The Low Bid

Jan 6, 2023 | Education, Ramblings

In the world of commercial construction, competition is king. How many projects have you lost to a lower bidder? How many of those lost bids did you know that your bid offered more value, but the price was higher. This is a common story and a common problem. Too often, the problem isn’t our price, but in our presentation and salesmanship. If the customer only sees two bids on paper with very little to distinguish the two, how would he know the value you offer over your competitor? We are savvy buyers these days, but often we only have the look and feel of something – and often the higher price – that tells us something might be better.

When looking at commercial painting bids, how do you know the value of the work? The most obvious is the quality of the quotation. Is the form and content thoughtful and professional. When you call, how do they answer the phone? Are they professional? Do they return phone calls promptly? Can they answer your questions quickly and thoroughly? Quite a few owners in the commercial painting field actually work in the field as well as the office. This can lead to slow replies and an overextended workforce.

Another thing to look for is how detail oriented are your bidders. Commercial painting is a detail oriented trade. It is not uncommon for a finish schedule to have 10 different colors and multiple sheens for different substrates. One sure sign that a painter is not detail oriented is that they frequently make mistakes, miss items on the quote, and make too many assumptions. It is as they say, the “devil” is in the details. Your painting contractor should be scrupulous when it comes to the blueprints and finish legend.

Finally, you shouldn’t throw out the lowest quote just because it can’t be any good, right? Good contractors miss items all the time. Maybe they are just following orders and not included all those items the one should “just assume” gets painted – like the gas pipe on the roof. Most commercial painting estimators will not include these items because they don’t specifically call out for paint. At some point in time in the not so distant future, this was considered the best practice to keep things fair and honest. We often put these items in our bids, but only when we know what the customer wants based on past experience. We usually try to list items like these under Clarifications or Exclusion so that the customer is clear on our assumptions. The last thing we would want is customer thinking we were pulling a fast one – I’d personally rather loose the money!