5 Bidding Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

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June 30, 2022 | Construction, MEP

A few years ago, an organization I worked for took bids to build a small reservoir in a rural location. It wasn’t the first time I’d experienced the bidding process, but it was the first time some things stood out to me that explained why some companies are more likely to win bids than others. Even for a small project like that reservoir, bid proposals can be complicated.

Every bid takes time, research and planning. A winning bid requires a full understanding of the project, thorough study of the plans and specs, and even anticipating what might go wrong. A June 2021 ConstructConnect article highlighted thirteen costly bidding mistakes.

Photo by Carol Dunn

Following are five bidding mistakes that I’ve noticed and how you can avoid them.

  1. Bidding outside your comfort zone

If you’re feeling anxious to get work, you may be tempted to bid on a project that is a little outside your company’s capabilities. Whether that involves skill or even labor availability, it’s a risky tightrope to walk. You may even bid on too many jobs and be unable to perform if they’re awarded. Mistakes like that can come back to bite you. You may be subject to daily fines by the owner until you fulfill your contract. Plus, talk gets around, and your reputation could be damaged, affecting work you are qualified/invited to bid on in the future. Sometimes not bidding is a better decision.

  1. Not attending pre-bid meetings

Every project has its quirks that can only be understood by seeing the site in person. A site visit gives everyone the “lay of the land” and enables prospective bidders to ask questions and get clarification on details. On the reservoir project I mentioned, one potential bidder didn’t have a rep attend the mandatory pre-bid site visit; however, they felt they had enough experience with this type of project that they should still be allowed to bid on the project. The organization’s engineer – the point of contact – still turned them down.


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  1. Incomplete or late submittal

When you’re rushed to prepare a bid, that’s when you’re most likely to make mistakes. If you don’t submit all the forms, documentation, certificates, bonds, etc., it’s a black mark against you right off the bat and will likely result in your bid being disqualified. Use a checklist to be sure you’ve covered everything required, and it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have someone else like an assistant double-check that list. In addition, pay attention to revisions or addenda that are issued. It’s best not to procrastinate: a deadline is a deadline.

  1. Inaccurate bid

Overestimating or underestimating are huge problems, made worse in light of recently elevated materials costs. Be sure to review plans and specs thoroughly. If you have questions about quantities, ask for clarification right away. An addendum may result. Accurate bids require accurate takeoffs. A product like Autodesk Takeoff can help with this.

  1. Subcontractor issues

It’s important to pre-qualify any subcontractors that are part of your bid. There are sometimes project requirements that involve everyone on the project, including subcontractors. Make sure they have the experience and qualifications to perform the work when you win the job. Also make sure their bids are realistic. It’s a good idea to get bids from a few, in case one opts out.

The whole point of bidding on jobs is to bring in work that will make your company a profit. If you can avoid bidding outside your comfort zone, attend pre-bid meetings, make sure your bids are accurate, complete and on time, and harness subcontractor issues, you will be in a better position to do just that.


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