Building a profitable mechanical estimating business takes years to streamline and perfect both the process and practice. The end goal always is to have a full workbook, with profits of course, and a happy client base. Doing business ethically and following best practices, will help achieve this goal. Having strong ethics makes it not just profitable but viewed as a business with integrity and purpose.
There are many things we, as businesses, do to get on top. The way we treat our clients and the way we handle their business goes on to show our professionalism and our love for the work we do. Although some of the things people do in their quest for success may not be illegal, they may still be considered morally wrong.
To ensure we get repeat business from our clients, it is critical that we do things right, not just legally, but also ethically correct. Some decisions may be easier to take because we know them to be correct, both from a legal and an ethical standpoint. But, then we have some decisions wherein, we are not sure about the right thing to do. One wrong decision could make all the efforts we have put in so far go down the drain along with our reputation.
In this blog, I talk about the ethical practices that we follow here at Chase Estimating. These have helped me steer my business in the right direction over the years. While I refer to the Mechanical estimating business in the article, the points I make are equally applicable to all estimating including plumbing estimating, insulation estimating and so on.
Do not ever do the same project for two clients.
At Chase Estimating, we make it a point not to work for two different clients on the same project. If we get two projects from two different clients at the same time, that is in the same place, same area etc., and are identical in every way, we go with one of them, usually on a first come first serve basis.
For example, if we get one client asking us for just a take-off on insulation estimating project and another asking us to do the complete estimate of the same project, we are aware that we cannot do both, at the same time, without compromising data and having a conflict of interest. So we do the ethical thing, which is to only work for one of them.
It would obviously help our estimating service to take both the projects because more work equals more business. But, the point to be noted here is that the take-off estimate, BOQ and any other data we produce, will be pretty much the same and this could be noticed by the end client. Questions would get asked, fingers could get pointed and it could get very messy, very quickly. For this reason alone we don’t do the same project for 2 people but there are many other reasons too, primarily it just feels wrong and doesn’t sit well with us.
We will, however, consider taking both the projects, if two different clients ask us to work on two different aspects of the same project. For example, say we have client no 1 asking us to do a ductwork takeoff on a commercial project and another client (Client no 2) seeks us out for a plumbing takeoff on the same project.
In this case, as you can see, the jobs are different. So we are not compromising data anywhere. These are two different take-offs and two different estimates.
Be honest with your clients:
There may be cases wherein we have missed the newest addendum or made a mathematical error when we were estimating a project. The job may not have been peer-reviewed by one of our other mechanical estimators or have overlooked including or excluding something in our take-off estimate. These mistakes may be small or big, but they do happen. When they do, they will affect our final bid amount, the amount depends on what has been missed.
Whatever may be the case, we have always been truthful to our clients. We haven’t made any big errors so far touch wood, but when we are honest with them, together we have always found a way to work around the error until it diminished its importance.
Clients will eventually figure out if we have made errors or missed addendums in the mechanical estimating of the project. If we are not honest with them and claim to have done the job to perfection when we know we have not, and they find these mistakes eventually, we know that we will lose both the client and their trust. The word of mouth could further spread, jeopardizing our business for many years. So lying is not worth the risk in our opinion.
Do not disclose your client list.
Through the many years of hard work we have put in, we might have made a strong client base for ourselves. We are proud of the many eminent names on the list. As tempting as it may be to brag about it, we do not do it.
Our work experience with the big companies we may have worked with will only be relevant when we have another big mechanical contractor who might want to hire us, and asks for some reference.
We do not share our references without asking our clients first. We always ask our clients if we can use them as references for jobs in the future and always back their permission in an email. This way, even if they forget about us, we have their written consent.
Always be upfront about any kind of extra charges
Nobody likes to pay more than what they have agreed to and the same goes with our clients. Let’s say we have a client who asks us to do mechanical estimating on a hospital project. We agree to do it for say, £2500 plus added charges for addendums.
During the course of the project, new addendums come out, bringing in major changes in the construction drawings and the project specifications. As a result, we may have to re-do most of the work.
The ethical thing to do here would be to call the client before we begin working on the changes. We explain to our client that because the new addendums have brought in many changes in the construction drawings, we will have to re-do most of the work, and it would cost them extra to our initial lump sum. We also very specifically tell him how much extra we will be charging them.
Once we have the client’s agreement, we follow it up in an email, so that we have written consent as well. When we do it this way, there will be no surprises for the client when we send him our final bill for the mechanical estimating job. Even if they are surprised because they may have forgotten about our call, we have written consent from them. This is the way to go about the situation professionally.
Instead, if we would have just assumed that the client will pay, the situation may not be so professional. Although the client may know that they have to pay you more for the addendums, they may not know how much more. It would be unethical for us to assume he would pay. As mechanical estimators, we do not assume, make the changes and then give them the final bill without consulting the client first.
It is much safer to be upfront about everything. We contact the client first to clear the details before we begin with any changes, and we always have things followed by written consent.
Never expect the client to pick up the bill for an error on our part
Let’s say we give a quote for a job, the client accepts and we begin the takeoffs. As our mechanical estimators work through the project it is found that during our appraisal, we missed out on a folder with drawings that are required for the job. In this instance, it may be tempting to demand the client pays extra even though it’s our fault. That’s not the way we operate at Chase Estimating. I am a big believer in taking it on the chin when it’s mine or my estimator’s fault. If it’s our fault then we need to absorb the extra cost it takes to price those drawings up. Simple.
So to wrap it up, we are honest with our clients, even when we make mistakes. We never do the same job for more than one client at one time. We don’t charge our clients more than they have agreed to pay. We only use our clients’ names as references if you have their consent.
Charity at Chase estimating
In addition to the points mentioned above, another ethical thing we do at Chase Estimating is to plant a tree for every job we receive and invoice. I am especially passionate about tree planting and wildlife preservation. I do not want to be part of the last generation to live in a world where there are wild elephants, orangutans and other wildlife that is threatened due to our activities.
Ecologi is a platform that we take pride in being associated with. They plant native trees responsibly with the help of the local communities involved, thus creating much-needed jobs in some of the poorest regions of the world.
It’s a win-win for everyone involved, we get to run a business with a purpose, the people planting the trees get to earn a living, and the wildlife has ecosystems to live in and thrive. Finally, you can feel good about doing business with us, knowing that the money you spend with us will also be spent helping do good in this world.
These practices have helped me run my business successfully for many years. Here’s hoping you like the way we work and come to us for any of your mechanical estimating needs. Contact us at Chase estimating, and we will be more than happy to help you with your M+E estimating and insulation estimating projects.