What is it Like Being an Estimator?

EstimatingDuring my 30+ years of doing electrical construction cost estimates, I have been asked on numerous occasions, “Why would anyone want to be an estimator?”

Estimating is actually one of the most important components of the electrical contracting process. An estimator is one of the contractor’s first individuals to touch a project, and how they handle their responsibilities is a huge part of determining a project’s success – but it requires a special skill set:

  • Attention to Detail: Being able to closely analyze drawings and specifications.
  • Cutting Edge: Staying up-to-date on new industry products and installation methods, job-costing methods and estimating software. Having good number skills and working well with computer software are key attributes. Estimating software has become a very important tool and can help eliminate many mistakes, but it is still easy to input a bad value. Being able to stand back, and analyze whether the numbers make sense is an art in itself.
  • Effective Communication: Being able to listen and correspond with co-workers, suppliers, designers, and customers, both verbally and in writing.

Over the course of a year, an estimator may be involved with a hundred or more varied projects, all with tremendous opportunity. A good estimator recognizes the unique challenges of each project (i.e. difficult feeder routings, compressed work schedules, important milestones, stacking of trades, or inappropriately specified materials) and finds solutions to them, determines better ways to design a project than what has been presented to them, and is an integral part of identifying and carrying out strategies that will help set them apart from their competition.

Sometimes a second place finish can still be turned into an awarded first place finish if an estimator can communicate why they are the customer’s best solution. Being awarded a project means an estimator did all of those things well, and they should be proud because beyond that immediate project, this may also lead to more work with a customer. In turn, diligence will also be recognized by your co-workers, managers and customers who will continue to call on you with their future projects.