8 Best Construction Estimating Tips From The Top General Contractors

Have you ever sat down and thought about the bigger picture of what you do? How important imperative your job and our industry are?

We don’t necessarily want to get all kumbaya, but we actually are all in this together.

Putting making a profit aside, every general contractor in the country wants to build a better building that improves the lives of those who live, work, stay, study, and visit that building. Construction changes people’s lives.

For example, look at projects like the Clemson University for Nursing, Health, Innovation and Research built by DESTINI Estimator user Brasfield & Gorrie. Or look at Snyder Langston’s Judi and Bill Leonard Cancer Institute. The first project has eased the nursing shortage in South Carolina, and the second has a molecular genomic testing laboratory that helps detect disease earlier than ever. Neither of these could have been possible without the input, shared ideas, and innovations of others.

When it comes to structures, especially schools and hospitals, why aren’t more innovations shared?

We are a traditionally fiercely competitive industry. Beck Technology CTO Michael Boren likens it to we all think everyone else in our industry are thieves, out to rob each other of our ideas, processes, and our employees. Giving away what we believe to be is our competitive advantage means certain death for sure.

"We aren't curing cancer, but you are building the buildings that do. You do have a huge impact." -Michael Boren

But when we play it so close to the vest, we rule out any opportunity to learn, improve, and grow. We can’t ALL be experts at everything and have ALL the right solutions to all of precon’s problems. There are other preconstruction teams out there that have figured out ways to do things better—your team included. But you won’t know what that better is unless you talk to each other.

No, not to steal each other’s ideas but to collectively work toward making not just our industry better but also the world a better place. We’re not just big on collaboration here at Beck Tech, we’re HUGE on collaboration. We spend a large chunk of our time communicating with clients, general contractors, and others in the industry to collaborate on how best to solve the challenges preconstruction faces.

Fortunately, we have many clients who are on the same page and openly share their ‘secret sauce’ with us. Forward-thinking GCs like Balfour Beatty, The Beck Group, Gilbane, Life Time, Beckenhauer, Frank Dale Construction, and Korte embrace revolutionary change and have found that collaboration—both internally and externally—has made them more successful.

We picked out some of the top advice from our conversations with precon professionals and laid them out here. For more from your preconstruction peers, you can access all our webinars by clicking here.

Building Better Relationships with Clients

Use Microsoft Power BI

 

screen shot of DESTINI Estimator preconstruction estimating software Power BI home screen dashboard Quickly show owners where your numbers come from on visually appealing and easy-to-understand graphs through Power BI.

Balfour Beatty performs a lot of public works with school districts. School districts have a unique need by needing to know what to put on future bonds. Balfour Beatty’s precon team utilizes DESTINI Estimator’s historical cost integration with Microsoft Power BI to provide a quick and easy-to-read way to present information to owners. Senior Estimator, Landon McQuestion says, “With historical cost data, we can inform them better and a lot faster.”

Leverage Custom Dashboards

In DESTINI Estimator, the Dashboard view is an easy and flexible way to get the data you need out of the estimate and export it into a report. Justin Wetherby, a Senior Estimator at Gilbane Building Company says they use Dashboards to present client-specific information: “The ability to take a client bid form or a client spreadsheet, put it into the software [DESTINI Estimator] and tie your cost to their sheet is extremely powerful.”

Benchmarking

Invest Your Time in Problem Solving and Data Analysis

Brent Pilgrim, DESTINI Applications Director at the Beck Group says, “When precon teams move away from the mundane manual tasks and utilize cost history databases, I really see the role of the estimating team transforming from a bunch of professional people who count things for a living to something much more critical in terms of the value we provide a project.”

Produce Clear, Concise, Repeatable Results

When Life Time Construction’s preconstruction team uses the Project Tab in DESTINI Estimator they can outline what they’ve captured for general conditions cost and push it to a dashboard for “clear, concise, repeatable results. This helps the tracking of historical cost data and costing in the future.”

Charging for Preconstruction Services

Free-con is becoming the “old way” of doing things. Jan Beran, Project Estimator at Beckenhauer Construction says, “We budget in preconstruction service in post-shovel activities. Paying for precon is a fairly new concept. As we’ve gotten busier and owners are expecting more from estimates and precon services, as an industry, we’re starting to realize that we need to start charging for this or else we are not going to be competitive.”

Implement New Software the RIGHT Way

 

Beck Technology employees working in the downtown Dallas office Beck Technology software includes a customized implementation plan for your team.

Johnny Rhea, Vice President of Preconstruction at Frank Dale Construction says, “don’t underestimate the time it takes to implement new software.” He stresses the importance of having a game plan and being prepared to be uncomfortable during the switch; however, don’t settle for an out-of-the-box solution. He says, “What we do in preconstruction can set profitability for the rest of the company,” so implementing a new enterprise-wide construction estimating software needs to be done right.

 

 

Working with Subcontractors

Keeping Track of Subs Feedback

Landon (Balfour Beatty) has a system of keeping track of subcontractor evaluations. He made a simple Smartsheet web form with dropdowns and a note section so project managers could submit feedback on subs easily and quickly. (*Expert tip: Get the PMs’ boss to send it out.)

Transparency is Key

Brian Marks, Senior Estimator at Korte Company says they are transparent with their information. In the end, this transparency benefits not just Korte, but also their clients. Brian says, “Communicate early and build that level of trust right out of the gate. Ultimately, the failure or success of the project comes down to the subcontractors performing the work. We don’t self-perform a whole lot of work—we’re reliant on these subcontractors. They need to trust that we’re going to manage the project to make it profitable both for them and ourselves.”

Are You Ready to Collaborate?

Business and marketing thought leader, consultant, and New York Times bestselling author, Simon Mainwaring, said, “Effectively, change is almost impossible without industry-wide collaboration, cooperation, and consensus.” Beck Tech’s mission is to revolutionize the industry…change the future and we mean that.

The only way we’ve come this far and are continuing to rapidly grow and develop innovative preconstruction solutions is through collaboration and long-time partnerships with our clients and others in the construction industry. We’d love for you to contribute to the conversation. Drop us a line at hermonafework@beck-technology.com to schedule a meeting.

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