Reaching a senior leadership role in estimating requires more than just technical and team leadership skills. This roles requires you to drive business development and guide company strategy. You will need a strong network, a depth and breadth of business understanding, and the ability to connect market knowledge to business direction. Here are six tips to help advance your estimator career.
1. Build and maintain a strong network
Networking is important for almost any senior professional; but for an estimator, that network is especially important. The right network can bring business to you, making it easier to find and win business. Your relationship with suppliers, sub-trades, and other stakeholders also facilitates trust and contributes to your reputation and your company’s reputation in the industry.
If people know you as a trustworthy professional with integrity then you will be able to get accurate information, and your connections both internal and external will accept your input and insight. Don’t neglect your internal relationships, either. Your position and influence within your company are enhanced by good working relationships. Know the key stakeholders and connect with them outside of project-related communication. Strengthening those relationships now will mean that when you have a new idea to pitch, you’ll already have allies throughout the business.
2. Maintain consistent workflow through business development
One of the most important roles of a chief estimator, and a crucial area of differentiation from a senior estimator, is in ongoing business development to maintain consistent workflow. Whether you’re acquiring business through relationships, or working in a hard bid environment, as a chief estimator you are responsible for ensuring your company has a steady flow of activity. This means maintaining a reliable win-to-bid rate, ensuring that margins are sufficient, and if either of these drop, then you must know how to increase business again.
This is also a critical area for aligning with business strategy. For example, if your company intends to expand into certain regions or sectors, as chief estimator your market knowledge and research will be vital for success. The connection between networking and business development is especially important when expanding into new areas.
3. Help develop and drive business strategy
Beyond just meeting organizational needs and aligning with strategy, chief estimators can take on an advisory or business leadership role. With an extensive network, and excellent business development abilities, chief estimators should have their finger on the pulse of what is happening both within and outside their sector. If you see a gap in the market, or you think a particular area of business is starting to slow down, that is crucial business intelligence to help with future strategic planning.
This shift from responsive to proactive isn’t easy, but most chief estimators already have the knowledge and connections to do it. Think about where the company is going in the next five years and where estimating and pre-construction fits in. Connecting your market knowledge and business understanding will help drive innovation—and having a strong internal network means key stakeholders will listen to your new ideas.
4. Get and maintain your professional accreditations
Accreditation is not just about having the right letters after your name. Having the right qualification gives you a base of knowledge to build on, and maintaining those credentials keeps you in touch with the latest best practices and developments in the field. Not sure what to prioritize? Your recruiter can let you know what’s top of mind for employers, even if you’re not job hunting yet.
5. Invest time in growing your network
Your network is your key to new opportunities, whether that is finding new business, your next career move, or the next great person to join your team. As you progress, business development will become the focus of your role and a strong people network is critical. Join an association, attend trade events, and stay in touch with your recruiter to connect with people outside your immediate network.
6. Develop people leadership skills
Whether it’s leading a team of junior estimators, or taking a wider role as business leader, the ability to manage individuals, develop careers, motivate teams, and inspire an audience will all serve you well in your career. Talk to your manager about finding opportunities to lead a team, find a mentor who can help you develop these skills, or talk to your recruitment consultant about finding a role that will stretch your management abilities.