Low Bids Look Great on the Books, but Not on the Jobsite

Dec 1, 2021

As an established Front Range commercial masonry contractor with more than three decades of experience, it’s safe to say we’ve been around the block a few times. An issue that’s always been around, but that has been cropping back up more frequently, is the lie of the lowest bid—a price tag that looks tempting upfront, but tends to come back to bite you down the road. There are two parts to the problem, a cause and an effect, and we’d like to address both.

Penny-Wise, but Pound-Foolish

The relentless pursuit to mitigate cost and sign the lowest bidder for your RFP may be hurting your project budget instead of helping it. In any project, price is an important—if not the most important—factor. Unfortunately, there are those that know it and take advantage. The saying that you get what you pay for is true, especially in construction. We’ve seen it time and time again. A company goes with a low-bid contractor. Partway through the project, it starts to become clear that they’re unable to deliver what was promised, and you’re stuck in a jam. With your project deadline approaching, you call an alternate contractor to step in and finish the job—the contractor you probably should have gone with in the first place. They step in and get it done, but now you’ve wasted valuable time. What’s more, the price of your project has gone up—more than what you would have spent had you gone with a more thoughtfully conceived bid. We know the scenario all too well because we’re often called at the eleventh hour to finish projects that have been abandoned by low-bid contractors.

Don’t get us wrong—we’re more than happy to have the work. These public and private works projects are the lifeblood of our company. But had our original RFP been accepted, the whole situation could have been avoided.

From the Bidder’s Viewpoint

Let’s talk some common sense on RFPs. In our experience, hard-bid general contractors go with the lowest bidder about 80% of the time. But we would challenge you to review competing bids with more scrutiny. Consider the following: What are the RFPs pre-qualification standards? Having these in place will automatically rule out low quality bids. Does the RFP contain clauses limiting both time and materials, requiring contractors to list the masonry workers by level and hourly rate? Any public works project should require 85-90% of contractors to be classified as skilled workers—even medium skilled workers. Lastly, if you’re leaving room in your RFP for negotiating the role of sub-contractors, you’re going to get a much more accurate response. Trust us, you will save both time and money if you take this information into consideration.

When Phoenix Masonry gets the call to step in and take over a project and jobsite, the reason is always the same: the previous contractor couldn’t perform according to what was promised. This inefficiency and lack of production from the former crew is now going to cost you extra money to fix. When we submit an RFP for your consideration, you can trust that we’ll deliver an accurate assessment of the precise labor and materials needed to get the job done right—the first time. All we’re asking is that the general contractors, municipalities, and other entities who negotiate the terms of their project RFPs spend a little more time and give a little more consideration for the bidding process. 

We at Phoenix Masonry strive to earn your trust by delivering what we promise in terms of workforce and materials. We want to be your preferred partner, but we have a piece of advice for you to consider, and it was Hall of Fame basketball coaching legend John Wooden that said it best. “If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?“

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