Last month, we discussed the intricacies of responding to a formal RFP. Although it can be an expensive, fairly complex process, you certainly can’t win a project if you don’t respond. Let’s look at another time-consuming part of our work: the job walk or pre-bid conference. These meetings can be either mandatory or optional, and when we get the notice of this type of meeting, we have a decision to make. Do we go or not? In some cases the meeting is mandatory, so if the contractor wishes to bid, a representative of the company must attend. In other cases, the meeting is optional.

If the meeting is optional, why not go? I’ve heard many drillers say that going to the meeting is bad because they may notice something that will cause them to raise their bid price. How in the heck can that be bad? In my 31 years of being a driller, I’ve always thought that information is power, and in order to provide the best bid, I need all the information available about each particular job. If it’s a risky project, I darn sure want to capture that risk in my bid price. There are some contractors who provide a low price, then ask for a change order because of “unknown” conditions. While change orders can be valid, we all know drillers who seem to always bid low and then once they are on the site, ask for more money. This is not a long-term strategy for success. But I digress. Let’s get back the job walk/pre-bid meeting.

The most important reason to attend the meeting is to gain knowledge of the project. The more you know, the better you can fine tune your bid. But I think the second best reason to go to the pre-bid is to watch the other bidders. The same types of contactors seem to show up all the time. You know these guys.

The “Junior Project Manager”: Most of the time a young, inexperienced sales or technical type. He or she is there just for the contactor to have a body at the meeting. They tend to either not have read the specs, or know the details of the project better than the engineer who wrote the specifications. Either way, they seem to ask the most questions. And most of the questions they ask everyone else already knows the answers to.

The “Tag Team”: There always seems to be at least one contractor at every pre-bid meeting that sends at least two people. It seems somewhat logical to me: Have one guy ask lots of questions while the other guy lurks in the background, taking notes. However, at most meetings, the tag team stays together, only talking to each other.

The “Leech”: This person is attached to the consultant who runs the meeting. He or she is standing next to the consultant or walking right alongside the person running the meeting. If there are multiple vehicles caravanning to the locations, you can bet the leech is riding with the owner or consultant.

The “Loud Mouth”: This guy can’t shut up. He is telling everyone how good his business is and that this meeting is a waste of time. Every other person in the meeting will be verbally assailed by the loud mouth. He’s the guy who says the project is his and that all the other bidders have no chance. The loud mouth is sometimes interchangeable with “Mr. Know It All.” This guy is always trying to correct everyone in the meeting. He has been there, done that and needs to let everyone know he is the smartest guy in the room.

The “Sad Sack”: Tends to be the opposite of the loud mouth. Mostly tells you his business is bad and that he really needs this project to keep the company alive.

The “Last Contractor”: This is the representative of the company who worked on the site or for the owner/consultant on the last project. This person is interesting. If he lets everyone know the last project for the owner/consultant or the site was a disaster, is he telling the truth or just trying to muddle the waters? If he says the last project was a piece of cake, do you believe him? Why would he say that?

The “Pretty Boy”: One of the most annoying people at the pre-bid meeting. Drives up in his Corvette for a meeting that is 30 miles out in the desert and wants to bum a ride in someone’s pickup. He is also wearing $500 Italian wing tip shoes and certainly doesn’t want to sweat in his custom shirt.

The “Story Teller”: No matter what the content of the meeting, this guy has a story. The worst part, everyone has already heard the tale at the last pre-construction meeting. Hours of time can be eaten up by this guy if no one cuts him off.

And finally the most annoying person at the site walk –“The Late Contractor.” This tends to be the same person at every meeting. He or she has every excuse in the book for being late. Sometimes, the late contractor will call ahead and the entire group is held up waiting. Worse yet, they show up halfway through the meeting and everyone has to hear things twice. I understand that sometimes delays are unavoidable. However, this person seems to be late all of the time. It’s rude and demeaning to the other contractors. Just once, at a mandatory pre-construction meeting, I would like to see the consultant/owner not let
the chronically late contractor bid the work.

Most of the contractors at pre-bid meetings are just out trying to do their job. They show up on time, are respectful to the other contractors, owner and engineer, and want a fair shake with the process. I always recommend attending these types of meetings for two reasons: to get all the information I need to bid the work and to watch the “contractor show.” I just hope I don’t turn into one of the annoying guys described above.