October 2019 President's Letter
Thursday, October 10, 2019
Posted by: Trish Moss
Best value proposals
When is it appropriate to judge a product or a company only by costs? A general contractor will tell you it is when they have, according to their process, vetted other potential bidders and are satisfied that each bidder is capable of performing the installation. Notice they said capable, not qualified. There is a large distinction between the two, and the amount of expense and effort expended to properly install a project – instead of just getting it installed – is significant.
I am concerned that GCs are not truly capable of critically evaluating what is required to judge whether an installation is done right. This has led us to reevaluate who we are providing proposals to and what type of work we at David Allen Company bid. We will bid if we feel we have a competitive opportunity and are being considered with other truly qualified bidders, not a pool of 10-16 bidders where the last low price will win the project. We are taking a much more critical view of who we prepare our proposals for. Estimating is a valuable service, and we choose to provide that service for clients who show us the minimal courtesy of at least providing quality and timely feedback, even if they don’t award us the project.
Recently, I had the opportunity to walk a developer through an award-winning project we completed a year and a half ago. He asked us to provide an example of a similar project we had completed because he was vetting our installation to see if we were CAPABLE of completing their installation. We are being considered along with a few other candidates and they expect to make the award this week (You can ask me if we got it by the time this TileLetter is published).
Knowing he wanted to see our completed project, I offered him transportation to the job. This was an opportunity to discuss the differences than make an installation CORRECT rather than just COMPLETE. Having an opportunity to discuss specifics about a completed installation instead of simply walking unescorted through the building was very valuable. While together, we spoke about the requirements and preparation that should occur before the tile or stone is ever placed to assure the proper performance – and ultimately the longevity – of the finished product.
This was the person that needed to hear that story. This developer holds their properties and considers them assets. They are not interested in selling them in a few years as some other developers do.
We were being considered for this new work because a few years ago, a stone supplier asked me to look at a local project for him. He was being asked to explain/defend why their stone was cracking in a lobby installation. The building had not even opened yet. I met the developer and GC on the site. They asked me to make general observations about the installation. On the surface, everything seemed to check off all the right boxes. I asked to see the specifications, submittals and progress photos of the installation. After looking at the photos and reading the specifications, I informed them that they should consider hiring a professional consultant. I felt that someone who is in the business of professionally evaluating installations could prepare a more detailed forensic evaluation.
Apparently that meeting left an impression. Years later, he was asking us to bid his next project. The developer recognized our value and insisted that the local GC ask us to present a proposal although I told them both we would not be the low price, and weren’t interested in competing on price alone.
Even if we don’t get the project, it’s a win. This situation shows that (hopefully) you can be considered best value if you have a chance to present your value.
Competing only on price undervalues the experience and contribution you bring to a project. I often advocate that you should get paid for your experience and expertise. Those opportunities do filter through if you keep plugging away. I hope to share with you all a positive result from the situation described at the outset of this letter. Even if the answer is no, at least we were playing in the arena of being recognized as a best value proposal and industry expert.