What Makes a Good Estimator?

In Electrical Contracting Articles, Electrical Estimating Articles, ramblings by David Parden

Do you know what traits to look for when hiring or replacing an estimator? What makes a good estimator? Is it knowledge of the code? Perhaps it is thoroughness and accuracy? Maybe it’s the ability to sit for long hours at a desk starring at electrical drawings.

Chances are if you are reading this blog you have had some degree of success and are considering hiring or replacing an estimator. When you are considering hiring an estimator consider this! What got you to where you are? It was probably you the owner and what did you posses that made you unique? It was most likely passion and charisma!

Your estimator should possess the same passion that you do. He is first and foremost a salesman! In many instances he is the first contact a new client has with your company. While being able to recite code articles and stare endlessly at a computer screen may be a good skill set it hardly makes a good estimator!

So what makes a good estimator then? Integrity! How about the ability to speak with intelligence? Just because a job foreman gets along great with GC’s superintendent doesn’t mean he can carry on an intelligent conversation with the project owner. How an estimator dresses says a lot too. Harley Davidson shirts don’t cut it on a job walk if you want to be taken seriously. Estimators have to be problem solvers and have the ability to work through complex issues on their own. They have to be able to write a descent scope letter or RFI. They have to have good computer skills. They better be good at math also! Estimators who double as project managers shouldn’t be wimps or pushovers! In my humble opinion introverts shouldn’t be on the front line of your company. If a person can’t look you in the eye when they speak do you think they will be able to when dealing with your clients?

Estimators may not like to think of themselves as salesmen but that is exactly what we are and I would be willing to gamble that most of the successful ones have salesmen personalities. They like people and they believe in their company and its ability to perform on projects. I am not saying that field personnel such as foreman won’t make a good estimator I am just saying that being able to bring a project in on time and on budget isn’t an indicator of a good estimator. I believe a second or third year apprentice has just as much of a chance of being a good estimator as a seasoned field hand. Really all one needs to posses is the ability to envision the work being installed in one’s head.

So as your search for a new estimator goes forward think about whom you want representing your company? If you wouldn’t have him over to your house for dinner you probably don’t want him on the front line of your business representation.