owner is faced with two similar prices, and they know one company, but not the other, who is more likely to get the contract award? That’s right—the one with the relationship. And, even better if you have a company history in the type of work you are bidding (and please let the contractor know that!).

Building Relationships is Key

Over the years, the theme that recurs is the power of relationships. Relationships help you find the private jobs and jobs that the general contractor may already have. Contractors who have remained busy, despite the economy, have put time and effort into building and maintaining relationships with their client base. They make this an integral part of their business, not just something to do “when they have the time.”

Just as many have viewed the task of “getting to know your business” as daunting, some may feel the same way about establishing, building, and maintaining relationships with clients. All you need is time! Over time, with just a bit of effort, you can build profitable relationships. Just do it!

The cold call method is a very good idea. You might not get to see the person you are calling on, but you can leave your business card, some company information, and even a box of doughnuts for the office staff. When you get your foot in the door, be prepared to bid a few jobs before you are awarded one. This is the contractor’s way of getting to know you as he watches how your prices come in. Watch for potential new clients when you are driving around, then stop in to introduce yourself. Check out construction sites too; it’s all about being in the “right place at the right time!”

Clients can also get to know you with documentation about your company. A simple folder with slip sheets detailing your staff, capabilities, tools and equipment, and past notable projects is a good start. For the more creative, create a brochure. If you do not have any experience in graphics, contact your local college. There are always students willing to share their new craft at a reasonable price. Also, adding a website always adds to your company’s credibility.

Meet New Clients in Networking Groups

An excellent way to meeting new customers is networking groups such as the Chamber of Commerce, the Rotary Club, the Elks or Eagles, and other social organizations. Chances are you will meet someone that will need work done, or they will know someone who does! Check out the Associated Builders and Contractors and the Associated General Contractors, too. Both represent all specialties within the U.S. construction industry and are comprised primarily of firms that perform work in the industrial and commercial sectors of the industry.

Cold calls, social clubs, and industry organizations will undoubtedly introduce you to potential clients. When you get the chance to bid, don’t expect to get a job right away, but persistence will pay off! Also, in our current world of technology, (think texting), it is still important to put your face to your company’s name and be able to explain why someone should do business with you. It’s a lot easier for a client to say “no” to someone they don’t know. Make it your business to get to know them and do everything in your power to become indispensable!

The Estimating Process – It Starts Earlier than You Think!

Starting - The Estimating ProcessWhen do you think the estimating process begins?  This article is the first of a 12-part series on the estimating process.  In starting the New Year, it is appropriate to examine the processes we complete but might not give much thought to, such as estimating.

Many of you might think that the estimating process starts with the take-off, but that is step 3 or 4.  The estimating process starts way before any actual “estimating” or “counting” begins, and certainly before you peruse the bid boards to see what is out there to bid.

Include your overhead costs in your bid

To get to the heart of the matter, you must know YOUR BUSINESS!  Knowing your business comprises of many things.  First, if you do not have an accountant or a relationship with your accountant, start the new year right and establish a relationship, because your accountant can tell you a lot of things about your business that you may not know. When I work with contractors to put together a bid, I often get a blank stare or silence on the other end of the phone when we get to the “overhead” part of the proposal.  When bidding a job, you should cover all costs, both direct, or those related directly to the job, such a commodity material, labor, quotes, direct job expenses, and the like, and indirect, such as your overhead.  If you do not know your overhead, how do you know that you are indeed covering your cost?  The process of determining (and changing) overhead need not be daunting, but this information is critical to the estimating process.

Other things should be considered before bidding a job.  What is your labor force like?  Are you a union or non-union shop?  If you are a union shop, then your field work is dependent on available workers when you call the union hall.  If you are a non-union contractor, you have a staff of electricians.  What is their experience level?  If you, your foreman, and your electricians have absolutely no expertise in a particular type of work, then you must think twice before bidding it.  A good example is a waste water treatment plant.  It’s not clean work, no pun intended.  It is full of a PVC-coated rigid conduit, explosion proof fittings, and a lot of equipment, definitely not “learning ground” for any contractor.

Speaking of which, do you know what your firm is “good at?”  Do you know what size project is most profitable for your company? Following that same school of thought, do you have the tools, equipment, supervision, and infrastructure for the work you bid?  Again, work with your accountant if you are overwhelmed with answers to your questions.  No sense chasing work which will not ultimately turn a profit for your company.

How about bonding capacity?  Many contractors wait until they are knee deep in an estimate to realize they don’t know if they can get a bond for the work.  How about project labor agreements?  If you have never bid a job with a PLA on it, are you familiar with the paperwork you will have to submit for the certified payroll?

I have given you a lot to think about.  Most of it probably isn’t new to you.  However, as we begin a new year, it is a good time to pause, reflect and evaluate what is and is not working.

In our next post, we’ll discuss the next step in the estimating process: Finding jobs to bid.