My father was a pilot for United for 36 years and I benefited from his job by being able to travel standby all the way through college. When I started flying, 50% of Americans had flown on a plane compared to nearly 80% today. Airplanes had class segregation via a solid curtain. First-class had an open bar and real silverware, including knives. Then came the race for low fares spearheaded by the Southwest Airlines’ hub-and-spoke model in lieu of larger airlines’ less efficient network system. Wrap it in a bow called the internet and you have what the construction industry has dealt with for years, hard bid.

Last week my wife purchased her round trip ticket to Chicago for $209, note that when we moved to Denver 14 years ago a round trip ticket cost $200. She was thrilled with the price and made it safely to her destination with a 15-minute delay. When I talked to her upon her arrival she was upset and angry, her gripes included:

  • They charged her $25 for a carry on (anything larger than 18”). Then when getting on the plane they took my carry on and checked it (note checked bags were only $20) and they didn’t give her the credit.
  • Her assigned seat, which was an aisle, was changed upon boarding to a rear middle seat.
  • When asked if she would like a beverage she was quoted a price of $3.00 for a Diet Coke, she passed on the peanuts and the drink out of spite.
  • She had to go through an extra line prior to boarding so she could have her bag sized, she didn’t know this until she waited had already waited through the boarding line.
  • She overheard a couple paying $100 for a carry-on bag as you are required to note the amount of carry-on’s when purchasing your ticket.
  • The seating was cramped.

It appeared to me that she was looking for someone to commiserate with, but all I could say was “welcome to the hard bid world”. I asked her what she bought online and she responded, a flight to Chicago and back. Although she was disappointed she received exactly what she paid for, which was a flight and one with no safety incidents, albeit late. The problem was she was expecting the experience to be more like her past trips where she received better service and amenities.

We have managed projects successfully despite the delivery method and don’t believe one is better than the other, but they are certainly different. The key to a successful project is managing clients’ expectations. Hard bid is a low-cost, no frills delivery. Like a disgruntled flight attendant, your team will be overworked and pressured by ownership to make the project profitable; they most likely won’t have time or the budget to go above and beyond the bid scope. Clients should expect additional costs along the way as additional services and scope are required; no drawings are perfect and unforeseen conditions will happen.

If you believe that the journey you are about to take should be enjoyable, consider other delivery methods like CM@R; this model is bit more of smooth ride, you might even meet the pilots. If the lowest cost is your priority, then hard bid but expect some turbulence.
Paul Wember ~ Owner’s Representative