Intuit Helps Contractors Make Their Best Estimate

By Lauren Simonds | Posted June 06, 2006

The latest product from small-business powerhouse, Intuit — maker of the ubiquitous QuickBooks accounting software — marks a slight change in course for the company. For the first time, an Intuit product focuses not on managing your business, but rather on helping it grow.

QuickBooks Easy Estimate is an entry-level estimating program designed to help construction contractors create professional estimates quickly. The theory is that polished, professional proposals will net more jobs and thus grow the business.

Intuit has its sights set on the more than one million small contractors in the U.S. — including general contractors, subcontractors, plumbers, electricians, carpenters, roofers and landscapers — who still create their estimates either by hand or with a simple Word document or spreadsheet.

The estimating process can be difficult for contractors, according to Andrew Morbitzer, Intuit's marketing director. "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."

Easy Estimates job site notes form
No More Scrap Paper: You can print this form and take it on site to jot down the details of each job. When you return to the office, enter the info into QuickBooks Easy Estimate.
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One of the benefits to this program, says Morbitzer, is that contractors can keep the information for all of their jobs — customer contact info, job site notes, estimate work sheets — organized and in one location. Intuit designed the software to be easy to use, and the company claims that a contractor can get up, running and produce the first proposal in less than 30 minutes.

The software is designed to generate a proposal in three steps:

Capture Job Details: QuickBooks Easy Estimate lets you print out a job detail sheet to take on site visits, write down notes and add the information to Easy Estimates when you return to the office. You can also create and print out a job-site checklist.

Itemize and Calculate: The Job Estimate spreadsheet lets you list individual materials and then automatically calculates the estimate. It comes with built-in formulas, though Intuit says you can create your own. The program lets you save estimates as template to use on future jobs.

Generate Estimate: Click on the Print Proposal button to automatically send the information into a Word template. Options include using your own documents as templates, customizing the forms to suit your business and adding company logos or disclaimers.

Easy Estimates templates
Copy That: The software lets you create customized templates that you can reuse on future jobs.
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Morbitzer says that contractors who also use QuickBooks can take advantage of Easy Estimate's integration with the accounting program. The program lets you import customer, item and pricing data from QuickBooks and/or you can export estimates to QuickBooks to create invoices and track payments.

What Easy Estimate does not do is calculate the cost of materials and labor. "Smaller companies tend to know what the materials and labor will cost, compared to large companies," explains Morbitzer.

"Mid-sized firms typically keep a database of pricing and materials in QuickBooks, which they can import into Easy Estimate." He added that contractors could add a specific up charge (e.g., 20 percent) or they can configure the program to round up charges to the next monetary value, (e.g., five or ten dollars).

Intuit aims this product at contractors, but Morbitzer says it's applicable to other service professions, such as catering and consulting, for example. Intuit plans to eventually offer industry-specific versions, but "We'll let the market tell us where to expand," says Morbitzer.

QuickBooks Easy Estimates sells direct for $99.95 through QuickBooks Direct Web site, and it's also available at select Staples and Sam's Clubs.

Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of SmallBusinessComputing.com

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