You win some and you lose some: the art of a good estimate.

We write this as we’ve just spent the last two months producing for one client, three very detailed estimates. Only to be told at the last hurdle that the project is not going ahead.

Oh well, you win some and you lose some.

Estimates really are a funny old business, but what our business relies in is getting them as right as can be.

For us they are the key to a successful project and the first step in managing our clients – or potential clients – expectations. It is the moment where we can look at the detail of the job; the brief, spec and any detailed plans and establish a number of factors.

Who and how many of our team we’ll need to not just complete the job, but do it in the most efficient way.

A schedule of works. Establishing in what order we’ll work, how many phases there will be and critically, how long it’s going to take.

It allows us to work out what materials we’ll need and to cost for these.

It can also kick-start more formal paperwork, such as Building Reg applications or Planning proposals.

With some clients, it creates an opportunity to help define the brief with them. Putting together a visual mood board of interiors can help everyone understand what ‘the end’ will look like – and in turn helps us specifically establish what ‘the beginning’ and ‘the middle’ needs to involve.
They can take time and often see us at our kitchen table, late into the night, with architects drawings, calculators and scale rulers to hand.

For clients, they are the central factor in appointing a contractor. They speak volumes about how a builder goes about his business. When we’re asked to submit an estimate, we always recommend that the client gets at least three more. It’s not just about price – an estimate can give you a complete 360 view of your building contractor and how they go about their business.

Has the builder understood the brief? Have they listened? Did they deliver the estimate within an acceptable timeframe? Is it clearly laid out? Is there a sufficient breakdown of costs? Do they seem to know their stuff? Have they made any recommendations or suggestions on saving money or design elements? Is there a contract? Do they have insurance? Are they willing to recommend past clients as referees?

So. We win some and we lose some. That’s the way the business we’re in works. Yet with every estimate we’re asked to do, we really do try and make it as good if not better than the last one.

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