Bidding too low will happen from time to time. But that doesn’t mean you can’t profit from the experience.

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by Tom Watson on March 1, 2015

Let me blurt something out real fast, not every bid you perform will be spot on. There, I got that off my chest.

I bring this up because there are those that want to “bid perfectly” every single time out. While that’s a noble goal, it’s not going to happen. Sorry for the bad news.

The flip side is that you can learn a whole bunch from those accounts that you messed up on. I should know, as I’ve made my fair share of mistakes over the years. When I make a mistake, I do my best to learn from what went wrong. Then… I try to not repeat that mistake.

A doctor’s office that took almost twice as long as expected

One bad bid in particular was for a doctor’s office. It was early on in my career, and I was still really “green” as they say. To make a long story short, this one office called and walked me through the facility. It wasn’t small, but it wasn’t all that big either. It had about eight small exam rooms, some bathrooms, waiting room, kitchen, some offices and an area where they kept the records.

I took my best guess and came up with two hours per night to clean. I figured that because we were going to be there five nights per week, we could stay on top of it. As I look back, it was a terrible bid! The actual time to clean came in at roughly three and a half hours per night. So I was off by a good bit.

I did that account for several years without making any money off it. I had some employees that REALLY NEEDED THE MONEY, and that account gave them some hours to pad their weekly total. While I didn’t like to have jobs that gave me no profit, it did serve as a solid reminder to do a better job going forward.

What I learned from this account

This job taught me a few things. The first was to pay attention to HOW MANY employees work at a facility. What I didn’t realize at the time I performed the bid is that they had like twenty some people crammed into that office. That many people in a small office MAKE A BIG MESS. The kitchen was a disaster every single day. If half that many people worked there, my bid may have been workable.

The next thing I learned was to ask HOW MANY PATIENTS do you see in a day. This number can vary greatly from one type of doctor to another. For instance a general practitioner may see scores of patients per day, while a kidney specialist may see ten. Guess what office will be easier to clean?

The last thing I learned was to PAY ATTENTION TO HOW NEAT THE OFFICE WAS. Offices that are neat as a pin tend to be run by a strong office manager that runs a tight ship. While these type managers may be more high-strung and demand a higher standard, the offices they manage tend to be cleaner when you walk in at days end.

This is because the manager doesn’t let the employees run wild all day making messes as they go about their work day. This means the kitchen and break areas will be in better shape, there will be less trash tossed around the floor near desks and trash cans won’t be over flowing in each and every room.

The moral here is that you can make a big mistake bidding and still “profit” off the account when all is said and done. The profit just won’t be in cash you can place in your bank account, instead it will be profit you can put in your “knowledge bank”.

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

1 gary March 1, 2015 at 11:48 am

If you do a great job, on jobs you under bid, you can usually get away with raising the price $5 or $10. I know, im still green, but am learning from my mistakes.

2 Tom Watson March 1, 2015 at 11:58 am

Hi Gary! True. Price increases are much easier when customers are happy with quality of work. Thanks for commenting!

3 Shawn March 1, 2015 at 4:32 pm

Hi Tom, great website with really good advice. I am living your topic right now. Walked the facility of a yoga studio with the mgr, who downplayed the heavy, detailed cleaning required by the owner. Now, we are spending an extra 1 1/2 hours per night. Also, the owner is adding items weekly that are not in the original bid. I want to keep the account but need to increase the price. Any suggestions on how to increase after a signed contract?

4 Tom Watson March 1, 2015 at 4:43 pm

Hi Shawn! Thanks for the kind words. Appreciate that. To your question… sometimes you need to have those “uncomfortable” conversations. We agreed to this, but now we are being asked to do this. Needs to be addressed if the scope of work has changed. In my situation, I was new and just chalked it up to my inexperience, which is was. I messed up, not them. This situation is different because what is being asked has changed. Just be professional and tackle it head on.

5 gary March 1, 2015 at 5:22 pm

Also, depending on how over bearing your client is, you could always drop the client, learn from it and move on. Just my opinion.

6 Tom Watson March 1, 2015 at 5:35 pm

Yea… that’s always an option.

7 David March 1, 2015 at 8:04 pm

What are some other ways of advertising on the lower cost end, I have done the obvious, Flyers, mailers, some cold calling. Anyone have any other ideas for me to get my business up and running?

8 Tom Watson March 1, 2015 at 8:08 pm
9 gary March 1, 2015 at 9:15 pm

I run ads on craigslist also. Small business and skilled trade sections. Also, after I go mobile and do onsite sales calls. About a week later, I send out a customized post card, to keep me fresh in the potential clients mind. Works for me anyway.

10 Betty anderson March 2, 2015 at 9:29 am

Hello I love your website very honest what do you think about Angie list or home advisor thanks from somerset county

11 Tom Watson March 2, 2015 at 9:38 am

Hi Betty! Thanks… to your questions… never used Angies list, so I can’t speak to that because I don’t know how it works precisely. Maybe someone who used that before can chime in?

Never used Home Adviser either, but if they show your company along with others when an inquiry takes place, then I’m not a fan. That just reduces the customer experience to a “low price” gets the customer situation, and there is no money to be made when that happens.

12 Ron March 2, 2015 at 12:27 pm

Hi Tom. I learn how to bid from working for other cleaning componys who did under bid and also charged way over the priced! I always do a good walk through and get everything there wanting done on the contract. Because if they want more done and if its a easy account I may throw it in free but if there wanting to add a lot much more then I talk to them about more money! Thanks again for your great advice Tom!

13 Tom Watson March 2, 2015 at 12:29 pm

Hi Ron! Great approach. That covers you real well. A freebie every now and again makes them HAPPY, but too much requires more monthly. Thanks for sharing that!

14 gary March 2, 2015 at 5:06 pm
15 Ceasar March 3, 2015 at 11:45 am

Thanks Tom for another insightful post.

16 Tom Watson March 3, 2015 at 12:14 pm

Thanks Caesar!

17 kim March 19, 2015 at 12:21 am

Thank you so much for intervening while I hesitate on posting a memo.It was great that you took the time to leave me your three tips.Thank you your a blessing.Kim

18 Tom Watson March 21, 2015 at 3:09 pm

Thanks Kim!

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