Leverage technology to land more commercial jobs
Commercial projects don’t just involve bigger budgets—they’re also more complex to estimate and execute. To manage these nuances, commercial-focused painting pros recommend employing technology tools both in the field and in the home office.
While the PDCA estimating guides serve as a baseline for accurate and consistent pricing, technology can help paint a more accurate picture for commercial jobs.
“We’ve developed a custom commercial repaint estimating program that helps us be more consistent and accurate,” says Dave Scaturro, senior estimator at Alpine Painting and Sandblasting in Paterson, NJ. “We bring a tablet into the field, and based on substrates, production rates, and material spread rates, it puts everything together in a nice, easy format anyone can understand, even if they’re not an experienced painter or estimator. That gives us a fair price to translate into the proposal.”
Henry Dryfhout of St. Thomas, Ontario-based H.D. Painting stresses that a commercial buyer wants to know you’re capable of doing the job. Your estimate can show he or she just that.
“The key to success is not taking anything for granted,” he explains. “You need to know your company’s internal costs and you need accurate takeoffs, which is why we’ve developed estimating software that can do digital takeoffs. The more accurate you can be with production rates, the better you can determine man-hours and rates. If you can project manage on that level, you’ll win every time.”
In addition to accuracy, digital estimating with software such as PlanSwift or On-Screen Takeoff save time, allowing you to potentially bid more projects.
“Doing a $10,000 tenant improvement the regular way—measuring on site or using a blueprint and scale—would take me half a day between the visit and doing the numbers. With my digitizer, I can upload the drawing and be done in 40 minutes flat, typed out in a bid form, and it’s out the door,” adds Gina Koert, principal, senior estimator and project manager with Shamrock Painting Inc., in Denver, CO.
Koert also likes using tablets in the field, particularly when working with general contractors.
“I can give the foreman real-time information, with digital blueprints and what colors are needed,” she says. “It makes communication quicker, and at the end of the week, they can show me what’s primed, first coat, or finished without me having to go to the site. General contractors like to see iPads in the field. They’ll send photos on the punch list for checking off, or pictures of damage—instead of a long email explaining what needs to be fixed.”
Above all, technology can also improve your bottom line.
“The reality is, you should be aware whether jobs are profitable, and why or why not,” Scaturro says. “Your close record is an important indicator. If you’re only closing 10%, your numbers are too high; or if it’s 9%, you’re probably too cheap.”