3 Things Owners Look For In General Contractors

When you lose a bid, do you wonder what it is about the competition that made the owner pick them over you? Was it just that they had the lowest number? Or could there have been more to it? Is it possible for a general contractor to have an “it” factor?

Sure, low numbers play a huge role in many bid situations. But the lowest possible estimate isn’t always what an owner is looking for, especially a savvy owner. A lot of owners want the most accurate number, even if it’s not the cheapest, and a lot of owners also want to know that the general contractor they’re choosing to bring their project to life is in touch with current practices and trends within the industry.

So what does make an owner choose you over your competitor? Knowing the answer to that question can mean the difference between winning or losing a bid. There are three distinct qualities for general contractors that will have project owners over the moon when they see them.

  • Accurate estimates—not just the lowest estimates
  • Transparent, easy-to-understand data
  • Forward-thinking and flexible approach

Accurate Estimates—Not Just the Lowest Estimates

Architects talking about construction plans A good owner isn't interested in the lowest number, but rather the most accurate number.

A good owner is going to understand that a truly accurate estimate is the one that may be a little higher than what they were originally picturing, but that accounts for all relevant items and minimizes the potential for lots of change orders. What that means for general contractors is that they need to have preconstruction tools that allow them to create these reliable estimates. If you’re aiming for “most accurate” rather than “cheapest,” you can’t afford to have even the smallest of mistakes.

How do preconstruction tools make this happen? Robbie Gronbach, LEED AP and Director of Preconstruction at Willis Smith Construction, explains: “It’s also about allowing other team members to review the work that we’re all doing, so if somebody has stucco and plaster and they’re doing an estimate in that, we can cross-reference the painting scope to make sure that we have the same square footages, so that allows us to spend less time thinking about walking down the hall and asking, ‘do you have this,’ and we’re just able to focus on the project.”

When you can prove you have a track record of trustworthy estimates, it’s easier for you to stand out above the competition. It also means there’s less negative impact for other high-budget areas like safety, as Bill French, Director of Safety at CORE Safety Group, explains in this blog.

Transparent, Easy-to-Understand Data

The second quality an owner is going to be excited to see is reliable data that they can understand. One of the biggest roadblocks in a smooth relationship between owner and general contractor is that owners often struggle to understand why certain decisions need to be made or why stages that seem largely theoretical—like preconstruction—still carry just as much value as the actual construction phase itself.

The answer to overcoming this roadblock lies in clear data that has the ability to be visualized in a variety of ways. For example, if your preconstruction team uses Microsoft PowerBI as a data visualization tool, you can quickly build real-time reports complete with pie charts and graphs that can then be broken down by factors such as region, material, or labor. Since PowerBI dashboards can be updated anywhere, anytime, you can show owners what happens when something is added or something is taken away in an incredibly powerful and tangible way. Instead of numbers, which can be difficult to contextualize all on their own, you’re equipped with visual aids that any layperson is able to understand.

Forward-Thinking and Flexible Approach

Last but certainly not least, owners want to know that the general contractor they’re choosing to make their project come to life is one that is constantly growing and using the most up-to-date methods and technology. Owners want evidence, not buzzwords, that your company is dedicated to value engineering. 

Your mind has probably immediately gone to “software.” And yes, it’s true that an innovative general contractor is more likely than not to have cutting-edge construction estimating software. However, just having those kinds of tools available is not proof of innovation—you need to have some kind of portfolio of what you’ve done with said tools. For example, one of our clients, Saunders Construction, has been able to objectively demonstrate increased efficiency with their estimates. Others have taken advantage of model-based estimating.

Of course, it doesn’t just end at software. It’s important that you’re pursuing out-of-the-box solutions in every phase of a project, like our client Sundt, who won an iconic Dallas project thanks to their unique slip-form technique. Technology and creativity combined will show an owner that you’re not afraid of challenges.

Ready to stand out?

Now that you know the three qualities owners want to see in a general contractor, it’s time to start making sure you have those qualities. If you feel like you need to level up in any of the three areas that we discussed, click the button below.


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