A/E/C companies and owners need to take into account the scope of need so they hire the right firm for the right project. Some basic criteria should include:
Credentials– is the firm “in business” or someone moonlighting from the kitchen table? Are estimators in the firm certified or validated by industry peers and organizations qualified to hold in significance?
Experience– is the firm an establish member of the industry? Are the firm’s principles qualified by years of estimating for others? Has the business survived by repeat business over a long period of time?
References– how did you get the firm’s name- in a directory, via an associate? Can the firm offer you names and contacts from current clients you know and trust?
Talents – with consulting estimating firms the adage “one size fits all” certainly doesn’t apply. Be sure your consultant is an expert in the field of estimating your project needs. A great estimator in one trade may think he can cover others, but is your project the one he learns the truth on?
Professionalism – is the consultant you are looking to hire a known quantity? Has the consultant held office in a local or national association, are they members of local association, do they teach or train others or do they give back to the industry in other ways?
Rates – consultants earn their money by being more talented and able then their peers and the odds are you’ll save money with a consultant over a full time estimator on many projects. In the United States you could probably find a consultant for as little as $25 per hour, maybe even less for an online service overseas, but this begs the question “am I getting what I pay for?” Why is the rate so low? Can they provide back up for the numbers? Will they be in business in 6 months? A consulting firm with experienced talent, that pays its taxes, insurances and fees has a cost of doing business- they are playing by the rules and the rates they charge are going to reflect that.
Obligation – a consultant can become part of your team and bring an even stronger sense of getting it right to your bidding process than a new employee — simply because the consultant chooses you as much as you choose the consultant. The vested interest in development of a “regular customer” keeps a consulting firm thinking about your best interests.
Services – an employee is paid to perform work on the company’s behalf, a consulting firm is paid to be masters of the estimate and to help your company succeed. In addition to the estimate the consulting firm brings knowledge and advice as part of the package and in the long run this advice may mean more than anything else.
You may have noticed the first letter of the first word in each paragraphs above – when combined – comes out to spell “CERT-PROS” and that is for a reason. The CERT wants to see every consulting estimating firm meet certain baseline standards, provide qualified advice and estimating practice and do all this while maintaining the ethics of true professionals.