Apples to Apples


I have to say, one of the most frustrating parts of owning a service business is the bidding process. This is one area that I have worked diligently to master, but have constantly fallen short. I have created check lists so I don’t forget items in the bid; I’ve searched for quality and proven products at the best price and I have tracked how long different jobs take to determine a fair amount to charge. Then when the job is completed; I compare actual material and labor costs verses what was on the bid and adjust from there for all similar future bids.

After many years of driving across the city to give a bid just to find out that the customer had no intention on spending the proposed amount or they were price shopping for the magic number; I realized that I needed to ask better questions up front. These questions included the use and reason for remodeling or adding a new space, proposed budget and design thoughts. Once the project is brought to life: I can give minimum charges, design fees or average costs per square foot on that type of project. Once this is done; it is quickly seen if the customer is prepared for this type of major remodel or if they need to save some more money. This is usually done quickly without driving across town.

The hard part is when the customer seeks a bid without really having a concrete plan or budget. Without a concrete plan; it is impossible to compare contractor bids properly. You want to be able to compare a bid with other bids that are using the same or very similar products. The familiar term is “comparing apples to apples”.

Weekly, I’ll get several requests to “bid” on a project where the customer has a number in mind (usually too low) that they want to spend, but they will not reveal that number in fear that a contractor might actually spend it all. Usually, they are vague at best at what they want and when each contractor arrives for the “bid”; the contractor proceeds to design the space how he would want it and come up with a number. If that number doesn’t match what the customer was hoping for; they call another contractor until they find that magic number or ultimately, give up.

Pursuing the magic number is dangerous for a property owner. They might find someone to do what they want for the dollar amount that they want, but when it comes to all of the other contractors’ bids; is the one that they chose really the better value? Is the contractor even qualified or the best choice for this type of work?

I do things a little different from most; I always like to get a semi-concrete direction in what the customer wants. From there, a design can be done and budgets for fixtures, flooring, etc.… can be established making every future competing bid comparable since each will be bidding on the same things. From there, the property owner can make an educated decision on which company is giving the best value for the money.

Product choices and prices can vary on each item. I have seen ceramic tile as low as $.49 a square foot (not recommended) and as high as $20 a square foot. If one contractor comes in sensing your taste and budget would rather have a $10 a square foot tile; while the second contractor comes in and assumes that you would be happy with a $2 a square foot tile; this would make an $8 a square foot price difference in flooring alone. At an $8 a square foot difference; a simple 10’x10’ room could have a $800 difference in flooring pricing alone. If the customer is only seeking a magic number; he could get the project done in his price range, but is he really getting the best quality product and craftsmanship for his money? Product wise, is that even what the customer wanted or is he only focused on the magic number? Make sure that you are comparing apples to apples.

If you are thinking about a major remodel, room addition or a commercial tenant finish in Kansas City; be sure to only approach established licensed contractors that can help you define the design you want while using the products of your choice. Once a design and product list is established; each of the contractor bids can be compared like you would compare apples to apples. From there, you will be able to make an educated decision and get the professional results that you are seeking at the best value for your money.

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