What has taught you the most about estimating properly?

Discussion in 'General Industry Discussions' started by GreenerSideLC, Mar 19, 2007.

  1. GreenerSideLC

    GreenerSideLC LawnSite Member
    Messages: 75

    I ve been doing lawn maintenance for 12 years (5 yrs on my own). My work is very good and I try to keep my prices competitive (no lowballing) but I still dont have a lot of confidence in estimating jobs, except mowing, and clean-ups.
    Besides this website, what has helped you learn how to estimate properly? are there any books worth the money?
  2. mcwlandscaping

    mcwlandscaping LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,163

    I have a similar feeling as well!!.......and am looking forward to answers to this post
  3. Az Gardener

    Az Gardener LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,899

    Mistakes helped me the most as long as you pay attention and learn from them.

    For instance when I started I was consistently 50% low on all my bids! Seriously. Fortunately I kept track of things and I started to do estimates and double them and I found I was in the ballpark. As I got better I became a counter. Numbers don't lie so even if I thought "this tree will only take 15 min to trim" I knew by the time I mobilized, got the debris to the truck, most trees take a minimum of an hour unless there are lots of them close to a drive or road.

    I eventually evolved my bidding process into a spreadsheet with the specific areas or tasks down the left side and the months of the year across the top. I estimate weekly numbers needed while on the job and make notes like "47 stepping stones- 12 seconds each, 90 lft edging etc". Then I come back to the office to do the monthly totals. This way when I present a bid if it is too high they can tell me what they don't want done to save a few bucks.

    I still freehand a lot of it but I need to develop some good firm numbers so others in my organization can bid, its the only way to grow.
  4. FearThisDeere

    FearThisDeere LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,154

    I have very little confidence when bidding or estimating a job. That is my major problem. I don't want to lowball, but I want the job. The best lesson is quoting a mowing job for $45 that ended up taking me over 70 minutes to do. I learned quickly.
  5. justanotherlawnguy

    justanotherlawnguy LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,282

    I have yet to figure out the mystery of not knowing how to bid. Go out and bid on a job and see how you do. Get crushed on a few and you will learn quick. Its better to start high and then back track if they wanna beat you up on price. Once you throw a lowball price out there, for the most part your done, cause you cannot go up.

    It does not take long to figure out. If you have been doing this for more than a year and you haven't learned by now, then something is seriously wrong.
  6. BeautifulBlooms

    BeautifulBlooms LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 613

    Biggest thing to learning your bidding process is to accurately keep track of all your time throughout every day.

    If you are hauling mulch keep track of that, if you are spreding mulch keep track of that, if you are trimming with a string trimmer keep track of that, and if you are mowing with your 52" deck keep trackof that. You will see certain proprties take longer than others and for different reasons you just have to know how to read the #'s. Why did one place take longer then the next and youwill become a lot more accurate with yur bidding, you will see things you didnt see before.
  7. jeffex

    jeffex LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,933

    start a bok of notes. How much materials. How long it takes. Travel time, and material pick up and disposal times. equipment rentals or time of equipment used [equipment costs] etc. It gives you a data base to see where you made the best profit. It takes time. Your circumstances are unique to YOU. Me, I just wing it these days. I price some jobs to make sure I have work and others to see how far I can push a customer. Reading the customer is what I use to throw out a price.
  8. Drew Gemma

    Drew Gemma LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,508

    ok secret is out here you go this is hard to do and you must stick to the program and you will get all the numbers you need

    Stop watch time everything every property you mow.
    Time windshield time, mow time, trim time, clean up time loading unloading
    Each guy times his own part or job do each property 2 times and account for spring summer or fall conditions.

    time how long it takes 2 guys to shovel and spread a yard of mulch on average do it a few times.

    Also when you bid a job keep track of the actual bid versus actual time it took and real cost labor travel

    Another thing alot of ppl forget is to include clean up time loading and unloading time disposal travel lunch time

    No also remember each site is different so factor in acess hills ditches beds busy roads more trash.

    Mowing check list for me in my head would be the following:

    Type of turf
    Do they water
    Do they fertalize
    Do we have to Bag
    How much trimming
    Straight edging
    Do the trees drop lots of sticks or acorns
  9. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 21,653

    I think if overestimating were the issue here, this thread might not exist, but whether the customers appreciate this or not, overestimating is just as much of a problem, should they ever find out, it can cost as much if not more in the long run in terms of lost repeat business.

    The best thing by far (other than mistakes lol) is an "I don't care" attitude.
    I learned early to never show up with truck and trailer, but to put estimates aside for later and give them out in my car, for there is nowhere near the cost involved that way and either way, since I can't do it on the spot there's less chance of me lowering the price in hopes of getting it.

    But a lot has to do with sticking to your guns, experience, hearing other folks brag about how much money they're making, age, experience, nothing fires up quite like a phone call and a few threatening letters from the IRS to be sure, and time in the business (best measured in years).

    Despite all that, I never had the genitals required either, until it dawned on me that most of these supposed poor folks, and the rich folks, and a lot of the older folks, and folks in general weren't near as broke as they pretended and that all their politeness and niceness and all their buddy-buddy crap was mostly fake because they knew exactly what they were doing all along when all they wanted was a BIG discount and the entire thing was but a play on my feelings, and this may not make them my enemy, but they are sure not my friend... Because the one thing I noticed time and again, it was the folks who swore the most allegiance and talked the deepest in terms of sincere loyalty more often than not also turned up first in turn for the lifeboats when things took a turn for the worse... More than once have I had what I thought was my best customer jump ship during turbulent times, and it dawned on me, maybe they weren't about all that mushy-wushy crap they used to talk about, maybe it really just is about the price.
    That realization there got my anger going so good, it changed things as well, which, this isn't to say I recommend it, but a deep lingering anger has helped me set a few things straight from time to time, more so because I got tired of feeling the anger, but also because I realized that while I was fuming and simmering, there was likely someone sitting in their house feeling all smug about themselves lol.

    Once I raised my prices, consistency being the key, I found myself among a tougher breed of customer. These guys don't talk much, they don't waste your time but they also won't clue you in if something is wrong... They'll call the next guy just as soon without further ado but then to them it's all about reliability and performance, and they could give a rat about loyalty so long I show up on time, they pay. Wow, I am thinking, you know, what's the difference, at least these guys are upfront about bailing ship, I know they'll jump at the first sign of trouble but there's no surprise when they don't make no qualms about it... And surprisingly enough, their tough as nails attitude turns out they hang on at least as long as the rest who, well, what's the difference, I always say.

    You gotta kinda figure, $30 or $40, what's the difference, who cares?
    Amuse yourself sometime, just for kicks charge a higher price.
    Don't pick someone to 'do it' to, I mean you can, but try it randomly lol, you never know, they might say yes.
  10. cranium2001

    cranium2001 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 44

    Bravo. Well done.

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