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Be CERTain About the Estimating Consultants You Hire

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The Consulting Estimators Round Table ( has developed guidelines for AEC firms, building owners and developers who are thinking about hiring the services of a consulting estimating firm. CERT is a national not-for-profit association which promotes ethics, validation, education and fellowship of consulting estimator firms based in the United States.

There are approximately 1,300 consulting estimating businesses in the U.S. that are well enough established to list themselves in industry directories. Another several thousand "startup" firms are estimated to be active. Due to industry slowdowns and layoffs, the number of new "startup"firms has spiked in the last few years, but will likely decrease as many of the estimators will find full-time work again with an employer.

AEC companies or owners that are considering hiring a consulting estimating firm should consider the following key questions in order to hire the right company for the right project. Some basic criteria include:

Is the firm "in business" or is someone moonlighting from the kitchen table? Are estimators in the firm certified or validated by industry peers and organizations?

Is the firm an established member of the industry? Are the firm's principles qualified by years of estimating for others? Has the company succeeded due to repeat business over the years?

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?

With consulting estimating firms, the adage "one size fits all" does not 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 do you want your project to be his guinea pig?

Is the consultant you are looking to hire a known entity? Has the consultant held office in a local or national association? Do they teach or train others or do they give back to the industry in other ways?

Estimating consultants will more than likely save you money than if you hired a full-time estimator on many projects. In the U.S., you could probably find a consultant for as little as $25 per hour (maybe even less for an online service overseas), but are you getting what you pay for? Why is the rate so low? Can they provide back up for the numbers? A consulting firm with experience and talent, that pays its taxes, insurance and fees has a cost of doing business: They are playing by the rules and the rates they charge are going to reflect that.

A consultant can become part of your team and can commit to the project better than a new employee. He or she chooses you as much as you choose him or her. The vested interest in developing a "repeat customer"keeps a consulting firm thinking about your best interests.

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 paragraphs above when combined spells "CERT-PROS" and that is for a reason. 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.

Development of a new association called the Consulting Estimators Round Table began back in early 2010. The founders of CERT saw an opportunity to service a formerly underserved niche. Unlike organizations that service the "estimating" side of the profession such as ASPE and AACE, the CERT was established to contribute to the 'business' side of the consultant's business. CERT has developed a dues-paying member base, a peer-to-peer validation program, by-laws and organization structure, member discounts through affinity programs, a national database and more. The CERT board believes strongly that it has a role to play in the industry starting with an expression of its interest in seeing the AEC and owners learn more about the differences between qualified consulting practices and those that are not. CERT's mission is "to promote the business of the independent consulting estimating firm, while promoting professionalism, validation of business practices, fellowship and ethics."


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