I hate competitive bids. I hate them because I have to put in a lot of time and I don’t always get the job. Instead of wasting time, I’d rather spend it on almost anything other than estimating a project. I also don’t do well with competitive bids, because the process focuses everyone’s attention on the one area where my company doesn’t look so good: initial price. We charge a lot for what we do, and if the focus is on initial price, we’re going to be at a real disadvantage. Bidding isn’t all bad, though. I would have missed the chance to work for some gracious clients and talented architects had I not submitted and won competitive bids. In fact, most novice contractors get all of their early jobs because they are the low bidder. It’s hard to break into the market any other way, and like all novice contractors, I got a lot of work and experience because I was so cheap. But in the past ten years, my priorities, both as a businessman and as a father and husband, have dramatically changed the way I want to spend my time. So a while back, when the market was strong, I decided to reward myself for all the work I’d put into developing a top-notch crew and an exceptional client base. My reward was to stop bidding, except very selectively. Eventually, all of the lessons I learned from being extremely selective about where I bid convinced me to stop bidding altogether. This article is about why and how I did it.

Over the years, I have deduced the following set of "rules" that clients use to determine the accuracy and fairness of bids. These rules apply to any collection of three or more bids, for any project, at any time: 1. The high bid is always inaccurate and unfair, no matter what. 2. The low bid is always more accurate than the high bid,...

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