How to estimate paint jobs, part 2

In my last post I discussed a few of the problems associated with the “eye-ball” method of estimating. A measurement based method eliminates all of these problems. A measurement based method provides an objective process for pricing jobs, allows for the identification and correction of mistakes, and can easily be taught to others. In short, a measurement based method greatly reduces and/ or eliminates subjective opinion from the estimating process.

A measurement based system is based on the idea that if it takes 45 minutes to prep and paint a door at Mr. Smith’s, it should take 45 minutes to prep and paint the same door at Mrs. Brown’s. In other words, if we know the time it takes to prep and paint this type of door, every time we see such a door we know how much time to allot. Guessing and subjectivity is removed from the estimating process.

A measurement based system involves 3 basic components: the quantity of the task, the time required to perform a unit of that task (the production rate), and the degree of difficulty (access, difficult cut in, additional prep, etc.). We can attach a specific number to each of these, and in doing so, provide ourselves with an easy method for consistently calculating accurate estimates.

Each of these variables can be quantified. We can determine how long it takes to paint a French door or prep the walls in a 10’ by 10’ bedroom. We can determine the impact of certain obstructions or other access issues. In doing so, we eliminate guessing from the estimating process.

Of course, each job will not be exactly the same. Different levels of prep will be required, different application methods will be used, access or masking situations will differ. But the principle remains the same— identify each step involved in the job, know how long each step takes, and determine how much of each step is required for a particular job.

In its simplest form, an estimated price is the sum of labor costs, material costs, overhead, and profit. Overhead and profit can vary widely among contractors, and are not the subject of this module. Material costs are a function of the surface area to be painted, the application method, and the spread rate of the paint. For example, if a gallon of flat latex will cover 350 square feet, the quantity of material required can be calculated by dividing the surface area by this spread rate. This same approach can be used to determine labor costs.

In my next post I will look at how to deal with several variables involved in estimating paint jobs.

Click here to learn more about estimating paint jobs.

How to estimate paint jobs, part 1

One of the most difficult–yet financially important–aspects of estimating paint jobs is the fact that we must determine the labor and materials required to complete a particular project before we perform the job. We must determine what our costs will be before we ever buy a single gallon of paint. Improperly estimating can price us out of the job, or worse, lead to a money-losing endeavor. How do we overcome these problems?

Many painting contractors rely on the “eye-ball” method. This involves looking at the project and assigning some number to it, such as the number of days or simply a price. The “eye-ball” method relies completely on the experience and subjective evaluation of the estimator. The evaluation of one person can vary significantly from the evaluation of another person. It may or may not be accurate. More importantly, when it isn’t accurate, the estimator has virtually no way of identifying where he went wrong.

Since the job price is determined subjectively, there is no accurate method for identifying the cause when a job goes over budget. Such situations become a bickering match, as the crew blames the estimator and the estimator blames the crew. Both sides base their argument on their own opinion, and neither has much ground to stand on. The crew will argue that they weren’t given enough time, and the estimator will argue that the crew simply didn’t work efficiently. That’s not a very good situation to put yourself and your company in. Nobody wins when this occurs

There is a way to overcome these problems. There is a way to accurately and consistently estimate paint jobs. In the next blog post I will introduce a systematic method for estimating paint jobs.

Click here to learn more about estimating paint jobs.

Five steps to starting a successful painting business: Estimating

For a new contractor, estimating poses one the great mysteries of owning a painting business. (Estimating is also a great mystery to many seasoned painting contractors.) Yet, estimating is crucial to the financial success of the business.

An estimate is nothing more than a projection of the labor and material costs required to perform a specific job. An error as small as 10% can have a huge impact on the profitability of the job.

Many painting contractors–both new and experienced–believe that a painter should be able to look at a particular project and know how long it will take. This is the “eye-ball” method of estimating. And it is prone to numerous problems. Two of the biggest are that it relies entirely on the experience of the estimator and mistakes are almost impossible to identify.

But what if you could eliminate these potentially profit-destroying problems? What if you could estimate jobs accurately and consistently? The good news is, you can. If you have an estimating system.

A system is a specific series of steps that you take to achieve a desired result. If you desire consistent and profitable estimates, then having a specific process for estimating jobs goes a long ways toward making that a reality. (The quality of your results will depend on the quality of your system.)

Certainly, the “eye-ball” method can be accurate in many situations. If you are estimating a 10′ x10′ bedroom, an experienced painter will have a good idea how long it will take him to do the job. But on a typical job, with dozens of substrates and variables, this becomes almost impossible. Estimating is little more than a trial and error endeavor, and too many errors could prove fatal to your painting business.

Producing accurate and profitable estimates from the start of your painting company is possible if you have a system. However, even with accurate estimates, you must still sell the job. And that will be tomorrow’s topic.

Click here to learn more about estimating paint jobs.

Selling, confidence, and your painting business

Sales is largely an issue of confidence—in our service or product, in our ability to deliver, and in our price. If we lack confidence in any area, our sales suffer. That lack of confidence can be communicated in subtle ways.

Our goal as a salesman (and we are all salesmen if we sell paint jobs) is to create a win- win. I think it is easy to forget this, and allow ourselves to be trapped into a win- lose. And in that case, we are the loser.

I have often mentioned pre-booking winter work–selling interior jobs during the summer season. Many contractors fear that customers won’t wait months for their project. Trust me, many will. Particularly if you create a win- win situation.

We are in business to make a profit. We shouldn’t be afraid to address that with our customers. If we don’t make a profit, we probably won’t be around to service them in the future. Does the customer really want that? I don’t think so.

There is nothing wrong with stating the benefit we gain from a particular deal. In fact, I think that honesty goes a long way to winning over a customer (if it is done with some tact). But that takes confidence. That requires that we truly believe that we are creating a win- win, and that we have a right to win.

Besides, what is the worst thing that can happen? If the customer says “no” is it going to destroy your life? And perhaps you will be surprised by what he does say.

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