Is that your best price? How did you get to that?
Contrary to what we have been taught in today's economy, 'sales' are bad. In most situations, it means the price was too high in the first place. When people ask me "Is that the best you can do on this?" Yes is always my reply. We spend a lot of time estimating and more importantly reviewing completed jobs so we can improve and keep tabs on costs. We line item every penny of our jobs and that's how I am able to give my best price the first time.
We are in the business of building as many pools as we can, maintaining the highest level of quality possible, controlling our costs, and ultimately producing the best possible value for our clients. If I ever have 'extra' in an estimate I TAKE IT OUT as I am calculating and creating the scope of the project.
Estimating is a very scientific art. That may sound funny but that's how it works. To estimate you must first have a firm understanding of (if not mastered) the trades you are estimating. Being able to look at a site, electric, plumbing ect. and know WHAT has to happen and then HOW it needs to happen is paramount. Next you must have a feel of the job. This is where the experience and the 'art' comes in. In construction things don't always go the way we want them to. Knowing what situations to expect is part of calculating the time needed to build a project.
Next you must know your indirect job costs. This is business 101 and where the scientific part happens. Knowing your labor and material costs is important, but you must also know what the job overhead is going to be. Designing, project management, travel, administration, permitting, and material transportation / acceptance are examples of job overhead. These items are handled in the office and behind the scenes but can still be tracked to specific projects. Knowing these costs means you can be more accurate then the guy who just 'throws a couple thousand in' for what he really hasn't thought out or doesn't know.
The last component is indirect overhead. If you don't know your cost of doing business, you don't know what you have to make, and you sure don't know how much you need to mark up your products and services. This is where we kick butt. Our overhead is LOW. We own a modest building and drive paid for trucks. I know what I have to clear to keep the lights on and that's what I mark up my projects.
This all may sound like very basic stuff, and frankly it is, but the majority of pool companies out there simply fly by the seat of their pants. They nearly make up pricing based on what they think the customer is willing to pay or they'll price match another guy's 'bid' to get the job. This is particularly scary as they probably have no idea if the bid is going to cover expenses much less make money. When you're looking at pool quotes, ask yourself the following: Do I know what this does and doesn't include? Do they? What happens when they discover estimating mistakes? Will they come back or just bail on me? This is what I call the smell test. If you are just a smidgen uncomfortable with any of these questions, there is probably a reason.