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A Review of Intuit’s “Easy Estimate” for Contractors
by Tony Novak, CPA, MBA, MT
,last updated on 12/1/2011
More than a million small contractors including most remodelers, landscapers, plumbers, roofers and electricians still create their price estimates by hand or with the help of a simple spreadsheet program. For the large majority of these small businesses the estimating process is completely independent of the accounting process that records actual costs and profitability of jobs. It is not hard to figure why so many say that estimating is he hardest part of their job!
While estimating is the starting point for a successful contracting business, many owners fear the process. Common complaints about estimating include: having to bid on too many jobs to get a contract wastes time, inconsistent profits from one job to the next and problems caused by mistakes on the initial estimate
More professional-looking proposals can result in getting more jobs and more accurate pricing increases the likelihood that the job will be appropriately priced – high enough to ensure profitability but not too high to be unintentionally underbid. Intuit, the world’s largest developer of small business accounting software, including Quicken and QuickBooks, recently introduced a simple program called “Easy Estimate” to help small contractors grow their business with better estimating.
“Consumers report that professionalism and personality are important factors when choosing a contractor. Job details — often scribbled on scraps of paper — get lost and contractors lose jobs because they can’t produce polished proposals in a timely manner”, according to Andrew Morbitzer, Intuit’s marketing director.
This software was specifically designed for subcontractors, remodelers, electricians, plumbers, roofers, landscapers, painters, contractors doing HVAC, drywall, decking, flooring and other construction trades
The major advantages of this program are:
It is easy to use. Setup with the contractor’s information and business logo is complete within minutes with the included set-up assistance. The first estimate can be generated within 30 minutes of the initial software installation.
Cuts down on paperwork time. Average time to prepare estimates is only a few minutes. Jobs entered on previous estimates are automatically saved and can be re-used to prevent the need for typing them again.
These estimates create a professional impression of the business.
Helps win more of the jobs you want, while filtering out the ones that will not be profitable. Helps stabilize your profitability across jobs, avoiding making money on one and losing money on the next.
Integrates with QuickBooks. Most contractors already have a list of customers, jobs, items and materials in their QuickBooks accounting system. (This software can be used as a stand-alone basis, but that negates the advantages of integration).
Allows a standard markup percentage on the cost of all building materials or rounds up to the next specified dollar amount.
As actual materials costs change in the accounting system (based on actual invoices from material suppliers), future estimates automatically change to keep up-to-date. This is especially important when materials prices are rising faster than the estimator is aware.
All estimates are collected at one place, easily viewable on one screen for review and updating as needed.
Helps you remember job site details.
Eliminates manual calculation errors.
May reduce overall software cost, allowing a contractor to use the simpler version of QuickBooks rather than the “Contractor Edition” with more advanced features at a significantly higher price.
This software relies on manual input of labor required for non-standard jobs. This is usually the easier part of estimating since most small contractors report that they are able to estimate time requirements of a job more easily than materials. Many contractors include common jobs as “items” in their accounting list to help standardize labor costs. For example “install ceiling fan” with a stated cost of “$240” could be selected from a pre-defined list of job items.
One limitation of this software is that contractors who are required to show copies of business licenses, certificates, or those who use additional consumer notifications and signature pages will need to attach these pages manually. There are no provisions within the software for attachment pages.
This software is not intended to replace other more sophisticated estimating software that is already working well. (If it is not broke, don’t fix it). Larger contractors that must factor the availability and varying labor rates of available workers and subcontractors will not be happy with Easy Estimate. But for smaller contractors who are frustrated with their current system of estimating, this software will pay off many times over.
The software has a retail price of $100 but is available through QuickBooks ProAdvisors for $75 and personal professional set-up help is available. Intuit offers a complete satisfaction or full return of purchase price guarantee for 60 days after purchase. A free professional consultation is also available to contractors considering QuickBooks or Easy Estimate.
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