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From Office to Field Communication Breakdown 

From Office to Field Communication Breakdown 

As the founder and president of multiple businesses and the host of the Contractor CoachCast Podcast, Tony Booth has spent 12+ years coaching contractors on technology, risk management and business development. Tony has overseen and advised on hundreds of projects, ensuring that they are completed on time and with limited exposure to risk. 

In today’s episode of the Mobile Workforce Podcast, Tony shares why communication between the office and the job site is so essential to the success of any construction project. 

Key Takeaways:

  1. Meaningful communication across an organization requires structure. Successful interactions across departments requires a platform that gives users the ability to share information quickly across channels and teams. Leaving critical information in the hands of one or two people is dangerous, whereas a platform puts comments, concerns and questions in front of the right people so nothing falls through the cracks. 
  2. Strive to be highly efficient and productive. When it comes to productivity, the mindset that a company’s leadership team holds is as important as the processes and technology it implements. If the top brass doesn’t prioritize taking steps toward efficiency on the job site, it won’t matter what technology is available. The breakdown is in the mind, not the tools.
  3. Every member of the team needs to have their goals set. Being clear-minded and regimented in your process throughout the day sets boundaries and sets the rules of engagement for everyone. Once these rules are established, field communication across the team is effective and meaningful.

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Episode Transcript:

Mike Merrill:

Hello, and welcome to the Mobile Workforce Podcast. I’m your host Mike Merrill, and we’re sitting down today with Tony Booth, a contractor coach, and the host of the Contracting Coach Cast Podcast. If you haven’t checked out his podcasts in the past, you really should. Tony is full of a lot of wisdom, and a lot of practical tips for the construction industry. Welcome Tony, and we are so glad to have you here with us today.

 

Tony Booth:

Mike, I’m excited to be here with you as well. Thank you for inviting me on your show, and I look forward to having a great discussion today.

 

Mike Merrill:

Awesome. Well, thank you. So first of all, I am curious, tell me what drove you to become a coach?

 

Tony Booth:

well, through the years, I started in business as a small business. We had a family-owned business, worked in that small business, and we thought we knew what we were doing, and we were kind of doing our thing. Later in my career, that business closed down due to recession or succession problems, and I ended up working for one of the large businesses out there, for Skanska for a while. Getting into that environment and seeing the processes and procedures, and all the things they did differently, it just made me realize like, “Wow, what if I could have had this when I was running my small business? What if I had done just a small fraction of these things? How much stronger would that business have been?”

 

Tony Booth:

So, it made me want to like share that. So, as I was working there, I kept trying to help a lot of the subs that were on my projects, and I would teach them a lot of the processes and procedures, and it really started to take on. I decided I really wanted to follow that path, to help small businesses learn some of those processes and procedures, and really be able to take their business to another level.

 

Mike Merrill:

Wow. Well, I admire that passion that you have. There’s nothing like a good mentor/coach out there for sure. I know in my history, it was the same thing. I had good friends or other people in the industry, that we would always compare notes and share best practices. So, I’ve seen a lot of good can be done when we help others avoid the pitfalls that we go through.

 

Tony Booth:

Exactly, just sharing that knowledge. That’s just not something that you see very often, especially on the small business side. They just feel strange about asking their competition or somebody in a different trade like how to handle certain things. So, that’s what I want to be is that, I’m that person to help and guide people, and give them ideas on what steps they can take and do to make their business more successful.

 

Mike Merrill:

That’s awesome. So, if you were to pick one thing, one main thing, what’s that advice that you would give to most of these folks that you speak with? What’s the most important thing that you would first have them fix?

 

Tony Booth:

The biggest thing is communication by far, and that’s in construction in general. Really, if you look at the problems that we have on construction projects, in construction businesses, a large majority can be drilled back, you peel back the onion, you’re going to find out somewhere along the line communication failed. Whether it’s from the design or the owner to the contractor, to the contractor to the supplier, whatever, you really dig it back in, a lot of it just comes down to communication failures.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. It sounds like you’re describing, there’s a wall between maybe the office management executives, where the decisions actually are made on paper, and then the people out in the field, they’re making decisions, boots on the ground, there’s a barrier or a wall there. How do we get rid of that, get over it around it?

 

Tony Booth:

Well, I look at it, again, a good analogy to think about for that lack of communication, and it is what happens a lot of times, if you think about it, the projects build originally during the estimate in the office, there’s management that gets involved during contract negotiations, and they’ve got the whole job in their head, they know how to build it, they know what they want to do, and then they start the project, and none of that information transfers out to the field. You think about the thing nowadays with the DIY furniture you get, you get all this box, it’s all flat, and you’ve got 19 different pieces in all kinds of nuts and bolts. Think about that thing coming without a set of instructions or two pictures, and basically, you’ve got to try to figure out how to put that together, right?

 

Tony Booth:

We do the same thing in construction way too often. Maybe not to the extreme of no directions or no instructions, but we give very limited instructions out to the field. That engineer that designed that piece of furniture, and that manufacturer, they know exactly how it should go together, and what piece goes first. But, if they don’t give us that when we get it in our house, it will take us forever to figure it out. We do the same in construction, right? We’ve got a set of plans, we have an idea how we’re going to build it in the office, and then we ship a crew out and tell them to start framing something or start installing countertops. But, nobody told them step by step. While these guys are seasoned professionals out in the field, we know that, it doesn’t hurt for them to have good guidance to do their work.

 

Mike Merrill:

Oh wow. Sage advice. I’m thinking back to my days as a framer, and I remember so many times that, we would frame a wall normally the way that we would do it, and then, you turn one more page over on the blueprints, and there’s a very specific nailing pattern, or something that you had to do different. Those things get missed often because people don’t read the plans.

 

Tony Booth:

Right. The bad thing was, somebody in your organization probably saw that nailing pattern at some point, before he ever got out there to install that wall. The estimator already carried an extra couple man hours, because we knew we had to double the framing in that area and everything else, but it never made it to the field, and now, we’re going back and adding stuff or changing stuff.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. So, we’re back to that communication thing that you had mentioned earlier. So, how do we have better quality communication between the field and the office, to address those things, so they don’t become a problem?

 

Tony Booth:

Well, it starts… To me, that’s a whole cultural thing of the organization. One of the things I see a lot of people try to do is, they think they’re going to fix it with some software. I am a full owing component of the best communication software, and platforms, and project management, but if you don’t use those tools, what good are they? Like, somebody’s got a Slack in their organization, but there’s no communication going on in their Slack channels. It’s like, what good is it? It’s a great tool, but you have to use it.

 

Tony Booth:

So, it really starts in the management and leadership. It’s got to start from the top down. The top leadership has to be good communicators, and they have to get that through. They also have to be ready to take it from the bottom up, get that feedback. I always try to tell all my listeners and my clients, we’ve got to go solicit feedback. As a leader, your job is to learn how to listen. That’s just as important as guiding someone, is understanding, is that communication going through right, and are we getting feedback?

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, that’s great advice. I know I always say, the best leaders are actually also wonderful followers. We have to follow in order to lead. I love what you said about the communication from the field back to the office. I know in my experience and background, it was the same thing. I’m now a part of a software company for construction, so I see the other side of that now. I, like you said, I wish I could just rewind the tape and go back and apply all that I’ve learned here to my young fledgling construction company. Back to communication, what is the driving force? You mentioned that executives or management, ownership to be behind it. What’s behind that?

 

Tony Booth:

It’s really a shame, it’s a shift in the mindset. For whatever reason, we’ve always felt like the people in the field don’t need certain bits of information, and there’s things they don’t need to know. It’s like the old… You used to see the things in the break room, like they treat me like a mushroom, right? Where they put you in a corner and just pile stuff on top of you. For some reason, that that has been the trends for years. It really is about shifting the mindset of your leadership. The buzzword going around for less 5 to 10 years has been servant leadership, but it really is that type of leadership. It’s shifting that mindset in leadership.

 

Tony Booth:

A lot of times what we see in construction, and that old mindset is, we assign something as a manager, we forget about it, and then we expect it to happen, right? Like, if I’m a VP in an organization, and I’ve got a project, I’m going to assign it to my PM and say, “Okay, there you go,” and then I forget about it. Maybe go see him once a month, and check in on the project. We never do… The three things I always try to enforce upon people is, number one, you have to outline expectations, which takes good communication. Don’t just give them the project, outline the expectations of what you want people to do. Then as leaders, it’s our job to support them along the way, give them the tools they need, and guide them when they get off course.

 

Tony Booth:

I always used to have a thing with all my guys that I ran and everything was, simplify the PM’s role on a project, was to put the tools in the toolbox. Our thing was, we ran… A PM managed the paperwork and stuff like that, and we had a superintendent that was in charge of getting stuff done. I used to tell all my PMs, “Your number one priority is making sure that superintendent has the tools and information he needs to get the work done. Because, if we’re not getting work done, it doesn’t matter what we’re doing. We’re not making money. We’re not making our clients happy. We’re not doing anything if we’re not putting our product together.” So, it’s that servant kind of way of looking at things and shift in that mindset, that really drives that whole communication.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. So, what I’m hearing is that production obviously, that’s what this is all about. It’s about actually getting something accomplished, not only correctly and on time, but at some point, you’ve just got to start framing the wall. You can’t over plan, aim, aim, aim, aim, fire.

 

Tony Booth:

Right.

 

Mike Merrill:

Then on the other thing you mentioned, as far as communication goes, I really love how you framed the fact that there’s almost got to be a plan to execute on the plan, so, kind of rules of engagement. It sounds like everybody needs to be aware of what that plan is on a regular basis. Then, my favorite part that you said is that, you basically check back in, and give that feedback loop, making sure you’re still on course. I think of an airline pilot or somebody that’s-

 

Tony Booth:

Right.

 

Mike Merrill:

We’re descending underneath, we’ve got to have that trajectory planned appropriately in order to make sure the planes able to hit the runway.

 

Tony Booth:

Right. We’ve got to have those warning signals when things are getting out of… They start to go off. The only way to know that is good communication. If I’ve got several teams that are out building projects where, if I’m communicating with them, and we’ve got that dialogue, then we can start to see what’s happening, and we can make those adjustments before we get too far off course. I totally agree with you. You can’t sit and plan everything forever, right? To me, you’ve got to have a plan, but we know that the plan is going to change. But, at least we have a plan, we know where we’re trying to get. Then, it’s adjusting. It’s the traditional plan, do, check, act. We’ve got to make our plan, and we go out, and that all requires good communication.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. Like you, I’m a proponent of software and systems. I manage those things. If you’ve got good systems and good software, you really can keep people on the same page all the time or daily, at least.

 

Tony Booth:

Right. The thing I like about using good collaboration tools and stuff, and we can talk in a little bit more detail about this later, but so many times people try to do things in big meetings, and I’ve never been a huge fan of too many meetings, when me as a project manager, I can have a discussion Monday morning with my superintendent, on all the tasks we expect to accomplish that week right. Now, I don’t have to have it with everybody on the project. If I have good collaboration, software and tools, we’re going to have that stuff.

 

Tony Booth:

The key point is, the superintendent and the key roles can have that discussion, and then it can filter down where it needs to be face to face. But, the rest of it can all be picked up. If I’ve got somebody in the main office that’s worrying about materials, can then look in my system and see, “Oh, here’s what they’re doing this week.” So, it saves a lot of… It makes a lot of savings in communication time, and wasted time of repeating messages over and over again, or getting too many people into a meeting to try to figure something out.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. Nobody likes to redo what they just did, so I think everybody benefits if we can avoid having to tear something apart that we just put together, and then to redo it, we’re wasting materials, time, opportunity cost. The list goes on.

 

Tony Booth:

Absolutely.

 

Mike Merrill:

I love what you said about having software or something in place to communicate with. You’d mentioned at the top, communication’s key to all of this. Well, I sure believe that’s just critical. We’ve all played the old tin can phone game, where you go around the circle, and you get back to the beginning, and it’s amazing what the message becomes one that’s changed hands 10 times.

 

Tony Booth:

Absolutely. That’s where having those systems, and using a good platform for communication solves all those, not all of those problems, but it solves a lot of them. It really eliminates… If I have a discussion or I have the comment to be made on a drawing, or a supplier, or anything like that, by having those tools, everybody sees it. Instead of me just saying to the superintendent, “Hey, the guys are laying that wall out. It looks like it’s different from the recent drawing that we got, you better check it.” Well, if I just say that to him in passing or her, and then they don’t think to act on it right away, what can happen? It continues to get laid out wrong, it gets installed wrong.

 

Tony Booth:

Where, if you have the systems in place to streamline all that with a good platform, then guess what? Everybody’s getting that notice. Everybody that’s important knows, “Oh I can, with the good tools, we can earmark that person that’s doing that layout. Hey, whatever you’re doing, check this.” Just way better ways. The technology nowadays just provides such great tools for us to communicate with. We just need to learn to use them better.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. I think along with that, it’s almost where the field intentionally depends on those tools. It’s not just somebody barking at them, “Hey, you forgot to check with it.” They need to depend on it. I think there’s good or better ways to make sure that that happens. In your experience, how have you been able to successfully direct companies to count on those tools and actually utilize them more properly when they’re not?

 

Tony Booth:

It’s really like we were talking about earlier. It’s that making sure, checking in, supporting the teams. It takes a little time, it takes a little effort to get everybody to that. They’re used to pulling out a set of paper drawings, now they’re going to a collaboration software. So in the beginning, it takes a lot of… I tell people, sometimes you have to micromanage a little bit in the beginning as you’re adapting something like this. Keep an eye on your teams and remind them, “Hey you sent that email the other day, but that email, that conversation should have been inside the platform.” Or, “I know you called me about this the other day, but you didn’t follow up inside the platform. You calling me doesn’t let the whole team know. Make sure we record that back into the platform.”

 

Tony Booth:

So, it takes a little micromanaging to get people used to it. But after they get used to it, what I’ve found with guys I work with, once they got used to those tools, and they realize they can communicate back as well, so now the guy in the field can ask questions and make comments back, like, “Hey, I thought we should do it this way.” Then, they all start to see the benefit of it, and it becomes much more adapted by the entire organization.

 

Mike Merrill:

I think the operative word that as you were just sharing that, I hear, and the word collaboration just keeps ringing in my ears. It’s that back and forth, that’s active living, breathing. Our job sites are breathing organism. They’re alive. They’ve got to keep moving to remain healthy. They’ve got to make sure that certain parts of them are going through a certain process that it’s designed for, in order to be completed properly.

 

Tony Booth:

Right. The other great thing I like about having a good platform with all those tools in there for communication is, we’re not interrupting people at our convenience. They’re able to learn and pick up what they need to know at their convenience. So yeah, we’ve got… If a change comes in on a layout, but the guy doing the layout, he’s working over on another side of the project today, but we’re going to interrupt him in the middle of the day to tell him that what he’s laying out a week, two days from now, has a change to it? It’s important that he knows, but do we really want to interrupt him with a good platform like that? That change is noted in there, we’re able to give the communication when it fits our time, and they’re able to absorb the communication when it fits their time. So, it’s not that interruptive disruption that often happens with traditional tools of communication.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. You’ve used the word platform a lot, which I love also, because to me that means it’s a commonplace where multiple people can interact and share information. Paper is not a platform.

 

Tony Booth:

No.

 

Mike Merrill:

Excel, really isn’t a platform either.

 

Tony Booth:

It’s not. It’s just a piece of paper that’s been digitized. Same thing emails, it’s just mail delivered a different way. There’s nothing collaborative, there’s no platform there. It’s me sending something to you, you send something to me, not us collaborating on anything.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. How often do we get a read receipt or, “Oh, I see you read my…” But, that doesn’t mean they understood it, digested it, acted on it.

 

Tony Booth:

Right. The traditional, back to that structure in an organization, think about what happens to that newer assistant PM or PM that’s on your team now. He gets something in an email telling him to do something, he doesn’t necessarily understand it, but he feels like, “Well, if I ask the question, am I going to look stupid?”

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah.

 

Tony Booth:

So, when it’s in email, you feel like you’ve got to be more strict in your communications, where if it’s a nice platform, then it can be easier to talk back and forth. It just makes for a better way of communicating, because we feel like we’re there together.

 

Mike Merrill:

Back to the paper and spreadsheet idea, I’m part of an organization, About Time Technologies, it’s something that we do, also collect data digitally. I know often when I’m speaking, or doing webinars, or meeting with customers, something that comes to mind for me is, when we have tools, technology tools that are a platform where multiple people have access and visibility, you can manage data, not drama. So, there’s nothing to talk about. I have the data in front of me, I already know, you already know, you can eliminate so many unnecessary cycles of back and forth.

 

Mike Merrill:

Which to me, thinking back in construction, a lot of times we introduce hesitancy, even when we’re completing our direction we’re giving, we’re injecting something that causes doubt or unsurity. Like you said, people might feel stupid by re-clarifying or confirming. So, sometimes we can over-communicate using ineffective tools.

 

Tony Booth:

Right, yeah, exactly. I often tell people that you can’t over-push that limit. You’ll probably never over-communicate, but you can, if you’re not doing it effectively and you’re not doing it the right way. I don’t agree with micromanaging whatsoever. If I have to micromanage someone, if you have to micromanage someone, then you’re not getting that benefit of having someone there that can be productive. But, we have to with them, and instead of communicating directions, we communicate expectations, and then give our support and follow up.

 

Tony Booth:

That’s how you build self sustaining teams. That’s how you have crews that go out in the field, and the minute they hit a problem, they’re coming right to you, “Hey, I’ve got this problem.” Because, they feel like there’s that open communication and the ability to communicate on things, not this feeling like, “Oh okay, you gave me this problem, and I guess it’s my job to solve it.” Like, “You couldn’t help me here?” Kind of thing.

 

Mike Merrill:

So, I’m hearing an effective feedback loop, or a process that’s established to communicate that.

 

Tony Booth:

Yeah, absolutely. As leaders, for everybody out there, whether you’re the crew lead, whatever position you’re at, when you have people that work for you, one of your first things to do is learn to listen. Learn to listen to their feedback, and be collaborative with that. I remember early on in my career, on a job when I was real young, and the superintendent’s telling us to do things a certain way, and I’m asking, “Why couldn’t we do this instead?” His immediate answer was, “Because I told you to do it the other way.” That’s not good collaboration, right?

 

Mike Merrill:

Right.

 

Tony Booth:

Maybe if you he’d have listened to me, I don’t know if I had a good idea, I just remember him just shutting everybody down. My idea might’ve been stupid, but at the same time, it might’ve been good, and combined with his knowledge, we might’ve found a new way to increase productivity by 10% or 20%, or eliminate errors. The people in the field have a lot of knowledge that we don’t tap well enough, in my opinion. We way too often think that they really don’t understand, but they do. The more we allow them to know what’s going on, the better they understand.

 

Mike Merrill:

That’s the other thing, and I’ve learned over the years, I wish I would’ve learned it earlier in my construction career, but those people with boots on the ground with the hammer or whatever tool, operating the backhoe, they are running your business.

 

Tony Booth:

Absolutely. They are your business. They are the ones… It doesn’t matter how good you are back in the office, or how good you are going to meet your client, it’s those frontline people that are making a difference in your business. Without them, we don’t get anything done.

 

Mike Merrill:

Well, it’s like in sales, we say nothing happens till somebody sells something. Well in construction, it’s the same. Till somebody builds something, there’s no money.

 

Tony Booth:

There’s nothing.

 

Mike Merrill:

It’s just an expense, right?

 

Tony Booth:

Uh-huh (affirmative). No, exactly.

 

Mike Merrill:

There’s a few things that you talked about there that I really liked, on the communication side. What processes or tools or methods have you seen be effective for communicating from the field to the office?

 

Tony Booth:

The most effective thing that I’ve taught a lot of people to do, I call them drop-ins. It comes from an old book I read years ago, Management By Walking Around. It’s really about, as a leader manager, and even crew leads, this applies to anybody, if you have people that you’re directing their performance and their work, we’ve got to walk around, and we’ve got to be out there and see how they’re doing. We’ve got to drop in and just talk to them. Not drop in and give directions, but sit, spend five minutes with your laborer that you’ve got assigned to clean out the job site. It’s Friday afternoon, we want to get the job site clean, so you’ve got a laborer, he’s out there doing that. Stop in and see him. Stop by. Just drop by, talk to him a little bit, “How’s it going?”

 

Tony Booth:

He might say, “Hey, it’s going great. But if I had a wheelbarrow that I could carry with me, I could get this done in half the time. You never know what you find out.” Or, they might tell you something about what their perception is of the business, or something that they’ve overheard. That’s how we get good feedback. So, as a manager leader, sometimes we’ve got to take that production blindfolds off, the blinders that get us focused on why is he not working hard enough, or why is she not doing this right? Sometimes we’ve got to take those off and just be human, and speak to our people, and just open up for feedback.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. I love that. I think that’s great advice for anybody running a business, not just construction. In our software business, same thing. It’s a boots on the ground. I think too, to your point, if that’s the exception or that’s weird, that, “What’s he doing on the job site?” And everybody puckers and it’s nervous, that’s not good either, right?

 

Tony Booth:

Exactly. I’ve had to have that conversation with many of my clients when we talk about it. They’re like, “Oh well, when I show up on the job, the guys seem to scatter and go to work, and everything seems to go a certain way. It’s like they feel awkward talking to me.” I said, “Yeah, that’s a key indicator that you have a communication problem in your organization. If those people don’t feel like they can come talk to you about anything, then you’re not getting all the information you should be getting.”

 

Mike Merrill:

So, I’m hearing the culture aspect of things is important, not just the right technology tools, not just a platform, not just communication in terms of digital or software systems, but just being a person and being present.

 

Tony Booth:

Yeah. Having a little empathy. It all comes around that idea of servant leadership. I always look at… I’ve always looked at my employees a little differently in that, they choose to give me eight hours a day. It’s not that I choose to give them a position or a paycheck. There’s thousands of other companies they could go to work for. They choose to come work at mine. So, it’s my job to be grateful for that and help them.

 

Mike Merrill:

You’re advocating to empower them, like I said earlier, to be partners or owners in that business, take ownership quite literally.

 

Tony Booth:

Yep, yeah definitely. When it’s done right, you get that. People buy into your whole organization, and they’re part of it. They want to see the success. But, that takes sharing information, and really letting them understand what’s going on and what’s expected of them. Why do we do what we do? Why is it important that, when we write that email to the client, we follow certain guidelines? Why is it important when we turned an invoice in that it’s done a certain way? All those things have meaning to the leaders. But, if we don’t tell everybody in the field why it’s important to us, then they don’t know why they should be doing it.

 

Mike Merrill:

So, it also sounds like there’s a lot of nonverbal communication that impacts how these projects run, the way we behave and handle ourselves, interact.

 

Tony Booth:

Absolutely. You think, with the people that are on the projects, with the people that are going by the projects, the clients, the suppliers, they all pick up on our cues of how we manage our project, and how we communicate. The better we do that, the better people are going to want to work with us, work for us, be a part of our projects.

 

Mike Merrill:

Well, and what I’ve seen too is, again, businesses that we work with every day, when they’re using technology tools that are accurate and instill confidence, it’s not just in their management, but if I’m billing somebody that I’m doing subcontract work for, using an automated real-time tool that is accurate and verifiable, and you can have competence in, they’re going to be trained and grown to understand that that’s how you run a tight ship, and you’re tracking your money just like you’re tracking their money, and they’re going to work with you that more readily without quite the arguments that contractors like to get in sometimes over.

 

Tony Booth:

Absolutely. No, that is a great point because, that is something that just really extends all the way through the job site. When that trade contractor knows that you run a tight ship, he’s going to be explaining that, or she’s going to be explaining that to her people, like, “Hey, this is important to them, this is how we work for them.” But, they also like that too. Who doesn’t want that? Nice, calm, good communication, good flow on a project, we all love to work on those.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. I think when I think back too, not just when I ran my construction company, but again today and everybody that we interact with, 99% plus of people out there, they really do want to do a good job. I think it’s the exception completely that somebody really doesn’t care.

 

Tony Booth:

I totally agree. I totally agree. To me, I’ve always felt it’s a rare exception, and I’ve always looked at it… Again, another little way I always looked at my people was, if they’re not performing up to par, then it’s probably something I haven’t done well enough yet. I’m going to give them the initial benefit of the doubt, and I’m going to pay a little more attention and work with them. Now you’re right. There’s that 0.1, or that 1% out there that’s maybe not improving. Maybe they’re not a fit for your organization, but don’t immediately wipe them out, write them off, because they’re not living up to maybe expectations we didn’t communicate well enough with them.

 

Mike Merrill:

Well, I think too, peer pressure works all kinds of different ways. There’s negative peer pressure and then there’s positive peer pressure. I saw this. I worked on crews or I worked with people that were very hard, diligent workers, and then I worked with other people that they were happy to go down and sweep out the bosses shop, and do busy work, because they didn’t like getting in and working hard necessarily all the time.

 

Tony Booth:

That’s right.

 

Mike Merrill:

So, that culture of wanting to work hard, wanting to be diligent, wanting to do a good job, is also I think it’s pervasive where, you can elevate the level of the whole crew by just having that kind of culture from your leadership in the field.

 

Tony Booth:

Absolutely. Totally agree.

 

Mike Merrill:

So again, you’ve been at this for a long time. I actually listened to a few of your podcast episodes. You’ve got over 1600 of them, so wow. How has that changed your perspective over the course of years that you’ve been doing this? What’s different for you today than maybe when you start?

 

Tony Booth:

I would say, I’m more excited about where things can go, because the more I’ve spent time learning more about construction, learning more about leadership, about people, because I can’t be a good coach if I’m not a good study. So, the more I’ve learned that, and the more advancements I’ve made myself, I guess I’m much more optimistic about abilities to change, about the future, and know that we really can make a difference in construction, and it really can move forward. As much as people sometimes think it’s stuck in the stone age, I totally disagree. It’s definitely shifting a lot, and going to shift a lot more.

 

Mike Merrill:

Like you, I’m very excited about the tools that we have today. I’m sure you remember like I do, before cell phones existed in construction, and that was a whole different animal than what we-

 

Tony Booth:

Oh yeah.

 

Mike Merrill:

Having said that, as I think back and as we wrap up a little bit here, if you’ve got some sort of hack or superpower or something that you’ve really been able to develop over this history of yours, what is your secret sauce, if you have one?

 

Tony Booth:

I would sum it up as focus management and batching. I learned this years ago as a project manager, and I didn’t realize how well I had done it until a new superintendent came on a project with me, and about three months into the project, he’s like, “How are you able to do everything you’re supposed to do, when every other project manager I work for in this company, has to spend 12, 14 hours a day?” I was like, “I don’t need that much time.” But what I do, I focused and learned to block out interruptions. I plan out my day, I set blocks of time out. If I’m working on invoicing, nobody else is coming in to the office, and I’m not answering phones for that hour to two hours that I’ve got to get the invoicing done.

If I’m writing an RFI, I’m not stopping in the middle to do those things. It took a while to teach everybody on the organization that this is how it worked, but I got it to where, if somebody in the field had a question, they knew to come in. If my door was shut, they would leave a post it note on the door, “Come see me when you’re done.” Or if my door was open, they might poke in, if I was busy, I’d say, “Oh,” and they go, “Okay, come find me.”

So, I would take blocks of time, focus on tasks, then take the other time to go have that communication and that dialogue. So, that’s where to me, technology and platforms help with all that too, because now I can have that system to organize everything. Because, it’s organizing your focus, I think matters the most, as far as getting your productivity done.

Then the other thing I do is, a lot of communication. I used to have what I always called the little mini-talks. Basically every day, there was a different topic that I would discuss with my superintendent, so that we weren’t wasting each other’s time for an hour going through everything on the project. It was like, “Okay, I’m going to go see the superintendent. We’re going to talk about this week’s tasks. That’s it. I don’t want to hear about changes. I don’t want to… Let’s just talk about what we’ve got going on.” We could spend five minutes, get a lot of communication done, and then go back to doing our thing. So, it’s really about managing that focus. You do that right, plan ahead, avoid putting out fires and all those things.

 

Mike Merrill:

I love that great advice. So, what I’m hearing is the coach calls a huddle, right?

 

Tony Booth:

Yeah, absolutely. That’s a great way to put it, a huddle. Those are the things I always like to do, is little huddles. We don’t need the entire team. That’s perfect. You don’t need the entire team. You need the people that are about to execute the play. That’s all you need. Two-minute, five-minute huddle, boom. Off we go.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. The past, the past downs don’t matter. You’ve got the next one you’ve got to focus on. So, it’s better to be up moving forward, up the field, on your projects and all of that.

 

Tony Booth:

No, that’s a great way. I’m going to steal that one from you.

 

Mike Merrill:

No problem.

 

Tony Booth:

I’m going to start using the huddle for that. Thank you.

 

Mike Merrill:

Free of charge, no problem. Well, thank you so much, Tony, for spending a little time with us today. This was very enjoyable. I sincerely enjoyed having you on, and look forward to, maybe we can do this again down the road.

 

Tony Booth:

Absolutely. I’d love to. Thank you for having me on as well. It was a great conversation. I enjoyed it, and definitely ready to do it again.

 

Mike Merrill:

Sounds good. Well, thank you all. Again, if you liked this conversation today, and were able to learn anything new, or pick up some helpful tips or hands, please follow us on Instagram, @workmax underscore, and subscribe to the show on iTunes or your preferred podcast platform, and then you’ll never miss any of those insightful episodes. Also, please give us a rating and review. Five star reviews will help us to continue to provide this, and help you to improve your business, and in turn your life.

 

Be the Construction Job Site Hero

Be the Construction Job Site Hero

Ron Babich’s construction experience is far-reaching. With 30+ years of experience, he’s seen about every facet of the business, including founding, funding, growing and managing companies to high growth sales and profitability. He’s also overseen the successful implementation of numerous different technologies and is an advocate for data-driven decision making. 

In this episode of the Mobile Workforce Podcast, Ron shares how to best navigate the complex world of data management and how to predict the flow of projects accurately. He gives clear steps to make any contractor the predictability hero of their team.   

Key Takeaways:

  1. You can’t understand or fix what you don’t measure. If you don’t have the right tools in place to measure what is happening on the job site, you will never be able to effectively adjust your processes to get the most out of your teams.
  2. Measure the right things. The right tools allow you to measure actions being taken on the job site effortlessly, but all is wasted if the right data isn’t being measured. For example, two categories of data that anyone can start with are completed quantities by cost code and man-hours. By pulling these two data sets, a project’s earned value can be calculated, giving leadership unprecedented information that can be compared against budgets, forecasts and other reports to determine a wealth of information that can help increase productivity. 
  3. New initiatives require a point of ownership for success. The launch of any new technology, software or equipment requires a person or department to see it through to completion. Without giving clear leadership, everyone is responsible for the success of the new technology. And if everybody owns it, then nobody owns it. 

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Episode Transcript:

Mike Merrill:

Hello, and welcome to the mobile workforce podcast. I am your host, Mike Merrill. And today we are sitting down with Ron Babich, an advisor with crush IOT. Ron is a proven business leader with over 25 years of experience in designing and executing go-to-market strategies on leading teams in marketing operations, other parts of business, and getting things done. So Ron, looking forward to the conversation today, before we get too far in just wanted to welcome you and thank you for joining us.

 

Ron Babich:

Thanks, Mike. Great to be here. Thanks for having me on today.

 

Mike Merrill:

You bet. So I just wanted to start out. I know, of course you can speak on a number of topics. You’ve got a lot of experience in the industry, especially in construction, but I think kind of your wheelhouse would be talking about predictability and construction. So more specifically, why should listeners care about predictability and maybe how can they build predictability into their jobs sites?

 

Ron Babich:

Yeah. Well, that’s such the million-dollar question too. It’s funny because sometimes we joke about, we do all these things and we have all these tools and we have all these measurements and meetings and all this other stuff, and this is the estimates important. And our progress is important and our forecast is important and then we have all this stuff. And then you think about it at the end of the day, it’s literally to get like one number, which is like, how are we doing right now? And what’s going to happen next week so we can kind of plan it out.

So the fun is just getting to that one place, if you can get there. And to me, I think the most important thing is like having the tools in place and then having the right things to measure so that we can actually get to what we just said a second ago, which is predicting what’s going to happen potentially tomorrow. And then how are we really doing today based on how we planned it.

 

Mike Merrill:

So what are some of the main areas on a job site that predictability really directly affect?

 

Ron Babich:

Yeah, so the two easy ones are the quantity and man-hours. So I mean really, to be honest, it’s so funny because it sounds so simple when you say it out loud, but just with those two things we can put together, earn value on just quantity of man-hours. That’s all we have against what we thought we were estimating, what we thought we were progressing and then how we’re forecasting. Just those two numbers could tell us like a million things along the way. Unfortunately, though, most companies fall short on the man-hours part is there sometimes it’s a little late, but have such a hard time with quantity milestones. The other thing I think is probably worth mentioning, and this is a lesson that I was massively ignorant about. And then just had some quick lessons, is that like in capital projects, you have this severe planning stuff that happens.

And we have these big estimates and we have these progress updates all the time, or we have these forecasts, but then you have this other side of it where there’s this massive economy built around the service industry as well. And the concept of predictability is really important to those guys, but they’re completely absent of this kind of philosophy of like, how do I know that I need 223 people in the field next week to install cable boxes in Zimbabwe or something like that. And that’s what those guys are trying to get a handle on. And really it’s so funny because construction’s really figured that part out, at least the theory of it. And I’m not saying everybody practices perfectly, but at least in theory, everyone attempts to get to that fun place we were talking about, but in the service industry, holy cow, it’s one of those, Zen’s that there’s a huge opportunity for companies to get there, and I’m going to babble for a second.

But I think there are a couple of areas there that are problematic and there are some major differences between like capital projects and service. One of them is just in scheduling alone because in capital projects we get the luxury of like six months, 12 months, 18 months planning and all that, where on-demand services are like next week, two days from now three, so that’s drastically different. The other thing is that a highway or a mine will be at a single location. And then you’re trying to plan for service all over the place. And now you have regions versus a single location and that’s very difficult and that’s very challenging. And then the last part of it is just basically like crew scheduling. If in a construction perspective, I’ve got crews that I know are supposed to be at a specific location and I know the numbers and the et cetera, but in service with the on-demand and the scheduling being so kind of short duration, three days, five days, it’s much more difficult to figure out what that is. So anyway, some kind of big difference is night and day between the capital side of it and the service side of it, you know?

 

Mike Merrill:

Okay. So you’re … that makes perfect sense. They are very different, of course, different purpose, different focus, different … you’re working with completely different animals two types. To harness that predictability or to better track that labor or that production, what types of tools or what have you seen implemented that has helped companies to get a handle on that?

 

Ron Babich:

Yeah, that’s a great question, Mike. The biggest tool is timeliness, as stupid as that sounds, the biggest tool is timeliness and something like what you guys do with your workforce assets, where I can digitally put something in today versus pencil whipping on a Friday. It’s getting the numbers in number one, getting the numbers, right. And like what you guys do makes it much easier to do that because I can do it now instead of waiting until later when they’re inaccurate. But it’s just the timeliness of getting the time in. It’s funny before we got on I just did a Google search on just timesheet memes, just kill me. It’s so it’s hilarious. Cause there are so many of them, but I swear on a stack of Bibles, 139 million results on timesheet names. Like right now, if you Google and like it’s the most hated thing on the planet. So you’re like finding, we were talking about like, ah, it’s the timeliness. It can’t be that difficult, but it is kind of difficult because people just hate it so much. So you’ve got to make it easy for them to do it or else they just want to kill you, you know?

 

Mike Merrill:

Okay. So timeliness and simplicity obviously of a way to capture that data.

So with you… obviously you have a very diverse background in construction, construction technology. You’ve been in large organizations, small organizations, startups, and everything in between what today, with where we’re at in 2020, the year of craziness. No question about it. What, what surprises you still, or maybe even most about construction and their adoption of technology today?

 

Ron Babich:

It’s bizarre. I used to have a slide that we would put up that when you’re going to go talk someplace about time and it’s an 1886 timesheet from Jerome, Arizona in a mine. And I swear to you, when you look at it, you go, Oh, that’s the one we’re using right now. And it’s just it’s mind-blowing. The, I think the light at the end of the tunnel is that now there’s this whole new era of millennials and young people that are coming in. I sound like an old man look at the young people coming, but millennials and young people that are coming in which changing that. And they’re not afraid of using that technology. The other thing is that, and this is the biggest surprise. I think in the last few years, how simple unified communications has been so that when I even on voice like an IOT stuff that we work with all the time and mobile devices now, and if I talk something on voice, something happens on the back end and then I get this text back and this whole thing is just, it used to be like, well, now I have a mobile app. Now I have this, it doesn’t work like that. Now it’s in the last 18 to 24 months getting really normal for us to kind of do the circle.

 

Mike Merrill:

So you’re actually seeing it get a lot better improve rapidly.

 

Ron Babich:

Absolutely. And people are much less afraid of it. It’s completely unscientific on the adoption rate. I mean, we have some numbers and stuff on all that, but the reality is enterprises are really kind of embracing this stuff now more than ever. And we really see a big change like in the last two years.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. We’ve noticed a lot of the same things too. I know just generally before we hopped on the call, you were talking about contractors need to really embrace and take ownership of being kind of the hero of the project. Being able to predict and know what needs to be, where, and when weeks or months ahead of time how are they able to best do that now? How can they come in and be the superhero that saves the day? Like you explained?

 

Ron Babich:

Yeah. You know, we talk about unified messaging, but the whole concept of unifying the schedule to the estimate to the forecast is still like the most important thing to be the hero because you start segregating those things out and making it disparate where we have planning that isn’t constantly being updated with the schedule and we have scheduling that’s not being constantly updated with our forecast. You take one of those out and if you’re talking big dollar stuff, like it’s a billion dollar project, you really can be three weeks can kill you. So I think that the whole lot, the whole concept, which is the, basically like the unified tool unified communications is probably the most important thing to be the hero in construction.

 

Mike Merrill:

Okay. Yeah. That makes sense. So with that, I mean, you’re talking about assets and kind of forecasting knowing what’s needed. When what about on the time and labor reporting you talked about the story of the mines in the eighteen hundreds. Why is it so hated, what is it that … why is there such a grind? Why are there 136 million memes about it? In your mind.

 

Ron Babich:

It’s so weird because when you think about it, I was thinking about that yesterday. Like how quick it is to fill out a timesheet only takes a few seconds, but it’s so bizarre. It’s just like expense reports and nobody likes to do them. They’re like, let me do my job. And there’s this mental thing. And I’m hoping that maybe when everyone has an RFID tag in their head that maybe that will be the … but I also hope, I love solutions like yours. I hope that at some point it’s like, it’s okay, it’s easy. It doesn’t distract me. It actually helps me. I really do believe, cause I know a lot of large enterprises when they start using, you know this, but when they start using mobile timekeeping, it really does help reduce the amount of time that a worker has to kind of put into timesheets every week. And it’s a huge benefit to them mentally to the organization too, because they don’t get frustrated that they have to do an 1886 timesheet.

 

Mike Merrill:

So in your experience, what have you seen be the difference in companies adopting that type of technology or change versus and embracing it versus ones that are completely resistant?

 

Ron Babich:

I think the two things are the speed of use and simplicity. Like if it’s not just a no-brainer, if they have to go hunting for the icon and if you open it up and it’s got to be like six different things, if they lose anything, it’s like, they want it so simple because your audience is a mystery out there. But we had one project we did, we were in 24 different countries collecting time on a gazillion set-top box installations every single day. And you have no idea who’s using this app or what country they’re in, but they all have to do it. It’s mandated or they don’t get paid. So because you don’t know that and yada, yada, yada, it’s like the simplicity of it, it’s just got to be like, you know, rock-solid. So I think that’s probably the biggest challenge.

 

Mike Merrill:

So I think to key in on what you just said there, if they don’t do it, they don’t get paid. So that sounds like that’s a top-down initiative. You hit the road, Jack has that kind of the approach that needs to taken?

 

Ron Babich:

Yeah. Unfortunately, I think, and this is just my opinion, but unfortunately, I think that’s the only way it works because otherwise if you start being diplomatic about how you manage time, it’s going to be a mutiny and you’re going to get 129 million more memes.

 

Mike Merrill:

Well, on your background. I mean, a lot of it going back is more on the estimating and the project cost management. So obviously there are so many components to what kind of equates to those costs. Time is a big one it’s the largest variable expense in a construction company. You also worked with other industries like mining and oil and gas and other ancillary specialty trades. How is it different there or is it different or what, what are your feelings.

 

Ron Babich:

Oh, that’s a good question, Mike. That’s a really good question. I think it’s literally, there are all of those different segments are like different religions. And even though they’re very different, they’re similar they’re the same as well, too, because mining is almost identical to heavy highway construction in terms of how they want to do things on progress measurement. And the same thing with subsea. Subsea is so similar to those two other industries. But on the flip side of that, like when it comes to service, like mass service, where you have thousands of people out in the field every day, it’s like, that’s where kind of things just vary off, but there’s this yearning for … everybody has that one common thing of, I wish I knew what my workforce looks like two weeks from now. And it’s so funny because if you just solve that problem, if you help people solve that problem because they’re doing it in spreadsheets and stupid things now, instead of trying to automate it.

 

Mike Merrill:

So what I’m hearing is better measurement upfront. So daily accurate collection of data. And then obviously if you start plugging that in modeling that with your estimates, now you can predict the future more accurately because you’ve got an accurate depiction of the current and past so,

 

Ron Babich:

Yeah, you don’t have to go hardcore on the whole earned value science, but just getting, like we were talking about those two core measurements are quantities and man-hours, figuring out what that is in your organization. And then as far as what your quantity means to you, and everybody knows what time means, but if you get that quantity part right, then everybody and their brother can make improvements, so it doesn’t matter what industry you’re in.

 

Mike Merrill:

So quantities, you’re talking linear feet of this yards of that pieces, parts.

 

Ron Babich:

Digits, years. Yeah

 

Mike Merrill:

And within different organizations, of course, there are various roles. Okay. So how one person interacts with a technology solution versus how another does, how does a company kind of roll that out and to make sure that their training and the understanding of the application is one that serves everybody that has to touch it, or is waiting for data from somebody else?

Ron Babich:

That’s a really good question, Mike, that’s a really good question. I think in my opinion, I’ve seen the most success is in the biggest organizations is when a, not a third party, but when an assigned resource within the organization, that’s their only responsibility on that job site or within that project. And typically like a project manager at a Honeywell or yada yada there might be responsible for that. Right. But if you don’t do that, if everybody owns it, it’s the old saying that nobody owns it.

 

Mike Merrill:

That’s great advice actually. So again, somebody has got to own that project in that they’re accountable for its success, essentially. And of course, if the individuals in the field, if their paycheck depends on it, then, of course, you’ve got a lever there that should wield a pretty big, it’s a pretty big hammer.

 

Ron Babich:

That’s right. That’s right

 

Mike Merrill:

So with all of this unique background, again, being on so many different sides of construction and the trades, and different software applications, different solutions, I think even going way back, you started in, I believe CRM. If I’m not mistaken, is that right?

 

Ron Babich:

Yeah. I don’t want to sound like I’m a hundred years old, but it literally, we were literally one of the first CRM solutions in the market, especially in the enterprise market. And in the beginning, we were in the far right-hand corner of the Gardner quadrant, and Salesforce after a while kind of blew past us because we didn’t realize that we were the only ones on the planet, at the time. But yeah, so SalesLogics was acquired by Sage and, but at a time we were like the monsters of the universe back in from 97 through like 2001, 2002 for CRM, which was a huge, so much fun and a wild time in software as you know, at the turn there, when the money was a different story.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. So you’re, so … I mean, I think just because my use of a CRM and how critical it is in my business today and looking back when I had my construction hat on and, and then understanding, even from a construction perspective, how valuable a tool like that really could be. What have you seen today with companies in construction actually utilizing a CRM? Do you see that much still, or has it gone back into that part of the business, the front-facing marketing so to speak?

 

Ron Babich:

That’s a really good question. That’s a really good question. You don’t see a lot of the, what you see, if anything, is resource availability, meaning who’s it who could be on a schedule next week or something in the CRM and that’s like internal and it’s weird because you wind up having … I’m just bringing up service again. Cause it’s the only thing that really ties into the CRM part, but a customer’s availability about when they’re going to be there and everything else that’s tight. You could see how one day it’s just going to be like, no, this one CRM system like Salesforce it’s tied into the schedule as well. And so I can see customer’s availability as well as ours, but that’s perfect unity if all of it’s happening. And I know you guys do a lot of that too, with your stuff.

 

Mike Merrill:

It is. I just, the reason I asked and we’ve had a few guests that are kind of on that side of things and some of the topics have been about marketing, your construction company, marketing your service, your solution. And I know just in construction historically, we haven’t been great at the marketing piece. It’s the word of mouth. I remember I had lots of friends in the industry and people would say it almost like it was a badge of honor. Oh, I’ve never had to market anything. It’s all word of mouth. That’s all we do. And what I’ve learned through this other side of the business is, wow, that’s a big area that I think companies can capture a lot more opportunity and really grow, if they are better at marketing,

 

Ron Babich:

You’re a thousand percent right. I mean honestly, it’s funny and no, one’s going to believe me when I say this, but I can’t tell you how many, literally like a $500,000 annual contract or three $50,000 SAS contract came through our internet marketing or came through our digital marketing or came through. It’s like, really? Yeah. I mean, obviously, you had to still sell and all the other stuff that goes with it, but man, it’s like, and this is for a while now. So it’s things like this, I think thought leadership sessions where you got to be not selling essentially. And you’re great at that. And you’re the master of the trade show, high kicks and appearances too so absolutely.

 

Mike Merrill:

The reason that I see a correlation here also, kind of a bridge between marketing and then also capturing this kind of data. One thing that I’ve seen and heard about in the industry and not just on some of the podcasts guests, but they’re actually sharing with the market in a marketing sort of way, or in a marketing approach, the types of technology that they use, the way that they’re tracking their jobs and their completions and their warranties and their contracts. They’re actually using that as a way to say, this is why we are cutting edge. This is why we’re better. This is why you want to hire us, because we’re going to better track your jobs, we’re going to track your money, we’re going to track the change orders. We’re going to be way more accountable to you than our competitors because we’ve embraced technology. And it’s a core part of our business.

 

Ron Babich:

Yeah. It’s really smart. And that’s kind of, it’s not age-old, but I would say like, I don’t know, last 12 years or so. It’s like if you want to be successful in this business, show everybody what you do, show everybody what you got. There are no secrets anymore. And there are still some old school people out there who kind of, it’s a minority they’ll disagree and go, Oh you got to keep certain things back. I’m like, no, the cat’s out of the bag on everything now there are 9 million YouTube videos on everything from how to make a squirrel out of a wooden straw, so there are no secrets. Get it all out. This like what you just said, show everybody what you do, how to do it. And then you gain a community and now you’ve got friends and you’re not selling anymore. You’re just providing solutions to people that you know.

 

Mike Merrill:

Well, and I think this is the same for the construction industry. Maybe even more so than software technology space, but you’re investing in a partnership, in a relationship. So if you’re going to build my custom home, I’m partnering with you as a contractor to help me to accomplish the project that I have, that my family needs and that we’re planning on investing the next 30 years of our income into so to speak. So I think just that different approach along with some of these other things that we’re talking about are kind of some of the low hanging fruit that companies could better take advantage of. And I know you would agree with this as well with your background.

 

Ron Babich:

No, a hundred percent Mike that’s right on.

 

Mike Merrill:

So within … you’re in the Phoenix Scottsdale area, is that right?

 

Ron Babich:

Yes. North Phoenix

 

Mike Merrill:

And kind of a tech hub a little bit. Right. I mean, there’s, there’s a lot of technology and software down. 

 

Ron Babich:

Oh yeah, no thanks. Yeah. We’re trying to make … it’s a lot of big stuff. It’s just, I’ll tell you. So it’s a story in itself, but so there are 15 West Valley cities out here when you cross over i17 and we have less than 2% of all the tech companies. So everything like I’ve started and we’d been a part of, is either going to be in the North Scottsdale corridor or it’s going to be the central Phoenix corridor. And what we’re trying to do is Microsoft’s got like three plants out here. Now, AWS, the scout line, the white clog guys just put a manufacturing plant. We’ve got like three free trade zones out here in the West Valley now. So we’re making a huge push that’s supported by all of the cities, which is super cool and Maricopa County, which is the big County out here to put a tech center right in the center of everything.

And I’ve been very fortunate and been lucky to be leading that charge, to get the, not only get the center up but to provide the programming and do the stuff we’re talking about, like right now. So help companies market, how do I get my product to market? How do I create a marketing plan? How to create a business plan, how to predict a prediction, like how do I predict how much money I’m going to make if I start doing something tomorrow? All this stuff to help those tech companies and by doing so if we do that kind of create a new tech epicenter central thing out here in the West Valley. So yeah, we started it it’s a nonprofit and we started that three years ago and it’s taken legs and I can’t tell you how excited that makes me about all the support we have for what’s going on now.

 

Mike Merrill:

Wow. Oh, that’s fantastic. Yeah. We’re in Utah they call it Silicon slopes instead of Silicon Valley here.

 

Ron Babich:

Yeah. You have that. You have a cool area there with all those companies.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. And it’s interesting because construction is still booming here and doing really well, very busy and a lot of large companies in the area and there’s a lot of adoption of technology. So it’s really long overdue and exciting to see it kind of make me want to put the hard hat back on and get back out there and implement all this stuff that we’ve learned from this other side of the business

 

Ron Babich:

That’s really cool. Yeah. That’s really cool. It’s impressive. What you guys got up there.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, there’s again, I think the biggest thing like you mentioned, there are so many youthful technical people that are flooding the marketplace. And I think that’s the other thing, and you’ve probably seen this too. I hear all the time that the trades are struggling to get more people, young people into their programs. So I think in the future we’ve got our work cut out for us and having enough blue-collar workers to actually perform the labor that we have.

 

Ron Babich:

Yeah. everybody wants to be a gamer and a YouTuber and yeah.

 

Mike Merrill:

Well, so in kind of winding up a little bit and wrapping up by, I just wondered, wanting to kind of ask you one last question. So for you, Ron Babich is there a hack or some kind of secret sauce that you’ve learned in your years of experience, that’s kind of become your superpower so to speak,

 

Ron Babich:

You know what, in my old age, I would say one thing I’ve gotten better at I’m still not great at it is being way more open to change. Also understanding that nothing lasts forever. And when I kind of tell myself all the time that let everything just roll off, everything’s going to change. Everything does change. It makes me stronger in terms of dealing with things and everything else. So I would say being more flexible, Mike.

 

Mike Merrill:

Interesting. All right. Open to change and flexibility that sounds good.

 

Ron Babich:

Yes, yes.

 

Mike Merrill:

Like Pilates right?

 

Ron Babich:

Yeah. And you know all about flexibility because you’re the master of this. As we know someday, I’ll get to see that again. But anyway, you’ve been doing it for a long time. I don’t have to tell you about it,

 

Mike Merrill:

Well, thanks again I enjoyed the conversation today. Appreciate your insights. It’s been a lot of fun having you.

 

Ron Babich:

Thanks, Mike. Always a pleasure. Take care.

 

Mike Merrill:

Thank you all for listening to the mobile workforce podcast, we appreciate your listenership. And of course, as always, we hope that you will leave us a rating and review, and five stars is the best way to do it. And you can also follow us on Instagram at, at work max underscore. And again, share this episode with your friends and coworkers in order to help them and you to enjoy a better life and better business.

 

Construction Data: Understanding the Value 

Construction Data: Understanding the Value 

As director at Sage Construction, Dennis Stejskal has over 40 years of experience in the construction field. Dennis has seen all sides of the construction product spectrum and has headed up product management for Sage’s three product lines: Sage 100 Contractor (Master Builder), Sage 300 Construction and Real Estate (Timberline Office) and Sage Estimating. His experience has led him to his current role as the Director of Customer Experience.

In this episode of the Mobile Workforce Podcast, Dennis shares the value of construction data and how contractors need to start using the data they have and seek out data that will build their successes.  Listen in to find out how to increase the use of data that has already been collected on the job site and how to give it value. 

 

Key Takeaways:

  1. Leverage underutilized data from the field. Not taking the time to understand the full potential of data you’ve collected from the field will hinder contractors in the long run. Never underestimate the power analyzing data has to help make better strategic decisions and improve your bottom line.  
  2. Study the connections between specific data sets. Unused data does no good. By analyzing data sets, construction leaders can identify patterns and pinpoint areas where productivity needs a boost. 
  3. Overcoming the fear of technology will unleash limitless opportunities for your business. Blame it on fear of the unknown, but many contractors and employees are hesitant to use technology they’re unfamiliar with. Fortunately, the more exposure they get to new solutions, the more comfortable they will be using it. And that opens up endless possibilities to improve your business, spanning data collection, labor tracking, safety training and more. 

Subscribe to the Mobile Workforce podcast to receive alerts as the new episodes post on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or Spotify.

 

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Episode Transcript:

Mike Merril:

Hello, and welcome to the Mobile Workforce Podcast. I am your host, Mike Merril. And today, we are sitting down with Dennis Stejskal, a Director at Sage Construction and Real Estate. We asked Dennis to join us here today to discuss the incredible value of data on the job site. So, welcome Dennis, and thanks for joining in on the conversation today.

 

Dennis Stejskal:

Yeah, thank you, Mike. I appreciate it, look forward to it. Got some stories to share with you, so ready to roll.

 

Mike Merril:

Great, well before we jump into the deep end of the pool, why don’t you tell the listeners just a little bit about yourself, maybe your background, and where you’ve gained your expertise. 

 

Dennis Stejskal:

Sure. Yeah, I have actually been in the construction technology market for over 40 years. I graduated a big Badger fan out of the University of Wisconsin, and got hired right out of school by Timberline Software. That was way back in ’79. From ’79 to present, I have been with Timberline Software, who was actually acquired by Sage Software in 2003. So it’s been a long haul, and for the most part I’ve been with them the whole time and it’s been really, really exciting. I’ve had the opportunity to be in many roles. I was in sales, I was in support, I was in development, not as a developer but I ran a QA department. 

I’ve consulted, I’ve installed systems, and then I actually got into the whole product management and product line owner. I basically designed and built out the Timberline, now called Sage Construction Real Estate 300. So with all that, I’ve had a great amount of experience working with customers, with the market. And I’m very now heavily involved with the roll out of Sage Intacct Construction, our latest construction offering.

But the part that has really been cool is when I first started in ’79, I went up to Portland, Oregon and I went into the corporate offices of Timberline Software, and I sat down in front of Burroughs minicomputer. And that was pretty cool, Burroughs minicomputer. And then we moved to the TI minicomputers, then on into the DOS based microcomputers. And, of course, Windows came in there. That’s when we actually released the now famous Timberline product, and local area networks, and all that kind of stuff.

And then, I had the opportunity to watch the internet, and the adoption of the internet in operational solutions. We weren’t centered in construction and construction costing. But the operational solutions were really getting accepted. And now we’re at a new entry into it, just another step in the journey, and it’s the acceptance of the cloud based ear piece solutions. Up until real recently, they really weren’t accepted and the demand wasn’t there. The CFO’s weren’t comfortable. It’s changed. 

They will lead the pack now, I believe, as we go into the future. So I think quite a journey. Quite a lot of fun. I love working with contractors, I did concrete for two summers while in college. So I pulled a number of forms out of those basements, and it’s always been a riot getting out to the job sites.

 

Mike Merril:

Wow. Yeah, Dennis, you’ve got quite a history. And I’ve known you for at least fifteen or more of those years, most recently so. I think the history that you have seen with your own eyes and experience has really been a digital revolution. And when we talk about that, everything comes back down to data, I think. So when you hear data, what kind of data are we talking about for construction that this about?

 

Dennis Stejskal:

My world’s been more wrapped around the data related to the dollar. And Timberline was founded off an accounting type solution. So a lot of everything I’ve been involved with has been really tied to the dollar. Now as we’ve seen the operational systems come into play, you start, of course, seeing all sorts of other data. You see data relating to RFI, submittals. We see processes occurring where, if someone’s dealing with a submittal and that submittal is getting slowed down for whatever reason, all of a sudden it impacts schedule and schedule starts getting impacted. That hurts a bunch.

But as I look over history, again, my background has been more the dollar. And as I look at the types of data, it really comes down to the role. If I’m in finance, I, of course I’m looking at general ledger data, cost data, what’s hit in my WIP schedule this week and this month. Do I have balances? Is there balances that are overdue or AP balances that are overdue, et cetera, et cetera. So very financial of course facing data. But as I look at the field, there’s a lot of data. Of course, those project centric people need. And again, I’m going to focus on the financial side of it.

As I look at superintendents that need to look at estimates compared to actual. That’s pretty critical. Am I getting close to my budget? How am I doing? Being able to take these numbers in and for the project manager, truly to understand his margin position. As well as to understand his margin, what direction is it heading up or down? Productivity is another area. If you’re a self-performing contractor, truly understanding, where am I at on productivity and then selected trades. If you’re off a little bit at the start of the job, and if you don’t figure out a way to address that, you’re going to fall short. 

And of course we know what that means. So again, it comes down to the role, a lot of the data and I think this is a relatively true statement. If I look back over the last 40 years, the data hasn’t changed for the most part. A lot of it is the same data. Now, when you get into bam and you get into some of the more modern technologies like that, of course there’s different types of data. But in some of the core project management, financial type data, it’s the same data. It is literally the same. 

And over the years, we spent more time on figuring out how to collect the data and then use the data to try to figure out what was wrong, or if something went wrong. And then we’ve migrated to using the data to say, “Yeah, I know something went wrong. Why?” And we’re now in a new evolution. And we’ve been labeling this construction, financial manager, one construction manager level two, and level three. The one has been the historian, the guy who looks and says, “Yeah, we had a loss.” And that has migrated into, yeah, we had a loss or we had a gain or we had a great job.

And now they’re asking the question why. And they’re looking at the data to understand the why. We’re at a new level now and they’re getting better access to data is allowing them to ask the question, well, what can we do different to influence that outcome? And that’s what we call CFO, CFM level three. And that’s where we’re going. So, exciting to see that transition occurring.

 

Mike Merril:

There’s contractors that’ll be listening to this and some of them may be thinking essentially some of this data is slipping through their fingers. They’re not really leveraging it properly. What would you advise them, or maybe contractors that aren’t doing mobile data collection, how could you direct them to try and get an access to that data better? 

 

Dennis Stejskal:

Yeah. There is a lot of data that is being collected today. Some of the methodology to collect it can be improved. You mentioned remote data collection. Well, if we can collect it in the field quicker and get it into systems that can better analyze it, we now can look at daily productivity. But, without even just going into new methods of collection, there’s a lot of data in these systems already that are just not being exercised. And, I don’t know of an operational system that tracks RFIs, for example, that doesn’t have two dates. One date is when the RFI was initiated and the other date is when the RFI was closed. Every single RFI system I’ve ever seen has those two dates, but people do not make the effort in many cases. 

So to put the dates in and then utilize that, because that little example that I just talked through, that’s your cycle time on your RFIs. And there’s been numerous studies out there that have shown, if you can improve that cycle time on that RFI, you’re going to improve the profitability of a job. So learn what you can do with what you’ve got. And, we’ve got in all the systems that I’ve been involved with, there’s plenty of spots to put the data. There’s many ways to get the data there. But, in many cases, the data is not being collected and thus it’s not being used. 

So, understand what data your systems can store today. Bring in a consultant, talk to the consultant. And probably the most important is talk about it internally. If someone’s inside the office and they’re working and you’re out there in the field and you say, “Wow, they can’t gather that for me.” Or, “They can’t store that I’m going to use a spreadsheet.” And someone starts using a spreadsheet. And then they keep using that spreadsheet, keep using that spreadsheet. So they’ve got to communicate, talk internally.

If I can get you this information, can you do this for me? And can you help me here? So get those internal discussions going of what would be helpful, what can be gathered. And over the years, I definitely have seen the walls between finance and operation. Just continue to break that, to shrink. The walls are shrinking, they’re becoming more allies every single day. They have to of course.

And, by getting in there and talking about the needs, there’s a lot of smart people on both sides of the coin and both operations and finance, that can probably figure out a way to do it with some of the tools they already have. So I would start there. Looking first at what you’ve got and then secondly, what you need. 

 

Mike Merril:

Yeah. So if I’m reading between the lines, it’s more opening up those lines of communication and reporting and checking back in and giving that feedback loop is the key.

 

Dennis Stejskal:

Exactly. Yeah, exactly. For sure. For sure.

 

Mike Merril:

Within that, we’ve got people in the field, we got people in the office, we got ownership, we’ve got management teams in the middle. We have, again, boots on the ground, guys out there that actually have to execute on these things. And, you mentioned, essentially, the phrase that kept coming to mind was you can’t manage what you don’t measure. 

 

Dennis Stejskal:

Yep. Yep.

 

Mike Merril:

I think we’re measuring a lot of things, but we’re not necessarily looking at those measurements or making decisions based off of those in a timely manner. 

 

Dennis Stejskal:

Yeah. And there’s no doubt that measurement is key to pretty much any process. If you get into any process management, you really want to put ways to measure in there. And in construction, there’s all sorts of processes going on. I referenced the RFI example. Well, that’s a process. Laying bricks is a process. Hanging drywall is a process. Well, if I’m supposed to be able to do X amount of drywall per hour. Well, you got to measure that because if you don’t measure it, you don’t know realistically how you’re performing.

Everything has a scorecard. And ideally you don’t want to wait until the very end to realize that I’m way behind and technology can definitely help you there. And there’s some other things that we might talk about a little while that really allow us to say, what are some of the things that could help us, take us from even a level one to a level two and a level three of using the data. 

And, as I think about that, one of the challenges that I think a lot of the teams get into is, they come up with an idea, they come up with a need and someone is chartered with going off and get it done. And, any implementation of technology is a change. And we’ve all been to seminars and webinars on change management. And how do you implement change, I’m not talking about construction change, but process change. And I always sit back and I think about that and it starts with, right up front, don’t make any decisions in a vacuum. 

Gather feedback, get requirements, understand what the problem is. You mentioned the word communicate. Open those lines of communication, get involvement. So when you get technology direction and you want to start implementing it, again, get involvement from everyone on what the requirements are, what do we need to do. Now, once you start into it, put together that plan. I think in a lot of cases I’ve seen people implement. We’re going to implement it for every single person in the company. They’ll start with small groups, get proper training in place. So there’s just a lot of things that one can do to better manage and implement some of these different process changes that involve technology process changes. 

 

Mike Merril:

Yeah. I think it’s interesting, you mentioned a plan, almost like a plan to execute the plan, so to speak.

 

Dennis Stejskal:

Yeah, to some degree. And, as you definitely want to think about it. But of course the execution’s the key and with technology, you also find people that, some are more tech savvy than others. So, pair those people up. If you’ve got a young intern even, or someone new to the company, who’s really a tech savvy, team them up with a more senior superintendent. If you want to get that superintendent involved. I actually saw that happen one time. There’s a company here in Dallas that I was working with and I had met with them months before. And I had actually participated in one of the round tables of the team. And it was bout the subject field, field access, field tools, et cetera, et cetera. 

And there is this one superintendent, he was sitting in the corner and not showing a lot of interest. Hell no, that ain’t going to work for me, that ain’t going to work for me. Fast forward, I think it was about five months. And I went out to this job site. It was a church down in Fort Worth. To this day, I occasionally drive by it and the story comes back. And we’d go out to his job trail there, we get in the job trail. We talked for a little bit, talk for a little bit. And then, we went up to the job site. And as he’s walking out the job site, he grabbed his tablet. And as he grabbed his tablet, it was like, “Huh, that’s interesting.” And we proceeded to go on the job site and look at some things. 

And numerous times during that trip, he would use it to reference a document of some sort. He took a couple pictures here and there of something he noticed. And so, that thing was hang to him. We went to lunch and he pulled out his tablet again. So the comment there, and I said, “You sure seem like you’re picking that up pretty quickly compared to four or so months ago when I first visited with you.” 

And he says, “Yeah, I really, really, really liked this thing. We had a junior project manager that hang rounds may for a little while. And he showed me some tips and tricks on how to use these things.” And he said, “I really, really enjoy it.” So pair some people up, not everyone likes this technology stuff and really try to get them to understand that value. 

 

Mike Merril:

Yeah, that’s great. That’s a Sage advice, no pun intended, to construction workers and companies out there. Along the lines with one of the other questions I wanted to ask you, of some of the different technologies that you’ve seen adopted in construction over the last few years, which one seems to be the most surprising to you and why? 

 

Dennis Stejskal:

Yeah. That’s a tough one. I’m really not sure I’m surprised by any new technologies. As we’ve seen technology evolve, we know what’s going to happen. We’ve seen such an acceptance of the cloud, that I’m not surprised by new technology. There’s a lot of smart people out there that can invent this technology. If I had to pick one, I’m starting to see better tools for expense management that’s occurring quite a bit. The integration between the suppliers and the contractors. I think I’m seeing more things happening there. Which again, I’m not surprised by, but I’m glad to see it’s happening. 

Some of the more design type tools and the ability for walk in the job site and tag things to the BIM model and all that type of technology. I’m not surprised by it, but I think it’s fabulous that it’s happening. Probably the thing that, I guess another comment I’d make is, I’m more surprised by the lack of adoption. And it’s in some really simple areas. One of them you and your organization are very close to time capture, simple time capture. You know as well as I do, we talk to companies every week that are still using paper.

Don’t get it, don’t get it. Why haven’t they? So I’m really surprised in that little example. Why haven’t they? Notification tools is another one. The amount of data that is collected, there is no doubt in a construction office, the amount of data is overwhelming. There’s no way that any individual can keep up with the amount of data. And there’s tools out there that can help them there to monitor the data, to provide notifications when something doesn’t look right. 

Those tools are becoming smarter with artificial intelligence. Is it because they don’t trust them? I don’t know the answer to that. But I think the underutilization still of some of this technology is probably more surprising than new technology. 

 

Mike Merril:

Yeah. Really, it sounds like one of the most common technology issues is maybe not properly adopting or using the tools they have. Could that be the problem?

 

Dennis Stejskal:

Yeah. There’s no doubt. I talked to customers every day and sometimes they’re yelling at us for, “God, I wish your software would do this.” Or, “I wish your software would do that.” And you’d be surprised by how many times I have to say, “Well, sir, in all respect, it does.” And they go, “Show me that.” And I show to them, they go, “I’ll be damned.” It happens. Now, of course, we get comments where, “God, why don’t your software do that?” And you’re right. It doesn’t. But, we we’ll we’ll work on that. We’ll work on that. 

I think it is, we started out the conversation a little bit of knowing what you have and what you have to work with. And so getting the proper level of consulting and training can often uncover hidden gems in the technology they have. Another story, there was a contractor … And this story is a little bit dated, but it’s still relevant. We had introduced some new change management software, for the project managers.

And this guy struggled with it. They were ready to throw it out. And there was one critical piece of it that it was a little confusing. We could have done a better job implementing from a usability perspective. But, after I sat down with him and we walked through it and he really got the training on it, he really, really, really ran with it. Let’s see, when would I see him. Fast forward, I saw him at a user group meeting and we were talking and I knew he had really picked up on this technology and was using it. 

And we started talking about it. And so, 12 years later he’s running his whole change management and he’s evolved it. He’s done an unbelievable things with. Even to the point that he said … He is looking at other project management systems and things like that. And he said, “I can’t leave him. The thing that this change management system does, I’m never going to give it up. It has saved our companies, hundreds of thousands of dollars.” And what it took was that training and for him to really engage and understand it. So, knowing what you got, putting in place the proper roll up methods, get the training in place. And the other part of it, issues that I see contractors run into. 

And again, I’ve hit on this a little bit. And this shows up whether you’re buying, you’ve got existing technology that might solve the problem, address the need, or it might be that you need new technology. Understand what you need, have a good feel for what you need first. Don’t go in there saying, “Well, show me what it does.” Go in there saying, “I want to see it do this.” They can then show you what else it can do. But you’ve got to have that baseline set of requirements that you make sure it can do that baseline. Because if you don’t do that homework internally before you go out and shop, you’re going to miss something.

Something’s going to be missed. So it’s really critical to do those requirements and really understand, what do I need for my our organization, the way we do it. And again, I’m not saying you can’t change processes. And new technology might give you some ideas, but there’s always that baseline. 

 

Mike Merril:

So what I’m hearing is maybe prioritize and figure out what those biggest rocks are that are in the road and move those first. 

 

Dennis Stejskal:

Yeah. Get those undertaken and get those understood and move those. And then you can move on to other things. But even if you’ve got some big ones there, make sure you need to move them because maybe sometimes you don’t need to move them. And it’s truly, again, just understanding for our organization, what do we need? 

 

Mike Merril:

Great intel there. If we were talking about, maybe an area or some areas that you feel like contractors are just missing the boat on. You mentioned time collection, timecards and spreadsheets. Are there any other areas that you feel like as a market, there’s a lot of companies just missing the boat on something that they really should be doing?

 

Dennis Stejskal:

What I see happening is, the contractors are becoming much more knowledgeable about technology. You sit in on a conversation with them and they’re asking, the questions that are coming out are much better, much stronger, much more thought. A lot of times they make you really think about how you want to answer that. But, very knowledgeable that the buyers have become more knowledgeable. The contractors are more knowledgeable. So I’m not seeing what I would call big misses. The areas that I do believe there is growth on, I mentioned time, so interoperability is still a big one. 

Some systems allow for interoperability, some systems don’t, some systems do a better job of it. Be more demanding there. If you’ve got two systems that you have to tie together, push the vendors, push the contract, push the vendors to make sure that they fit together nicely. Technology’s improving where that can happen. And, sometimes we vendors just need to be pushed a little bit there. That’s the forefront of my mind constantly, is that in these systems today, it’s really going to be hard for one software technology vendor to be able to do it all. 

We really believe in customer choice that that there are tools that are better suited for your company needs. So number one, make sure you understand what your company needs. And then number two, don’t necessarily settle for just getting that from a single vendor. You might have to go to a secondary vendor. Talk to your primary vendors and they ask them what they think. Who could I use for a small tool system. Do you have anyone in mind? We really need to make improvements in that area. So understand what it is and then reach out. 

But again, don’t be afraid to look across multiple vendors. Some other specific examples, let me think here. Time, interoperability … Oh, I know one. An area that I see growing, it’s an area that the systems are becoming better at, they’re becoming definitely much stronger. Is a whole area of electronic payments. There’s a lot of companies writing checks, and I think there’s many efficiencies gained if we go to electronic payment methodologies, as well as reducing risk and a variety of other things. So the whole electronic payment exchange. I think another example where there are options, there’s more companies doing it is collaboration on the pay app side. We’ve all heard of Texture and GCPay. 

Procore’s doing a great job with their invoice management system. So I think an area that’s under utilized today is the collaboration between the subcontractor and the general contractor in the area pay apps. And that electronics chain exchange of data tools have been out there for years, but, the adoption is still pretty low in those spaces. So I think that’s an area. Those are a couple of that I can think of. 

 

Mike Merril:

Sure. No, that’s great. In an underpinning to each of those comments and things that you shared, what do you feel like is going on within the construction industry and adoption of the cloud? I know Sage has a strategy there. You mentioned some of that.

 

Dennis Stejskal:

Great question. Like I mentioned earlier, right off the bat, the cloud’s been here and we all know it’s been around and it’s been in construction. You go back to the turn of the century and construct where we all heard of that. That launched a lot of it. Procore’s been around a long time. So a lot of the operational systems are there and they’ve been accepted in the marketplace and that’s going to continue. That’s going to continue to grow. That’s going to increase the types of collaboration between the project stakeholders. Be it owner and GC, GC and subcontractors, et cetera. That collaboration is just going to increase. 

I’m seeing more involvement, in the building trade people. And I didn’t want to use the word on the job site, but in the building. The superintendents are adopting technology more and more and more every day. So I see a big rise in technology in that particular role, there’s systems coming out now that are really targeted at the superintendent and all that is all cloud based software. As I look at, what I think the biggest revolution going on right now, like I mentioned earlier, it is the adoption of ERP software in the cloud. 

As we look at cloud software, it shows up in different flavors, of course. Is, if I stick my software in a data center and it’s running on a VPN, but I’ve got external access to it, is that cloud? Well, it is, but is not really true cloud. I am really  talking true browser-based, multi-tenant cloud software. That is being accepted and in my opinion and our opinion that is a big direction of the future. 

And so, as that happens, we’re going to be seeing, in our opinion, a lot of movement there. I was at a CFMA meeting. I think it was in Texas. I think it goes down in San Antonio, probably about three years ago, maybe four. But I think it was actually, three. No, it was actually four, now I remember. It was about four years ago and there was a round table that they had a bunch of folks at and they asked a question, if you had to replace your server and it was phrased along these lines. Because a lot of the companies were untrue, they had servers sitting in their closet.

And they would say, “Well, if you had to replace your server, would you consider putting it in a cloud solution. Would you go that route?” And about four years ago, you got about, I don’t know, 20%, 25% that would raise their hand. The following year, three years ago, that question was asked again, it was basically phrased almost identical way. And I bet you, it was close to 50%.

 

Mike Merril:

Wow.

 

Dennis Stejskal:

This past year, it was a virtual CFMA. I was hoping that I was going to be able to attend a round table where that same question was going to be asked because I firmly believe it’d be close to 90 to 100%

 

Mike Merril:

Wow.

 

Dennis Stejskal:

100% there, no. I just had an interaction with a customer today. She’s young, she’s not ready to put my accounting system in the cloud yet. Totally understandable. Especially when you hear about all the hacks and all this, but, it was interesting. I talked to another contractor this week who a friend of his had experienced a ransomware event. And, it was a serious one. It’s still ongoing. And he says, “I’ve got to get the system out of my back office.” And so, there’s a lot of reasons why it’s reached this new level of demand. The recent one that we’re in this whole COVID thing. In that first six weeks, there was a lot of companies struggling. How do I get a check out the door? How do I get a check out the door?

And you think about that, the technology to address that has been available for many years, but this is a world changing event that’s going on right now. And I think that is also going to drive the acceptance of the cloud in ERP to just new levels. Like I mentioned at the start of the call, we’ve been through a variety of major changes in the accounting world. And I’m speaking strictly county now. We went from minis to micros to land-based systems to operational cloud systems. And now we’re into accounting ERP, finance cloud-based systems. 

It’s a new level of technology that I’m really excited about because I think it opens up so many more doors for interoperability. Collaboration is a lot easier between a project partner, a project team members. As well it’s a lot easier between the software companies to integrate their systems if they’re both sitting in the cloud.

 

Mike Merril:

Well, that’s great. Well, that’s very, very insightful feedback and and I think you’re right. We’re seeing the same revolution and migration. 

 

Dennis Stejskal:

Yeah.

 

Mike Merril:

One last question for you, Dennis.

 

Dennis Stejskal:

Sure.

 

Mike Merril:

If there was one super power, for lack of a better term, that Dennis Stejskal has, that you’re known for, that you view yourself as, what is that thing that you’ve learned in these four plus decades of working in this industry that’s served you the most? 

 

Dennis Stejskal:

That’s a great question. My response is going to be to every single person listening is, listen, listen, listen and then they ask why. A lot of times I will … This meeting I had yesterday where I mentioned, I actually went on site with a customer and we talked and it was a great listening and observing and seeing facial expressions and hand movements and everything.

And then I had the opportunity after listening, well, why do you do it like that? Well, why did you do that? And I really can’t ask the why until I listen. And so that would be what I really work hard at, is to make sure I’m listening so I can correctly ask the why’s because then I might be able to do something with that from a type of product we build, from a change we make to the software, to a new product we build. I’ve got to listen and then act from there. 

 

Mike Merril:

Wonderful, great advice. And again, thank you so much, Dennis, for joining us today. This has been a great pleasure and I’ve enjoyed our conversation. I’m sure listeners will as well. 

 

Dennis Stejskal:

Thank you very much, Mike, as always. Like you said, we’ve known each other 15 years. I’ve always enjoyed the conversation. And I can’t say I’ve been looking forward to another 15 because someday I am going to retire. But at least through another next couple years, we’ll be talking again. Thank you again. Appreciate it.

 

Mike Merril:

You bet. Sounds like a plan. And thank you all for joining us today on the Mobile Workforce podcast, we appreciate as always your listenership and you joining in with us today on the conversation. We hope you found value in this and that you’ve been able to glean some knowledge and things that you’re happy to share with your friends in the industry and your coworkers. If you like what you heard today, please give us a like and a follow on Instagram at workmax_. And of course, as always, please subscribe to the podcast and give us a five star rating and review. We appreciate it.

 

Purpose Process and Profit, The Keys to Construction Business Success

Purpose, Process and Profit, The Keys to Construction Business Success

The co-founder of gFour Marketing and the Wealthy Contractor, Brian Kaskavalciyan has started and built seven companies. Brian has been where you are and is dedicated to helping other contractors be more successful.

In this episode of the Mobile Workforce Podcast, Brian shares some of the secrets from his latest book, The 7 Secrets to Becoming a Wealthy Contractor.  Tune in to hear what it takes to achieve your personal and professional goals, and live the life you want to live.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Long-term success comes after a contractor removes themselves from the daily grind. If a contractor spends his time jumping from fire to fire, they will always be working on fires. But if they focus on growth and multiplying their time, their business will grow and their availability will expand.

  2. Leaders fail their employees by picking up their slack. As the owner, your job isn’t to be doing all of the work on the ground. It is to be growing and managing your people to do the best work they can. Provide them with training, set a high bar and get out of their way.

  3. Find balance between being an entrepreneur and contractor. Oftentimes, the busiest contractors don’t spend time working on physical projects. Instead, they’re managing the company’s sales and marketing. Expand how you approach your role, and know that to grow your business, you have to think more like a business owner than a contractor.

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Podcast Transcript:

Mike Merill:

Hello, and welcome to the mobile workforce podcast. I am your host, Mike Merrill. Today we are sitting down with Brian Kaskavalciyan, the co-founder and lead marketing strategists of G4 marketing. And I asked Brian today to talk about his new book, The Seven Secrets of Becoming a Wealthy Contractor. So welcome Brian, and we’re really looking forward to getting into the conversation today.

 

Brian Kaskavalciyan:

Hey Mike, thanks for having me. I appreciate it.

 

Mike Merill:

You bet. Before we get too far in the conversation, can you just give our audience a little bit of a rundown on your experience and what exactly G4 marketing is?

 

Brian Kaskavalciyan:

Yeah. So you want me to go all the way back?

 

Mike Merill:

Sure. Yeah tell us about it.

 

Brian Kaskavalciyan:

I’ll give you the quick version. So G4 marketing, we started it in 2009, but back in 1993, 1994, I actually started off in going out in business on my own. And like I told you, before we started the recording, I built up a company. We did carpet cleaning, we did bathroom modeling. I had 10 trucks out on the road. And back then we were laughing about how I’d send these trucks out, I had no idea if they were going to get to their destination, do what they were supposed to do and get back home. But luckily it worked. I wish I had you, way back when. From there I just went on and started home improvement companies. I eventually developed a franchise in the home improvement space.

I sold that. And then in 2009, what I was always really good at was the marketing. I didn’t like running the business. I still don’t. I’m always really been good at business development and marketing. And the thing that I discovered about home improvement companies, and I learned this from my own experience was that, we spent so much time and effort and money on the front end to make leads, leads, leads, new, new, new, new, new, and we would completely ignore the opportunities that were on the backend for referrals, for repeat business, for optimizing the profitability of each and every customer relationship. And so we developed a system that basically does that for home improvement companies. And currently we work with a couple of 100 home improvement companies around the country are collectively, our clients do minimum somewhere between 750 and about $900 million a year and over a 100,000 jobs.

So we’ve got a lot of insight into, how do we make reviews? How do we make referrals? How do we get customers to come back? And so that’s G4 marketing. But we also have… And if I can just really quickly say this, we also have the wealthy contractor which came about, because look, I did it the hard way. And I bang my head against the wall. And I built up a company and all I was focused on top line, top line, top line. And eventually that company came crashing down and at 40 years old, I was broke. I’d lost everything. We had to move out of our house. We lost. I mean, it was ugly. And so over the years, just working with so many home improvement companies and with my own experience, we started to offer a lot of education for contractors. And so that’s where the wealthy contractor was born. That’s where the podcast was born.

And then that’s where the book came out of. I tell people jokingly, but it’s true. It’s like it all came out of pain and it’s pain that I don’t want to see other contractors have to go through. If, I can help somebody shortcut something, I feel like I’ve done my job.

 

Mike Merill:

Wow, that’s fantastic. So you really, you’re trying to help people avoid those potholes that you ended up hitting. Probably a lot of us in construction have done.

 

Brian Kaskavalciyan:

You know, as well as I do that, the owners of home improvement companies are some of the hardest working people you will ever meet and really good people too, by the way. And the majority of them, and I hate to say that, but it’s true. The majority of them don’t make anywhere near the amount of money they could be making or should be making. And they just don’t recognize the value that they provide. And they don’t know how to get out of their own heads in order to go and build a company that works for them rather than them working for the company. And so that’s what we want to try and help people do.

 

Mike Merill:

That’s awesome. Let’s face it really, all of us get into business to make money. We all want to help people and do good things and be proud of our work and our legacy and all of these other things. But you go into business to earn profit. To have money, to invest and to do those things that you really are setting out to accomplish as far as your goal.

 

Brian Kaskavalciyan:

Well, and I was going to say too. And it’s not only about the money. Money is good. Of course, it’s a real driver, but it’s also really about freedom. It’s about having options. It’s about how do I create a business that will not only fund my ideal lifestyle, but it’s also going to help me have the time to do the things that I really want to do. How is it going to allow me to do the things that are going to allow me to make an impact in the world? You deal with a lot of entrepreneurs. And most entrepreneurs have this need to leave some sort of impact behind. Well, how are you going to do that if you’re working 60 hours a week and you’re not making any money and you can’t take any time off? And so I just wanted to throw that in there as well.

 

Mike Merill:

Yeah, that’s great. Really at the end of the day, what you’re saying… We always hear the coined phrase, time is money and obviously money to your point can create time and freedom. And so what is the difference between contractors that figure that out and the ones that never realize that dream of one day having that independence?

 

Brian Kaskavalciyan:

Well, a lot of it really boils down to what are you doing every day? So if you are out in the field, running from one fire to the next, if you are the person that’s doing everything in your business or nothing can operate without you there, that’s a problem. My business runs with, or without me. My business probably at this point needs me half a day a week, maybe. And so, there’s no way that we could get the success that we want, the wealth that we want, the freedom that we want from our business, if we’re stuck in the business, doing all of the things that other people should be doing, either people should be doing it or, systems and processes run by people should be doing. And so it goes back to the E-Myth Michael Gerber, which is a book I know you’ve read.

And Michael Gerber in that book, we learned the difference between working in your business versus working on your business. And I always say to people, working in your business is like, well, people on video can see this, but it’s like, you have your head down and you’re working right in this moment right now. When you’re working on your business, you’re looking for leverage. You’re looking for what are the things that are going to multiply my success. So if it’s an activity I’m working on today, the only activities I work on, for example, today are multipliers. Things that’ll take my time today, if I spend one hour here with you today, where is that going to show up later? I don’t want to trade one hour for X number of dollars. I just don’t. People offer me, they want me to come out and consult for them all the time and I don’t do it.

I tell them my minimum fee would be a $1,000 an hour and I don’t want to do it. I’ll tell them, I’m not available for six months hoping it just goes away because I don’t want to work dollar per hour. And so that’s really the big thing, is we got to get out of the way we have to fire ourselves every day from what we’re doing. And if you’re doing repetitive tasks that you could pay somebody $10 an hour, $20, $50, a $100 an hour for, give it to them but make sure, and this is the other side of it is you got to make sure you have a profit model in place that supports all of that.

 

Mike Merill:

Right? Yeah. I love what you said there. It’s something I learned over the years in business too, is it’s very important that we get out of our own way and that we work and focus the majority of our time as business owners or managers working on the business instead of in the business.

 

Brian Kaskavalciyan:

Yeah. There’s a huge difference between activity and productivity. Doing things that are just… So many people start the day, they go straight to their damn phones. They look at their email, which most of their email is BS by the way. But it’s activity. It’s like, “Oh, I’m answering emails.” Then they listen to the news. Then they start to go to their office. Then they’re bombarded by the people in their office. Then they’re running here, running there, doing this, doing that interruption. They have zero control. They’re completely in reactionary mode rather than proactive mode. And then at the end of the day, they’re exhausted. They can’t tell you what they’ve accomplished. And then at the end of the month, they wonder why they haven’t made any money. It’s like, look at how you’re spending your time every day.

 

Mike Merill:

Yeah. And if they did have goals, they never found any time to focus on those and actually accomplish them.

 

Brian Kaskavalciyan:

Exactly yeah.

 

Mike Merill:

But yet, I’m so slammed, oh so busy, it’s just crazy. Hair is on fire. But maybe you didn’t really get anything done. Really what I’m… If read between the lines, what I’m hearing is there’s really more of a marketing component of what you’re in the business of. That is a critical piece, not just producing something physically with your own hands, but actually marketing what you’re doing. Tell us a little bit about that and your feelings.

 

Brian Kaskavalciyan:

What’s interesting is in the book, secret number four is understanding the real business that you’re in and my most successful clients. I got clients to do a couple million bucks a year. I got one client that will do a hundred and I think $60 million this year. Two brothers started this business 10 years ago and talk about working on the business rather than in the business they started off that way. But they understood… All of my most successful clients understand that the business that they’re really in, is a sales and marketing business. It may look like an HVAC company, it may look like a plumbing company, it may look like a roofing company, but what it really is at its core sales and marketing. So what is marketing? To me, it’s about everything that you do to create a customer, to keep a customer and multiply a customer.

And the different people have different definition. That’s just what I go by. And so when you look at it that way, it’s like, all right, I have to make customers. I got to make sure they’re happy. I got to keep them, and then I’ve got to multiply them. How do I get them to go tell other people, how do I get them to buy more? How do I get them to give me more money? How do I get them to come back more frequently? That’s the work? That’s the job, the rest of the stuff, the actual delivery of the service, the delivery of the product. It’s almost secondary. It’s almost like… I was talking with somebody yesterday, or the day before. A friend of mine asked me to talk to their daughter. Their daughter is thinking about a side hustle.

And because of what’s going on this year, she finds some time on her hands and she wants to make some extra money. And I told her, I said, “The thing that most people don’t realize.” She’s never been in business before. “The thing that most people don’t realize is that the hardest thing to do in business is get a customer.” And so look at you, you come up with this amazing software. This amazing service for people. And yes, that was hard. But if you didn’t have any customers, it’s all for nothing. You know how many people I’ve known that are in your business that are poured all of their money into software and developing software. And they never found a customer for it or enough customers to actually create a business out of it. So the hardest thing to do is create a customer.

And the most expensive. And so when you look at it as, “Okay, I got to make customers.” And making customers involved is not only getting a lead, but it’s converting that lead into a sale. And then it’s actually delivering on what you said you were going to do, making sure they’re happy, blah, blah, blah. And then, it just goes on and on. And so the companies that recognize, “Hey, we’re sales and marketing, but we just happen to look like this.” A restaurant, a dental practice, whatever, fill in the blank. It’s the people that get mixed up and think, “Oh, I’m in the HVAC business. I’m in the business of replacing.” No, you’re not.

 

Mike Merill:

You’re a businessman who happens to be in the business of changing those things, but you’re not an HVAC contractor.

 Brian Kaskavalciyan:

That’s right and the difference between the rich ones and the not so rich ones is the understanding of that. That’s one of the differences, one of the big differences, by the way.

 

Mike Merill:

We talked a little bit earlier, some of the technology changes and mobility and all these tools and all these things, and yet I still hear, and I’m sure you do too, with your clients. Every day, I hear somebody say, “Well, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” And so in their mind, it ain’t broke. And I’m looking at them almost cross eyed thinking, “Are you nuts it’s broken? This is broke. Paper is broken spreadsheet broken.” Those are not efficiency tools, those are archaic. That’s like, stone tablets in the caveman era, compared to the availability of mobility and solutions cloud-based technologies. How do we help contractors to leverage and really tap into those marketing opportunities that are now available to them?

 

Brian Kaskavalciyan:

Well, it all goes back to, what do you want out of your business? What do you want out of your business? Do you want to make more money, have more free time? Do you want to build wealth? Do you want to have real freedom? If you do, then you have to figure out ways to leverage. You have to figure out ways of multiplying the activities that you are doing. Leverage is key in business. And everything you just mentioned, all that stuff is great. And a lot of people get mixed up in technology for technology’s sake. But you and I both know, technology without the basics behind it, when you create something like that, it’s like people that get all hung up on internet marketing. Well, internet marketing, okay, there’s marketing. Internet is just another form of media.

It’s like TV. It’s like radio. It may have more bells and whistles to it, but the strategy behind it is exactly the same. It hasn’t changed in hundreds of years, it’s psychology and it’s math, it’s psychology and math. So if I’m going to put a dollar out in advertising, how am I going to get people to respond? And then am I going to get enough people to respond, to make it profitable? How am I going to know that? Well, I’m going to do the math on the backend. I’m going to run the metrics on the backend. And so all of these things that make doing make, doing business easier nowadays, are all things that yes, we used to do them the caveman ways I was telling you before, about my business. We had to do everything on paper and spreadsheets. Well today, everything is on the computer. Why we could still do it on paper and spreadsheets but why? The computer is much more efficient.

The programs that are in the computer make things more efficient. So what might have taken me 20 minutes, five years ago only takes a minute. That’s what I’m looking for. And I know that’s what the entrepreneur that values freedom, and values their time is looking for things like that.

 

Mike Merill:

Yes. I think it’s interesting that in construction, we count on plans. Blueprints, every single day, nothing gets built without a blueprint. And that goes for our businesses as well. And that’s, that’s what I’m hearing you say. What I love is your book The Seven Secrets of Becoming a Wealthy Contractor. I know that that is a blueprint to help companies to really put some of these things into action, because a tellers’ action, you’re in the same place you were before. What stands out to you in the current market conditions today from your book, what are things that you really think are helping contractors make a difference?

 

Brian Kaskavalciyan:

Well, I got to say, it’s still, to me is secret number one. And secret number one is understanding, what do you really want to get out of your business? How much money do you really want to make? I hear people all the time, when you go to events and you talk to people and you see them online, all these people are bragging about, “Oh, I did 5 million this year. I did 20 million. I did 50 million this year.” And other people look at that and they say, “Oh my God, I have to build a $20 million business.” I always ask people, “Well, okay, you’re here now. You’re telling me your goal is to build a $5 million business. Well, why? Why do you want to build a $5 million business?” And, “Well, I don’t know. I want to build a $5 million business.” And they don’t understand that.

Then I go and ask them and I said, “Well, how much money do you want to make?” And they say, “Well, I’d be really happy if I make $250,000 a year.” And I say, “Well, you don’t need a $5 million business to make $250,000 a year.” And without that clarity how do you know, where are we going? How do you know what you need to do in order to get there? And how do you focus on doing the right things rather than being distracted by all the wrong things. And I think that this is still a major problem with people. And I don’t know if there’s anybody out there that’s really talking about this. Is gaining clarity because everybody… You and me are out to sell people stuff.

And so people are always talking about, well, grow your business and do more and be more and all of that. I say, “Well, let’s take a step back and let’s look at what do you really want? What do you really want to get out of the business?” I even have a program the wealthy contractor blueprint. Where I walk people through, I talk about four numbers. So I’m not going to go into all of it here. But there’s four numbers that we all need to understand that when we put those four numbers together, that’s basically how much we need to make in order for us to live the life that we want to live. And so when you understand what those four numbers are, then you can say, “Okay, so those four numbers represent me getting this, this, this, and this. One of those numbers is the future. How am I going to set myself up for the future?” Then we can reverse engineer a business to figure out what it is that we really need our business to do in order to get us what we really want.

And I hope that’s answering your question. It’s a source of… It just blows me away, how many of us business owners just don’t know it’s just more and more and more, well, what do you want more and more and more for?

 

Mike Merill:

Yeah. I keep thinking of a dog chasing its tail.

Brian Kaskavalciyan:

Exactly.

 

Mike Merill:

When I first was a framer, as a young man out of high school, working summers. And then I went into that profession and got into construction program. And, I remember when I was just doing framing, wishing I could be the general contractor that was actually hiring the framer. And what I realize one day is my head is down, laying out the next wall, nailing out together while you know, somebody else down the street is general contracting, these homes are or putting in this development. I had to put a plan together to try and figure out how do I become the guy that hires the guy that was framing like I was doing. And I think a lot of businesses, like you’re saying, don’t necessarily have that outline or that, that flag planted there on the peak of the mountain that they’re trying to get to. And if they don’t have it, then certainly their team doesn’t know that they have a plan or that there’s a flag that they’re trying to get to.

So they’re all chasing their tails. And I think the key is, like you said, in that plan, I think using these secrets and then having that blueprint is really the key to what’s going to help them to get out of the rot that leads to a semi-successful very busy. Somebody who’s going to have to work till they can’t just survive and maintain a reasonable lifestyle.

 

Brian Kaskavalciyan:

Right.

 

Mike Merill:

Getting back to marketing I think you talked about sales and marketing. I know that really there’s two sides to that. There’s the first one. And that is keeping the customers you have and making sure that they are potentially repeat customers. And then there’s gaining new customers. So there’s two sides to that. What can you tell us about either of those sides and how it relates to churn and what companies can do to focus on both?

 

Brian Kaskavalciyan:

I’ll speak to what we do. What we focus on at G4 is really all on the backend is what happens when we get that customer. We, install the job for them. See what most, contractors do. And this is costing them a fortune, not only in money, but also in time. But what they do is they let that customer go and they go right back to, let me go get somebody new and let me go court this person and let me do whatever I have to do to sell them. And then I get them installed. I collect the money. Then I go back to the beginning and I get somebody new, new, new, all the while ignoring the people that we just did. And so for us, what we really focus on is how do we take that customer and get more out of them.

We paid a fortune to get that customer. We put our blood, sweat and tears into getting that job completed for them. So what do we have to do now in order to maximize the profitability? So one of the things that we could do is we could help drive more Google reviews right now, Google reviews are like gold they’re currency. There’s value to them. And I don’t know, people are making a big enough deal out of getting them. Look, everybody is going to the internet and checking you out. So people want to see frequency of reviews, they want to see quality of reviews, they want to see quantity of reviews. And so that’s one thing is after the job is done, what are we doing to get reviews? Because done right, Google reviews in particular will drive more leads. And if you use those to tell your story and table face to face, you’re going to get more sales.

So that’s, you know, that’s one piece of it. Then the other piece of it is depending on the business that you’re in. So if you’re in like home services, Oh my God, you got to get that company of that person to come back and buy from you again, as quickly as you possibly can, then you got to do it again. Then you’ve got to do it again four times, four times as quickly as you can, because if you get them four times, they’re yours. Chances are good they’re yours. If you’re in regular remodeling, they may not need you again for six months. They may not need you again for a year. They may not need you again for five years. Well, does that mean you stop talking to them? No way. Keep talking to them. And then what are you doing to get them, to bring their friends along?

Referrals, introductions to other people, to their neighbors, to their friends, to their family, to their coworkers. And so that is an area that I see… Right now leads are plentiful as we’re recording this, there’s plenty of leads for everybody. People are cooped up at home and home improvement is doing well. That’s not to say that the leads have gotten inexpensive by any stretch of the imagination. Every year, lead costs keep going up, advertising costs are going up. And so what are we doing again, to maximize that investment in that customer? Because like it, or not one way or another, whether it’s through money or through a sweat, you are paying to buy a customer. So if you’re buying that customer, what are you going to do to make sure you can get all the money out of them that you can?

 

Mike Merill:

Well, to your point, really, of course you’ve got to invest heavily upfront to get them in the first place. And it doesn’t matter if you’re in a software business or construction business. We use the number 80% say 80% of the deal is getting the customer in the first place. And then 20% to maintain and keep them moving forward. Whether you’re an electrical or pouring concrete or a general contractor, all of us have customers that could potentially be repeat customers. It’s just, are we on their minds? So when that need comes up again, they think of you first.

 

Brian Kaskavalciyan:

By the way, that’s a nice rule of thumb that you just came up with that 80/20, because people think, Oh, I got to spend a fortune on the backend. They’re not even willing to spend a penny on the backend. You’re crazy. Spend a little bit. You don’t need to spend a fortune, just spend a little bit. That’s all it takes. Anyway. That’s, a good rule of thumb. I like the 80/20.

 

Mike Merill:

Well, and again I think proactively, we use a CRM here, customer relationship management tool, most companies do on some level, even if is Excel. They have a system, where they list these people and having regular discussion with them, reaching out to them, checking in on them, a gift card or a gift basket, or just thinking of them at all, dropping by some paths or some shirts or doing something, taking lunch to their guys. Whatever it is that you’re trying to in your business that you’re trying to do to foster that relationship, I think what I’m hearing is really a big key for being able to grow a business and actually tap into those dollars that you’re talking about. That a lot of people just aren’t collecting.

 

Brian Kaskavalciyan:

It’s an investment, it’s an investment in your future.

 

Mike Merill:

So in doing that, how do contractors maintain quality while they expand and grow? And they’re working on all these things, how do you keep quality up while you also up the volume?

 

Brian Kaskavalciyan:

Systems, process, people. I talk a lot threes. So I talk about people, process and profit. People, process and profit. And that’s how you do it. You have good systems and processes. You bring on good people that fit within your core values and your culture to execute on those processes and systems. And you ensure that you’re profitable, that your profit model is right. What happens with a lot of people is, they’re not making money at a million dollars or, not enough money at a millions. I don’t know how many people I talk to that are making 5% profit margins. And I’m like, “You want to grow to $3 million. All you’re going to do. If you’re broken at a million, you’re going to be broken at three. And by the way, your headaches, aren’t going to triple, they’re going to be magnified by 10 times, your risk, your liability is going to magnify.”

If you’re not making money at 3 million there cert you’re certainly not going to make money at eight or 10 or 15 or 20. So you got to fix it early if, you’re making money early. And this is something that, again, this is one of the big mistakes that I made. I had a broken profit model in one of my businesses and for the sake of growing, I compromised. And I said, “Well, if we’re not bringing in enough money to fuel our growth, I’ll just go borrow money, I’ll grow with debt.” That’s the kiss of death. Anytime today, somebody tells me in the home improvement space or in the construction space that they’re going to borrow money to grow their business. I tell them they’re out of their minds because you should be able to grow your business with internal cashflow. And so I hope I’m answering your question.

It’s all about those big three people process and profit people, process of profit. That’s how you grow and that’s how you keep the quality, because if you ever… Sorry to cut you off. But if you have a process for customer experience and it’s never going to be perfect, but it’s a process and it delivers to you a consistent result, a reliable result. That’s good. Then now you can grow. Now you can start adding people. Now you can start adding more leads. Now you can make more sales. Now you can install more jobs, but if you’re broken in your process or you don’t have a process, forget it.

 

Mike Merill:

Yeah. To your point, and what I like about the way you answered that with, appropriate margins, when something goes wrong, you now have money and resources that you are willing to invest to maintain and to fix that issue and take the high road. Whereas if you got no margin and you’re not in the ditch before you’re even done, heaven forbid you run into something that you’ve got to really dig deep for because you’re going to take on water.

 

Brian Kaskavalciyan:

Yep, absolutely.

 

Mike Merill:

You’re investing in your success by ensuring that there’s an appropriate margin to make those right decisions. When you’ve got to make a tough call. Quality could suffer. Brian, this has been a fantastic conversation. I’ve really enjoyed it. How do our listeners find out more about you and some of the exciting things that you’re doing to help people in the construction industry?

 

Brian Kaskavalciyan:

Probably the best place to start is to go to the wealthy contractor.com, the wealthy contractor.com. And when you go there, we’ve got a bunch of resources that are free. We’ve got our podcasts the wealthy contractor. You can get a copy of my book, The Seven Secrets to Becoming a Wealthy Contract. The way it works Mike, I was telling you this earlier, basically I bought a thousand books a few months ago when I first released the book just to give out to, people that were podcasts listeners. And I said, “Look, I’ll buy the book. You just pay shipping and handling.” Well, we burned through those thousand like that. And so I just kept going, so I buy a thousand books at a time. I don’t know how much longer I’m going to do it for it. But right now, when this airs, if you go to the wealthy contractor.com, you can get a copy of the seven secrets to becoming a wealthy contractor for free. Basically, I just ask you to pay for shipping and handling. That’s The best entry point.

 

Mike Merill:

Yeah. That’s fantastic. Well, I know that I’m excited to read this book. I’ve learned from what you’ve shared with us today, for sure. And I know that our listeners will as well. Before we wrap up one last question, I’d like to end on if you’ve learned a shortcut or a hack or your secret sauce over the years of your experience. What’s that one thing that you would tell our listeners that maybe they can learn from you and your experience. You could boil that down to one point.

 

Brian Kaskavalciyan:

Oh God, Mike I’m going to go back again to the whole clarity thing. I really wish when I was younger, I really understood what I really wanted to get out of the business. I thought I knew, I thought I just wanted to make a lot of money and take trips and be free and all of that, but the clarity wasn’t there and the other thing too… Sorry, I’m going to give you two things. One is, I wish that I had asked for more help. I wished that I had gone to people that had already been there and done that and ask them for more help. And so I think with clarity, with understanding what it is that you really want, and if you’re willing to go and seek out people that are… I mean, look nothing’s new, it’s all been done before.

Everybody thinks that they’re different and that their situation special and unique and different and all that. Reality of it is yes, we are all unique and beautiful in our own ways, but the road you’re on building a business, becoming wealthy, having more freedom, having more success, it’s been done, go find somebody that’s in a similar business as yours, go ask them how they did it, ask them what books they read, ask them how they spend their time, follow them around for a while, learn from them and shortcut your success. Why do it the hard way? So I hope that… I don’t know if that’s considered a hack, but I like shortcuts, man. I love shortcuts.

 

Mike Merill:

I think that’s sage advice for our listeners. So thank you so much today. Very much enjoyed Brian speaking with you and getting to know you a bit better and look forward to hopefully having another conversation together down the road.

 

Brian Kaskavalciyan:

Cool. Thanks Mike. Thanks for having me.

 

Mike Merill:

And thank you all to the listeners for joining us today on the mobile workforce podcast, sponsored by about time technologies and work max. If you liked the conversation that Brian and I had today and were able to learn anything new or have some helpful tips or tricks or things that you can implement in your business, please follow us on Instagram at work max underscore and subscribe to the show. And whatever podcast platform you like to listen to podcasts on, please give us a five-star rating and review and help us to continue to bring these valuable resources to you and other listeners like yourselves again. Thanks. And we’ll catch you on the next one.

 

Delegation, The Thin Line Between Success and Failure

Delegation, The Thin Line Between Construction Success and Failure

As the Head Coach of the Roofing Academy, the Founder of Elite Roofing, the best-selling author of Start It, Build It, Grow It: The Contractor’s Guide to Success and the Host of the Start, Build, Grow Podcast, Randy Brothers has spent 15 years building his own construction businesses and educating others to reach their potential. Randy has grown his own company by over 12x in eight years.

On this inaugural episode of the Mobile Workforce Podcast, Randy shares the importance of delegation in the growth and success of any contractor’s business. Listen in to find out the processes and mindset that delegation requires to be profitable on the job site. 

Key Takeaways:

  1. Investing in your people adds value to your company. Investing in employees will only increase the value of your business. When you invest in someone, that person will immediately feel essential and engaged, and their loyalty and productivity will increase.
  2. As a business owner, you need to give in order to get.  As entrepreneurs and business owners, contractors have a unique opportunity to positively impact and develop their team members. The best leaders don’t hinder growth by only thinking about what they’ll get in return. When construction leaders support their people growing as individuals and expanding their skill sets, the ROI comes back many times over in the long run. 
  3. Success is not a one-person show. Sustainable revenue is only achieved when the entire team buys into the vision of the organization. A one-person show is not sustainable, and the business’s growth ceiling is low. But together you can go far.

Subscribe to the Mobile Workforce podcast to receive alerts as the new episodes post on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or Spotify.

 

      WorkMax YouTube Channel

Click Play to Listen to the Podcast Now: 

Podcast Transcript:

Mike Merrill:

Hello, and welcome to the Mobile Workforce Podcast. I am your host, Mike Merrill. And today, we are sitting down with an awesome guest, Randy Brothers, the head coach of The Roofing Academy. He’s also the founder of Elite Roofing and the best-selling author of Start It, Build It, Grow It. So, a fascinating guest, and that book is about the contractor’s guide to success. So, if you haven’t checked out his podcast, the Start, Build, Grow Podcast, you need to. Randy has seen it all and is full wisdom and practical tips for everyone in the construction leadership industry. Welcome, Randy. We are so glad to have you here today.

 

Randy Brothers:

Hey man, thank you so much for having me. I’m looking forward to it. Congratulations. You guys are getting a podcast going as well, man. So, it’s a lot of fun to be a part of your podcasting journey.

 

Mike Merrill:

Thank you. I appreciate that. Hopefully, we’ll have some opportunities to connect up again down the road.

 

Randy Brothers:

Heck, yeah.

 

Mike Merrill:

Awesome. So, your story, Randy, is one that is actually pretty powerful. Would you mind giving our listeners a little bit of a glimpse into your journey?

 

Randy Brothers:

Sure. I am essentially a third-generation contractor by blood, if you will, grandfather and father were carpenters, and I grew up with a knack and an interest in building, creating, and as I grew up I kind of developed a love and a passion for construction and building, and just seeing things created, which kind of brought me into construction early on. I mean, before I could even drink I was a full time project manager building homes, doing custom homes, track homes, basement finish, remodel, fire and water restoration. So, I’ve done a ton of contracting and then, like many of us, if you’ve been in the industry long enough, we were all pretty drastically affected by the recession that kind of started in 2006/07 and kind of culminated all the way up in 2009.

So, that affected me greatly. It kind of essentially made me completely have to change the trajectory of my career, if you will. Originally, I wanted to work my way into becoming a well-known custom home builder. I thought that was kind of like the pinnacle of contracting and if you can be a custom home builder, build a name for yourself, that was the thing to do. The market and the economy didn’t allow that. So, I ended up learning a lot of lessons and fell flat on my face and ultimately had to completely shut that first business down and file for bankruptcy. Since then, I learned a lot and I’m grateful for it, but I kind of stumbled into the roofing industry, the roofing space, and ever since then I’ve been diving in and working as much as I can to learn and grow within the roofing trade space. And it’s been a pretty awesome journey up until now.

 

Mike Merrill:

Wow, well thank you for sharing that with us. I know it’s not easy to talk about those low points and those struggles that many businesses go through. Some, again, it gets more extreme and they got to figure things out. So, I’m glad to hear that you’re back on your feet and it kind of worked out, kind of reinvented yourself in a different way. What would you do differently if you could have gone back now? I mean, we can never do that, but if you could, what do you think you would have done differently to try and help navigate those troubled waters differently?

 

Randy Brothers:

The short answer is nothing, because of all the things I learned. I look back and yeah, there’s a lot of people that have experienced similar situations but nobody’s willing to talk about. There’s a lot of pride involved in that. And I feel that it’s kind of my calling and destiny to try to help others who have experience or to avoid similar situations. So, that’s why I’m so kind of open about my experience. But the things I’ve learned at such an early age, I mean this all happened when I was 23, 24, 25 years old. So, I’m grateful that it happened to me so early in my career that I was able to learn and grow and manifest that to where I am now to just pour into and help other people. However, economically, I would have paid a lot more attention to the market around me.

I mean, there was plenty of signs, looking back, that that kind of identified and showed me that something’s not right here. The market’s changing, the economy is changing, the housing market, the crisis, all this stuff started happening and I had the blinders on, I was just focused on I have X amount of basements to finish and I’m trying to get more business and I just kind of completely got caught without really paying attention to what’s going on in the world around me and kind of got caught slipping that way. And ultimately, what happened, happened, but I would’ve paid a lot more attention and I’d been a lot more aware of things outside of the narrow focus of the three things I had to get done at a time.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, I mean, we often hear in construction, it’s like you’re herding cats out there. It’s just a lot going on. You’re performing in the circus every day, juggling acts and all kinds of things. So, it is a common thing. The businesses struggle and don’t always make it through those challenges with construction. It’s just a tough business, no question about it.

 

Randy Brothers:

Absolutely, yeah.

 

Mike Merrill:

So with that, what would you say as far as, I mean, you wouldn’t change anything just because of the valuable lessons that you learned, obviously if you could fix some things, you’d be more aware. What about the team around you? I mean, is there anything we can learn about that? Any wins or losses as it relates to the people you surround yourself with?

 

Randy Brothers:

Yeah, absolutely. That was probably the biggest catalyst to my demise, was I was wearing all the hats. I was doing everything. I was the guy waking up in the morning going to do the estimates. I was the guy managing the crews. And I was the guy at night going in and framing and having to paint and do some of the labor work. I was also the guy driving around with my checkbook on Fridays trying to pay my subs and pay my help and wearing all those hats trying to do everything in a business. It’s really hard to one, identify what your greatest asset is from a strengths perspective to help that business grow. And it’s hard to be really good at one thing or two things because you’re marginally average at everything else.

I mean, I could have been the best framer in the world, but if I can’t spend all my time framing how do I really master that craft? I can be the best business mind or business visionary in the world, but if I’m spending all my time doing all the other things, how do I become the best visionary for my business? So, I had to figure out how to take that plunge of finding and getting other people and surrounding myself with other people that are really good at the things that I’m not good at, and that can also do the things that I shouldn’t be allocating my time towards doing.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, I’m having, it might even be PTSD, I’m having flashbacks myself of the construction years where you’re… I mean, I remember too laying walls out and thinking I’ve got some 23 year old kid and I’m like 30 and he’s the GC on this big project. And I’m framing all of his houses and I’m thinking, “What’s wrong with this picture? I’m seven years older than this kid. Why am I framing houses for him?” And it was the same thing. I was in my own way a lot of times, busy with the hammer and not using my mind to grow the business as much as perform labor.

 

Randy Brothers:

And I was that kid and I still failed. You still aren’t able to just naturally do it without really having the right people, systems, processes. I mean, you hear it all the time, right? I’m sure people talk about it all the time. But there’s just so much value in people. You have to invest in others. You have to find the right people. And there’s some luck, there’s some faith, there’s things that are outside of your control that have to kind of go right for that to work, but all you can do is focus on you being the best person and understanding what your strengths are and just put yourself out there. And don’t be afraid to have uncomfortable conversations and look towards mentors, and ask people who have the success that you want to have, or know what you want to know. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask them, “Hey, can we go to coffee? Can I learn from you? Can you teach me? Can you share with me what you’ve learned?” I think that was a key catalyst as well, is I wasn’t afraid to seek out mentorship.

 

Mike Merrill:

That’s great. And it sounds like, again, really if I’m kind of reading between the lines, effective and proper delegation is a gap that probably a lot of young entrepreneurs struggle with, and it sounds like it was something that you were struggling to find as well.

 

Randy Brothers:

Yeah. I had a hard time with it. And then, I was able to work my way through that. And for me, I was lucky because when I kind of switched from wearing all the hats and doing everything to starting a roofing company, I started off knowing that I needed help and I can’t do it all myself, because I learned the hard way. So before I ever even started, I had hired my mom, of all people, to help. I knew she balanced me in many ways, so I hired her to help me with the books and help me manage the office. And then together, just piece by piece, continued to grow the business and add the right people. And we made plenty of mistakes, not everybody stuck. The team we have now definitely wasn’t the team we had then, but again, you still have to go through, it’s like a rite of passage. You’ve got to just hire and train and develop and if it’s not the right person, know when to let them go and know when to bring someone else in.

 

Mike Merrill:

I think it sounds like, I mean, it’s really similar, and I’m in the software business now. I mean, you do some different things, obviously as well, as an entrepreneur, but what I’m hearing and what I’ve heard often is sometimes the people that take you from zero to 1 million aren’t the same people that take you from 10 to 20 million. You kind of have to work through that and figure out what those gaps are, who those people are that you can delegate to. I like what you said about focusing on people and process, essentially.

Randy Brothers:

Definitely, yeah. It changes, but one thought, I guess one I think that we go through this where we think that we have to hit a home run every time. We have to hire the exact perfect person to get us to that $10 million, that huge level. But if you have that mindset, you’re just going to be stagnant. You’re not going to ever get there because you’re not going to actually take a risk on this person that’s right there in front of you that might be able to be developed into something bigger and better than what you think they are. So, and that’s another thing we’ve learned is, some people that you don’t even realize that the potential they have, you go out on a limb, you give them an opportunity, and they may end up being a catalyst or a leader of your company 10 years down the road. You never know. But if you’re for that perfect person with a perfect amount of experience every time, I think you’re going about it the wrong way.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, that’s very interesting and I think you’re spot on. What are some of the characteristics that you’re really looking for when you’re trying to find somebody that’s moldable that has that potential, are there certain characteristics or traits or ways that you vet them and have found out to be more effective than maybe what you did previously?

 

Randy Brothers:

Absolutely, and I can’t even take full credit because I’m quoting Patrick Lencioni here, a well-known author and works with teams and that sort of thing, but the concept of the three characteristics of humble, you want someone that’s humble. They’re moldable, they’re teachable, they want to learn and they’re not arrogant. You want someone that’s humble. You want people that are hungry, motivated, they’re hungry, they want to learn, they want to grow. And you want people that are smart and this doesn’t mean MBA. This doesn’t mean highest score on the SAT. This means that they’re just people smart. They’re really good with people. They’re self-aware and they’re sharp in a sense of human to human interaction. Those are the three characteristics that literally we’ve built into our company and that we’re always looking for. And it’s easier said than done, but that’s the characteristics of people that we’re looking for. If you have those three components you can go a long way and you can really develop people into awesome entities, awesome assets for your business.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, and like you said, I think one of the key points that I heard is you got to give them an opportunity. So, you kind of have to extend, maybe put a little bit of extra faith in them to allow them to bloom and flourish into something more.

 

Randy Brothers:

I love that you mentioned that, because I think, and I talk about this when I’m coaching or speaking or something, I talk about this where we as entrepreneurs, as leaders, as owners of companies, we have an incredible gift, an incredible blessing that we’re able to create opportunities for other people, yet we don’t take advantage of it. We’re scared. We don’t take ownership of the fact that we literally can create jobs and create opportunities for people that can define their family for generations. That’s big if you think about that. If you can actually process that and take ownership of the gift you have to give to others as an entrepreneur and as a business owner, why wouldn’t you grow? Why wouldn’t you invest in people? Why wouldn’t you extend opportunities to good people that just want to do right by their families and wants to be a part of something bigger than themselves.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, I love that. I think back to when I was in construction and that was something that I would talk with my staff about all the time is we’re impacting hundreds and even thousands of lives every day by what we’re doing. We have hundreds of people that are working on our projects and their families are counting on that revenue and that opportunity, and so I love that you mentioned that. If you’ve got that potential and that drive and that ability, you’ve been blessed with those gifts, for lack of a better term, or talent, I don’t think you can be satisfied just being another sheep in the herd. You really need to stand up and fill those shoes.

 

Randy Brothers:

Yeah, absolutely. If your only focus is to provide for yourself and your family, great, that’s totally fine. But why be an entrepreneur? Sure, you can be a one person, start a business, that sort of thing. But what’s the old saying? If you’re not growing, you’re dying. I think, we start businesses, it’s not about money it’s about freedom. We want to earn freedom to spend time with our families, to watch our kids grow up and to do what we want when we want, to travel and to not have to worry about the financial aspects of it. The best pathway to freedom is to build a system and a process within your business that allows for consistent, measurable growth, but also through development of other people and development of leaders. And that allows you to get that freedom that you want, that’s the reason why you started your business.

 

Mike Merrill:

I love that you just said the development of leaders. So really, your role is to help empower them and give them an opportunity to help, again, lead others. So, you’re really kind of like the shepherd leading your flock, so to speak.

 

Randy Brothers:

Yep, absolutely.

 

Mike Merrill:

So, I was going to ask you what your why is, and I mean, I heard a lot of things in there that I think are a part of that, for sure. But I mean, if you were to boil it down to why are you doing this? I mean, a lot of companies that struggle or fail, fall on their face as you said, they might tuck tail and run and go do something completely different. Go get a job working somewhere else, auto mechanic or something just completely different. Why did you come back to construction and why are you so passionate about it still today?

 

Randy Brothers:

Well, construction led to my demise or failure or, I don’t even want to call it that, but I led to that place through construction, but it was construction that also brought me out of that place and provided me with an amazing life, an amazing family and amazing opportunities. So, I owe it to the industry, my life, and I’m passionate about helping other people have similar experiences and similar opportunities and helping guide them along their journey of seeing what the true fruits can be in the construction roofing space. But if you were to just narrow it down when it comes to roofing specifically, I launched my business with a why, or we established the why of challenging the status quo.

And I love this, I took it directly from Apple, right? It’s like, do something differently. How can we go into a market and challenge the status quo and then look for ways to differentiate yourself in all facets of business and find ways to find niches and grow your business and capture different markets and segments and different ways of doing things that can separate you? And that mindset has really led to some awesome opportunities, growths, failures, all of the above, but we’ve grown a lot through that. And the second component is what we just talked about, and that is creating opportunities. I truly take ownership. I feel like I’m put on this earth and I’m an entrepreneur and I was given the entrepreneurial gifts that I have because I’m able to create opportunities for people. And I take ownership of that and I love that. That’s kind of my why, is really challenge the quo and create opportunities for others.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, I love that. I can relate to that where you feel just such this strong urge and you’re compelled. You feel like it’s almost a calling, like you said, this is what I was meant to do. I think that is rare. I think it’s unique as an individual that you’ve been able to identify that and then channel it, and actually take ownership of that to help guide and direct you. Because I know one of the challenges in any business is finding employees or team members, partners in your business essentially, to help build that vision, that are a good fit. I’m curious what types of characteristics do you look for in trying to find people that line up with your vision of your why?

 

Randy Brothers:

Well, a couple different components. To dissect that a little bit, I think as humans we have a natural tendency to want to find people and surround ourselves with people who are just like us. And I think as business entrepreneurs we have to think differently. You can’t just surround yourself with a whole bunch of people just like you. That’s a recipe for failure. You have to look for people that are uniquely different, but that also share the same value set. If you have the same values and the same big picture and that sort of thing, great. But a different way of approaching things and in different strengths, I think that’s the actual recipe for success.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, interesting. Yeah, I like that. So really, I mean, if you’ve got the same… we always talk here about planting a flag up on the hill, on the mountain, and that’s where we’re all headed and everybody knows that. And we all may take different paths to get there, but the key is that we never lose sight of that flag. And that every step that we take is going to take us closer to the direction of getting to that destination and that’s something you can measure off of. If this doesn’t get me closer to that, then I probably shouldn’t be doing it. Right?

 

Randy Brothers:

Yeah. Well, and also you want to add the component of, if you get to the top of that hill and you plant that flag and you’re having to look down at other people, that’s the wrong mentality. It’s not just for you, it’s for everybody to come up to that level and to bring as many people with you to the top of the mountain as possible. I think that’s where some of that intrinsic value comes from.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, we win together, right?

 

Randy Brothers:

Absolutely. All ships rise, right?

 

Mike Merrill:

That’s it. I love it. Yeah. So, I think from what I’ve seen and what I’ve witnessed myself is when you can have that kind of synergy and kind of followership where people are really buying into that direction and that vision that you have, people are empowered. It feels like employees want to be a part of that team. They want to win. We all want to win. I very rarely meet anybody that says they don’t care about winning at something. So, how do you do that and still maintain a level of kind of control and direction in case you’ve got to kind of steer someone back in line or correct somebody that maybe wanted to approach something that didn’t fall within your value system?

 

Randy Brothers:

Establishing clear expectations all the way across the board. Our job as leaders is to… as CEOs, as fiduciaries, as bosses, as founders… is to lead, teach and inspire others. And you can do that in a multitude of ways, but leadership through empowerment is something that we really practice and I love that you mentioned that, because we want to empower our team to make decisions to learn from their mistakes and to make mistakes and to not operate out of fear. But, you’ve also got to establish clear lines of expectations, key performance indicators, really defined roles like this is your job. This is your role within the business, stay between these lines and make decisions and push yourself forward, we will support that. Once you start going outside those lines, then we’re going to have to reel you back in and get you back in line with what your purpose is for this specific business or the specific project that we’re trying to complete.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, I like that you mentioned, it sounds like you’re saying failure is kind of okay. Like that’s just part of the process, right? Part of perfection is failing forward. Right?

 

Randy Brothers:

Yeah. Ask every entrepreneur, everybody you meet or you bring onto this show, ask them what is the single most important catalyst for their learning? What’s that universal answer going to be? Failure, mistakes. Yet, we run our business completely opposite. We run our business as if you can’t fail, do everything you can not to make mistakes, and then we hold people back because we’re afraid that they’re going to make mistakes, or that we made a mistake by letting them fail or by letting them make a mistake that’s catastrophic for the company. But the reality of it is, how many mistakes are actually catastrophic to the company? Most owners are the only ones getting to make that level of mistake. Right?

So, you kind of got to be able to know when to kind of let that leash out a little bit, because you’ve learned and grew because of your mistakes and your failures. Why not have a culture where someone can fail and learn and grow and make up for their mistake without fear of losing their job or fear of being ridiculed or fear of some other negative thing happen to them from their leadership team.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. I mean, you think as a child, “Oh no, dad’s home.” Or if you’re afraid of someone’s going to lower the boom on you because of something, then you’re running scared. You’re operating in a totally different place than being proactive and taking ownership. I think it’s empowering when people can… and we all struggle with this, I certainly do, owning those mistakes and being okay with it. Maybe putting those out in front and saying, “You know what? Yeah, I screwed up and I’m not going to do it again, but I’m going to learn from it, but I definitely made that mistake and I don’t want to do that again.”

 

Randy Brothers:

Yeah, and I think we have a natural tendency when it comes to self-awareness, where we’re naturally going to act the way we learned or the way we were brought up or whatever. And maybe there are some underlying things where we worked for other bosses or our parents were rigid and like, “You failed, you messed up,” and caused that fear inside of us. So, therefore, we have a natural tendency to lead with fear, whether we even are aware of it or not. We lead in a sense that, “You made a mistake, I’m going to yell at you and belittle you right in front of everybody and make you make it right.” Versus the empathetic approach of, “What did you learn from this? Did you learn from this? How do we fix it and make it better?”

We can’t have this mentality of everybody’s replaceable. If you lead your company from a perspective of everyone’s replaceable, man, you will be replacing them. And they’re not going to want to perform, and they’re not going to perform to their best ability because they’re fricking afraid. They’re afraid of losing their job. They’re afraid of letting you down. They’re afraid of not performing well. So, they’re not going to ever reach their full potential with that sort of leadership strategy. And a lot of us just aren’t aware that we’re doing it. So, let’s do some self-awareness and really look inside at how we’re leading our people and how we can make the changes ourselves and take ownership of our own roles as leaders to help empower our subordinates to be the best versions of themselves.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, I think to your point, it seems like sometimes if we harp on those things in the negative, sometimes it’s just self fulfilling prophecy. And then, we’re excited or almost like we’re smart because we said, “I knew you were going to do that. I knew that was going to happen.” And that’s not a safe place for a team member to be. If your goal is to work together to build something great, you’re going to run out of people to turn to when you need some other hands, like you were saying.

 

Randy Brothers:

Yeah, very much so.

 

Mike Merrill:

So, what sorts of technology tools do you use, or do you advocate for, to help manage employees, to kind of give them those rails to stay within to provide direction of what they’re doing and being accountable for their production in the work that they complete?

 

Randy Brothers:

Oh, man, I know we’re trying to wrap this thing up, but that’s a whole nother podcast because I’m borderline millennial and I’m all about the technology. Our company is a hundred percent paperless. Everything from our contract to everything we do is all digital and the foundation of that is a great CRM system. So, whatever industry you’re in, you’ve got to have a great CRM, customer relationship management system, that you can anchor everything you do. And for me, I prefer a system that is customizable, that also integrates with a bunch of other platforms, a bunch of other software. So I mean, if you were to total it up, we’re probably using 10, 15 different softwares day in and day out to help run our business.

Everything from hail tracking apps to photo-taking apps to time tracking apps, what you’re doing and all these other things. So yeah, the technology will help you build duplicatable, repeatable, scalable processes in your business and if you’re not constantly looking for ways to improve and leverage technology, you’re probably going to get beat at some point. You’re probably not going to scale and grow like you want to, because you better believe your next door neighbor, your competitor, is looking at technology to find ways to improve their business.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, if you’re not using tech in construction today, you’re late, you’re behind.

 

Randy Brothers:

Oh yeah, way late.

 

Mike Merrill:

Your competitors are.

 

Randy Brothers:

Oh yeah.

 

Mike Merrill:

No question about it.

 

Randy Brothers:

Your competitors are creating technology.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, that’s true. So, maybe we’ll have to connect on another day and go down that rabbit hole for a bit, because I’m sure we could riff on that for quite a while.

 

Randy Brothers:

Yeah. Well, if you ever watch my podcast that you mentioned earlier, the Start, Build, Grow Show, we’re sponsored by what I call kind of in my roofing space, the core four. Technologies, and it starts with the CRM, which is JobNimbus that we use and it’s integrated with a number of other technologies. The other three are for those contractors… in our market, we get a lot of hail damage and hail happens, so Hail Trace is another one to trace that and gather data and information to know where homes are damaged. So, Hail Trace is another one. CompanyCam, I’m sure you’re familiar with that one, and that’s photo documentation. You take photos of everything all the way across the board in contracting, and photo and video is just, if you’re not doing that you’re way behind the times. So, definitely do that. And then, estimating software that we use called SumoQuote. Those four to me, I think, that’s the core four of technology that you must have in order to position yourself to be at the top level of your game in roofing right now.

 

Mike Merrill:

That’s great. Yeah, I love where your mind and your direction are on those things. With your Roofing Academy, do you bundle software like that or do you just have recommendations or packages or how does work?

 

Randy Brothers:

All of the above, actually. I have different levels of membership that includes some of those software, and then I’m partnered with all of them in a way that my members get discounts or extra training. I’ll bring them on as guest speakers for my private group sessions and stuff like that. So yeah, I definitely leverage that a lot and try to provide that value and helping companies get set up with the right technologies to build their companies. Absolutely.

 

Mike Merrill:

Wow, that’s great. Well, good for you. That’s much needed in the industry and although we might think everybody’s kind of catching up to speed with technology in construction, we’re just historically laggards and I think we’re still a little bit behind. Half the companies out there really aren’t adopting technology as they should be yet.

 

Randy Brothers:

There’ll be coming around if I have anything to do with it. I’m helping them. I try and encourage it.

 

Mike Merrill:

I love it. Well, so to wrap up and we had an awesome conversation today, and like I said, we need to connect up and maybe talk a little bit further on another episode.

 

Randy Brothers:

Let’s do it.

 

Mike Merrill:

But what’s one kind of hack or process that you’ve kind of developed or kind of a secret sauce, if you will, or superpower, what’s something that you’ve really kind of harnessed in your business life now that you’ve learned over these years and how might it help someone else?

 

Randy Brothers:

Man, that’s a good question. It could go a couple different ways, but I think I’m going to lead with personally, as I’ve grown as an entrepreneur and I have multiple businesses and I have my hands in a lot of different things, and I love it. That’s what I love to do. And how do you actually do that and be effective and build these things that grow? I’ve developed a borderline obsession with what I feel is the most important commodity in business, and that’s time. So, I’m very, very intentional and borderline obsessive about my time. If I can delegate it or it can be automated or I can eliminate it, or I can defer, whatever, I’m going to do that. I’m going to prioritize the absolute most important thing at any given time throughout the day, throughout my week, as I’m working through my list of things to do. And I’m very, very adamant and obsessive, borderline obsessive, with my time. I think that’s kind of the secret sauce when you really appreciate how valuable time is, it changes your perspective as an entrepreneur.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, well said. Yeah, I love it. Well, that’s a great way to wrap up. Well, thank you so much, Randy. I Very much enjoyed the conversation today. We had a lot of fun and like I said, I look forward to doing this again down the road when we have an opportunity.

 

Randy Brothers:

Absolutely. Thanks a lot, Mike. Appreciate you, man.

 

Mike Merrill:

You bet. And again, for those of you listening, checkout Randy’s Roofing Academy and also his best-selling book, Start It, Build It, Grow It. I think you’ll find a lot more wisdom that we heard today in the pages of those books. In the meantime, if you enjoyed our episode today and the discussion Randy and I were able to have, please subscribe to the podcast at your favorite podcast platform and leave us a five-star rating review, as well as you can follow us on Instagram at work max underscore. And again, until next time, thank you and we’ll catch you on the next one.