Technology & Innovation

Your top estimator just walked out the door. Now what?

Cost estimators are in demand. Just look at the AGC 2017 Workforce survey report released two weeks ago. The results confirm that estimators are one of the hardest salaried construction positions to fill, second only to project managers and superintendents.

So it makes sense that you can no longer count on the expertise stored just in your top estimators’ brains and spreadsheets. If they walk out the door for another opportunity (or to join the ranks of retirees), all that knowledge goes with them. And good luck trying to interpret the individualized spreadsheets and files they leave behind.

Are you prepared for your top estimator’s exit? One way to get ready for this type of situation is to standardize your estimating processes. This allows you to capture estimating best practices and more easily share them with existing and new estimators.

Build a database

Estimating standardization is best done using a centralized database that your estimators help create and tap into to produce their estimates. The database is where you can establish your company’s estimating procedures and policies by adding your own items, building component assemblies, unique formulas, productivity, and conversions. All this helps assure your estimates are consistently accurate company-wide and your corporate estimating intelligence is secure. (Estimating software should help you build a database.)

Make it easy for new estimators

For those left behind, training a new estimator takes time—something many contractors don’t have a lot of these days. Along with standardization, make sure your estimating system is easy to use to minimize the learning curve for new employees and get them up to speed faster. Here are a few things to consider when evaluating your current and a new estimating system:

  • What does the user interface look like? A lot of estimators use every-day spreadsheets for all or part of their estimates and are comfortable with that format. How does the software’s interface compare to that experience? Will it be a big leap for them to use a new estimating tool?
  • Does your system work the way an estimator does? A good estimating system shouldn’t force estimators to do things out of the norm; it should accommodate their personal estimating style while also supporting standardization.
  • How quickly can a first bid be created? When a new estimator comes on board, how soon can they produce an estimate that reflects your company’s estimating methodology? How easy is it to access items, up-to-date costs, formulas, productivity, and conversion factors to put together a reliable estimate?

Estimators don’t have time to mess around with software that doesn’t make sense. Giving them easy-to-use tools that capture their collective knowledge can raise the overall level of estimating in your company and reduce your risk when you need to hire a new estimator.