Common Mistakes in Estimating & Planning Jobs

Common Mistakes in Estimating & Planning Jobs

If you read the stuff I put out there, you know I like to talk about the numbers. But today I’m going to cover a couple of practical estimating mistakes, some that I’ve made myself, or seen other people making. When you get to talk with landscape contractors from all over the country, you get to see that many of us tend to make the same mistakes.

There’s a trend here.

Maybe I can help shortcut that trend for a couple of you.

That’d be awesome.

Mistake #1:  Not bidding enough hours to cover logistics

Not bidding enough hours to cover logistics can be an easy trap to fall into. Usually more of a beginner mistake.

Example: you show up on a consultation to check out a property, eyeball it, and “eeeh… that’ll take about 3 days”, and that’s what you use on the bid. But…. what about all the man-hours associated with logistics, picking up and handling materials, dumping waste, poor site access, doing returns, drive time, etc.

Often this can stack 10-25% of man hours on top of how long it takes to do the actual work of building the patio. Remember to factor that time in.

Mistake #2:  Efficiency. Avoid unbillable time

Efficiency is a massive one.

There’s usually as much juice to squeeze out of this “efficiency” lemon as there is in the “know your numbers” lemon.

Let’s say you increase your net profits by 10% by building a budget and estimating based on your own numbers. In many cases, there’s another 10% to be squeezed out through efficiency gains.

Just an example of what I mean: When I worked at Tussey Landscaping as a foreman, in the span of about 2 seasons, I went from visiting our local landscape supply, often with my crew in the truck, multiple times a week, to be able to count on one hand how many times I had been there all season.

We did that by having materials delivered down to our shop, and increasing what we kept on hand in bulk at our shop. This allowed me to get all the products and supplies that I used to stop at the landscape supply, right from our shop. One guy could show up a few min early (before the landscape supply was even open) and grab and load the orders and items we needed from the shop. No detours. Straight to the job site we went.

For returns, we just palletized, stretch wrapped, numbered with the Job #, and placed them at our shop. Then our landscape supplier would swing down once a week or so to pick up any and all returns generated by our company, or one of us employees would run them all up in one trip on a rainy day.

Not only did the company not have the expense of the crew and me on the payroll for those hours for logistics of picking up things and returning things, but I diverted those saved hours to actually get work done. Producing billable revenue. You see, every hour you save in efficiency is a double whammy. Not only did you save that man-hour, but you can also now use it to produce revenue.

Mistake #3:  Failing to systemize the estimating process

When you first start out, you’re probably scratching out your estimate on your phone calculator and pen and paper. And then maybe you move up to spreadsheets. You might be calling your supply yard for product info on every estimate, “what was the price for that again?”

What is the number one thing that will help you win that job?

Did I hear you guess “price?” Being the cheapest?


It’s quote turnaround time.

Study after study has proven that if you strike while the iron is hot, you’re success is a lot higher. I mean a LOT. There’s this one study that I know isn’t a direct correlation to response time for a quote for a backyard renovation, but it still makes a point. It revealed that when responding to a lead from a web form, the likelihood of converting that lead to a sale dropped 400% if you responded within 60 minutes, instead of within 5 minutes.


But the same principle is true. Even when you’re selling high-dollar backyards and landscaping services. People are crazy busy and get distracted. Something else comes up, and you lost your opportunity.

Estimating Process

So, back to how this pertains to estimating. Put your estimating process into a system. Use templates. Get all your suppliers’ product and price lists into estimating software. And make your estimating process extremely efficient and fast. Don’t be crunching the numbers on your calculator. Use production rates.

The whole point of all of this is to be able to QUICKLY turn around a quote. How about before you even leave their driveway? How much better is your chance at closing that job if you get a quote to them before you leave? As opposed to waving, and telling them you’re headed back to the office to work up a quote. Oh, and you’re pretty busy right now, it might be next week.

You tell me.

Not to mention that all this systemizing, templates, and production rates, is one big exercise of getting the info out of your head and into a process. And…. you just successfully removed yourself as the bottleneck in your business estimating process. Other people could do it now too! Congrats! 😂

I talked to a new SynkedUP user the other day that bid on a $200k job, they told me in the past it had taken him a day or two to estimate a job of that size. He did a good job with setting up templates and production rates in SynkedUP and told me he bid on that $200k job in 15 min. Now that is awesome!


So, this is certainly not an exhaustive list of all the ways we make practical mistakes while estimating. But they’re a couple that I see and hear again and again as I make my rounds at events and have conversations with landscape contractors. Systems, like software, can make a huge difference for you in these things. Ok, I saw that eye roll, sure I’m biased 😂. But seriously. Just get something. It doesn’t have to be SynkedUP. Just get a system. Become faster. Become more accurate. Save time. Remove yourself as the bottleneck. And go ahead and do that in whichever way you’d like.

If you’d like to see how SynkedUP could potentially be the one, I’ll be happy to show it to you. Book a call here.


Have an amazing day. 😃


Weston Zimmerman
CEO and co-founder

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Learn how you can use SynkedUP to power your landscaping business, with scheduling and time tracking, materials, costs, billing info for service tickets, and more.

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See SynkedUP in action

Learn how you can use SynkedUP to power your landscaping business, with scheduling and time tracking, materials, costs, billing info for service tickets, and more.

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