Yes, you get to wear yet another hat! Most of your crew are probably highly motivated self-starters. Some people however, if left to themselves, will not rise very far above average. This is where the role of a coach can be a critical factor in tipping the scales of winning or losing. It may sound like it’s piling on one more task to your already over-filled plate, but often a few minutes or even just an encouraging word can have a big impact.
One very important role of an excellent coach is to set goals for your staff. People need to know what is expected of them. This also has the added benefit of helping you to evaluate their performance. Goals should not only be general, as in your mission statement, but they also need to be specific to the project or task at hand and should be set each day.
Something as simple as “OK Chris, I would like to see you get these six rooms sprayed out by the end of the day. Do you think you can do that?” This approach gives your team the opportunity to “buy in” to the plan, and gives them a sense of ownership; also pride when they achieve their goals.
When they do, you should be sure to acknowledge their accomplishment. This has a very positive effect. Another aspect regarding feedback to your crew is that it should be specific. “Hey, good job today Sue.” is certainly positive. However, if you add “I really like the way you used that 30 gallon trash can to spray out of. I think that was way faster than continually switching out 5 gallon buckets.” Sue knows you were paying attention to the fact that she came up with a time-saving idea.
That kind of praise has a deeper impact. As I mentioned, the other aspect of setting goals comes into play when they are not met. This gives you the opportunity, as coach, to get with your crew and figure out why. “Did something or someone slow you down?” “Was there an equipment problem, or maybe a product issue?” This way you can make your team part of the process of formulating a “recovery plan”, to get things back on track.
Included in every excellent coach’s tool box should be a Mentoring program. Investing time in your staff to develop their skills will pay dividends to your company’s success. You personally need to mentor your foremen and superintendents. They in turn should have a well-defined mentoring plan to share their years of experience with their journeymen and apprentices. This ultimately has the effect of increasing everyone’s skill level, which benefits you.
I often have been met with resistance when trying to implement a mentoring program. I’ve heard things like “I’m not a babysitter.” The other argument is usually that they don’t have time. Here is where you get to practice your coaching skills by convincing them that it can be something as simple as taking 5 minutes to show an apprentice the correct brush technique to speed up their cut-in production time.
The other issue that is often at the heart of resistance is that the foreman is afraid that if they take time to teach, they won’t make their production goals and will look bad to you. You need, as coach, to empower them to take “reasonable” windows of opportunity to demonstrate better brush, spraying, masking techniques, or whatever. Everyone wins if you have a strong mentoring program. The other added benefit from a mentoring type work environment is that it sends the clear message to your employees that there is opportunity for growth and advancement by working for you.
According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, the sense of being valued and of having the opportunity for advancement is even more important to people than how much money they make. Being an excellent coach can also build stronger relationships and respect, often leading to higher productivity and quality from your crews, and less employee turnover.
Also, always remember: “Praise in public, but criticize in private.”, and treat everyone with respect.
*Visit Lynn Jackson’s web page at www.paintprecise.com
Putting it all together
The first step to any bid is of course to gather the quantities, whether you are measuring an existing structure or doing a takeoff from a set of plans. From there you must “extend” your numbers, either manually or by entering the information into an estimating program. There are many such programs available, such as eTakeoff at eTakeoff.com, Eagle Bid at www.evergreentech.net and PEP Cloud at www.paintestimating.com. Once you have your calculations completed, there are still a few things to consider before the bid is ready to submit. Let’s look at some of these variables that can influence how you want to present any given bid, or if you want to bid the project at all.
Types of bids
As a preface, let me say that my focus here will be on bidding to general contractors, but many of these principals apply to dealing directly with owners as well.
First, you must determine what type of bid this is going to be. There are basically three types; negotiated, select, and competitive. Of these three, the negotiated bid is the most desirable. In this situation, an owner will choose which general contractor they want to run their project and negotiate a price with that company. With the negotiated bid, in addition to the price, your reputation for honesty, quality and how easy you are to work with can be deciding factors.
The select bid is the next best situation to find yourself in. It is similar to the negotiated bid, but rather than choosing one single general contractor, the owner will comprise a list of a select few that will be asked to bid on the project; usually three. As with the first example, your chances of winning such a bid are still better than with the typical, open or competitive bid.
The competitive bid is probably the most common of the three I have mentioned. This is when an owner puts a project out to bid on the open market so to speak. Your chances of winning a competitive bid are statistically the smallest. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t bother bidding on them, but it is something to take into consideration.
The distance your crew and you have to travel to a job can have more of an impact than just the travel time involved. The distance to the nearest paint store, should you need supplies, can be a factor. What if you experience equipment failure? Supervision becomes a more difficult task as well. In light of such possibilities, you may want to increase your bid accordingly.
Basically, high quality work goes for a premium. “Blow and go” production type jobs don’t. If you know that a high level of craftsmanship is going to be required on a job, you will need to adjust your bid to account for the extra attention that will be demanded.
Assume you are bidding an interior repaint of a school, it is summer and the contract documents stipulate that the work must be completed before school resumes session. They further stipulate that if you are not done by the deadline, that you must finish the work during evenings or on weekends, and/or liquidated damages will be charged to you for failing to meet the schedule; these can be substantial. These added constraints add a risk factor that again commands a higher rate than typical jobs.
These jobs are typically for federal, state, or city agencies, or for schools. With prevailing wage jobs, you will experience increased expenses for your bookkeeping needs, as you will often be required to submit “certified payrolls”, and see to it that your crews are paid weekly and at the prevailing wage required.
Who are these people? Have you worked with them before? Were they easy to work with? Did they pay on time? Did they honor your change orders? Were they difficult to please? Did they interpret the plans differently than you did? All these are legitimate questions to ask yourself.
Present work load
How full is your plate? If you presently have a substantial amount of work in progress, you may decide not to bid any additional work. If you choose to do so, you should bid it at a premium rate. You don’t want to submit a ridiculously high number, but you clearly have the option in this case to make the extra work well worth your while.
OK, so you’ve submitted your bid, and you’re wondering how you did. In the case of “sealed bids”, there is typically a bid opening that anyone can attend to find out immediately who won. If you are the prime contractor on a project, you can typically contact the issuing authority and ask who won the bid. If you were bidding as a subcontractor, you can call and see which of the general contractors was the “apparent low” bidder. Once you know which firm won the bid, you can call them, congratulate them, and asked if they “listed” you for the painting.
When you do receive an invitation to a bid from a customer, respond to it, even if you are not able to submit a number at the time. It is common, that after a certain number of “no bids” from you, that you will be considered non-responsive, and dropped from their bidders list. Sometimes you just can’t help it, but when at all possible, submit a number. If you are not able or interested, at least respond and say “Catch you on the next one.”
*Visit Lynn Jackson’s web page at http://www.paintprecise.com.
When bidding to and working with general contractors, there are a number of things that are critical for your path to success. These include Marketing, The Bidding Process and Contract Negotiation.
Your success starts with smart marketing. I would encourage anyone to evaluate the General Contractors within their target market area. You can even grade them as an “A”, “B”, “C” etc. contractor, based on certain criteria. The key item to consider is their reputation with other subcontractors, or if you have worked with them before, your own experience. Ask if they are fair and honest, do they pay on time, stay on schedule, do they communicate well and do they keep their commitments? By making these assessments you can build a list of preferred customers to bid to. Building relationships with this target market will also increase your odds of success if their projects tend to be more of the “negotiated” type rather than being open to all comers. This increases your chances substantially.
The Bidding Process
One of the goals of building such quality relationships is to be included on the customers “preferred vendor list”. By maintaining contacts with the estimators and project managers, you can keep in the loop with their available bids. This provides a huge advantage over your competition that is chasing bids through the Plan Centers that provide less selective opportunities.
When you do receive an invitation to bid, or a RFP (Request for Proposal), the email will typically include a link to their FTP site where you can download the bid documents. You can then print the Plans or import them into your takeoff software program.
Once you have your bid put together, I would suggest sending a preliminary “Scope Letter” to the General(s) to allow them to preview what you intend to include in your bid. Within your scope letter be clear and keep it concise. List your “Inclusions”, “Exclusions” and “Clarifications”. One thing to note; Most Generals don’t like to see the word “Exclusions”, as it causes concern that they may not have the painting scope completely covered. It is better to say that you assume a particular area of work to be “by others” (Transparent finishes, traffic markings or any task you normally don’t perform), and offer an alternate added pricing to cover it, even if you need to get a sub bid from someone else for it.
The scope letter is an excellent communication tool, and most Generals appreciate it. This can also help to set you apart from your competition who may not include this professional courtesy. One other item that is appreciated is if you point out any omissions or errors in the plans or specifications. If the Generals can rely on you to be their expert, this will help strengthen your relationship and further set you apart from your competitors.
After your bid is submitted and evaluated by the customer, and you are the “apparent low bidder”, you will receive a call or email typically, inviting you to a “descoping” meeting. These are to ensure that you have everything covered. Be sure to respond in a timely manner. Review your bid and scope of work thoroughly before your meeting, so you are well prepared. During the meeting be positive and ready to offer suggestions and solutions that may help you and the General to succeed on the project.
If it turns out that there are any scope items that you have overlooked, or if there are questions you don’t readily have answers for, simply say “I’ll get back to you on this.” This will give you time to form a response and avoids shooting from the hip, which can often create problems.
Assuming everything is in order, you will (eventually) receive your subcontract. When it arrives, read it carefully and thoroughly; all of it. You will need to confirm that the price accounting, the scope of work, schedule, insurance requirements, dates of the plans and specifications and all other details are in line with your expectations. One of the main items of focus is the Scope of Work. Read each Inclusion and Exclusion. If there are any issues you do not agree with, make a note (list) to discuss with your customer. You may need to gather any pertinent emails or backup documents to support your contention of items you feel are incorrect. These often occur as a matter of oversight, and you should approach this phase of the negotiation as such. You don’t want to appear argumentative or contentious, but you do have to know which items are critical; “Hills worth dying on”. You should respectfully request that the contract language be amended to correct any errors, or to capture any inclusions, exclusions or clarifications you think are necessary. Do not simply write the changes into the contract yourself, as this is usually not acceptable. Once the contract is to your satisfaction, sign it and prepare to execute your work.
Hopefully this article points out the value of a well thought-out plan to identifying your best customers to build and grow relationships with. As pointed out, this “relationship-based” approach can be a benefit to both parties. Being seen as a team player and an asset will definitely pay dividends in the long run.
*Visit Lynn Jackson’s web page at http://www.paintprecise.com
Your field budget is generated from your bid. The total amount of time and materials that you have bid for each phase of the project makes up your field budget. This tells your superintendent and foreman on the job exactly how many hours and how many gallons of paint that you expect them to use for each step of the process. These budgets can be easily generated by using estimating software.
Once on the job, your superintendent and foreman can use this tool as a guideline to help them steer the project in the right direction and act as an early warning system to alert them to the fact that corrections are needed. This is a far better approach than waiting until the project is completed, and trying to figure out why you lost money.
Hand in hand with the field budget are your time cards. These are basically simple spreadsheets that must be filled out by your foremen, and there are several apps that can help you manage time as well.
We are all aware of the need to track, early and often, how our crews are performing on each job. This task can be made fairly simple by using time cards, which you can purchase or create yourself. These don’t need to be terribly sophisticated, just basic spread sheets that you can populate with the project information and rows which depict each task and the hours estimated for them. One suggestion is that you use the first column to assign a code to each task. When your foremen fill out their time cards, they should indicate the code that each employee was working on for that day. For example, the first column and row of the time card would have code 101 (Or any number of your choice). Moving to the right, the next cell would indicate “paint walls”, the next would show the hours used that day for painting walls and the next one, the total number of hours that were estimated for that task. The last cell should be for the percentage of the total that has been completed to date. Each day’s time card can be totaled weekly, and used to populate a Job Phase Overview Report. This lists, by codes, the total number of hours used on the job to date, compared to the estimate, and shows the differences. This makes it very easy to spot where you are winning or losing. The Job Phase Overview Report can be used in weekly production meetings to help your team evaluate the progress of each of your projects and to determine any necessary adjustments.
One other tool I would suggest is the use of Daily Reports. An accurate set of daily reports from a job will arm you with information that can help when bidding future work. Another benefit derived from the practice of keeping daily reports, is that they can serve as activity reports, should you need to refer to them at a future date. It’s not unheard of for a general contractor or owner to come to you during the course of a project, and question you as to what may or may not have been done on any given day. With your daily reports in hand, you have documented evidence of the number of people you working on any given day and what tasks they performed, material purchases, temperature and dew point readings, any conditions or events that may have impacted your production, documentation of directions from or correspondence with the customer and any other information you choose to include.
These reports can all be generated as easily as using a spiral notebook and handwriting, using a shared Google spreadsheet or a number of apps on the market. The important thing is to track and monitor everything you do.
*Visit Lynn Jackson’s web page at http://www.paintprecise.com