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WHY CERT
By Jerry Mollenhauer, CPE, LEED AP, Reliance Estimating Inc. VCEF

Architects, engineers, owners, developers, planners, law firms, sureties, and contractors no longer have to take as much risk or time when selecting an estimating consultant with whom to partner on their projects. There is now an excellent resource for those with a need for reliable construction cost estimating services to find experienced and dependable consulting construction estimators to work with when they need accurate and unbiased estimates for the projects they are designing, planning, negotiating, or bidding.

In its fourth year and enjoying consistent growth, the Consulting Estimators Round Table or CERT, (an alliance partner of the ASPE – the American Society of Professional Estimators), is a non-profit nationwide association of cost estimating consultants promoting best business practices, ethics, validation, education, and networking of firms qualified to provide consulting cost estimation services. CERT has established a system of peer validation which allows the firms of responsible professional estimating consultants to apply for and receive professional validation by a select group of their equals. The CERT validation committee is composed of cost consultant business owners who have also met the criteria that allow them to add the acronym VCEF after their company name, demonstrating that their firm is a Validated Consulting Estimating Firm.

The Consulting Estimators Round Table was founded by a group of professional cost consultants who believe that becoming a competent cost consultant should be more substantive than simply hanging out a shingle or placing an ad in a construction directory or trade journal. They view the growing trend of outsourcing as not just a challenge to their businesses, but a challenge to the professionalism of the entire cost consulting industry. They founded CERT with the confidence that providing strong and relevant credentialing in this non-regulated business would help maintain high professional standards, without which under-qualified estimating firms might devolve into “estimating mills” and eventually degrade the industry.

Using the listing of CERT members and CERT validated firms, potential clients can be assured that the ethics, credentials and references have been scrutinized by a group with a vested interest in maintaining the integrity of the industry.

CERT membership, and Validation in particular, are excellent indicators of the performance and integrity of the cost estimating consultants sought by those needing this kind of consulting work, and can help clients have confidence that the consultants they hire will meet their expectations. They can be assured that the estimating consultant will be available to provide clarifications and backup information in the future, not just until they have been paid. This gives clients a leg up on their competition because they can be assured that the professionalism and talents of the estimating consultant they retain are at the top of the industry, utilizing modern technology, industry know-how and experience, and cost resources much more so than the part time “moonlighter” looking to make extra income can provide.

CERT provides business validation, not validation of individual estimators (many CERT member firms’ principals are also ASPE Certified Professional Estimators). By considering CERT member firms for estimating assignments, clients will be provided with consultant candidates that are in business for the long term, with the best qualifications and experience in the specific industries that potential clients target. They can be expected to have the depth of staff and resources needed for complicated multidiscipline estimating projects.

For the consultant estimating firm, becoming a member of CERT entails professional and business growth. Consulting estimators can find business advice, consultancy information specific to this industry, plus networking and fellowship by applying for membership in CERT.

Connecting with CERT on the social networking site LinkedIn and taking part in the CERT forum found there is free to anyone. There are modest dues to be allowed to take part in the group’s members only portion of the LinkedIn forums. New members can then further their knowledge base as estimating consultants through the CERT conference calls and live conferences. As they become seasoned and develop through the levels of professional competency, they become eligible to apply for validation, and if found to be qualified, may list the acronym VCEF after their company’s name.

To promote professionalism in the industry, the CERT offers venues for education to member consulting estimators in related subjects, through on-line discussions and LinkedIn forums as well as regular “Best Practice” conference calls and an annual national conference.

Validation is awarded to estimating consultant firms ONLY if they meet the rigorous review as called out in the CERT validation program. It is not automatic or a “walk in the park” by any means. There have been firms that have had validation withheld due to application inaccuracies or lack of compliance with the validation criteria. The CERT Validation Committee reviews the applications for validation with particular attention to specific areas of concern. The applicant for VCEF status must be able to demonstrate the following:

  • The length of time that the firm’s principal has been in the construction cost consulting industry on a full time basis, as well as length of time the firm itself has been in business
  • The firm’s principal’s level of active industry engagement, their post-secondary education, work history, and other professional certifications and credentialing
  • The firm must self-perform a minimum of 75% of its cost consulting work
  • Proof of commercial liability and workers compensation coverage as required
  • Proof of having a federal ID number
  • A permanent place of business
  • Application statements and appropriate letters of recommendation, their verifiability and veracity
  • Other public information as appropriate, including social networks and business records

CERT has been likened to an “Angie’s List” for construction professionals, but there is a difference: the VCEF status is given not by clients’ reviews of the companies on the list, but awarded by the COMPETITORS of those seeking the validated status. The Validated Consulting Estimating Firm status, (VCEF) is a statement of confidence by other qualified providers of those same services Additionally, CERT provides for continuing education and improvement for its member firms, enabling self-improvement and demonstrating an ongoing commitment to excellence.

For more information on the CERT process and group, and how to receive a digital copy of the Consulting Estimators Round Table Best Practices Manual, please contact CERT through the information listed on the CERT website: www.CERTusa.org.
 


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