Monday 15 August 2016

Why the "Write and Run" Estimator May NOT Be Right for Your Business

Posted by at 7:26 AM in

Why the "Write and Run" Estimator May NOT Be Right to Grow Restoration Business.

There are two basic approaches owners take in hiring estimators. The Generalist is known as a “write and run” estimator and integrates multiple roles into the position. These roles typically include sales, estimating, and project management. You probably know plenty of contractors who follow this model.

The estimator is expected to sell the job, estimate the job, and then run it to completion. A single person takes the job from the very first customer contact to the very last. With the specialist role an estimator estimates. They assume responsibility for the construction take-off and prepares the estimate.

They assume full responsibility for the estimating process until the estimate is approved by the adjuster at which time the estimate is passed to production who oversees the completion of the work involved. One is a generalist combining multiple roles and the other is a specialist fulfilling one primary role.

Which fits your business best? I believe the generalist is most appropriate for the needs of a smaller growing company. Managers almost always must wear multiple hats and assume broad responsibilities. As the company grows the “write and run” estimator has more work to do in the combined roles than they can manage so an additional manager is hired to assume one of the major roles.

The company now employees an estimator and a project manager and has increased its capacity to take on more work. The generalist gives way to the specialist as the company grows. The problem is that many contractors don’t understand the need for this transition and when the workload is too much they hire a second and a third “write and run” estimator creating a team of generalists.

The rationale for continuing to favor the generalist is that someone needs to sell the job – for which the estimator oftentimes receives a commission. Once having met the customer and obtained the sale that person seems to be the natural choice to prepare the estimate and therefore logically the best one to run the job. OK, but consider these drawbacks to this approach:

  • Most often there is nothing to “sell” and the contractor pays a commission needlessly. Whether the job comes as an assignment from a TPA, or is captured as part of a mitigation job, or is a referral from an insurance agent or a plumber … you are not competing against other contractors for the job so there is really nothing to “sell” – so why pay a commission? Wouldn’t you agree that when a customer is ankle deep in water whoever gets there first gets the job. If referred by an agent or plumber during an active emergency their referral is nearly as good as an assignment. In an emergency the customer is not on the hunt for multiple bids and is willing to accept help from any place they can get it. So there is really nothing to sell, all you have to do is show up – quickly, and sign the job!
  • Another issue is that the desired temperament varies for each role and this may create problems. Don’t you want an estimator to be an introvert who loves the computer, construction, and preparing repair estimates. Time is valuable and you don’t want them to get distracted by long conversations with customers on site or by phone. Likewise, don’t you want the sales person to be a strong extrovert who loves working with people and enjoys talking with and helping them? Most contractors prefer a project manager to be assertive and able to supervise others with self-confidence and personal strength. Trying to find all three temperaments in one person is nearly impossible. A “write and run” estimator will likely excel at one portion of their job while other duties suffer. Accepting that as a normal result of the “write and run” role isn’t wise and usually doesn’t work well.
  • How many jobs can a “write and run” estimator manage at any one time if they are selling it, estimating it, and running it – not very many, maybe 6 or so. If you are a low volume company a “write and run” estimator may be all you can afford, but this style is not built for growth.

I built my company around increasing our capacity to take on more and more work, organizing and structuring the company for growth, and using specialists in each of the key roles who could personally handle a high volume of work. In sales – I want a strong extrovert who is a people person, likable by others, a good communicator, and able to close the deal and sell the job.

I want my estimators to put their heads down and pump out 12 roof estimates in a day or 6 – 8 repair estimates. I want them in and out of the customer’s house quickly having completed an accurate and comprehensive takeoff, and eager to get back to the office to get the estimate written. I want a strong project manager ready, willing, and able to hold workers accountable for quality work and efficient work habits, well organized to take control of material and labor costs, and able to intervene in a problem with workable solutions at a moment’s notice.

I needed them to manage no fewer than 12 or more jobs simultaneously without becoming overwhelmed by their duties. Smaller companies may be required to combine responsibilities, but as they grow beyond an estimator’s ability to handle multiple roles the added responsibilities should be passed to other specialists within the company who can assume these duties.

A company can’t meet its demands for growth with a C+ “write and run” estimator who struggles with being all things to all people. The generalist just won’t do! A company built for growth needs an “A” grade sales staff, “A” grade estimators, and “A” grade project managers. Each of these specialists must perform at a high level of professional competence or the business suffers. If you are going to staff for growth you want a team of specialists who excel in their responsibilities, and can handle a high volume of work.

If you struggle with taking on more work or being able to afford more staff your problem might simply be that you are staffed for mediocrity and low volume using the “write and run” approach, and you may be losing money by paying high incentives or commissions when none are really needed. If you stop relying on generalists and instead employ specialists you might just revolutionize your business, and dramatically expand your capacity to take on more work that could catapult your profitability to new heights. In the end, this is what every owner wants, isn’t it? Reference: 3 Month Coaching Plan: The Estimator Extraordinaire – Creating Excellence and Higher Profits in Estimating