Thursday 13 October 2016

10 Keys to Assessing Your Estimators Performance

Posted by at 10:31 AM in

Grow Restoration Business by Improving Your Estimators Performance Against This 10-Point Assessment

When asked most contractors believe their estimators are leaving money on the table missing legitimate charges that go unrecorded. It’s not that estimators don’t want to be thorough, but oftentimes they are either untrained, unfamiliar, or uninformed regarding charges that make up a full and comprehensive scope of repair.

The simple truth is – most estimators are good, but they are not great. Many estimators have a lot of experience in construction. Some have grown up in a family of contractors or have strapped on a tool belt at a young age and have learned the ins and outs of basic residential construction. But many of those same experienced construction workers are self-taught using Xactimate as a pricing platform for preparing the scope of repair. For those who have attended the 3-day introductory class on the basics of estimating offered by Xactware you know that this course is mostly about learning how to sketch using Xactimate drawing tools, and not how to become an excellent damage repair estimator.

As with learning any skill mastery is all about training and practice. My high school football coach told us frequently that it is not just about practice, but perfection requires perfect practice. Otherwise, we just keep practicing with the same limited knowledge or understanding making the same mistakes over and over again. Some estimators have written a thousand estimates, and haven’t significantly improved their skills over that long haul of experience. They have had the same experience a thousand times and are no better for it. Let’s see how your estimator scores against this 10-point assessment:

  1. Is your estimator self-trained or school trained? As in most professions there are entry level skills and advanced skills. The difference is not in doing the same thing 1,000 times, but in gaining additional training that lays the foundation for more advanced skills.
  2. Does your estimator follow a logical systematic process to complete the construction takeoff, or is the plan a hodgepodge of notes, arrows, and disorder?
  3. Ask your estimator to describe graphical estimating. If they don’t know what that is, you have a problem. Graphical estimating can save both time and money.
  4. Is your estimator familiar with the Xactimate tools that both help find the correct line item as well as insure they are not missing any items that could legitimately be charged for? Ask what those tools are and how they are used.
  5. Are there certain jobs for which your estimator is unconformable or unfamiliar with such as pulling a roof, creating a deck, or estimating larger framing jobs? This may be a sign of a lack of experience using key Xactimate tools.
  6. How often have your estimators utilized XactChat in the last 6 months? If they tell you they have never been on XactChat you can be certain they are under-performing. If I couldn't figure out a Xactimate function or feature in 60 seconds I immediately jumped onto XactChat for help. This helped me create laser sharp skills and I understood Xactimate far better than any of my estimators.
  7. Do your estimators have a hard time creating Change Orders for customers that clearly lists their upgrades along with credits and charges? Do they use Xactimate to create your Change Orders or do they create a standalone document? If you are not creating Change Orders using Xactimate you are likely losing money and creating confusion.
  8. How do your estimators deal with preference selection items? These are the items that a customer should personally select due to personal preferences such as color, texture, sheen, style, etc. Do you use Xactimate to create the list of items the customer should personally shop for that provides a description of the item, the number of items to be purchased, and the not to exceed unit cost?
  9. Do your estimators regularly create sub scopes for portions of work to be completed by various subcontractors? Verbal instructions or guesswork will produce all sorts of problems for you.
  10. Do your estimator use the “drop and fill” method or manually apply material waste to flooring? I've rarely seen drop and fill produce less than 24% waste. If you are using a manual calculation you are coming up short somewhere.

How did you do? How many “wrong” answers are you willing to accept before you realize that this under performance is costing you money? Has anyone ever introduced you to estimating best practices? I have identified no less than 30 industry best practices for Xactimate estimating each of which establishes a baseline of performance for your estimators. 

Determining where they are in meeting these baseline requirements, and taking steps to help them improve in each area will improve their skill and your bottom line While being “Good” may be acceptable, becoming “Great” will earn you more money, promote greater professionalism among your construction staff, and provide more confidence that the scope of repair is thorough and comprehensive. There is a lot you can do to elevate the quality of your estimating work and it is not that difficult or time consuming to do. In only 3 months you can get the overhaul you and others deserve, and help your estimating staff surpass Good to become Great.

Reference: 3 Month Coaching Plan – The Estimator Extraordinaire – Creating Excellence and High Profits in Estimating