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Re: Fees

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James M. Warne wrote:

> My, my! Does your country really have that kind of a "Big Brother" in the
> Justice Department?
> I thought the U.S.A.  had a first amendment or something which allowed free
> speech.
> And what an odd bunch of structural engineers if they didn't eventually get
> around to talking about competitive bids and cut-rate fees and how we can't
> compete with other designers working out of basements!
> In Vancouver, it seems structural engineers can't meet more than an hour
> without the "F" word coming up.
> Our consultant's group came up with a good set of guidelines with fee
> percentages for typical classes of projects, and it helps small firms check
> their proposals. It certainly hasn't led to price-fixing (darn!).
> We also talk about overhead factors and agreement clauses and inspection
> charges and what hourly rates are out there in the market. It may not be as
> exciting as beams and columns, but everyone seems to have something to say
> about fees.
> I wouldn't mind hearing about your problems (or successes?) in negotiating
> reasonable fees. Give it a try.
>                                                  Jim Warne, Vancouver, Canada

The opinion that we should be afraid of discussing fees was only one
person's opinion. I personally would have no problem with discussing
this issue.  However, I feel it is a waste of time.  Here in the USA,
you should charge whatever you can get, or in other words, "what the
market will bear".  We cannot set rates, and discussions about what our
fees should be are pointless.  The market will decide what we can
charge, and that is that.  
Our policy is to charge as much as we can.  Depending on the client, the
type of job, and other factors, we customize our fee to each project. 
To be quite honest, we have clients that pay twice as much for our
services as another client would on the exact same project.  Why,
because one of our clients is used to paying a higher fee structure, and
therefore, we charge as much as we can for it.  On the other end of the
spectrum, if we are busy, we simply will not take a project if the fees
are too low.  If we are slow, we will take projects at almost any fee,
just to get work.

Those are the facts, and I believe that is how most consulting
engineering firms work.  The firms that are rewarded are the ones who
are the most efficient, and can turn out a quality product.
Setting a fee standard will never work in a free market system like we
have here in the USA.  In other countries, it may be different.  I like
our system, because it rewards the achievers, and I believe we can
compete with anyone.  I believe we pay our Engineers and CAD drafters
very well, and we usually manage to turn a profit every year. (well,
almost every year :))