How Great Estimators Outperform Their Industry

Consistently repeatable success beats everything.

Most of the truly great landscape and snow teams stake their flag at the top of this hill. A company’s ability to accurately price an offered scope of work sets the tone for everything that follows. Price too low and you lose money. Price too high and your competitors win the work. Go either way too often and erode both your revenue goals and your margin goals. Thus, all salespeople, and all selling owners, study this science – this art – of throwing darts at the bullseye in the middle, where attainable profit meets customer satisfaction.

But apart from enduring years of painful guess-and-check learning, seeing what bids we win and lose over time – and watching what makes and loses money – how do we become truly great at estimating? Most companies can tell you the profits and margins they would like to achieve, but not as many can quickly and accurately explain what their types of labor and materials tend to cost, and fewer are in-tune with labor rates and market changes. Given profits and margins both depend on not just the price we bid but the costs we face, why are we so much better at guess-timating prices than estimating costs?

Think of it this way… Selling to one client is easier than selling to four at once, right? Estimators, in fact, have to “close the deal” with Sales (“If you can fulfill X at Y price, they will be our customer”), with Operations (“Here’s what we’re capable of”), with Finance (“Keep in mind our latest cost sheet update!”), and with ownership’s eye to the bottom line. The old phrase is that, “It’s hard to have a foot in two worlds.” Estimators are maintaining two feet in four worlds, which often feels as impossible as it sounds! And getting a whole team of estimators and salespeople to do all that in exactly the same process? With the same numbers?

It’s what we call “Unified Job Costing”, and it’s borderline impossible through manual effort alone.

This is where a centralized business management solution such as BossLM comes in. A company’s latest costs all live in one shared place and update as the market changes, keeping Finance at ease. Customizing it with your own “secret sauce” production rates means Operations can be confident that what gets quoted can be achieved. Being web-based gives Sales access from anywhere, costs them a fraction of the time to assemble, and maintains consistency across every bid by every team member – every time. And for owners? The job screen confidently displays the margins and profits the team can expect if we win.

Think of all the benefits. Two estimators bidding and winning as much work as you thought you would need three to handle. Operations and Sales not arguing over “bad bids”. Monthly Finance “Job Reports” with an empty “Losers” column. Owners with the peace of mind to walk away from trap jobs because they know that big revenue won’t be close to profitable.

This is the future of technology in the landscape and snow industry, and the companies who stake their flag here will be at the top of the industry hill tomorrow. Maybe a competitor will get lucky on a bid here and there. In the long run? Consistently repeatable success beats everything.


David Rempfer shares from 13 years of profit and non-profit team leadership, is a veteran leader of multimillion landscape and snow operations, and is one of less than 300 professionals in North America to be SIMA Executive CSP certified. He now consults industry executives and leadership teams in their pursuits of business improvement and quality-of-life.

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