Craig Durosko: Are Free Estimates in Your Best Interest?

Look at how you can deliver the best experience to your clients.

September 03, 2014
Craig Durosko, GMR, CR, CGP

One challenging aspect of the remodeling industry is the low barrier to entry.

Most remodelers start with a circular saw and, in most areas, they must pass a test of how well you can read a codebook and understand other laws. Unfortunately, unlicensed contractors usually skip this test.

There are remodelers who spend a lifetime learning their skills. These skills are obtained on the jobsite, running the business, managing people, selling, and marketing. Our clients often see many different remodeling processes that are a reflection of what we’ve been taught from our own learning curve.

We have a database of over 600 learned lessons by category, which is a lot of mistakes over the years. The important thing is learning from them, sharing them, and training our staff so they don’t make the same mistakes again.

One debate that always resonates concerns free estimates and free design. If you have read my last four columns on “25 ways you can lose money in remodeling,” you will already know my opinion on free estimates and design.

It is not just an advantage for the remodeling contractor, but it is in the best interest of all parties: the client, the remodeling contractor (design/build or the designer/architect and contractor), and any trades involved.

Now that you know many different ways to lose money in remodeling (besides your own learned lessons you have already experienced), what do you do with these 25 lessons?

Here are some ideas:

  • Review every completed job with detailed job costing. Look at the job estimate versus actual cost. Identify any learned lessons and bring them forward into training on future estimates.
  • Attend code classes in your area. Educate yourself and your team on any code changes so you can be proactive and price them into your job to minimize surprises.
  • Attend product knowledge classes. These new products usually have a cheat sheet on what must be done during installation to keep the warranty intact.
  • Review your entire process to see if you are identifying existing conditions in the home prior to contract.
  • Review your process to see if it is uncovering and communicating to the client any exclusions in the contract and what is not included that might be needed.
  • Review your process to see how expectations are being set with the client. Having checklists for each meeting during the process will make sure they are covered with every client by every salesperson. Any new items should be added to the checklist.
  • How are the details being flushed out? How is the design being checked for inaccuracies? How is the existing structure going to blend with the new?
  • How are your special orders being checked for accuracy prior to ordering so you can minimize re-ordering and reduce slippage?
  • How are your estimates being reviewed for completeness and accuracy?
  • How are other job lessons learned influencing new estimates, so you are not stuck in the loop of doing the same behavior and expecting different results?
  • How can you reduce allowances so all the material is picked prior to starting the job, which minimizes production delays and any surprises to the client?
  • How are you reviewing trade quotes to be sure they cover all the items required on the job and drawings so there are no change orders during the job that will negatively affect your client?
  • Review your change-order process. Are you charging for all the unforeseen expenses on the job? Are you charging enough? Are the project managers writing them? Do you have a process to review their estimates?

You are ultimately responsible for the client experience—from the employees you have on the job, to the material that is used, to the quality of the installation, and to the trades you have on the job. If you can minimize the surprises, eliminate any slippage or costs in excess of estimate, and clearly define any expectations prior to contract, it will improve the experience for you, your clients, your employees, and your trades and vendors.

The client believes you are the expert. Review your processes (if they are in your head, write them out) and look at how you can deliver the best experience to them. When you do that, look to see if you need to charge or if you are charging enough for that service. Most likely, you and your client see the value in what you are delivering and you are able to charge and sell that service.

Do you have your own lessons learned from the jobsite? Add to the conversation at www.proremodeler.com/durosko/sept. PR
--
Craig Durosko is the founder of Sun Design, a design/build firm located in McLean and Burke, Va. He can be reached at craig@sundesigninc.com.

About the Author


Overlay Init