Bidding, estimating and workloading software programs provide building service contractors with an opportunity to maximize successful bids, deliver on contracts profitably, and develop long-term customer satisfaction. Software can also help BSCs appear professional in documentation and bidding, avoid underbidding, calculate efficiencies and ensure contract compliance.

Looking Professional
A big part of convincing a prospective customer to take a BSC — especially a new BSC — seriously is creating an impression of competence and professionalism.

Workloading software accomplishes two things, says Dave Frank, president of the American Institute for Cleaning Sciences, Highlands Ranch, Colo.: Estimating jobs properly so as to not lose money, and serving as a tool to establish work scope.

“If I don’t know scope, frequency and times, then I don’t have anything. I can’t figure out my FTE costs, I can’t improve my operation, I can’t set up quality assurance — I can’t do anything without having those three elements,” Frank says. “That’s how important this is. It actually is one of the cores of a successful cleaning organization.”

Software can also help a BSC win more bids by creating professional-looking bid documents, providing a detailed breakdown of how the numbers were arrived at, and ensuring that projects are not underbid or overbid, according to Michael Jenkins, owner of Cleanbrain Software Inc., Provo, Utah.

“You want to look professional and appear to know what you are doing when you are bidding on a job. Meeting with a prospective customer and scribbling some notes on a piece of paper will not get you a contract,” adds Scott Smith, president of Rimrock Technologies, Billings, Mont.

After The Bid’s Been Won
Looking professional is a good step; being professional should be the goal. The right software should aid a user, simplifying what can be a very complex set of data in a clear way, eliminating guesswork and mistakes and even making your business more efficient.

Using the software takes the guesswork out of the bidding process. It’s helpful for determining costing, cleaning process measurement and developing accurate assessments.

“Because [the software] has the ability to take all labor, direct and indirect costs into account, the user doesn’t have to work through complicated calculations on what exactly the profit margin will be,” says Jill Davie, vice president of sales and marketing at Team Financial in Omaha.

Software can also be useful in breaking down the cleaning process into discrete, measurable units which can then be used to justify a bid or defend contract performance to the customer.

“The software provides many details about the tasks that will be performed, how often, and on which days,” says Davie.
Few things are worse for a BSC than winning a contract and realizing it has been underbid. According to Smith, there are too many variables that go into estimating the cost of a project to use ad hoc calculations. More sophisticated customers will recognize poorly planned bids as nothing more than wild guesses.

Determining labor costs necessary to clean and maintain a specific facility can be particularly difficult.

“Quality bidding and estimating software will use the specifications the customer identifies and generate the likely cost of servicing the building, including the tricky question of labor costs,” which is critical in preparing an accurate bid and avoiding pricing too low, says Jenkins.

The better software systems estimate the different areas by cleanable square-foot floor types and take into account population density per square foot as well as other variables to make more accurate and competitive assessments, says Dennis Parker of Varsity Education Services in Clearfield, Utah. That way, information can be presented to the customer to explain the numbers behind the bid or the requested price increase.

“Cleaning a building the old way, without the time-task analysis the software provides, using just a broom, an upright vacuum, and a mop and bucket would be like trying to run UPS using bicycles instead of trucks,” says Ian Greig, CEO of Daniels Associates, Phoenix. Greig believes the software provides many opportunities to gain from efficiencies of products, equipment and standardization of cleaning processes. In the past, if a customer wanted to reduce the price in a contract, the standard response had simply been to cut services, he says. Now, with the time-tasking sophistication of estimating and workloading software, such a problem can be solved by identifying more efficient equipment, such as a battery-operated 27-inch-wide vacuum as opposed to a 12-inch upright, that could allow for a reduction in costs without a loss of service.

User Options
Many software programs also provide sample workloaded buildings or templates to assist BSCs in preparing bids for facilities with which they may be unfamiliar. It can be difficult for BSCs to estimate and bid different types of jobs, such as a healthcare facility vs. a school versus an office building, if they have not worked on a particular type of facility before.

Some programs allow users to develop their own templates as well, Davie says. For example, templates can be created for different sized commercial office buildings such as schools, office buildings and medical clinics.

Estimating and bidding software also enables BSCs to learn from experience, providing archives of previous bids. As a result, BSC’s can compare the current project to be bid on with similar projects bid on in the past.

The bottom line is that bidding, estimating and workloading software programs are effective tools to help BSCs create accurate and winning bids, deliver the services promised on the contract at the prices promised, and to build and maintain solid customer relations.

“I would not do bidding and job estimating without software, period,” Frank says. “I don’t know how you can run your business without it.”

Patrick Callahan is a freelance writer based in Milwaukee.