Author Archives: Kristin Hege

Providing Mental Health Support & Suicide Prevention in Construction

Providing Mental Health Support & Suicide Prevention in Construction

A few months ago, Stuart Binstock, CEO and President of CFMA, joined the Mobile Workforce Podcast to discuss why mental health and construction safety go hand-in-hand. If you missed that episode, listen to it here. In today’s episode, Stuart joins host Mike Merrill to dive deeper into how mental health struggles and even suicide impact the construction industry, company culture and employee productivity.

 

Key Takeaways:

  1. When an employee’s mental health suffers, so does their productivity. According to the CDC, in the U.S., mental health struggles result in 200 million lost work days per year. That research goes on to show that in a three month period, a depressed person will miss 4.8 days of work and experiences 11 days of 0.5 days of reduced productivity. Upwards of $44 billion dollars is estimated in lost productivity annually, and a person suffering from depression consumes two to four times the healthcare resources that someone who’s not depressed.
  2. Investing in mental health is good for business. The CDC also reports that one in five adults will experience some form of mental illness in their lives. That’s 43.8 million people. 60% are left untreated, 7% have depression, 18% have anxiety, and this can lead up to 27 loss work days per year. This can seem overwhelming to leaders, but the fact is investing in employees’ mental health pays off. According to Binstock, for every $1 investment in mental health, businesses see a $4 return on investment. This includes things like building awareness, starting company wide training and giving employees the incentive to take care of themselves.
  3. A company culture that values mental health retains skilled employees. Having a culture that values the mental health of the team builds a safe and successful space that employees are not going to quickly want to leave for “greener” pastures. Adding value to your employees’ lives and wellbeing at work and at home will help retain employees, saving the time and money lost onboarding new employees.

 

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Episode Transcript

Mike Merrill:

Hello, and welcome to the Mobile Workforce Podcast. I’m your host, Mike Merrill and today we are sitting down to have a second discussion with our friend Stuart Binstock, the CEO and president of CFMA. Stuart was on the show on episode number 25 a little while back to talk about why construction, safety and mental health go hand in hand.

If you haven’t listened to it, I highly recommend that you go back and give it a listen, I think you’ll really enjoy that episode and that discussion. But after recording that first episode, it was unfortunate because we just didn’t quite have time to dig into some of the other details on the importance of mental health as it relates to productivity in construction. And so after the inflow of feedback from some of the listeners, we had a request to bring Stuart back and have this further discussion. So, excited to have you here today, Stewart, we’re grateful for you to join with us and welcome back to the podcast.

Stuart Binstock:

Thanks Mike. Anytime I can have an opportunity to talk about this subject which is so critical to the industry, I welcome the opportunity. So I really appreciate this second shot at it.

Mike Merrill:

That’s great.

Stuart Binstock:

We will get it right this time around.

Mike Merrill:

There you go. I think we did a great job and again, we just ran out of time, right?

Stuart Binstock:

Yeah.

Mike Merrill:

Well, I guess just to start off just for those that maybe haven’t heard the first episode, do you mind just sharing a little bit about your background with CFMA and also the Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention?

Stuart Binstock:

Sure. I’ve been at CFMA now for this is year 11, just started a year 11. The organization actually is 40 years old, so that’s kind of historic. I’ve been here for about a quarter of the time. And time flies when you’re having fun, Mike. I’m very proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish as an organization over the last 10, 11 years. We’ve increased our membership substantially, but really the hallmark for me is we’ve increased the value to a membership. And I think, we always talked about when I came on board, let’s increase value and members will come. And that’s exactly what we’ve been able to accomplish.

Stuart Binstock:

We have a free monthly webinar and actually, I think last year we ended up being 18 free webinars. We did a great job on the payment protection program. I think eight or nine webinars, they averaged over a thousand people per webinar. During COVID, I like to say that not only did we survive but we thrived because we really met the needs of our members and we’ve seen that this year. Quite honestly, we were worried a little bit about renewals, but people renewed with the same fervor as they have in the past. And they’ve actually renewed their memberships at a greater percentage than what we expected and what we thought it would be. And I think that’s a testament to what we’re able to accomplish at CFMA this past year during some very, very difficult times.

Stuart Binstock:

Regarding CIASP, it is the construction industry alliance for suicide prevention. So CFMA started CIASP about five or six years ago. Cal Beyer, a very well-known person in the industry wrote an article with Sally Spencer Thomas, we published it in our magazine. We had no idea what would happen when we publish that. In fact Christine [Debusky 00:03:53], editor of our publication walked into my office and said, “I got an article on suicide prevention. What do we do about that?” We both looked at each other and said, wow, that’s not typical CFMA article. It’s not about succession planning, it’s not about tax planning, it is not in the controllers or CFO’s ballywick, but we published it and the rest is history.

Stuart Binstock:

We obviously hit a nerve that existed in the industry that no one else was. So we’re very proud of doing that and we very quickly realized this was much bigger than CFMA. This was an issue that really permeated the entire industry where union, non-union, whether you’re a craft, whether you’re GC, it hit across the board. So we brought in the entire industry to help us out. Now it’s a separate entity that services just the subject of suicide prevention.

Mike Merrill:

Wow. Again, kudos and thank you so much for the great work you’re doing there. This is not a topic that’s in anybody’s wheelhouse in construction, typically. It’s not something that we talk enough about.

Stuart Binstock:

Right. Absolutely.

Mike Merrill:

So just to kind of seed the discussion just a little bit and recap, a question I would have is what does the construction industry really need to know and better understand about mental health and the issues that are in the industry?

Stuart Binstock:

Well, let me give the context for why we need to know that. And that is, construction has either the first or second depending on how you measure it, first or second highest incident rate of suicide of any industry in the United States. OSHA measures what are called the fatal four. Those are the top four ways in which people die by fatalities. So it’s falls, electrical, struck by and caught in between hazards. In 2018, I think those are the most recent numbers we have, 1,008 construction workers died by one of those fatal four. The estimated number of suicides in 2018 in the construction industry was over 5,000. It’s five times, fatal four fatality rate. So that gives you some context and why this is so important.

Stuart Binstock:

This is an issue that is just gone, I wouldn’t say it’s unnoticed, but it hasn’t been discussed. I had the opportunity to talk to 30 of the largest construction companies in the United States about a year and a half ago. They’re safety people. I am a lawyer and as a lawyer, you’re supposed to never ask a question you don’t know the answer to. But I went out on a limb and at the very beginning of my presentation, I asked, please can I see a show of hands of how many are aware of suicides of employees. And over two thirds of them raised their hands, which just kind of blew me away. I shouldn’t say it blew me away, it reinforced what we already knew. It reinforced what we have seen over the last five to six years when we talk about this issue. It is unbelievable how many people have suffered from this, either themselves or family members or construction companies. So there is a real problem.

Mike Merrill:

Wow. So within the demographic, is there a certain group or subset of individuals that seem to be more at risk with this or is there any statistics that you can share on that?

Stuart Binstock:

Sure. Well, first of all, this is the first time I saw this statistic, but there actually are suicide rates by trade, which I thought was interesting. I had never seen that before. And the highest incident rate is with iron workers and followed by millwrights, masons, roofers. It’s interesting that you can actually distinguish amongst trades. But the hallmark of the incident rate and the demographic, basically white men between the early twenties through their fifties account for the bulk of suicides. And if you paid any attention to the construction industry, that’s the workforce of a construction company, and male dominated industries tend to have more suicides. 97.4% of the US construction workforce is male, so it shouldn’t be surprising that that’s a problem. And then there are all these demographics, or maybe talk about the work culture.

Stuart Binstock:

Construction folks are very stoic. So they’re not going to complain but there’s a lot, people get injured on the job site and they start taking opioids and then that’s a downward spiral that goes nowhere very well. The other factors that lead to this, a lot of times folks work remotely, so they live in isolation. They go to work and come home, they probably go drink. They don’t have a family life because they’re on the road for six months.

Stuart Binstock:

And then, I think it’s fair to say probably, there’s a little bit of access to lethal means. There is kind of a gun culture, probably in some parts of the construction industry and the easier you have access to lethal means, the more likely you’re inclined to do something. So you add all those things up, family separation, sleep deprivation, folks get laid off, the stress on a family from getting laid off because construction sometimes can be seasonal, chronic pain which leads to opioids. You add all that up, access to lethal means and it’s not a very good recipe for, unfortunately it’s a recipe for suicide.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, there’s a lot of stark and shocking really information that you shared there. I think it makes sense. It makes sense the demographic can understand again, that opioids or substance abuse of some kind, certainly have a role to play. I would agree with that completely. So with that, the last time we had you on, we talked about some of these things but an area that we never really had the opportunity or time to drill into is how does this kind of thing, when a tragedy like this happens, whether it’s death by suicide or even an accident of some kind and somebody loses a life out on a project or within the company, what kind of an impact is felt by the organization and even financially. I mean, you’re a president of CFMA so that’s something that’s probably important to talk about.

Stuart Binstock:

Well, first let’s talk about the impact of a suicide and then let’s talk about just mental illness and mental health and how that impacts the productivity of a company. So I always tell the story, I was talking to an electrical contractor many years ago. And I was talking to him about our initiative here. And he kind of got [inaudible 00:11:47]. He looked at me and he said, how did you find out about us? I said, what are you talking about? He said, we’ve had three suicides in the last 18 months. The last one was at a fortune 100 company. One of our foreman died by suicide by hanging himself in the boiler room of a fortune 100 company. His spouse sued us, blaming us for the suicide.

Stuart Binstock:

The fortune 100 company called up the company and said, I’m not sure you guys can work at our shop anymore. This guy was the president of the company, he had to go out to the fortune 100 company which was in the Midwest and they were based elsewhere and explained to them how they were going to continue to work in the environment after one of their people had just died by suicide in their boiler room. Just think about that for a second. You’re getting sued, it speaks to your credibility with a fortune 100 company, and what’s the attitude or the mood of the people on your workforce. You add all those up and there’s a lot of lost time and a lot of cost involved.

Stuart Binstock:

So let’s talk about short of a suicide. Let’s just talk about mental health problems. So these are, I think national statistics and they’re not necessarily related to construction, but they’re overwhelming. Mental illness results in 200 million lost work days per year. In the three month period, a depressed person will miss 4.8 days of work and 11 days of 0.5 days of reduced productivity. $44 billion dollars per year is estimated in lost productivity and a person suffering from depression consumes, and this is an interesting statistic, two to four times the healthcare resources that someone who’s not depressed.

Stuart Binstock:

To think about all those costs that are really hidden costs, and one in five adults will experience some form of mental illness, they say. That’s 43.8 million people. 60% are left untreated, 7% have depression, 18% have anxiety, and this can lead up to 27 loss work days per year. Depression is the leading cause of disability and increases risk of other chronic medical conditions. So you just start to add all that up and it’s kind of overwhelming. So let’s talk about, maybe some other factors. A $1 investment in mental health results in a $4 return on investment.

Stuart Binstock:

So this is good business. I will tell you that we’ve gotten involved recently in the diversity and inclusion issue as well. Contractors won’t necessarily do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do, but if you can make a business case, then they’ll listen. And there’s a business case to address this, just like there’s a business case to address diversity inclusion. So 33% of workers complaints in men and 66% of women had an existing mental health condition, and 50% report symptoms of depression in the month following an injury, and nearly half have a co-occurring substance abuse disorder.

Stuart Binstock:

When we talk about suicide, let’s talk about way short of suicide and just mental health and all the impact of this on a company. It’s a hidden cost that nobody really understands. And those statistics, I think are going to be eye-opening for people. And I think they’ll make them think twice about, we’re not necessarily always talking about suicide, we’re talking about mental health. This is part of mental health. Unfortunately, the ultimate act of losing your mental health is suicide. But before you get to that, there are all sorts of things that can happen and all sorts of things that can really hurt a company from a productivity standpoint.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, so what I’m hearing you say and it makes perfect sense, if we can attack the issue at the root before it becomes more severe, we can prevent far more suicides by addressing the mental health issues. And then I also heard that a lot of them seem to stem from maybe an injury. So giving extra attention to those that have had an injury and making sure that they have a clear path to recovery, maybe how the extra attention and resources that they need to get back into good health is probably a very good preventative cause for some of these issues that can come down the line.

Stuart Binstock:

Absolutely. I think we’ve all heard and it goes way beyond construction, but we’ve talked about opioid use in this country. But in the construction industry, opioid use primarily, probably is connected to injuries and then taking some kind of opioid and then getting hooked on the opioids. And then, goodness knows what happens after that and possibly suicide, but certainly, certainly a loss of productivity at the very, very least.

Mike Merrill:

Well, and I think everybody listening and you and I included directly, we’ve all had bad days at work where we just didn’t get as much done, we weren’t very productive. So if we have something that is recurring and persistent that’s causing us that issue or those challenges, then it only makes sense that they don’t lead to anywhere good and certainly nowhere productive.

Stuart Binstock:

Yeah. Well, I mean, think about having a bad day and then thinking about having anxiety or depression on top of that.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, every day.

Stuart Binstock:

Every day. Think about how effective that employee is going to be and think about, how do you find out about that? That’s kind of, I think probably the major questions that people might ask is how do you know that you’re dealing with a disgruntled employee or a depressed and anxious employee. There are warning signs and at the Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention, we have little cards that you can purchase that talk about what are the warning signs for depression. So they’re things like feeling sad or depressed most of the time, increased use of alcohol or drugs, feeling hopeless and helpless, sleeping too much or too little, withdrawing from family and friends, talk about being a burden to others. Those are kind of all signs that someone’s going through something.

Stuart Binstock:

And then in construction, actually some construction specific warning signs, once again decreased productivity, increased conflict among coworkers, near hits, injuries and accidents. Someone’s not paying attention, their mind is elsewhere, decreased problem solving ability and increased tardiness absenteeism. So you add all those up and it’s not a perfect formula. You’re not going to get this right all the time. But if you know the warning signs is important. We at CFMA, CIASP, we don’t expect people to be mental health experts. That’s really not what CIASP is all about. It’s all about understanding what are the possible problems and getting someone help.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. I keep thinking of the old adage. My mother used to say all the time that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Stuart Binstock:

There’s a lot of truth to that. And as we discussed, it really has a monetary impact in the construction industry. I mean, it’s a serious monetary impact. If someone’s not going to do it because it’s the right thing to do, it’s also the right thing to do from a business standpoint.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, fascinating. And again, not something that we hear enough about. I think back to my career in construction for over a decade and this is going back a couple of decades, I don’t remember anybody ever talking about it at that time, so.

Stuart Binstock:

Well, Mike, let’s add another layer to this. How about the last and a half during COVID? I mean, talk about putting stressors on people. There’s a lot of anxiety in the world today. Hopefully it’s lessening and hopefully people get vaccinated, we can return back to normal, that’s my little pitch. But that has nothing to do with suicide prevention, my own personal pitch, for God’s sakes get vaccinated. I mean, just really think about it, everything we’ve just talked about and then think about COVID over the last 15 months and how the stressor that is put on people, on families, on construction companies, really the whole world.

Mike Merrill:

Well, and tragedies are always… I tend to view the world this way, I try to view it this way. Tragedies are always an opportunity to regroup, to buckle down, to improve, to learn, and let’s use COVID if nothing else, to raise awareness and to be more in tune with the mental health and just the general wellbeing of our coworkers, of our work family, of our employees.

Stuart Binstock:

Yeah. I speak at a fair number of places and so I’ll go to safety and health conferences and I’ll say, you’re all fine talking about safety. Wear a hard hat, you have toolbox talks, I get all that. But when it comes to health, well, health it’s a little more complicated, but mental health, nobody wants to talk about that. It’s hard, it’s complicated. It’s not an easy issue. I don’t think we need to blame people and blame the industry. It is understandable that people don’t want to talk about mental health, but we’re at the point where, and Cal Beyer, really the father of this whole initiative talks about removing the stigma, get away, we need to talk about it. And that’s the only way this issue is going to get better.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. When you mentioned that, I think of, a lot of people are aware of alcoholics anonymous or other organizations were admitting that there was a problem as an industry, that’s something we just need to be better at.

Stuart Binstock:

Yep. And I’ll tell you interestingly enough, they’re better at this in the UK and Australia. I can’t really explain the why, but they have a program called Maxim Construction in Australia. They have a budget of $1.5 million to spread the word about this issue. Ours is a fraction of that or 10 times the size of that country. So it is something we need to spend more time on.

Mike Merrill:

Do you have any ideas or thoughts on what companies can do to at least take a first step towards this? Are there programs, are there websites? I mean, resources?

Stuart Binstock:

Yes. I’m glad you asked that question. The website for CIASP is www.preventconstructionsuicide.com. There are a host of resources on the website. One of them is how do you evaluate a company’s mental health and suicide prevention, preparedness and culture, which is a very long word. But it’s really an expression, but it’s kind of a needs analysis and implementation. So you can go in to the website and almost check off whether you’re doing this or you’re not doing that, and will give you a good sense of where you are on the continuum of what probably would be ultimately the most enlightened company and the company that’s treating this best versus the worst, depending on kind of what you come up with as a score after you do this needs assessment.

Stuart Binstock:

But I think that’s a first step to do kind of a needs assessment. And then the second is to start doing some training. We have some training programs at our website. I think one is an hour long course that just gives you a real overview about preventing construction suicide, what you should do if you’re with somebody and you think they might be suicidal. These are very troubling and difficult issues, particularly for someone who’s a novice in that area. So there are a host of things you can do. The first thing I would tell people is get started, do something. That’s really kind of my mantra when it comes to this issue.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, and I can’t help but think as well, you talk about the productivity and the loss productivity, but even if I feel like I’m doing fine, if my buddy to the right or to the left of me is not, and heaven forbid they have an accident or mental lapse or a challenge, it’s going to affect me as a crew member. It’s going to affect my project, it’s going to affect my mental stability too. My concern or my worry, I can’t help but think that the ripples that occur from an issue like that don’t reach everybody in the company.

Stuart Binstock:

I think they’re of enormous proportion. You’re absolutely right, they’re from the person who works next door to the person in HR who’s got to deal with a death in the organization, to the CEO who’s got to worry about the liability that the company might face, because somebody might sue them and blame them for the suicide. I mean, it’s endless and it really does cut across the whole. The foreman who might think he’s going to get blamed for pushing somebody too hard. I mean, really when you think about it, it cuts across the entire company, a suicide cuts across the entire company.

Mike Merrill:

And we all know socially when somebody passes that we’re connected to even in our personal life, the impact that’s felt by hundreds or thousands of people immediately that they’re gone and grieving, it’s going to do the same thing in your work life.

Stuart Binstock:

Absolutely, absolutely. It is going to definitely have a devastating, well, I mean, I think it’s going to have a devastating impact of your company, but I don’t think you even understand what impact it will have on your company. And it’ll be different for every single organization just depending on the makeup of the company, makeup of the person, makeup of the way they handle the situation. There’s unmarginable opportunities for a problem and for something bad to happen, when something like that happens to a company.

Mike Merrill:

Well, and in an environment where again, we have all these other stresses with lumber pricing and concrete prices and steel prices and people are busy and you can’t find enough good help and we’re already running around probably a bit frayed and ragged as an industry right now.

Stuart Binstock:

And let’s think of something that of course we all think is a great opportunity, but from this perspective, the unintended consequence could be negative. And that is the infrastructure legislation, which is a great opportunity for the industry. But if the industry is not manned enough and ready to do that, I mean, we’ve always talked about worker shortages before COVID. We do a confidence index survey every quarter. We ask our members what their confidence level is and we ask them what are the top five issues that they’re concerned about.

And workers shortage prior to COVID was five times higher than any other single factor. So post COVID when everyone’s back, then the infrastructure bill passes, oh my God, the concern about worker shortage. I have seen people talking about prefab and robotics. There’s got to be a solution because with the current workforce, we will not be able to handle what’s coming through the pike.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. We both know and I’ve had a couple of guests on here, Letitia Hanke runs a contractor school out in California to teach young roofers coming out of school to be trained up in the trades and has just a wonderful program called The LIME Foundation. We’re seeing it everywhere, it’s not just in California where there’s just major worker shortages as it is. So we just can’t afford as an industry and as a society to keep looking the other way, whether it’s intentional or not, we really need to put our eyes fixed on this issue and start making some changes.

Stuart Binstock:

Well, I will tell you, and I know people never think of it this way, but you could think of this from a recruitment standpoint. A company that is known as a caring culture and takes care of its people, people are going to want to work for that company. And I think millennials even more so, seem to be a little bit more independent than some of us old folks. And I think they look at that kind of stuff more than I think our generation did. And so if you come across as not being a caring culture, I think you have an issue in terms of your future employees. So it’s a recruitment tool. No one ever thought mental health was a recruitment tool, but I think it really can be perceived that way.

Mike Merrill:

I love that you bring that up. People generally, we’re feeling, caring beings. So they know when you’re interested in them from a physical perspective, from an emotional perspective, they know when you care about them and I think you’re right. I think a company culture has that same spirit of what that company is about and I think people will take notice.

Stuart Binstock:

I think so. Yep.

Mike Merrill:

So tell me Stuart, if you were to sum up the conversation today and boil it down to one key takeaway, what would that message be for the listeners as we wrap up today?

Stuart Binstock:

Two words. Do something. Do not sit still, do not just say, oh, this was an interesting conversation, it’s somebody else’s problem because it could be your problem tomorrow. You have an obligation to your employees and you have an obligation to yourself as a company too. You can think of this Mike as a risk management issue as well. There’s so many ways to think of this issue, but the bottom line is do something. You can start out small, you can maybe train some of your supervisory staff so that they’re familiar. We have a host of information available on the website that you can use, free of charge and so we really want people in the industry to use the material that we’ve created. We do accept contributions from people, but we don’t have membership fees. We’re just trying to do the right thing and do the right thing for the industry.

Mike Merrill:

I love that. I’m hearing a Stuart tell the audience, “Take action”, right?

Stuart Binstock:

You just took my words and you put them into yours and they worked very nicely.

Mike Merrill:

All right. Well, thank you again for this great conversation, Stuart. Before we hang up here, I just wanted to check in and see, is there anything, any meetings or conferences or opportunities that CFMA has coming up that the listeners can participate in or sign up for?

Stuart Binstock:

Well, Mike, now that you mentioned that, of course there is. Our annual conference and exhibition this year is going to be a hybrid. Last year, it was all virtual. This year we’re going 2.0 virtual, which means we’re going to be live in four cities; Dallas, Texas, Phoenix, Arizona, Atlanta, Georgia and Washington DC. So we’re going to have a limited number of people that we’re going to allow to attend in those four cities and have the opportunity to network with one another. And everyone else, it will be virtual.

Stuart Binstock:

It’s July 19 to 23. It’s interesting when you do a conference like this, I think we have more sessions and more CPEs than we would if we were at a live event. We have 32 sessions, we have 60 CPE credits, and I know one of the things that’s always popular with our members of the small, medium and large firm round tables, where contractors get to talk with similarly sized companies about issues that are troubling. So we’d love to have people attend that and all information is on conference.cfma.org.

Mike Merrill:

That’s great. Well, thank you, Stuart, and I highly encourage everyone to check that out. We’ve been members of CFMA and involved, going on 11 years now. And I know that again, I think I said this on the first podcast we did, CFMA always continues to grow. It never shrinks. Nobody ever leaves it, they just keep coming and coming and coming. So we excited to have more people come and join in the conversations on the education happening there.

Stuart Binstock:

Thanks so much, Mike.

Mike Merrill:

You bet.

Expert Advice on Leveraging All Your Technology’s Features

Expert Advice on Leveraging All Your Technology’s Features

Today’s construction technology is more sophisticated than ever before, with better offerings to help construction leaders run their businesses smoothly. The downside? Some of the software options inadvertently get ignored or underutilized. But to get the most out of any technology investment, companies need to make sure employees are using all of the available features. 

Judy Coker is a consultant, controller, and accountant. She has decades of experience implementing and advancing technological platforms and systems to enhance administrative, operational, and reporting efficiencies. In other words, she knows her stuff. In this episode of the Mobile Workforce Podcast, Judy is going to share with us what it takes to have a successful technology implementation – as well as what comes after implementation to ensure you’re getting the most out of your investment.

 

Key Takeaways:

  1. Make deliberate decisions on each feature your software offers. Most of the time, software is purchased to solve a surface problem. Still, to get the best ROI for your technology, contractors need to be deliberate about reviewing, understanding and deciding on each secondary feature the software provides. For example, you might have purchased a tracker for payroll, but does it make sense to track your labor against job codes or use an authenticator like a pin or facial recognition?
  2. Take the time to have an honest dialogue. It is easy to see a glaring issue but what gets passed by is time-wasting processes that can usually be rectified with technology. The only way to find out what is slowing down your teams is to have open conversations where they can share what is holding them back and what is frustrating about their day-to-day tasks. Those conversations can lead to opportunities for unused aspects of your technology to increase everyone’s productivity
  3. Take the time to do it right. Implementing software is not an easy task and requires a slow and steady process of working with small teams to get them engaged, invested and onboard. This means working through issues and hiccups with each consecutive group until the rollout becomes straightforward and reliable. The time between each small group becomes less and less as the system is honed more and more.

 

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Click Play to Listen to the Podcast Now:

Episode Transcript:

Mike Merrill:

Hello, and welcome to the Mobile Workforce Podcast, sponsored by AboutTime Technologies and WorkMax, I’m your host, Mike Merrill. And today we are sitting down with Judy Coker, who is an expert in budgeting, accounting, and technology implementations. And Judy’s really good at helping companies increase efficiencies and enjoy more profits. Judy has been involved with a lot of projects that have software implementations, complexities, and different moving parts. And she’s going to share with us what it takes to make projects like that successful. So welcome Judy, and we’re excited to have you on today.

Judy Coker:

Well, thank you. I’m so excited to be here. Share my knowledge.

Mike Merrill:

Awesome. Well, before we get into the specifics, I just wanted to set the stage a little bit and talk about your background and maybe how we met initially, where we met. It’s been over 10 years ago and maybe a little bit about that backstory, because I think that really plays into what we want to talk about today. Does that sound good?

Judy Coker:

Okay. Before I met Mike, I was at a MaxWell Conference, User Conference and I was there to learn more about the accounting software where we using at the company. And I ran into someone at the conference and they said to me, “Judy, are you going to go to this AboutTime thing on module Bubba?” And I says, “I don’t know anything about it, but what is it?” And they just told me a little bit about it. So I went right away. I says I’m going to go in on that. And there was no room left in this session, but they managed to put a seat in there for me. Maybe I was just so charming that they says “We got to get this girl in there.” But when I was sitting in there, my mind was just turning. And as you were giving your presentations on things that the software could do, I basically was paralleling what you were saying and seeing it as an application at the company back home.

Judy Coker:

And after the session was over, I think I was the first one out of the room and I ran over to your booth. And I remember you telling me because I was determined, but you had told me that you saw this woman come in with force into the vendor’s area, towards your booths with determination in my body posture and in my face. And just further ask a lot of questions. And I went back to the office and the president of our company and owner. I told them we had to implement this software and I explained why. And he trusted me enough that he says, “Well, if you feel strongly about it, let’s do it.”

So I got back with your company and I think within days you had someone on a plane coming up to the Twin Cities, so we could talk about it. And there’s a whole side story about that trip, but he did make it like 10:00, 11:00 at night. And we met at the office. And from that point on, I believe it was six weeks. We were fully operational with AboutTime. For that company, I had determined working my budget, my numbers, the rate of return on our investment, and it was way shorter. So within three months, the savings that the software brought to us and mobilize having electronic time cards and doing the electronic system, we just had a return. And from that point on I saw how well it was doing with guys in the field, because one of the things that really held me back was before I found the software was the guys were spending too much time in the office when we did payroll once a week, it was like, seemed like the whole morning you had everybody from the field coming in and doing their timecards and stuff like that.

But after getting the payroll done, we were able to restructure how we manage projects. And we also worked a lot with AboutTime Mike, with you guys. And I saw in my mind things that the software wasn’t doing that I thought would help us be more efficient in the office and information did to us more timely. So it was just a wonderful experience and that was my first of rollout of the product.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, I think and I’ve used and described that story of yours used the analogy of a Mexican jumping bean. I don’t know if you have seen those… I had them when I was in elementary school they’re moving around and that’s how you looked in your chair when I was presenting that session, I could just see you counting with energy and excitement because it was music to your ears. I find it interesting-

Judy Coker:

And I think that’s.

Mike Merrill:

Oh, go ahead.

Judy Coker:

I was going to say for me, I have as a manager and working in my positions that I’ve held, I always see something and how it applies to the company I’m working for. And it was just like a big light bulb went out for me. So that’s interesting. I was a jumping bean.

Mike Merrill:

Well, what I really like and appreciate about this story that you shared is that even the session, it wasn’t like it was on your roadmap. It wasn’t like it spoke to you from its title or description. It was just an opportunity that you took to check out what was going on. And you immediately connected those dots with the gaps that you had in your business and something that could bring more value to your accounting and payroll and job costs and budgeting systems. So I think the lesson in there is that sometimes we’re just not looking under the right rocks or we think we’re going to solve the problem one way when really the answer might be something else that can empower or improve upon what you’re getting from the very system that you’re hoping to improve upon. Yeah.

Judy Coker:

Yeah. And one thing I want to tail onto what you just said is when you look at a software, you look at it for one purpose. And one of the things that I did once I got the payroll going, I was able to think, look at the company, see how people were functioning and say, if I could streamline say, project management and make their job a lot easier, I wanted to take that software as far as I could and use every feature that it had, or it didn’t have. And I always communicated that with AboutTime so that I wanted to every inch of that company, every employee really maximizing the use. And that’s really key when you look at systems is you may go in with a surface objective, but it’s you got to think it’s far deeper than just what’s on the surface.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. And when I think of the term technology champion, you’re the essence of that from what I’ve seen in these last 10 years in the work that you’ve done. And we can talk later about some of the other organizations and things that you’ve done, but very passionate. And I know you’re very conscious of budgets, productivity metrics, trending and you just knew what you were looking for from a results standpoint and a process standpoint, and it was great that you’re able to connect those dots and actually put it into place.

Judy Coker:

Well, what’s really I’m thankful for, I worked for other industries before I got into construction. I was in publishing, marketing, distribution, manufacturing. And as we all know in the construction industry, it’s kind of antiquated in its technological approach to running a business. So I had that advantage too, because I, especially like in publishing, we had to do things at a whole different level. Distribution was the same way and you come to construction and you see that it’s just the technology is not embraced. And I think if the one big lesson I want to pass on to anybody listening to this is you have to, if you’re in the construction industry, you have to embrace what technology has to offer.

Judy Coker:

And you mentioned budget. One of the things that I’m a stickler about being an accountant, of course. And then the controller is what does the dollars parallel with the work that’s being saved or the proce sses that are being saved? And if a company does do that and tracks it, they can identify their return on the investment. And I would guarantee that it’ll be a lot faster return on the investment than you initially projected.

Mike Merrill:

So what is it that drives you to think that way or to approach things the way that you do because it stands out?

Judy Coker:

I think really what’s big is efficiencies. I’m an organizer and I believe in efficiencies and especially being an accountant, you learn systematic ways of approach. And I think I take that to the next level when I’ve been lucky that when I became controller, whatever company is that I worked with, I look at the total operation. I don’t look at just accounting. So in construction, I want to know what’s happening in project management, in service, in managing jobs. And I think that’s really where my passion is, and it just built up over the years as I learned different. And yeah, that’s it.

Mike Merrill:

Well, and I am with your marketing background and some of the other industries that you mentioned working with, it’s interesting to me, how well you were able to apply your people skills to communicating technical processes, things that were specific, and technology-based with blue collar field workers that were welding something or bending metal, or putting a roof on, what’s your secret to finding success in getting the field up to speed with some of these things that most companies think, “Eh, that’s not really our guys’ forte.” They’re really good at building stuff, but they’re maybe not so technology driven.

Judy Coker:

Two things, first of all, I grew up in the construction industry. My father was a sheet metal worker and a foreman. So I was his first son. And he always involved me in that one way or another. Of course when I started my career, I was not in construction. It was later in my career that I got into it. Second of all, so I was able because of my father to understand, how the workforce thought. And I think another big thing is not only knowing that you have to get into their heads, in the last implementation that I did. A big example is once I got the payroll side working, I went out to the field here in Phoenix, and I went to every foreman actually throughout the country I did this, I flew to our different offices and I talked to the foreman and just ask them how it was going, what in their day seemed laborious and just let them talk and listening is a big key. I’ll never forget one of the foreman’s mentioned to me that, “Geez, we were talking about something” and he says, “Well, I have to call the office, get the address for the job site. And then I have to put it in Google maps and do all that.”

Judy Coker:

And I said, “Well, do you know on your device, all you do is open up the job.” And I showed them where the navigation key was and that spread like wildfire, in the field, they talk to each other and that became a big thing. So I was able to connect with them by finding something that was at their level and I could make more efficient. And to this day, I’ll never forget how big of a deal, to me that was very simple. But for them, it was a big deal because of the time it took for them. And when we talk about budgeting, just using that example, you look at something being implemented and the guys that said of calling the office, getting a person at the office. So now you’ve got two people on the phone and then they’re writing down the address, and then they’re going into a Google Maps and typing in the address. And you know those guys aren’t really good at typing. And the savings as I go through that. I want you to visualize the savings that goes on when you have 175 foremen in the field, that can make a big difference.

Mike Merrill:

Wow. What I’m gathering is that the application that they were using to track the time and labor and production already had a button to take them to the job, they just didn’t realize it was there.

Judy Coker:

No. And they didn’t. When we first did the trainings in the last rollout that I did one of the things I was very, because it was a large, we’re talking 800 employees. And what was big for me was I wanted to train them in small groups, intimately, and then I could read how they were feeling because you have all different skill levels in the field. You have guys and a foreman and then the guys that work under them and they may not even have computers at home, but you have to identify what their level is and hone in on that and help them through that. So they build a comfort level. So that relationship grew from my vantage point where I had foreman calling me and saying, “Hey, I have this problem can AboutTime do something like, help me with this.” And I had information free flowing through me to help expand the features we already use. And or maybe they in the training, they missed it because there’s a lot in the training.

Judy Coker:

And that’s another thing when I train them, I also, six months, a year later, I’ll retrain them because there might have been things that they missed, especially the foreman that the field guys that they missed.

Mike Merrill:

Or new functionality that could have come in the app.

Judy Coker:

Oh, yeah.

Mike Merrill:

Okay. So you’re dealing with all types of culture and different regions of the country, different weather, I mean, everybody has unique challenges when you’re dealing with that many variables. Is that fair to say?

Judy Coker:

That is fair to say. When I traveled to the offices, one of the things that I did is I had to wipe my mind free and of my expectations and really open my listening and my visual and everything open up to what was that culture in that city. When I went to the office and listen to the people and then adapt in my own specific way, how I’m going to roll this out to fit where they’re to learning.

Mike Merrill:

Well, I think that’s a real pearl of wisdom right there. You’ve got one software system and this could be any system and it’s coded, it works the way it works. And you’ve got settings and configuration and workflow and other things that can be adapted or adjusted, but every employee in the organization was using the same mobile software. So you’re adjusting maybe the messaging more than anything else.

Judy Coker:

Yes.

It’s worth the investment initially to assign one internal manager to do the rollout, which means that person, if it’s a full-time person needs to be excused from their full-time job, most of it at least six months, depending upon the size of the rollout, because one of the things that I did on the second application I came and your product had changed so much, you had so many features in it than when I initially implemented it up in the Twin Cities that I had to learn about it. So I spent a little time really digging in, learning, understanding the feature. So I created in my mind the phases that needed to be rolled out in order to maximize our return on investment. And I give him the credit for really understanding and bringing someone like me into the company and really faithful to really get that return on investment.

And it was a good call on his part because we were able to take it to not only this one third of the multiple companies under this company umbrella, but other divisions around the country. And one of the things why you need someone focused on this is because it takes time to really not only understand all the features in the software, but also to prepare materials to roll it out, understand who your audience is and prepare the materials to really help them embrace what’s going on. And then, further want to learn more about it. And that’s not done as a part-time or one-fourth time job.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. And when you’re trying to… it’s like if you’re trying to land a plane or have a plane take off, the pilot can’t be back serving drinks, he’s got to be flying the plane, right. So when you’re launching a product or when a product is taking off, or when you’re landing on a rollout, or you need to have full attention of somebody who’s piloting that project, is that a fair comparison?

Judy Coker:

That is a fair comparison. And when I’ve gone to conferences and talk to outside of the company, other company leaders, they were frustrated with rollout and all that. And when I questioned them, I’d find out that the person that’s trying to do it has a full-time job. And I could tell that they couldn’t really get their arms around it to really when a company spends that kind of money on technology, spending a little bit more to do it right is really to me the key. And then the second key is once that manager and I’ll call it an implementation manager or a specialist, once they really have a map in their head of the software and all the features or modules, whatever, then the key is for that person to decide how they’re going to roll it out.

Judy Coker:

And slowly, I think from my experience, rolling it out slowly is really key. And that’s what I did here in Phoenix is I did one office at a time. And within the office, I did small groups. So you get a small group. And like, I got a small group of field people and talk to them about it, getting them to buy into it and feeling comfortable what I was talking about. And then when I started rolling it out, they were the first group I rolled it out to and then found out what my glitches were in the rollout and fix those and get that group feeling good because they’re talking about it already on the field.

And then what I did was picking, I had them pick, “What would you recommend another group to be?” And then I did another small group can see how that rollout was. And then once I got the bugs, the final bugs worked out on that. Then it was just doing small groups, but boom, boom, boom, roll in and out. I I was able, I was told five years and I got it all done within six months for that large in all the locations. Yeah. And that’s before all the features, and that was a payroll thing.

Judy Coker: 

Yeah. And that’s what you have to think about it. If you throw too much out, it’s just not going to work well, in my opinion. And then you have phase two, and I started to look at the different features in there. And I started meeting with the different departments and asking them, listening, just asking, “Now that you see the payroll working,” because it was interesting, the frame of mind at the company was just the payroll system. It didn’t do anything else.

Judy Coker:

So I had to educate everybody else, even though they were told this, that this is more than just payroll. And so by meeting with them individually and listening to them and saying, “This is how I can streamline what you’re doing. And I do have examples of that if you’d like me to share those.”

Mike Merrill:

Sure. Yeah, I think that would be nice.

Judy Coker:

For example, I talked about the foreman, how I went out to them. That was the first thing I did because the rollout was payroll field, hourly payroll. So I went out to them and I talked to them. One of the things they were saying was, “We just don’t know how many hours have been budgeted to the job.” So all I did was show them on the device, how they could look that up. And it was like another flood gate shut down. And the world was really good. They were so excited that they could just, by pushing the couple buttons, find out what the budget was. And I also tell them when we sync the devices, when they could identify when they could include in the numbers, today’s hours work, which is the next day by the end of the day. So they were pretty thrilled about that.

Judy Coker:

And again, to show field people, they had a thing with HR forms, there are HR forms they had to fill out and they said, “Judy, this drives us crazy.” So I worked with HR and we put some of the HR forms on there, so they didn’t have to come to the office. And they just had, if it’s employee form, they could give it to the employee, sync that form into the office. HR had it, and that’s another huge thing. They didn’t have to file it. It was all under the job number. Whereas before that, the foreman had to bring those forms in and then there’s chit-chat time going on there. And then they had to get the paperwork file it. And it was all done with a push of a button.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. Wasted fuel and sitting in traffic and whatever oh its 4:26, I’m not going back to the job now I’m just going to head home.

Judy Coker:

Exactly right. Another big example was I met with the safety department with the same idea. I got to find out what they were doing so that I could identify how the software would work for them. So there was a group of safety people in the room in this meeting. And one of the things we picked out, we have safety forms that have to be filled out, toolbox talks and a whole bunch of other stuff. And so when I found out what their process was, the foreman first of all, they don’t want to deal with paperwork, tools is their thing. So to get them to do it was a really hard thing. So it wasn’t being done, when that was done, they had to get the paperwork back to the office. Sometimes they didn’t get to the office for a long time.

Judy Coker:

So then there could be piles of paper come in and the office had to sort through the paperwork, make extra copies because they kept one copy here. And another copy there. So we put like 120 some toolbox talks on the product, both in English and Spanish and all other safety forms in there. And another connection with the field, I had to train them how to do it. So what that saved is a lot of money because all they did is fill it out on the device, send it, and it was filed by job and by employee or foreman. And I know we succeeded in a that because up at our Montana office, OSHA was coming in and they wanted for a certain job all the paperwork.

Judy Coker:

So the safety director went into AboutTime, downloaded all the forms, safety forms for that job, turned it over and never heard a word from it where in the past that wasn’t the case because time would have to be sent with the office to pull out the copies, take a copy, mail it, or scan them in so that they could email it to the person that’s asking for it. And it was kind of funny, Keith came to me and he said, “I love AboutTime.” And I thought he was teasing me. And he told me the story. And I was so thrilled to really get the feedback that my approaching them, my listening, and coming up with a solution with the tool I had was making a big difference.

Mike Merrill:

Wow. Yeah. What a couple of great examples of exactly what you’ve been saying. And I can’t even imagine the financial impact or benefits that the company received from that.

Judy Coker:

Well, let me tell you this, the company saved $1.47 million in the first year, and that did include the safety forms and stuff like that. I just figured that was icing on the cake.

Mike Merrill:

Wow. So just on the time and payroll side of things?

Judy Coker:

Yeah. It was huge, it’s just amazing when you take a look at the details and what goes on. And I think companies that are hesitant about using technology should try to become comfortable with it because it’s going to pay for that company in the long run. And one of the things, the company in Twin Cities, we were one of the first contractors up in the Twin Cities to do something like this. And being also in marketing myself for a couple of years, we were able to use that as a selling tool in working with new clients.

Mike Merrill:

So you marketed that your company was adopting this kind of technology to track their jobs so they had more confidence in your work?

Judy Coker:

Yeah. And another big thing on the service side we always got phone calls at that company. We always got phone calls because they fought, we were overstating our time and the billing was not getting out on time. The billing was anywhere from three weeks plus getting out because we had a nice sized service department and what we saved there, huge just on the service size, we were able to turn billing over within 48 hours. The time was to the minute and around it. I think we rounded. And one of the things about customers getting invoices early, they remember, “Okay, this company got us heat when we were freezing or this company cooled us down when it was hot. They process the invoices and one of the things,” yes, right. And and then what cut down is the number of phone calls service was getting in challenging the bill. I tracked up there, I tracked my collection calls and they dropped by half because they were getting the invoice, they were processing it and paying it within terms.

Mike Merrill:

Wow. So instead of an argument, you’re getting a check. Would that be a fair statement?

Judy Coker:

Yeah. Big time fair statement. Yes.

Mike Merrill:

Over the years, on occasion, I’ll run into somebody or hear them share similar experiences, but there’s maybe aren’t quite as sunny, they run into challenges. And one of the approaches that companies take on occasion is, “Well, I’m going to roll this out with my toughest team or with the guy that’s maybe the least capable, or I’m going to find the lowest common denominator and start there. And then if we are successful with that, then I think anybody else can do it.” What would you tell those people?

Judy Coker:

That’s not good. That’s really not committed to the investment and before you even spend the money, I think a company has to be committed. And that’s why having someone, one person who understands the operation, so you can’t get a low level person because that person may not have the skillset to really identify cost savings around a company, or look at systems and evaluate, be able to quickly evaluate how the software can work with it. I think it’s important for a company to get someone with a skillset that has management capabilities, people skills, the ability to evaluate operations and systems within the company, because you have to constantly looking at, “Maybe this is not my target right now, but I’m going to make a note of that. And this software will solve that problem there.”

Judy Coker:

And in the long run, you’re saying people will do this and then they walk away. When the person that implements it, the time can cut down quite a bit after everything is implemented. And a good, big portion of the features utilized are operational. But this person can get back to the daily and have this a certain percentage of their time. Because what I think is very important is a relationship with the vendor, with the software provider things are constantly changing in that world. And that person, you should have one person that’s not only understands it from beginning to the current today, but looking ahead if there’s any issues or any updates and anything like this, that one person is always going to be there to not bother anybody else it, and by having one person, one of the things I experienced quite a bit is becoming, I held that position and I was the expert and I made sure anybody could come to me if they needed to.

So they always know and I built their confidence. I was their motivator. They too became advocates of the software and also became my eyes and ears when I couldn’t be there. But I was the focal person, even after everything was rolling really well. And it was more maintenance. There’s always features that you’re going to find that are new or maybe can be rolled out at a different day. But I think that one person concept is important and that’s where companies, I think miss it.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. I love how you worded that. And I think it makes me think back to when we first met, I think it’s important for the listeners to understand that initial system was on disconnected, PDA PalmPilot. There was no phones, no cellular, no WiFi, no Bluetooth. It was cable sync through the server, right?

Judy Coker:

That’s right.

Mike Merrill:

Where you started. But before you got off the bus or switched buses, we went through Blackberry and then pretty soon it was iPhone and Android, MyPads and web-based and all these other advancements. So to your point over time, the technology is going to change underneath your feet. And it’s important that you continue to stay vigilant and to keep your head up and on a swivel to be aware so that you can help make sure that the company is leveraging those tools the best way that they can with what’s available.

Judy Coker:

I do have a story in my last application that I wanted to share. And this is regarding the of field operations director. By my meetings with the different departments, I got them thinking, especially as I delivered for them, got them thinking about, the product was always in the back of their head. And he ran into a situation where he was discovering that with the geo-fence, he was noticing guys clocking in the commute, clocking in, at home, drive to lunch and then clock in at lunch. Well with the… What is it called? Yeah, the geo-fence-

Mike Merrill:

Geo-fence.

Judy Coker:

… when they’re outside of the geo-fence it marks where they clocked in. He started to really call the guys out on this. And within six months, that stopped completely. If he didn’t have that tool because these guys are out in the field, they’re on the go. If he didn’t have the tool, he would have never known the money the company was spending in wrong clock outs or clock ends in clock outs. You’re supposed to be at the job site when you clock in. And I tell that story because I’m so proud that something that started as just payroll was really ingrained into the minds of people within the company. And they were looking for ways to save in their own budget.

Mike Merrill:

So that efficiency tool began to affect change and behavior.

Judy Coker:

Okay. I was going to say behavior’s a big thing and technology can help us with behavior. And I saw that in many areas of the company, you’re going to get pushed back and you’re going to get resistance, but once it’s embraced, then it becomes a system that can really change behavior if you need it to be changed. That’s like the safety forms, they were now the dyes, the foreman in the field were now doing safety forms because they knew we could check every day if they did it or they didn’t do it. And we could react right away instead of three weeks ago. Oh, they bring their forms in and we check them and say, “Well, you missed this week. And that week,” then it’s too late.

Mike Merrill:

And you’re potentially rewarding bad behavior, instead of good behavior and whatever behavior you’re rewarding is usually what’s going to continue to happen. Right? So a couple of questions. How did this impact over time, do you know?

Judy Coker:

What I did is I took the quarter before we did the rollout or as we were doing the rollout to all the offices around the country. And what I did is I took all the overtime. I calculated that. And then once I had every office on the product and doing payroll, which happened to be the next three months. So this was the fall. So the first was the summertime. The next was the fall. So we know in construction, summer is a big deal. So probably a lot of overtime. The fall, it starts ramping down still heavy, but still wrapping down. I was just for the quarter, we dropped over time by 1.2, $2 million.

Mike Merrill:

Oh my goodness.

Judy Coker:

Just for the quarter.

Mike Merrill:

Just the overtime?

Judy Coker:

Yeah. And when you do paper, you never know what accuracy you’re going to get. And I had one office, I had the guys Colin saying, “It’s not fair because my pay check is short.” Now of course they call me directly. Right?

Mike Merrill:

Mh-mm-hmm (affirmative).

Judy Coker:

I don’t have anything to do processing payroll that’s done at their office. Something must be wrong with the system. So I remember saying, “How much is it off?” Ask him a lot of questions. And then he said and this two guys called me on this separate occasions and the word got out. But anyway, so I said, “So are you telling me your foreman has been fraudulently overstating your time. And you’re working really less hours than we paid you for? If you’re telling me your pay check is short, do you want me to go back and verify that you haven’t been overpaid in past payrolls?” After I said that in both conversations, it stopped and nobody ever called me again, the word get out nationally.

Mike Merrill:

They said, “You know what Judy, we’re good.”

Judy Coker:

I mean, I always tell that story because who knows? Staff, and when you’re doing time count, you’re going to say from 9:00 to 5:00 or 9:00 to 9:15, but when they’re clocking in on a device, it’s time. There’s nothing to say about it.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, I love that. What about spreadsheets, how do you feel about those?

Judy Coker:

Well, I’m an accountant, so I love spreadsheets.

Mike Merrill:

What about for field reporting and other things in that way, as far as accuracy. And are they just a better piece of paper? Or I mean, there’s some efficiencies gained, but what’s your opinion on if someone was submitting time in a spreadsheet versus an actual clock or something accurate?

Judy Coker:

Oh, I could see that happening. We weren’t into that because the field guys don’t have that, but you’re still exposing yourself to the same thing. It’s just electronic. It doesn’t mean just because it’s on a piece of paper that you use a pen or pencil or a spreadsheet that it’s as accurate. It’s basically the same thing. I like the live clock ins. So you get an in both companies that I rolled out the product, in both companies, the real data is the actual clock in and out. And you can’t get that on a spreadsheet or on a paper time card, it just doesn’t happen. And if you believe it to be true, I would do some soul searching on that topic-

Judy Coker:

… is all I’m saying.

Mike Merrill:

Good word, soul searching. I think that’s implies some things for people to consider.

Judy Coker:

Yeah. And another thing we’re talking about the hours, one of the things that was important to me in both operations is timely reporting of hours. And when you’re on a manual system, it takes two, three weeks before you really know the performance of the job. By that time, if something has gone astray, you’ve realized it too late. And one of the things with real time reporting, that data is downloaded and in your counting system, and in AboutTime, AboutTime doesn’t do hours, but if you’re a project manager, you want to know and even a foreman. I had the foreman doing this at the last company, they could go on their device or at the office they can go into the control center, take a look at how many hours have been spent versus budget because it’s in there. And if it’s getting close, they could go ahead and feel comfortable with it. And I’ve always told both the project managers and foreman, this, for example, we know how this works in construction. Customer wants something extra done.

Judy Coker:

I’ve always told in support of project management. “You have to get it priced to do extra work because it’s not in scope of work.” So in both cases, the customer will come to the foreman and say, “Hey, can you do this?” Well, it’s very easy. The foreman can call the project manager and say, “I looked at the hours, this is the budget. And this is the actual, do we have room for me to do it or are we going to have to charge and if so, what it is?” So one of the things that I talked to the foreman about and the project manager is, that gives you the play because sometimes you want to give him something. Sometimes it’s too big and you’re going to have to do a quote. But without that, what I found was they say, “Go ahead and do it and we’ll get the numbers to them later.” Well, you know what that means that you call the customer and the customer says, “I didn’t expect it to be that much, and I’m not going to pay that.” And then you see your job going south.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. And if you document even the gimmes, the freebies, the things that do that, you donate to them in good faith. You can document those two and then note on the invoice, no additional charge. And now you’re acknowledging and you’re getting credit for the generosity and the kindness that you extended to them instead of… having a conflict and a problem where you actually went out of your way to do something extra. Okay. So going back to really the beginning of the conversation where we were talking about your company using disconnected PalmPilots, no cell phone. This is before Blackberries and moving all the way forward to today, where we standardize on Apple and Android device and iPads in most software applications and then cloud technology, what are some of the efficiencies that companies can gain by moving to the cloud and by migrating off of that hardware based installed system?

Judy Coker:

Well, I think it’s a huge advantage. And that’s one of the things I was looking at is making that transition for the company. Because as I ran into some issues and there need to be some tweaks done by your company. There were multiple people I should say, IT had to get involved in that kind of stuff. I’m always cost conscious and the fact of having a cloud access based system kind of eliminates all that. So if there’s a problem, it doesn’t affect what’s going on in the day-to-day operation, it’s kind of working behind the scenes, nothing gets blocked, nothing gets stopped. You don’t have to reboot and stuff like this, it just happens. And one of the things when you’re operating a business, like in construction, those interruptions can cause problems in the day.

Judy Coker:

And not saying that there’s a lot of them, but when it happens, we’re so used to having things run smoothly and all of a sudden you get a hiccup and the world ends. It’s like, oh, but with the cloud-based system, what I envisioned was a lot of that would go away and it would be just a relationship between me and the AboutTime person that’s handling my problem. And I had issues with devices that you got different technologies or different generations of cell phones and stuff. And that caused me a lot of problems. So you’d have one guy that was having a problem. And from what I understood, a lot of that would be eliminated because it has nothing to do with the device. It’s a little bit more protective against that kind of hiccup in a day’s operation.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. So with cloud technology, you’re taking out the middle process of managing that hardware, whether it’s you and you have people on staff or you’re outsourcing and having to hire a third party, those phone calls get eliminated, Amazon Web Services or whatever cloud hosting vendors being utilized for the web-based technology. Their uptime is 99.99999, whatever percent. And if they’re down, everything’s down anyway, nobody’s up. So to speak.

Judy Coker:

Yeah. And as a matter of fact, when I did the budget or the numbers on that and presented it, that was one of the big things I’m remembering right now is the disc space on the computers, local computers, there’s a big savings in that. And the more you put on your local system, the slower it runs. And I just remember when I was looking at the technology, that was one of the things I was really putting numbers against is how much am I going to save in having cloud-base and not having to bear down our system with the other things, the accounting software and anything else that was on there. And of course that has to be maintained.

Judy Coker:

And really here’s another big key. I got the guys in the field and the managers got the guys in the field to take pictures, take pictures and that takes up a lot of space. So we were talking about having to download certain historical data in order to make room for the new staff. And each office was really ramping up job site pictures that they were taken, with a cloud-based. I wouldn’t have to worry about that. And now that I’m remembering, that was another reason why our database was filling up with information and you have to pay for that and you have IT, internal IT managing it. So that’s one less thing you have to do.

Mike Merrill:

Aside from the performance hit that you’re taking, has that space fills up?

Judy Coker:

Yeah. Oh yeah. And we were seeing that too. That’s why we had to do historical timelines and say, “We’ve got to take this off so that it’s not slowing us down.” And of course, payroll is really very important. And if you’re down locally, that’s going to make a big difference of processing payroll and these cloud-based systems have backups. They have backups after backups, after backups. So chances of you being down are pretty slim to none.

Mike Merrill:

Love that. Well, there’s a lots of great pearls of wisdom here for sure. And I have really enjoyed having this discussion and catching up and talking a little bit more about your journey over the last decade plus with these different solutions.

Judy Coker:

Well, I enjoyed it, I had fun.

Mike Merrill:

Well, so to wrap up if I were to ask you, what is Judy Coker superpower, when you put that cape on to go to the rescue to somebody, what is it that you’re about to do?

Judy Coker:

I would say determination and keeping my focus on the goal. You got to keep, and I think that’s what happens when companies start implementing a system, they take their eye off the goal. When you know you have to do something, you stay on it. And I had roadblocks thrown up against me and I just had to be eloquent in going around those blocks because I knew what the goal was. And that’s what I would say.

Mike Merrill:

All right. So navigate with determination, that sounds like, right?

Judy Coker:

That’s right. That’s right.

Mike Merrill:

Awesome. What about is there one challenge that stands out in your mind that you worked through in business that you could share, or someone might glean some wisdom from, with that determination?

Judy Coker:

This goes into different industries and it’s kind of been consistent through which every company and that sabotage. There are people out there that want to, for whatever reason, they don’t want something to happen. Maybe it’s their personal, maybe it’s a group effort, but having courage and strength stand up against that and be eloquent about it and still have your eye, your mind’s eye on the goal. And as the sabotage comes your direction, you just shift to the side and work around it and pat them on the back and say, “It’s going to be okay, but I’m going forward. You just stay right there. I’m going to continue going forward.” I would say that, is it because it doesn’t matter what you’re doing. That’s I think every business person runs into that in one or another.

Mike Merrill:

Finally, I just wanted to ask Judy, if there was one takeaway from our conversation today, what would you hope that the listeners walk away with after listening to us talk about all of these things?

Judy Coker:

The big thing I think is don’t be afraid of change and don’t be afraid of say technology. I know in the construction industry, technology can be a waste of time, but it really isn’t. It takes courage and determination to really bring your company forward and bring challenges to everybody within the company to be better and stronger than what you were in the past. And you need tools to do that. And it is scary. You could talk yourself out of anything. But I would say just face it with courage and knowing that the company is going to become stronger in the long run. And so will you, because you’ll learn something and walk away with it.

Mike Merrill:

Wow. I love that. Well said, Judy, thank you so much for the conversation today. I’ve really, really enjoyed talking with you and catching up, and I know that our listeners will enjoy what you shared as well.

Judy Coker:

Well, I really enjoyed sharing. That’s always my goal. I want everybody to be better. So thank you for asking me.

Mike Merrill:

Absolutely. Well, we’re all better from hearing this today. So thank you to the guests for joining us today on the Mobile Workforce Podcast, sponsored by AboutTime Technologies and WorkMax. If you enjoyed mine and Judy’s conversation today, I would highly encourage you to please give us a five-star rating and a review and share this episode with your friends and colleagues in the industry. Of course, those reviews and those positive comments help us to continue to bring on valuable guests like Judy. And we want to continue to bring value not only to your business, but your life.

Construction Safety: Inspiring Workers Through Leadership & Action

Construction Safety: Inspiring Workers Through Leadership & Action

Construction safety is an issue important to Chad Hyams’ heart. Twenty years ago, Chad’s life was changed forever when a 2,800 pound bale of hay fell on him, shattering his neck and leaving him a quadriplegic. Devastating as this was, Chad dedicated his life to being an advocate for safety, especially on construction sites.

In today’s podcast, Chad joins host Mike Merrill to discuss the right mentalities for a culture of safety, how to prepare for the inevitable and how to respond to failure.

 

Key Takeaways:

  1. The right mindset will increase safety. Safety managers and leaders often have the mindset of “If X happens we will do Y.” For example, you need to be out of the way of the payload falling if a crane fails to avoid injury. However, it’s more beneficial to have a mentality of “When X happens then Y.” So, remain out of the way of any crane payload to avoid injury when a crane fails. By changing from if to a when, then nothing should surprise the job site. 
  2. Just because you’ve gotten away with shortcuts doesn’t make it right. We live in a world where things can go right when they should go wrong and wrong when they should go right. Doing the safe and right thing is important even if nothing happened the last time a protocol was missed or forgotten. Remember those warnings and rules are there for a reason.
  3. Have a 24-hour safety mindset. Safety doesn’t stop when you are off the job site. Having a 24 hour safety mindset means practicing what you are required to do on the job site but in every situation in your life. For example, if you are taught to wear safety glasses at the job site when using power tools, then do the same when you’re using power tools at home. The majority of accidents happen at home or the office – the potential for injury is everywhere, so it’s up to you to be aware and take the steps to ensure something avoidable doesn’t happen wherever you are.

 

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Episode Transcript:

Mike Merrill:

Hello and welcome to the Mobile Workforce Podcast. I am the host Mike Merrill and we are sitting down today with the renowned Chad Hymas. Chad is a speaker on both leadership and safety and before we jump in too deep into the conversation with Chad directly, I just wanted to share a little bit about his background.

For starters, safety’s very important and near to Chad’s heart of course because at the age of 27 his life changed in an instant when a 2800 pound bale of hay shattered his neck, leaving him a quadriplegic and devastating as it was, Chad dedicated his life to being an example of what is possible despite and challenges that we may face.

Chad’s also a bestselling author and a recognized world class wheelchair athlete. In fact, just two years after Chad’s accident he would set a world record by wheeling his chair by hand from Salt Lake City, Utah to Las Vegas, Nevada for a 513 mile trip. So, today Chad continues to inspire and travel around the world and the globe and also has put on about 300,000 miles per year in his travels. Chad has spoken to companies such as American Express, Rain Bird, Wells Fargo, Blue Cross and Blue Shield just to name a few. In today’s episode we’re going to discuss three of Chad’s favorite topics. Inspirational leadership, safety and self accountability and how each of these are important for the construction industry.

Hello Chad and welcome to the podcast today.

Chad Hymas:

Hey. You forgot to tell them that you and I have known each other for long before that. I’m just saying, we spent a couple years in Bangkok together. So… Right?

Mike Merrill:

We sure did. Chad and I were missionaries together over 25 years ago. So, long time ago. Many moons, right?

Chad Hymas:

Very, very, very fair to say.

Mike Merrill:

I will say too before we get into the conversation, Chad was a great leader and an inspiration and a great example to me even back then. So, I…

Chad Hymas:

It’s amazing what you can do with the power of delegation.

Mike Merrill:

Well, I remember you well from that time and look forward to the conversation today.

Chad Hymas:

Great. Sounds good.

Mike Merrill:

So, Chad why don’t you give us a little bit about your background? Of course, I know you do have some construction in your background, which is interesting.

Chad Hymas:

Yeah.

Mike Merrill:

What can you tell us about that?

Chad Hymas:

Yeah, construction really is my forte. I did that when I was in high school as a part time job and then in the summer time when there was a guy in my church that had a construction company so in the summer time I would work full time for him. Then I loved going up and helping my uncle with my dad. We’d help my uncle run the farm. So, the dream was always to be a guide, be a hunting guide, have a ranch and raise elk and release them in the rocky mountains and guide people to get close to those animals, whether they shoot or not. With a camera, I don’t care what they shoot with, I just… I’ve always wanted to get people close to elk.

Chad Hymas:

When I came home from Thailand ironically I didn’t have the money to start that dream so I started construction and it is dear to my heart. So, I grew up from one person, myself, to 52 employees and I broke my neck six years into that while skipping a pre-op. So, that’s why safety is dear to me for sure. I told my guys one thing, I went out in the field and I did the opposite. So, it’s very, very passionate to me and it’s something that I share a lot when I’m going in and doing safety coaching or safety training on some of those principles. But yeah, aside from that background, Shondell and I live just outside of Salt Lake City in the Stansbury Mountains. We have four children. Two are biological, they were born before the accident, both boys. Ace is 23, Kyler’s 21. Then after the accident there was about a seven year gap and we adopted a little girl from Mexico. Her name is Gracie. She’s a junior in high school and Caleb we’ve had for just three and a half, maybe I guess now four years. We got him when he was eight and he’s now 12. We got him from Ethiopia. Beautiful dark little boy. So, our family’s quite diverse.

Mike Merrill:

That’s awesome and it sounds like you are living life to the fullest.

Chad Hymas:

We’re taking it day by day.

Mike Merrill:

Good for you. Well, thank you again for joining us today. We’re really excited to have you on and I think just to start off in relation to safety, where do your presentations usually start? What’s the first thing you usually talk about?

Chad Hymas:

I love to… There’s several different ways to start a presentation or to start. Really I want to be interactive and engaged. I love to get to know people depending on how large the group is, but one of the things that I think is a mistake in safety, especially in construction is we measure safety due to regulations, whether it’s OSHA MSHA, retroactively and not proactively. In other words, we’re going to count lost time, first-aid recordables, light duties. We’ll count near hits, near misses although that’s more proactive than reactive, and we’ll count fatal injuries. That’s retrospect. I think a better way to indicate how well we’re doing safety proactively to prevent those accidents is to count really something we learned in Bangkok. How many touches are we doing a day? How many contacts are we making? How many times are we stopping a job to look around and see not if anything’s wrong, just what’s going on? What are we doing today? And allow other people to speak other than the supervisor or the foreman. Allow people to speak up and share their mind and have that openness where people feel that comfortable that when they know when something comes up they can stop work without reprimand or without fearing that they’re going to lose their job. So, I like to start, that’s one way to start. Right there. So, proactive measurement versus reactive measurement. So, instead of counting numbers, count assists. Count how many touches.

Chad Hymas:

Another thing I like to ask people is what’s our greatest asset at B&B Construction? Every time I ask that question what’s the answer going to be Mike? Every time I ask what’s our greatest asset? By the way, as I pulled up today in your guys’s yard I noticed that there’s a lot of cranes, a lot of semi-trucks. Your guys’s logos are on everything. Looks like you guys are worth hundreds of millions of dollars. What’s your greatest asset? What do they always say?

Mike Merrill:

Well, I think it’s the people but they might say their equipment. I’m not sure.

Chad Hymas:

Well, they’d say the same thing. They’d say their people and then I ask them this, how many of their people did they send home maned, injured, dissatisfied, unhappy or stressed? How many of them can answer that question for me?

Mike Merrill:

That’s a great question. Probably not very many.

Chad Hymas:

Not very many. Then I ask them this, if you were missing $500 on your paycheck next pay period, would you know it? What’s your answer?

Mike Merrill:

Absolutely.

Chad Hymas:

Do you see the… Do you see the… Do you seem the… We say one thing in safety meetings and that’s why it comes across as lip service. We say one thing, we know we’re worth millions of dollars but we don’t live it. So, I’m guilty of that. That’s why I’m… I’m guilty. I measured safety retroactively. I told my guys what to do. Then as the boss I went out and did the opposite in the field. Now you know why I take those two things very, very seriously. Right there, the way that we start right there, is the way that we lead and guide and gain influence and also the way that we’re measuring safety. I think that’s a great way to start. I’ll usually start with a fun story just to get them engaged and realize this is going to be a different meeting than any other meeting they’ve ever had. So, I mean, this is not a lecture. I want to be interactive but yeah, those are some questions that I’ll normally start off with. Right there.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. So, I talked at the intro a little bit about what happened, your accident, but can you share just a little bit more detail with what happened?

Chad Hymas:

Yeah. Sure. It was April 3rd. I’ll have to take it back 21 years, April 3rd. We just celebrated 21 years last month. It was a Tuesday morning. I left the ranch heading to work and I got a phone call around 11 or 12 from Shondell, my wife, telling me that our youngest son at the time, who was just turning one, had just taken his first two steps and she asked me to hurry home from work to see if I could play some ball with both boys out in the garage and maybe we could play some two on two. I told Shondell that I would hurry but I had to stop by the field first to feed the elk. So, my dream again is contractor by day, farmer by night. I was really trying to build that dream and grow that ranch and working hard at that effort.

Chad Hymas:

I raced home after getting all 52 guys lined up. I got all seven crews of eight with a little bit of math in there, there’s an odd crew in there but got all seven crews lined up, headed back to the ranch and I decided to stop by and feed the animals first so that I wouldn’t have to go back out that night. I got on a tractor, something that I do routinely every day. I loaded a bale of hay that weighs more than most vehicles that are outside a parking lot, more than an SUV. I lifted the bale up 15 feet and that’s when I had a problem Mike. I saw a red light flashing on my dash, which is simply an indicator that something was malfunctioning and it told me exactly what the problem was. My tractor was low on hydraulics. I ignored that indicator because I had gotten away with it before and I was in a hurry and I had never gotten caught before. So, there’s a message right there for our contracts that are listening. Just because you don’t get caught doing something you know to be wrong or something you’ve been doing as habitual or I don’t like to use the word complacency in safety just because it’s a word that’s used in every single safety meeting, it’s overused, but just because we don’t get caught doing something that becomes habit makes it right.

Chad Hymas:

I’m guilty of that as well. I’d never been caught before, I kept pushing the lever, I tapped the brakes too hard while in reverse and that big heavy load suspended in the air, rolled over backwards, it landed on my body, punched my head through the steering wheel and a shaft is what went through my mouth breaking… This has all been redone and it broke all the bones in my neck and it severed 95% of my spinal cord. So, today I do push a chair. It’s a four pound chair but my hands are paralyzed, I’m obviously sitting. I’m in the office here just for a little bit this afternoon. I’m numb from the armpits to the toes. I lost a midsection. I lost all stomach muscles. The only thing that’s keeping me upright is the way that my chair is contorted for me to stay balanced. The torso’s what keeps your body balanced when you’re sitting freestyle. I lost two out of my three chest muscles. The chest muscle that I do have is called the diaphragm, which allows me to breathe with no trache. Took me a while to figure that one out and to gain that back. I lost everything from the elbow to the fingertip on both sides. The movement that you’re seeing is strictly shoulders and everything from the armpit and above I can feel and that’s where my new life was to begin.

Mike Merrill:

Wow. That’s a lot. A lot. You probably still remember it like it was yesterday, but wish you could forget.

Chad Hymas:

Sure. Yeah, I never lost consciousness until I went in for surgery and then I was asked to count backwards from eight and… everything is as if it happened yesterday for sure. A lot of that’s due to writing books and talking about it on a regular basis and Shondell and I both journalized what happened that day and henceforth as well, not just that day but the progress that we’ve tried to make and the digression as well, because you can only measure progress by digression. The best place to start is when you lose something. Consistency compounds and so we also measure days that are bad as well.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. What a testament to the importance of safety and how things can literally change in an instant.

Chad Hymas:

Sure.

Mike Merrill:

So, with your initiatives I’ve seen on your website and some of the things you’ve spoken about, you’ve got a couple of terms, zero zone and roll with safety initiatives. What are those and how do they relate?

Chad Hymas:

I like to use the… The capacity model is another one. Those all tie in well. Zero zone, roll with safety, they tie in to something that we use a lot with a client of ours called a capacity model and it’s really just… It allows people to learn in the workplace. I’m not asking people to do what everybody else does in their safety program and go to work and have no blood although that’s the goal.

Mike Merrill:

Right.

Chad Hymas:

The capacity model, roll with safety, those terms that you just identified, it allows people to fail without getting injured. In other words, we realize that people make mistakes. We don’t hire perfect people, there’s no such thing. So, the first principle of several that we teach is that people are fallible. They make mistakes and that’s okay. Now how can we fail and do without damaging anybody or putting people in the hospital or creating a severe injury? So, that takes… Those go into other principles and then those principles, a few of them are management’s response to failure matters. Right? How managers response to failure, it dictates how people react, whether they’re afraid or they feel confident in themselves that they can speak up and share a near hit, near miss. That’s one of them.

The fact that work is simply a tool for learning strategy. That’s all work is. It’s a tool for growth. Everybody gets old Mike. Growth must be intentional. So, I mean, everybody’s going to get gray hair or bald like you and me but growth must be intentional. So, the capacity model should be a company that allows people to grow while at work. It doesn’t necessarily mean a pay raise every week or pay raise every month or every year. I don’t get into that. But it’s an environment where people spend most of their time if we’re not counting the hours that they sleep, it allows them to grow. If we’re not sending our people home with that kind of an opportunity then we’re doing them a disservice. So, that’s really what safety is in a nutshell.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, and it sounds like you’re talking about providing a safety culture or creating one. Would that be accurate?

Chad Hymas:

Sure. Or enhancing one. I mean, it is behave… There is behavior based involved and everybody teaches a behavior based safety program. I’m not against those, but a lot of times those BBC programs, they don’t allow people for that growth. They just say hey, we went 364 days without a lost time recordable. If we’ve done it this long we can surely do another day. I’m not saying that’s a bad way to teach people but it gives people very little room for error in a safe manner. Right? We can err in a safe manner. We can have. It’s called controls. We can have controls in place.

Chad Hymas:

So, instead of going to work and identifying the hazards, go to work… Instead of saying if it’s going to happen. If the bale of hay’s going to fall over. It’s when’s it going to happen. Now it puts that mindset into putting controls in place. Right? It’s not if we’re going to get in a car crash. When are we going to get in a car crash and now we’ve got the safety belt on. We have controls in place, we’re driving the speed limit. So, instead of asking and doing safety meetings asking the question if, always say when. When is the bale of hay going to fall? When’s the suspended load going to happen? When’s the flat tire going to happen? When’s the crane going to be lifting too much weight? Then there are controls put in place in advance that will help people fail safety without injury. So, two different way to approach questions. I hate asking the question if. Never start a safety seminar or a safety share with something that begins with the word if. It’s when’s it going to happen? Then that allows us to start identifying controls that we can put in place.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. When’s a good word because it is inevitable that there are going to be issues. 

Chad Hymas:

Right. For sure.

Mike Merrill:

For certain. So, what are some of the more common mistakes that you see people making that jeopardize that safety on site?

Chad Hymas:

I think a lot of common mistakes really just are just… They’re common sense mistakes. They’re lack of awareness. A lot of them are ignorant. Now, one of the things that we talk about when we talk about the capacity model or talk about roll with safety or the zero zone is that not do we just allow people to fail but we allow people to recognize when they fail and we allow them to share it openly so they feel like they can do that in a very real way. We recognize that people are not malicious.

Chad Hymas:

So, when you talk about mistakes, what are some of the common mistakes, whatever the mistake is, we don’t believe that people are coming to work and we shouldn’t be hiring people to come to work that are trying to abuse the system, get unemployment, right, workers comp, that we’re hiring competent people that want to contribute to our workforce and we believe that. So, we share that. That’s principle number four. People are not malicious. I’m not saying all people, but we believe that as a company. Right? When I go talk to a company like Okland Construction or whatever the construction company might be, that we believe that we are hiring family and that we want to integrate them and that people aren’t trying to jeopardize or hurt our family. That we’re here to have a great impact on those that are around us and again, the work environment impacts everybody else around us.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. You were mentioning… I watched a talk that you gave to Utah a while back and you were talking about the portion of our time in our life that we spend with these people at work, to the right and left. It’s as much or more than we spend with our family.

Chad Hymas:

It’s more than, yeah. I mean, if you want to count a 30 day time frame and not count the hours that you spend sleeping, most of our time is spent at the workplace. All the more reason for us to send them home not the way they came to work, everybody does that, that’s called the replaceable company. That’s called me looking for another job. Much easier for me to train people and keep the same employees and make them feel like they’re wanted, make them feel like they’re needed, than it is for me to go hire another employee. So, again, it’s providing those resources to send them home better, safer, happier, healthier, because if we don’t do that the people that bare the burden are the ones that they go home to. If our listeners don’t believe me, just try it.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah.

Chad Hymas:

Go home tonight upset, watch what your family does.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, great advice. You also talk a lot about having a 24 hour mindset as it relates to safety. What does that mean?

Chad Hymas:

I think it’s shared a lot in safety meetings. It’s we really… I mean, I’m a prime example of saying it with my mouth and not living it. I think all of us, to one extent or another, whatever end of the spectrum we’re on, we’re all guilty of that in some form of our life or at least at one time or another. A 24 hour mindset is really practicing what we are taught at work as it pertains to safety, at home. So, if we’re taught to wear safety glasses at work, I think we should try and wear them at home when we’re mowing the lawn. That’s a common one that’s used. Again, probably a little… Deer in the headlights is another one that’s used way overkill, but it’s really living it and it’s living it 24/7.

Believe it or not, the majority of accidents that never get reported do take place at home, not at work and when you talk about work there’s a lot of accidents, more than you would think, that take place inside the office building, not in the warehouse or out in the field. So, this applies just as much to our admin, HR, people that are doing behind the scenes work that aren’t seen out in the field, as it does to those that are working out in the field.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, that’s interesting you bring that up. We’ve had a few safety folks on the podcast so far and that point at least so far hadn’t been made so I love that you bring that up. What are common injuries that happen in the office environment that people need to be more aware of?

Chad Hymas:

Back strains, heavy lifting, moving boxes around. People slipping on stairs. A lot of slips, trips and falls. Again, simple, simple things that could be prevented if controls are in place. Not if, but when it’s going to happen. Then just not asking for help, or better yet, somebody not being aware and then saying hey, let me help you out with that. I think, again, that’s a… If somebody’s in the workplace or in the office and they’re asked to assist, like you and I are in the office right now and if we ask someone to help us, more often than not we’re going to get the help that we need.

Mike Merrill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Chad Hymas:

What about offering help and being in such a mindset and a state of mind that you see it proactively and so without any hesitation whatsoever you go up and you say hey, can I help you with that? Can I help you with that box? Chad, do you need help getting on the plane? We got you covered, whatever you need. Now we’re talking about people that become indispensable in a workplace. Not just safety, but you will keep people like that. We’ll fight to keep people like that. Why? Because not only do they keep people safe around them but everybody else has a positive attitude around them.

Chad Hymas:

Another example is when I travel. I don’t travel with my assistant, I don’t travel with a nurse or my wife or… I travel alone, but I don’t get up and walk on the plane. How does that work Mike?

Mike Merrill:

You got to have people help.

Chad Hymas:

And most of the time I don’t have to ask, and would you believe on some occasions the captain says whatever you need, I got you covered. Now, keep in mind captains are union.

Mike Merrill:

Right.

Chad Hymas:

Right there in their handbook it says that they’re to fly the plane and it’s very strict. It’s a very strict handbook. They’re not allowed to touch or work with passengers that are handicap. That’s left for other people to do. The other night, four nights ago, five. I landed in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, one o’clock in the morning. The people that are trained to help me get off the plane when you land in Harrisburg, they’re not there. They wanted to call the fire department to get me off that plane. That’s how stupid this was.

Mike Merrill:

Wow.

Chad Hymas:

I love what the captain said. He said buddy, what do you need? I got you covered. That’s all he said. I said you want to know what sir? Thanks for representing what four stripes actually is on your shoulder. Because there were four stripes. In other words, I’m not asking people to ignore policy and procedure. I’m just asking people to go with their heart. Go with their gut. It’s not hard to get me off a plane. There’s no training protocol. There’s no procedure. The truth is, if the plane lands in the water safely, what’s the captain going to do anyway? He’s going to help people get off the plane. We saw that happen in the Hudson a few years back.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah.

Chad Hymas:

Right? Don’t wait for the bus to tip over or the accident to take place before you change your mindset or your heart. Always go with your heart. You’ll make yourself indispensable and you can go to bed at peace at night realizing that you did what was the right thing. Regardless if you’re rejected or not, you went with your heart. I can sleep with that kind of a conscience and I think that other people can as well.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, I love that and getting back to the concept of family, when mom comes home with the groceries or dad or whoever, the kids usually come and help or they’re expected to help or they’re asked to help or they should help.

Chad Hymas:

Sure.

Mike Merrill:

Our office environment should be similar where we’re mindful of people that might need assistance.

Chad Hymas:

Right. Yeah, no I think you’re right and I think a part of it is doing more than your job requires as a father, as a husband, as a parent, as a welder. Whatever. Anybody ought to be able to do their job. Doing more than their job, now you’re putting yourself in a place where you’re becoming indispensable in a very dispensable world.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, and it goes back to service like you mentioned earlier and I think if we’re there to not only to help and do our part but serve, then we have a different attitude about all that anyway.

Chad Hymas:

Right.

Mike Merrill:

So, another thing on your website, you have some avian inspired tips or avian based on birds right. So, what are some of those and what can you explain and share about that?

Chad Hymas:

You mean just our daily beliefs and tips?

Mike Merrill:

Yeah.

Chad Hymas:

Those are just things that I come up with that as I read books or see things posted that I’ll make them relative to something that’s going on in my life. We’ve already mentioned a couple of them. I mean, but there’s thousands of them that I posted. I mean, it’s our daily belief. I put up a daily belief every day. Consistency allows compounds. Proactive versus reactive behavior. Don’t wait to lose something before you hold it sacred. I mean, these are just things that I have not just learned to come up with my own but I’ve also read and then I make them applicable to my life or they’ve inspired me to come up with my own version of how I can make that apply or I’ve listened to their podcast or heard other speakers mention those things but yeah, again, there’s thousands of them that we put out there on all different social media sites and they are things that I’m trying to live by. Haven’t perfected them, but trying to live by those.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, you talked… One was success and the bird next door.

Chad Hymas:

Oh, so you’re talking about the topics of my talks. Yeah.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah.

Chad Hymas:

So, there’s some topics but I try and customize those topics but yeah, eagles don’t fly in flocks, seagulls never get lonely. I ask people when… That’s a leadership presentation where we’re asking people to really be different than everybody else and to really lead by being an influencer. Eagles are hard to find. Seagulls? Just walk out to the nearest asphalt and grab a McDonald’s french fry and throw it out there, seagulls start landing left and right. They’re a dime a dozen.

Mike Merrill:

Right.

Chad Hymas:

They’re everywhere. But eagles, those people are… They’re there, they’re just harder to find. So, that’s one of the titles that we use as well. Yeah, I try and come up with clever titles all the time. I think the ones that are on the website are just some of the latest ones that we’ve come up with and all I do when I present is I have an entourage of about two to 300 stories. All you have time for in a 60 minute presentation is maybe three principles, maybe four and maybe four stories. So, I’ll try and pull from that library, that archive and hit those principles.

Mike Merrill:

That’s great. Well, I… Yeah, there’s many inspirational talks and messages that you shared. I appreciate subscribing to those and tuning in. It’s a blessing to me, so I’m thankful for that. I think the one thing that most people are intrigued with is how do you keep that smile on your face and that positive attitude?

Chad Hymas:

Easy. We’re on camera right now. You didn’t see me this morning. I mean, we had things happen left and right. So, I mean… And people ask me all the time Mike, like what you’re saying, hey, how do you maintain that or maintain that attitude? My assistant’s sitting right next to me. She’ll tell you, this is not… This is… Everybody puts their best face forward but I’ve been asked, when did you finally reach that plateau? Whether it be my marriage, whether it be overcoming this and not… This becoming not an issue. The truth is, I haven’t. I don’t think I ever will. I’m trying to perfect it or I’m trying to make progress every single day, realizing that I’m going to make mistakes and I’m going to have slips, trips and falls or I’m going to fall out and how can I put controls in place where I can do it safely? How can I watch my tongue so that I don’t get upset so quickly? What can I do to be more humble, more grateful, show more kindness, more gratitude towards my wife instead of being not understanding, not listening?

Chad Hymas:

A lot of times for me it’s been just getting away and trying to let things soak in, but I… We’re going to be transparent and honest on this podcast, which is what I think you want, I… The truth is, I’m still working at it. I’m trying to be as good a person that I possibly can. I do not have this paralyzing mastered. I have no idea what marriage is, COVID has taught me that. For 21 years my drug of choice has been a hotel room 26 days a month. That’s been my drug of choice. In the last 14 months, prior to the last three weeks, the last three weeks have been pretty much flying around and we’re picking up pretty heavy now and I fly out again here tomorrow, I’ll stay in a hotel in Salt Lake here in just a little bit, and I had to learn how to be married. Let me rephrase that. I’m learning how to be married. We were married for six years prior to the accident. I don’t… I guess I don’t remember how good or how bad of a husband I was but I know that we make this commitment when we get married that sounds like this, for better for worse. No one plans on their spouse helping him shower. I know it sounds like fun, it’s not fun.

Mike Merrill:

Right.

Chad Hymas:

No one plans on their spouse helping them get dressed. I know it sounds like fun, it’s really not that fun. Shondell’s nice about it, she’ll ask me what I want to wear and I tell her I want to wear my jeans and a Harley Davidson T-shirt. You can see what I’m wearing today. Nothing what I asked for. She dresses me up in outfits. If you pick your outfits, you got worse problems than I’ll ever have in my lifetime. Now, here’s the catch. Here’s the catch to this. It takes me a couple hours to get dressed by myself. About two hours. I don’t mind it. I don’t. It’s exercise. Some people get up and they have coffee for two hours. I just get dressed. Some people get up and they go to the gym. I see you exercising all the time on your social media, a couple hours, I just get dressed. It’s not a big deal. It takes Shondell five minutes to get me dressed. Five. At best. I mean, she’s quick. Then would you believe that she wants me to do this absurd thing called go out and have breakfast with the kids before they go to school? Now, I know that’s not absurd, but when you’ve got into a habit like I have of not being there…

Mike Merrill:

Right.

Chad Hymas:

It’s just different. It’s the right thing. I feel it in my heart. Now I have to adapt myself, and other people that are listening think Chad, that’s a no-brainer. Yes. But when you’ve been smoking for so long it’s hard to stop smoking.

Mike Merrill:

Right.

Chad Hymas:

When you’ve been eating unhealthy, listen, you can’t have high expectations with mediocrit habits. We have high expectations for our marriage. My habits, at best, have been mediocre because I haven’t been there. I’ve been traveling and doing my thing. So, if I’m going to raise the bar in my marriage, I better raise my habits. I better change some things. So, that’s one of the sayings that I love to use. You can’t have high expectations with mediocrit habits. Must change your habits. No one’s ever climbed downhill. It’s an uphill… You know, this relationship thing.

Chad Hymas:

Now we’re… Now we… We went from talking about safety to now marriage. I mean, it’s an uphill… It’s an uphill… It’s not a bad thing, it’s just it’s a growth experience. It’s learning how to accept that you don’t always have to be right and I’ve been used to being right because I’ve been by myself in a Marriott or a Hilton. So, what I say goes and how I get on a plane, that’s how it works. When I come home now it’s a two way street and receiving… Here’s another. Receiving help with gratitude. You receive without forgetting and you give without ever remembering that you gave to somebody. That way you’re always in debt. I’ll say it again. Give without remembering that you gave. Give without remembering. And when someone gives something to you like service or money or some sort of a, I don’t know, memorandum, never ever forget who gave you or loaned you that money. Now you’re always indebted to people and I think that’s a great way to live life. It keeps you humble. Too much pride is called arrogance. Too little is called suicide. You have to find that balance.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah.

Chad Hymas:

I kind of hover somewhere around that midway point. So…

Mike Merrill:

Well, and I love what you pointed out earlier. I think all of us can learn from this. If we’re breathing we can learn from this and that is that there is no plateau. We’re never going to reach that place where we’ve nailed it all, we’ve figured it out, we’ve grown enough. That’s what life’s about and so if you’re not growing, we’ve heard you’re dying. So, get used to change. Right?

Chad Hymas:

Yeah. What’s that saying on the movie? Get busy living or get busy… Get busy dying.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. Yeah.

Chad Hymas:

It’s a great… I mean, it’s a great phrase. I think that that… I mean, just because people are alive doesn’t mean that they’re maximizing their potential.

Mike Merrill:

Right.

Chad Hymas:

I meet a lot of people that rob air. That steal air. So, I… In fact, I’ve met people that have full function of all their limbs that are more trapped than I’ll ever be in my lifetime. That’s a bold statement to make on this podcast. It’s very, very bold. People that are more trapped than me and I’ve lost 95% of my feeling and movement, and they’ve got all of theirs intact. What do I mean by that? It’s exactly what we’ve been talking about. People that refuse to change, remember I just admitted to all of you, I confessed that I’m learning to change in my relationship with Shondell because I’ve been home more, but people that refuse to change because they’re not changing for anybody, they’ll find themselves trapped in their own habits. I mean look at me. If I wasn’t able to change the kind of clothes that I wear. My shirts two sizes too big. My pants are two sizes too big. My shoes don’t have laces. They’re two sizes too big. This allows me to get dressed by myself. Do I like my clothes? No. I didn’t say I’m not grateful. That’s different. In fact, all of your watchers, that are watching, they should be grateful that I’m grateful otherwise this could be a naked meeting. So, I’m grateful for clothes it’s just I don’t like these. I like cowboy clothes, they’re just a little bit difficult for me to get on because the boots are narrow, the wranglers are too tight, so I wear jeans that are stretch jeans. I wear shirts that are pre-buttoned and I do the last button, I have someone else do that last button for me. So, changing the way that I walk. I’m not walking like you. I’m just kind of… My chair just kind of coasting around here.

Mike Merrill:

Right.

Chad Hymas:

But that’s not the way that I was taught. But if I’m not willing to change the way that I walk I’d still be stuck in my office just like this.

Mike Merrill:

Right.

Chad Hymas:

How about COVID? Most people in my industry are waiting for hotel ballrooms to open up.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah.

Chad Hymas:

If you look at my website, where all of our meetings the last three weeks are being held? Outside.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah.

Chad Hymas:

We just changed our way that we’re approaching this until insight opens up slowly. Our meetings are all outside. I mean, we’re taking the bus tour around, we’re going to different construction sites, we’re bringing the message to the employees. So, we just found a different way to market but if I’m not willing to change with a changing world, I’d still be stuck back at the foundation or back at place number one wondering when things… When’s the government going to send my bail out cheque?

Mike Merrill:

Right.

Chad Hymas:

When am I going to get that money? I’ve never been successful with that Mike. I’ve never just… I’ve never felt fulfilled doing that.

Mike Merrill:

Well, and because you’ve been willing to adopt, your situation changed like we said in an instant, you’re caring for your family, you’re raising children, you’re a father, you’re an active husband, you’re a contributor to society and your community, you’re finding purpose and creating purpose that wasn’t going to come find you. I just… Hats off to you for that.

Chad Hymas:

Yeah. No, it’s very, very fair. Very fair to say.

Mike Merrill:

So, what… More on a personal side, what’s something that you are grateful for in your professional life but personally?

Chad Hymas:

The fact that I can provide. I mean, I take great pride in that. I take great pride in trying to make a contribution. Before my accident I was looking for a way to make money to build a ranch.

Mike Merrill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Chad Hymas:

There’s nothing wrong with that.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah.

Chad Hymas:

Money’s a good motivator. Since the accident I’ve tried to find a place to fit in with you and I’ve made a living in the process. So, those are two different approaches. Right? Two different objectives to go to work. I think when we go to work looking for a way to make a contribution to other people’s lives the money comes, it’s called abundance, it comes more abundantly and we aspire and inspire others. Inspire means to breathe life into, so we should ask people if we’re inspiring, if we’re breathing life into our children, are we breathing life into other people? I’m not talking mouth to mouth. I’m just talking being… People are better because we’re around. I mean, we should ask ourselves on a regular basis, is my wife happy that I’m home? Some days that answer’s no for me.

Mike Merrill:

Right.

Chad Hymas:

Some days it’s yes. Right? Right? So, I need to try to make more of those a yes. Are people better when I got to my church or do they not want me there because I’m grumpy? Are my kids excited to see dad come home? Do my kids know or do they want me at every single game because they play better when I’m on the court or do they not care because dad’s always on an airplane? As a side note to that, I didn’t miss one of their games. I know I traveled a lot, but during November, December, January and February I was in Toole County or whatever high school on Tuesday and Friday nights. I just don’t miss a kids games. So, that… While I missed everything else, homework, Eagle Scout, I never… I just don’t miss their games.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. I remember a story you shared about the ice road truckers crew and how you got back for Ace’s first varsity game.

Chad Hymas:

Yeah.

Mike Merrill:

Do you mind sharing a little bit about that?

Chad Hymas:

Yeah. I mean, I was at ice road in Greenland and Ace was…

Mike Merrill:

Greenland the country. Right?

Chad Hymas:

Yeah, so…

Mike Merrill:

Not close.

Chad Hymas:

Yeah, well, this is not an easy country to get to. It’s 36 hours one way with all the layovers. It’s not… There’s not a direct flight. You know? You’ve got to work your way to get to Greenland and so it’s about 36 hours one way from where… If I’m traveling from home base. If I’m traveling from Atlanta it’s a whole different ball game but I was traveling from home base because I had just watched Ace start JV ball as a freshman. He was a freshman. So, I went that night to Atlanta red eye and on my way to ice road in Greenland and two days after I get there I get a phone call from Ace telling me that coach Fox had called him into his office and he was going to be starting tomorrow night in less than 20 hours in his first varsity start for a varsity only tournament. I did not want to be in Greenland anymore.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah.

Chad Hymas:

But the game’s in 20 hours and I already told you the flight time.

Mike Merrill:

Right.

Chad Hymas:

So, even if I was lucky, and there is no luck, I’m not going to make it back. So, my mind just… You know, I lost it a little bit. I was emotional. I just… Ace told me that he was excited he was going to start, he was nervous, he was scared and he asked me what he should do. I told him the truth. I said, “Well I never started varsity as a freshman so I don’t know the answer to that stuff but you’re probably supposed to be scared. That’s part of the gig. You’re probably supposed to be nervous. That’s part of the gig, and as far as knowing what to do, go ask the coach why he moved you up. I mean, you’re going to have to do it at a higher level because those kids are going to be stronger than you are. They’re going to be faster, they’re going to be big. So, you’re going to have to play your guts out. Buddy I’m sorry I’m not going to be able to keep my commitment and my promise. I would do anything to be there. I’m going to go talk to the boss of ice road right now even though it’s really late here and see if I can’t move third shift meeting tomorrow night. I better go, bye.”

Chad Hymas:

I just hung up and I just started crying and praying right there because I did not want to be in Greenland. I want to listen to the ACDC music as they come out. I want to see him dunk it during warmups. I want to hear his name and jersey number called out. I want to see all the intricate details. I want it all filmed. I want everything done. But I’m not going to make it.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah.

Chad Hymas:

But I can watch it on the internet or FaceTime. I just have to get the boss to move the night shift meeting tomorrow night because of the timezone. There’s five hours difference between Greenland and Utah.

Mike Merrill:

Okay.

Chad Hymas:

So, that night I went to her office. Nice lady, female office. She wasn’t there, she was in her barracks so I went and knocked on her door at 11 o’clock at night. She was awake. I told her the story I just told all you guys. She said, “You’re not living what you teach.” I said, I don’t understand.” She said, “You’re not going to be able to make the meeting tomorrow night but you just talked to us about our greatest asset today and your greatest asset’s back at home.” I said, “Yes and I’m doing all I can to watch it.” She said, “You’re not asking me the right question.” I said, “I don’t want to argue with you, I just… I thought it was a pretty good question, I just want to move the shift so I can watch it on my computer.” She said, “Let me show you a better question.” She walked over to her desk and she grabbed a two way radio and she alerted the pilots of ice road truckers to get the engine started. I didn’t even know they had a plane.

Mike Merrill:

Wow.

Chad Hymas:

But I wouldn’t have asked anyway because that’s not professional. I would not have asked.

Mike Merrill:

Right.

Chad Hymas:

I just wanted to move the meeting. I would not have asked for that. Wheels were up by midnight that night. They were up. We had wheels up.

Mike Merrill:

Wow.

Chad Hymas:

On a private jet, all night, from the Atlantic to Toronto where the next morning I caught a commercial Delta flight from Toronto to Salt Lake through Detroit. Same plane. The office was scrambling to get me tickets. They got it all worked out. The plane landed in Salt Lake 40 minutes before the game started. 40 minutes. So, plane hits the ground 40 minutes before tip off. I’m still not there yet. I mean, I got to get my butt to the game. I didn’t even go get my bags. Of course my bags probably didn’t arrive. I flew Delta so I’m sure they probably didn’t arrive. I just have say Delta is my number one carrier. They love…

Mike Merrill:

Sure.

Chad Hymas:

They love me. I love them. They take very good care of me. I love Delta. That’s my plug for Delta Airlines.

Mike Merrill:

Sweet.

Chad Hymas:

I had a helicopter waiting for me.

Mike Merrill:

Wow.

Chad Hymas:

Landed the bird in the football field. I called a buddy to come help me get in. I didn’t call my wife, she didn’t know I was coming. I don’t want her to know what I spent on the helicopter and as soon as I wheeled my chair into the gym, kid saw me. ACDC playing. Thousands of people in the stands.

Mike Merrill:

Wow.

Chad Hymas:

He threw down a hammer dunk because the adrenaline was pumping through his veins. I mean, the adrenaline was going and I heard his name called, starting freshman, and then right before tip off he ran over to my wheelchair which is always baseline, I sit baseline, and he dropped to a knee and he gave me a hug and somebody up in the bleachers was filming that. They put it on YouTube. I didn’t know that.

Mike Merrill:

Wow.

Chad Hymas:

All I know is the next day flying back to Greenland, ice road, when I landed at one of the layovers my phone was blowing up from the office. Bunch of people were trying to contact us. Dr. Phil, Ellen. I don’t know who those people are because I work.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, right.

Chad Hymas:

Do you guys know who those people are? You should probably get a job too. I had no idea. So, it just kind of blew up and took off from there.

Mike Merrill:

Wow.

Chad Hymas:

Yeah, I didn’t miss a game. Almost missed a game. Didn’t miss a game.

Mike Merrill:

What a story and although that was not your objective initially you were trying to at least get a half measure in and attempt to do your best. The blessing came later because you put the effort in…

Chad Hymas:

Sure.

Mike Merrill:

And put yourself in an opportunity to receive it.

Chad Hymas:

Yeah. That’s fair to say.

Mike Merrill:

Love that. Great story. So, tell me this and I could fill in this blank, but rather get your answer, so what is Chad Hymas’s superpower? If we were going to boil it down to something, what’s that thing that you feel like you put your cape on for?

Chad Hymas:

I don’t think I have one. I think it’s everybody else’s that allow me to do what I do because I can’t travel… As independent as I like to think that I am, I mean, I rely on other people to get me transferred. Leslie’s been with me for several years. She helps me get in and out of my van. She helps me pack my bag sometimes when Shondell’s not here. Other people help me get in Uber vehicles. I travel alone. At night a complete stranger will help me get into the Marriott. I’ll get up in the morning and fly out first thing. I don’t know who those people are yet. Haven’t met them. So, I don’t know that I have a superpower. I just… I rely on other people’s strengths to compensate for my many, many weaknesses and I have a lot.

Mike Merrill:

That sounds pretty powerful to me. That’s a lot of people’s weaknesses including mine. I struggle receiving help. So, tell me, and this might seem like a facetious or even obvious question, but if you could go back to that fateful day when this accident happened and you could rewind the tapes and not have that happen, would you take all that back?

Chad Hymas:

You know, I was asked that question before on a talk show by a very famous host and my answer today is the same as it was then and my answer is this. I wouldn’t change what happened to me that night to avoid all the pain, the grief that I put on my family, and I put a lot, have put a lot. Still put a lot at times. I wouldn’t change it. Some might think I’m crazy and that’s all right but if you had been what I’ve been through, met who I’ve met, traveled where I’ve traveled, grown the way that I’ve grown I think that you would all echo with me when I say I thank God that we have adversity, challenges, we have setbacks that allow us to realize what our potential really could be, and we honor our losses by the way that we live our life. So, I wouldn’t change it because the growth that I’ve experienced because of it, I would have to give up everything if I went back and changed that, including this podcast. I would have to give up flying and traveling. There’s pros and cons. You know?

Mike Merrill:

Yeah.

Chad Hymas:

Start thinking about having your spouse help you and things it makes you think, would I change it? Yes. But the truth is I’m learning how to be authentically grateful. Gracious acceptance. I’m fine with others. With the one person I’m married to, that’s not always easy for me because I see her doing things that I feel like I should be doing. She never complains. I don’t want to come across… She loves it. She loves to be out in the field. She loves to work the horses. I just have a lot of envy and jealousy. I want to remember what I said about pride, taking care of my family? I like to be the one saddling the horse but that still said, even that, that tells you that I’ve got some work to do and I’m growing because there’s a lot of pride sitting in this wheelchair in this office. You’re not supposed to ask me that question because I don’t like to talk about that.

Mike Merrill:

I’m sorry about that. I just know… I know you, like you mentioned, we knew one another before. I had a chance to get to know you close enough to see what you stood for even 25, 30 years ago and I don’t… I mean, I think you’re evolved and adapted and you’ve grown but I still see the same guy. I feel the same spirit about you as I felt when you were 19, 20 years old. So, I think this has allowed you to become more what you could become than has handicapped or hindered you from what I feel. So…

Chad Hymas:

I have to believe you’re right. That’s what keeps me going. That’s what allows me to wake up with purpose, passion and perspective every morning.

Mike Merrill:

Well, I’ve really enjoyed this conversation and had a great time getting to know you better and learning more about your story. I guess just the final question I’d love to ask, what would you hope that the listeners would take away with today from this conversation if there was one thing?

Chad Hymas:

There’s hopefully several… Some gems, some nugget, something that will help you be a better spouse, a better parent, a better child, a better coworker, better colleague. Remember that there are several right ways to solve a single problem. Doesn’t have to be your way. Remember the value of life and to not rob air and the way you honor the losses, and we’ve had a lot the last 14 months, 15, a lot of loss. I’m not just talking about the loss of life, all of that is to be mentioned, but we’ve also lost freedom, the ability to gather together, the ability to show our face in public because it’s been masked up. Something that other countries have done for years. They’ve always masked up their people. Us, in America, we’re used to traveling without masks. We’re used to being able to go to football games in stadiums and watch high school sports. You honor the way you move forward by the way you handle the loss. Attitude is key. Attitude is everything. So, please take a hard look in the mirror at the way that you have taken some of these hits and then move forward not forgetting how those hits can impact your life for the better, and that’s how you honor that loss.

Mike Merrill:

Thank you Chad. You are one who walks the walk, no question. Thank you to our guests and listeners today for joining us on the Mobile Workforce Podcast, sponsored by About Time Technologies and WorkMax. If you enjoyed the conversation that Chad and I had today and were able to gain some valuable lessons and insights, please give us a follow on LinkedIn and WorkMax, underscore on Instagram and give us a five star rating and review. We also love it when you share the episode with your colleagues and friends and allow them to be blessed by the same information that we’ve shared here today. After all, our goal is not only to help you in business but in life. 

The State of Construction Technology and Digitization in 2021

The State of Construction Technology and Digitization in 2021

There’s no denying construction technology is changing the industry for the better, so it’s no surprise companies are increasingly implementing software solutions and digitizing their processes. Curious where you stand in this migration toward digitization and what you need to be at the top of the game?

James Benham is more than an expert in construction technology. He’s the founder and CEO of JBKnowledge, TerraClaim and hosts two podcasts, The ConTech Crew and The InsureTech Geek Podcast.

In this episode of the Mobile Workforce Podcast, host Mike Merrill welcomes James to discuss the state of construction technology today. They touch on who is using it, what they’re using it for, how construction technologies streamline business and improve the bottom line. 

 

Key Takeaways:

  1. Prioritize consolidating your technology. Contractors are using a high number of apps to manage the complexities of today’s projects. But using too many apps can tack on unnecessary administrative time and add to the confusion. Moving forward, contractors should be actively looking for new ways to simplify their tech-stack for their employees. 
  2. Consider the low-hanging fruit. It is easy to assume that technology needs to make sweeping changes to your business to make a difference. And while solutions that tackle major problems are invaluable, there are also a number of big improvements and profits that can be impacted from small simple changes. Finding a solution that saves workers five minutes in their day, for example, automating payroll and job code tracking, leads to increased profitability with hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings, in some cases, millions. 
  3. Automation is the way forward. The four B’s of technology will be the driving force of change in construction over the next few years. They are: Business Intelligence (BI), Blockchain,  Business Information Modeling (BIM) and Big Data. If you are aware of how your technology incorporates each of them, you will be lightyears ahead and can quickly adapt each for your business. If you’re not familiar, make time to learn about these offerings and how they influence your technology – and benefit your business.

 

Check out the Construction Technology Report and EOS Worldwide mentioned in the episode.

 

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Episode Transcript:

Mike Merrill:

And welcome to the Mobile Workforce Podcast. I am your host Mike Merrill and today we are sitting down with the James Benham, the CEO of JBKnowledge. James taught himself to code at an early age and that helped him spark his entrepreneurial spirit and after his first year at Texas A&M, James and a partner founded their company JBKnowledge. JBKnowledge is an information technology services company that specializes in application design and development, also electronic data interchange, as well as strategy consulting, mobile solutions, and web development.

In 2018 James launched another company called TerraClaim. It’s also a claims management company and also has benchmarking systems. Lastly, James is also a podcast host like myself and not only does he host one podcast, but he hosts two. The first one is The Con Tech Crew and the other one is the Insure Tech Geek podcast.

So today we’re excited to talk to James about the construction industry and how they are embracing technologies and how those things are laying out across the construction landscape. So hello, James. Welcome to the podcast today.

 

James Benham:

Howdy, howdy, thanks for having me on, always good to be on somebody else’s podcast other than my own.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, it’s a nice switch up I’m sure for you. Great. Well, do you mind just sharing a little bit about your background and how you got into the positions that you’re in?

 

James Benham:

Sure yeah. I was born and raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, went to a high school for engineers. It was like if you’re old enough to remember the TV series Fame, it was like Fame, but for nerds. We built a lot of software in high school and then I went to Texas A&M, just an absolutely awesome, amazing university in College Station, Texas and they taught me about business and accounting and got my Masters in Business there, then did a couple internships with a big five consulting firm, and decided that wasn’t my path. And so when I was back in college I decided to start this company JBKnowledge with my dad and one of my high school classmates who was an exchange student from Argentina named Sebastian Costa.

And so for 20 years we’ve been building software for construction companies and insurance companies. We built a big product called Smart Bid. Smart Bid ended up being a pretty dominant industry player and invitation to bid. We had about a third of all projects flowing through it at one point. Sold it three years ago to iSqFt Construct Connect, kept JBKnowledge, kept all my engineers, and we built a product for certificate of insurance tracking, which is a big problem at GCs and built a product for insurance claims management, which is a problem for a large organizations that self insure. Then we kept doing construction technology consulting, so that’s kind of the path.

I stayed in College Station, love living there, married, two kids, two daughters, and I have a lot of hobbies. I’m like a compulsive hobbyist. I’m a pilot and I fly pretty much every week. All I really think about is flying. I play the guitar and piano and sing and do all that about every night, and hang out with my kids, go campaigning every month. If it’s a hobby, I like doing it, and I’m really into tech in every way, shape, and form. I got hooked, just hook, line, and sinker when I was 11, and got my hands on my first computer and started writing code, and really haven’t looked back since then. I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by awesome people. I’ve got 245 employees now at JBKnowledge and most of them are engineers and I’ve got the world’s best business partners. We’re fully employee owned and no outside capital ever and we’ve really focused on building great companies and had a lot of fun doing it.

 

Mike Merrill:

My goodness, when do you sleep?

 

James Benham:

Usually five or six hours. Last night was five and a half and that was about it. It was between 12:30 and six. It was a short night last night. I’m on the Board of Regents of Texas Southern University in Houston, down here in Houston at the Four Seasons right now for some board meetings and just love education, so I’ve been trying to help them for the last seven months. It’s a lot of fun, but does get a little tiring, but as they say you sleep when you die.

 

Mike Merrill:

Maybe, right? We’ll see. Well good for you. I’ve known you for many years, well over a decade and I’ve never known you to be anything different than full of pizazz and enthusiasm. I’m glad you’re still maintaining that same love for life and passion.

 

James Benham:

Got to, man. Life’s short and then you die. I joke that I have a carpe diem complex. My wife says I have FOMO, fear of missing out, and so I like to go get it done and have fun doing it. The world’s full of opportunities on where you can spend your time. I try and spend it on areas I think are fun. Construction’s one of those areas because it’s just so rewarding. People are so amazing, technology can have such a huge impact on safety and health and productivity and profitability, that it’s proven to be a worthwhile journey for the last 17 out of the 20 years that I’ve been really focused and in a specific industry verticles.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, I love it. In this space, obviously I’ve been in this space a long time. I was a contractor before, but everybody knows James Benham as Mr. Tech for Construction and so I think a lot of people look up to you for that and also look to you for direction and maybe insights onto what’s coming down the pipe. I know you’re also very well known for your annual construction technology report for the last nine years.

 

Mike Merrill:

So, what can you share with the listeners about that report and who is it for?

 

James Benham:

Yeah, we started it nine years ago because there was really no definitive work. There wasn’t a really good work from Gartner or somebody else that would usually produce industry research that we thought was good enough for the specificity of what our clients were looking for. Again, we’re kind of a weird bird as software company because we have a media group that does the ConTech Roadshow, which we do six of those a year and then we have the two podcasts, and then we have our report. That’s our media group.

 

James Benham:

Then we’ve got our development group, which is huge here. It’s a couple hundred people, and then we’ve got our product group and it’s been really interesting. When we started it, because our consulting group was really trying to answer these questions like what are contractors using? What are they doing? How’s adoption? And it was really interesting because this is about field, to see through the last nine years the explosion of mobile tech and the number of apps we had to cover, the number of mobile devices, mobile device utilization. The real objective with the report was to give a free report out there that people could download and read, and first understand market share, understand what tech they should look at, what apps are popular. Mind you, we serve thousands of companies. You see a lot of surveys and market research, then like 100 companies responding.

Our average is two to three thousand every year, and so it’s a big enough market set that it helps people make spending decisions. We also really dive, because I have a degree in accounting and spend a lot of time looking at money, looking at how’s money being utilized. We talk about the percentage of revenue that’s spent on IT because it’s a really low number in construction. That’s one of the big things that’s holding us back. You got to invest before you get return. That’s part of, to answer your question, what the report’s about. We’re trying to get people to get off of center and really recognize that technology’s an investment, not an expense. They’ll get their money back. It can make them more profitable, and then help them identify which tools they should start with that are pretty easy to implement that all their peers are implementing, that are delivering returns.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, I love how you said it’s about the money. I think one of the things that I always come away with is that there’s an X factor on those dollars. This is sacred money. It’s new money. It’s different money than just raising your price. You’re able to leverage that multiple times and grow it rapidly when you have an ROI on a technology investment.

 

James Benham:

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, technology in general should all have some return allocated to it otherwise there’s no point in buying it.

 

Mike Merrill:

Right.

 

James Benham:

Like why would you do it? In business there’s no cool factor. There’s no points assigned for style, really. There’s one scorecard in business and it is how much cash does the business generate. That’s it. That is the … and by the way, it’s not gross revenue. A lot of contractors get confixated on gross revenue and their building volume. I’m like, it’s nice to have but it really doesn’t indicate how good of a business you are. What indicates how good of a business you are is how much cash at the end of the year, do you generate every year from your activities that you can then use either for your own personal enjoyment or for other investment, one of those two, but that’s the whole point of a business. This is capitalism. We’re not talking about capunism, which is this weird hybrid communism, capitalism thing that goes on in China. We’re talking about capitalism and we’re here to drive profit and margin and wages, because the beautiful thing is more profitable companies tend to pay more money to their employees, too, and bigger bonuses. Everybody wins. Everybody wins when you have profitable businesses and low profit businesses have a harder time paying wages and paying bonuses. So there’s combination there-

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, I love that. So from the 2021 report, is there anything that is blaringly obvious that you’ve come away with?

 

James Benham:

I’d say, well, one of the glaringly obvious things is that spending is really not materially moving north. I would like to see it moving north faster. That’s probably a disappointing side of things, that spending just isn’t budging off of center. Secondly, we are continuing to see a big push into mobility. That wave is not a fad. It didn’t die off. What we are seeing a desire from contractors to start consolidating some other mobile solutions, so maybe instead of using 10 they want to use five. You’re seeing some consolidation, of course. You’re seeing consolidation in general in the marketplace, but you see that, too.

When you look at it, they have a desire to consolidate. The number of mobile apps that each company uses is still pretty high. They’re using five, six, seven mobile apps for a company. So that’s still been pretty popular. The popularity of mobile devices in general and of connecting the field. I call it the difference between going paperless and going digital. Nine years ago we had a lot of companies that responded to the survey that were trying to go paperless, so they were really just creating scanning workflows that allowed for their field staff and office staff to keep using paper, but then scan it in and then route that digital representation of the document, which is a poor substitute for truly going digital. Going digital means you’re going to originate digitally, you’re going to log the data digitally, you’re gonna route and work flow that data digitally. It’s never going to get turned into an image. Any time you’re routing an image that’s paperless and it’s really a 90s solution to a 2021 problem. So that’s certainly something else that-

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, it’s half a step better, but it’s certainly not the be all end all that you want.

 

James Benham:

Yep. It’s better than routing physical paper. It is, but there’s still a whole bunch of mistakes that happen on the rekeying, there’s mistakes that happen on RCORing or scanning or routing. There’s a lot of room for error and that’s the real problem. When you can’t capture all the context you can with digital origination, so we’re trying to get people moved into originating data digitally, take the photo with your phone, fill out some data, auto tag it, add GPS locations, put it into a structured or unstructured data that can be structured later. There’s a real goal there and it’s ideally to do away with paper forms, paper plans, paper specs. Those are really problematic. This industry has thrived on unstructured data and it would be nice to structure more of the data because then we can more easily do things with it, like make better decisions.

 

Mike Merrill:

I think it’s fascinating. You mentioned five to seven apps. It’s ironic because we did a survey report a year ago also, and that was the exact number. It was between five and seven apps is the average number the companies were using to collect job site data, so you’re spot on with our findings as well.

 

James Benham:

Yeah. Yeah, yeah, and some are okay with it. Hell, I use- I use a lot of apps. You look at my phone and you’re going, “Oh god Ben, how do you track that many apps?” I’ve got a couple hundred on here, but the reality is I love tying things into my phone. I really do. I just got a new washing machine from Maytag, the damn things got an app, and I never thought I’d love it, but I’m like, “I love the damn thing. It’s amazing.” Yeah, it’s awesome because I can load clothes in there, like workout clothes and that kind of stuff, but you want to wash them the next day so it’s not sitting in there getting moldy, so I can schedule, I can load them in and go on my phone and schedule when it starts. Then the really cool thing is it push notifications me when they’re done.

I think it’s important as nerds and as technologists that in our personal lives, we really try to go digital because it gives a lot of ideas about what’s possible in the work world. That phrase kind of consumerization of IT, we ideally … and this is happening a lot more, people are so digital in their personal lives. They step into work and they’re going, “My gosh, it’s like I’m stepping back 15 years.”

Mike, I drive a self driving Cadillac. My car drives me to Houston, so why is my construction equipment still requiring manual input? It’s affordable now. You can get a Tesla Model Three really reasonably with great autopilot future functionality. So why is it so cheap to get that level of automation on a personal level and so accessible, and it’s not in a business environment? That’s what a lot of the students that I’ve taught over the last five years are saying is, “Hey man, I’m using all these digital tools and then I go to the workforce and it’s like a time warp.”

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, step back to the 80s.

 

James Benham:

Yeah, it’s just not cool and they’re not liking it-

 

Mike Merrill:

You bring up a great point. The rising generation, they’re in college right now and in high school, I mean my junior high daughter just finishing up ninth grade. She’s been doing online learning with Covid and everything else, of course, everything was digital. They’ve had school issued tablets for years now, so if you try and hand a new employee just fresh out of college or even high school a piece of paper, they’re not going to know what to do with it, right?

 

James Benham:

Yeah, it’s a bit challenging. I’m in Texas, land of the free, and we were face to face school all year, a little different, but my kid’s school uses Google Chromebooks for everything and so they had to have a Chromebook, these Google classroom, everything’s digital, I can log in and check the assignments, totally game changer. Then you step in your average company, it’s like, “Man, where’s all this centralization at?” It’s something we got to be aware of. You can’t just say, “I hate the thing. Thank god I’m retiring, I don’t have to deal with this.” What a terrible way to approach that. You really got to … I think it’s helpful to embrace change, not for the sake of change, but for the sake of results and productivity and profitability.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, so this is your 20th year, right, at JBKnowledge? Is that right?

 

James Benham:

Just turned 20 April 16th this year. 20 years ago I drove from my dorm room in my 1995 Ford Mustang to the Brazos County Courthouse and filed the paperwork. We’ve managed to survive 9/11 and the ’08 economic crisis, and Covid, all this other garbage that easily put a lot of the gray hair on my head that I’ve got, and it’s been quite a ride. Yeah, we just turned 20 as a company and of course, our products, Smart Compliance and TerraClaim are a little younger than that, but yeah it’s been twenty years.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, you mentioned mobility. That’s the obvious one, but what else has changed in ConTech in those last two decades for you from your seat?

 

James Benham:

Yeah, mobility huge. I remember the first laptop I got was a year into business. The first year I just had a desktop computer. Then we got into laptops. Okay, in general, I got into construction tech, like I said, I think it was 17 years ago, it was 15 years ago. I’ve gotten into insurance 17 years ago. 2006, I jumped into construction tech with Smart Bid and the bidding system. I saw a boatload of paper, just reams and reams and reams of paper being used, a whole bunch of printing and shipping plan files, which is just dead now. That completely went away, right, which was good. It was a billion dollar revenue line for UPS and FedEx to print ship plan files. It was crazy, just think about all that waste. It’s just waste. Don’t feel sorry for FedEx and UPS, they’re doing great. Online and eCommerce has done wonderful things. They don’t need to print and ship plan files for us.

 

James Benham:

so certainly, the disappearance from, not everybody, but from a lot of people job sites, the majority of their paper, they still use some, but not nearly as much. The advent of smartphones, so 2007 was when the iPhone came out and it really wasn’t the first smartphone. Don’t forget about that. I had a Palm Pilot back in the day and then the early stages of Android, but Apple was the first one to really nail it down and get it really right and get everybody excited and market and sell the hell out of it. That was the year after I started Smart Bid. I want to say we were one of the first three construction apps in the app store, but I don’t really know if that’s true. I know we were number one on the list at one point of construction apps with Smart Bid. If you think about it, it was for estimators. They didn’t really have to have a mobile app because they were largely at their desk.

 

James Benham:

So you’ve seen mobile apps become a big deal. Automation has completely changed construction. Drones and sensors, right, so the miniaturization of chips, how chips become really inexpensive, semi conductors have become really inexpensive sensors and data are really pervasive, and then 4G and now 5G has had a massive impact on construction because now we can actually get real bandwidth at the job site fairly easily, which has a sea change of an impact on construction because now you’re able to pull of a lot more tech like beyond a lot of site drones. Drones in general, like half of people we survey have drones. That’s a huge change. You have your own ariel fleet over the job site that you can take aerial images of anytime you want and you can produce photogrammetry, and you combine drones with photogrammetry and that’s a huge change as well, because they’re able to measure and count and do all kinds of other existing condition assessments.

So all those technologies came along, and then you have the ERP players, are slowly getting in the line. It took awhile. They had to do some acquisitions and bring some other players in. The big guys had to start some new companies, so you saw like Jonah and CYNC start their own equivalent Cloud products. So all of that has come along pretty nicely, guys like Coins in the UK built a new platform that’s all web mobile based. They’ve really come along and they’ve gotten with the times, and then of course the big thing that changed is the amount of venture capital and money flowing into fund new ideas have went up exponentially. So you have a lot more choices, almost too many choices.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, that’s why we’re seeing the consolidation again, right? We’re seeing them get gobbled up again.

 

James Benham:

Yeah, classic cycle, classic cycle. Classic cycle of fund, innovate, create, sell, acquire, consolidate, then now we’re going to be back into the split off part of the cycle.

 

Mike Merrill:

So that’s exciting that the drone thing is something else I’ve noticed, too. I remember, it’s been about 10 years ago, I was in an insurance claims adjuster’s office at a big company and they had developed, and it was top secret, they had this miniature helicopter. I think they spent like $30,000 building this thing. It had a weed eater engine on it, it was nuts, and it was top secret to get something that could actually hover above a roof and take measurements. It’s amazing that you can order it on Amazon and have one tomorrow if you’re a 10 employee roofer in Chicago. And it sounds like from your survey that half of the companies have invested in those. That’s a huge change.

 

James Benham:

Roughly, yeah. Half of the ones that we survey have invested in some type of drone. Now, many of them are under utilizing it. They’re not using enough apps. They’re using the base factory apps for drones. Thankfully DGI, DGI who of course, dominated the drone space for construction, has really got on the ball with their factory applications, but still. My personal favorite is Drone Deploy. There’s a lot of really good construction drone apps out there.

 

Mike Merrill:

So you mentioned there are companies that are jumping on board, a lot of little larger ones, a lot of the ones that you’ve surveyed. What is the hesitancy behind the ones that still aren’t jumping on board yet?

 

James Benham:

They just don’t see it. When it comes down to it and I have conversations with them, they just don’t. They think that the return numbers, the ROI, is fictional. They’re skeptical about the ROI. They’re carrying a lot of risk already and there’s already so many things that could go wrong on a job site. I respect this. It’s hard to be a contractor. There’s a lot of ways to lose money. Being a contractor’s like playing a game of a thousand and one ways to go bankrupt. It’s challenging. It’s a high risk and sometime high reward, sometimes low reward, but it’s definitely a high risk, low margin business that maybe people feel like they have to make up on volume.

That’s pretty challenging and so you introduce this concept of change and more of it gets really tough for them to stomach a massive change and I respect that and understand, but it doesn’t make it any less frustrating for me and everyone else in the tech sector when they site a lot of the same old reasons. The reality is the end of the day, they’ll be willing, and I’m a pilot so I like to fly, all of my neighbors at the airport are all contractors, all. They have really big expensive airplanes and they don’t like spending money on tech. Now, why is that?

They’re willing to drop three million dollars on a new King Air, which has marginal incremental value to their productivity. They’ll say it has a ton of incremental value, and it has value, but not for the dollars they have to burn to run it, operate it, buy it, acquire it, etc. Then they’ll under invest in IT, which has the opportunity to get a much bigger jet.

Exactly. It’s like you’re putting the cart before the horse in some of these things because you understand a plane. A plane gets you to your job site faster and you can easily … anybody can justify anything. If a business owner wants to justify something, if they want to lie to themselves long enough, they can do it. And one thing my dad told me to do a long time ago in business, because he’s my personal mentor in business, always has been. He said, “James, no matter what you do, don’t lie to yourself.” He goes, “You can choose to not disclose everything to everybody else, but at the end of the day don’t lie to yourself and pretend you’re profitable when you’re not. Don’t pretend that things are good when they’re not.” Don’t pretend like your proactive investors have seen so many construction CEOs stand up and say, “Man, we’re a proactive tech forward company. We’re going to innovate blah, blah, blah, blah, blah,” and you go talk to their employees and they’re like, “Man, that guy won’t even approve an iPad purchase.

Then they say, some of the more dangerous ones will make really snide comments about IT guys. What they do is they denigrate the IT department and it’s kind of like classic jock behavior, “Oh, look at the nerd over there.” What they do is they give everyone permission to just dog on technology because the reality is most people are so busy and they work so hard in construction, because construction’s filled with hardworking people, that it’s a lot to ask them to change their process and rethink things.

So if you give them permission, if you give them a moral license to just deny or dog anything new that comes up, then they’ll take it because they don’t want to do the work.

 

Mike Merrill:

Shooting themselves in the foot.

 

James Benham:

Absolutely. Look, why do our margins suck? We’re the bottom. We’re the bottom. We’re also the industry that has improved productivity the least of all industries and we’re at the bottom of margin and so why? Isn’t it obvious? Isn’t it obvious there are other high risk industries that make far larger margins because they’ve invested heavily in technology in form and process and they’ve gotten the results.

 

James Benham:

It’s tough because I always want to balance and walk the line of respecting the road contractors have to walk and respecting the risk they have to take, but at the same time not giving everybody a free pass just to dog the stuff they don’t like or understand. Simply because they don’t want to change. And look, the desire to not change is very strong in many, like the force is strong with you, Luke. I’ve been watching the Mandalorian, which I love, and I’m not a Star Wars guy. I’m a Star Trek guy.

 

Mike Merrill:

It is pretty good.

 

James Benham:

Mandalorian’s amazing. The force is good with some. The force is strong with some and it’s not with other.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, I think it is interesting. You’re in the same position that I am where you’re technology driven, technology facing, you’re trying to help and it’s exhausting trying to convince some of these same companies. I, like you, I can think of a dozen huge companies that we’ve been talking to for over a decade that are still in their own way on some of these things. It doesn’t make any sense at all to me.

 

James Benham:

Well, it doesn’t make any sense when their peers have made so much more money than them and have reduced their risk profile so much because there’s two sides of the coin. It’s becoming more productive and also becoming safer and less risky, which that’s a big part of contractor losses is insurance risk management claims. It’s two sides to the coin. My hope has been for them to catch it and understand that they have to invest to get return. They have to take risk to get reward. They have to invest in technology and people and process and adopt, learn to experiment, and of course walking the line with not experimenting too much because then you burn your people. There’s always a balancing act and so I don’t want to paint it with just gross generalizations because … We do a lot of consulting with construction companies and every single company is kind of a different grab bag.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, I think that the fear of change seems to be the largest thing that we run into. We say it all the time and we can back it up with statistics, we rarely lose to a competitive solution, it’s usually no decision or delayed decision or, “We’re going to get to it later,” something else became a priority.

 

James Benham:

Yeah.

 

Mike Merrill:

So you’ve talked many times about the three B’s of construction. What can you share about those and how do they relate to ConTech solutions? Is that ringing a bell to you, big data, big business, and block chain?

 

James Benham:

Yeah, it’s not big business. It was, yeah, big data, and then I think BIM, and block chain were the three that I-

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, BIM. Sorry, yeah.

 

James Benham:

Yeah, okay. I just want to make sure that we’re on the same page. Big data is really exciting. The insurance sector, which is the other half of my business, I spend a lot of time on insure tech. They are really learning how to leverage big data in a massive profitable way because they’re using big data for automating, underwriting, and claims handling decisions. For dramatically reducing the amount of forms they ask people to fill out because they can automatically populate the data on properties and people and equipment, because they’re using public records and they’re using data aggregation repository. It’s really oppressive what is going on in insure tech.

We got to take a big lesson from them because we require way too much manual entry of stuff. I’m going to give you an eetie bittie weetie little tiny example, just one eetie-

 

Mike Merrill:

How small?

 

James Benham:

Tiny example just addresses. Back in the day, which was like a Wednesday, you just type a whole address in. It takes you, let’s say it takes 30 seconds of really fully type a whole address in, street number, street name-

If you’re in Utah, then lord help you through your addressing system works. So, I still can’t figure out how streets or address in Salt Lake City-

 

Mike Merrill:

It’s a grid system.

 

James Benham:

But you still got … It’s a grid system, but New York grid system is easier for me than Utah’s grid system, so I’m going to say that. All right, so then you have to figure you type the whole address out with the city, state, zip, country, county. Then we end up with these zip code databases, so you type in the zip code, it auto populates city, state, zip. Now, because we have ridiculously good mapping data, I mean ridiculously good Mike, amazing how good our mapping systems are. You can use the Google Maps API and you just start typing the first part of the address and then it auto completes. It cuts a 30 second transaction to about five. That’s a wonderful example of how much you can leverage big data and that’s just the thin tiny little sliver off the top.

Then when you’re talking about property data, let’s say you’re keying in data on a property and you want to know all the details about that property and what’s the year of that property. There’s a bunch of databases you can tap into to automatically pull that data into your project systems so you don’t have to manually key all the stuff in and you can make better decisions.

So big data’s really, really exciting. It’s a lot of potential. Also in analytics, once you start aggregating all the data across all of your different verticals you can start making better decisions, data base decisions, not emotional decisions. When I started looking at work comp claims, which happen a lot in construction, I found that my emotions told me one thing, that could be more factors like diabetic, overweight, smoker, we’re going to contribute to a worker having a tough time recovering, and in fact, it contributing to a cost of the claim. The reality is once you started peeling through the data, their lawyer contributes as much as any other factor.

Yeah, not just the fact that they had a lawyer, which lawyer they had contributed heavily to how much that work comp claim was going to cost. I didn’t discover that until I really started peeling through millions of records on work comp claims. So that’s big data.

BIM, there’s been a lot of mandates in the UK, the level two mandate. There’s been a lot of mandates, not a lot of mandates here in the US, but BIM continues to have the opportunity to revolutionize the way things are built and the quality that they build them because you want to find the mistakes before you start building. There’s no better way to clash detect and find mistakes than by doing fully coordinated multi trade BIM.

I absolutely still stand by BIM having the ability. Now, I talk about block chain and here’s the interesting thing. These are all underlying tools, so what’s actually happening with block chain is really interesting because it’s being implemented in a lot of places now, but they’re just not out in the open

It’s all under the covers, behind the scene.

 

James Benham:

It’s all under the covers. They originally had it over the covers. They were actually using it to par their product marketing and everybody’s like, “I don’t know.” Unfortunately, they immediately associated block chain with bitcoin and that became a big problem. So people are still using block chain, but they’re using it under the covers to accomplish the same thing without really talking about it. Big data, block chain, BIM, BI is something … That was a fourth B, that we do a lot of talking about and that’s just business intelligence, really getting people used to not just analyzing data in Excel, but moving into a tool like Power BI or Tabolo, because that’s allowing them to make much better nonemotional decisions.

We use Medibase ourselves. It’s an open source BI tool system and we love it, really helps us analyze our enterprise data. So that’s actually the fourth B is BI. Those still should be watched. Now block chain, man, it’s in the news all the time because they’re talking about all the different cryptos, which are all on block chains, either on Ethereum or whatever you’re on. I just don’t think they’re going to talk about it as much, even though it’s going to be a huge games changer.

 

Mike Merrill:

Interesting. Yeah, I love the way you phrase that. It’s the underlying technology that’s driving these things. That’s back to contractors need to have confidence and trust and get on board with the rest of planet Earth, the other businesses out there that are leveraging technology to be more efficient as opposed to avoiding it or trying to see what they can do to keep away from some of those changes that are maybe uncomfortable.

 

James Benham:

Pretty much, man, pretty much.

 

Mike Merrill:

Wildly profitable, right?

 

James Benham:

Yes, can be. 

 

Mike Merrill:

When we talk about the word artificial intelligence, it used to be people think of iRobot or other things. What does that mean to you when you hear AI when it comes to construction technology?

 

James Benham:

We’re not in general AI, we’re not there yet. That’s Hal in 2001 Space Odyssey. I don’t think about that. I think about the specific forms of AI like machine learning that are really transforming individual skills. Natural language processing, which is being used for NLP search like Dato or what pipe is doing with ripping apart spec books. There’s a lot of machine learning tools being used, SmartVid is using Computer Vision, which is another subset of AI. I’m just really excited that all these little specialty areas inside of AI, like machine learning and deep learning, Computer Learning, and NLP are all being utilized now at commercialized products that are mainstream. They’re definitively mainstream and so when you look at all those tools I just mentioned, all mainstream tools, heavily adopted, people are using them everyday. We’re auto tagging, we’re doing index search, we’re doing contextual search, we’re looking for intent. It’s awesome things you can do around AI.

Then of course, you see the mapping and decision making trees. Again, other parts of deep learning and machine learning being used for spot the robot from-

 

Mike Merrill:

Right.

 

James Benham:

From Boston Dynamics, is using some very specific forms of ML to get around. Exciting outcomes. The most exciting outcome for AI is that it’s actually mainstream, products are actually using it, it is real, it’s not fake. It’s not just a giant if/then, conditional statement. It is [crosstalk 00:36:47].

 

Mike Merrill:

What about digital printing? Are you seeing that used more widely yet or commercialized? Yeah, 3D printing, sorry.

 

James Benham:

3D printing? Yeah, slowly but surely. Small scale 3D printing, yes, like even form work contractors are using it to test their form work before they go make it. Fast Brick is one of my favorites with the Hadrian X Robot out of Australia. They’re getting certification. They’re passing engineering tests. They’re printing with blocks instead of with concrete and they’re being successful. Their government is stamping and sealing, that’s the really big hurdle for 3D printing.

 

James Benham:

You look at Icon out of Austin, they’re hella far. They’re on fire. They’re 3D printing houses. So 3D printing is real. Dubai said 25% of their buildings in the next four years are going to have to be 3D printed. They’re laying out super aggressive 3D printing targets and then Apis Cor, the big 3D house 3D printing project in Russia in the middle of winter under a tent, some crazy stuff is happening with 3D printing.

 

James Benham:

Most important thing in 3D printing is that government bodies are starting to approve it for people to actually live in it, which was the major step because we started seeing 3D printing of houses out of China.

 

Mike Merrill:

Right.

 

James Benham:

Eight, nine, 10 years ago, but you’re finally starting to see countries that have really tight building standards say, “Hey, this works. People can live [crosstalk 00:38:12].”

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, they’re efficient and they’re now safe. They’re deemed safe.

 

James Benham:

Deemed safe. Yeah, we’ll see how that all works out.

 

Mike Merrill:

Well, lots of great things. Obviously you’re a great advocate for construction technology and the adoption of opportunity. Is there anything else that we haven’t covered that you think is important for people to hear and understand about construction technology and the impacts it can have on their business?

 

James Benham:

No, I’ll just leave you with this. Just enjoy the ride and geek out, become a tinkerer. Go to Best Buy and buy stuff and then return it if you don’t like it. Discover the love of playing with things. It’s really part of my DNA and part of my team’s DNA that we just geek out on what we do. I ask my clients to do the same thing. Whatever it is you do, geek out on it. Life is too short to be boring. Life is too short to be meaningless and the beautiful thing about improvement is I believe improvement gives purpose. It allows you to look back and see what you accomplished, even if nobody else knows, you will always know. That’s the thing.

I think as humans we got to be in the experience business because no one can take those away from you and that’s what’s so fun about innovating and changing and adopting technology, is you can look back and you can see what you got done. You got to discover the joy of being a tinkerer. When you’re a kid, you break up a new Lego box [crosstalk 00:39:46] still build Lego. I still do. I just rebuilt all the Lego from my childhood. My daughter, my 11 year old, and I just finished a 5,000 piece Lego piano that actually functions. It is still a blast to make, so if you got to play with technology toys, or you got to go back to Lego or Connects or whatever you got to do to rediscover that inside, I encourage people to do it.

Just recognize that in business, the ultimate goal is to generate cash and this is one of the things that can have such a [crosstalk 00:40:18]-

 

Mike Merrill:

I love that. So more on a personal level James, what is one of your superpowers or your strengths that you feel like you really can lean on, helps drive you?

James Benham:

I’m fairly quick at figuring things out. That has served me well as a consultant. It’s served me well as a software developer. I can generally step in and figure things out pretty quickly and I’m a fairly quick learner. That’s also because I just never stopped learning. It’s one of the reasons I love being a regent at Texas Southern, because I can help people learn. I love teaching. I love learning. I really enjoy the process of educating and I think great companies are great teaching companies, too.

I think that’s probably one of the things that I’ve been better at over the last 20 years that’s really helped me with my team and has helped me to enjoy the day more and help my people to upgrade more. I think that’s been a lot of fun. I really enjoy teaching, really enjoy leading our folks and I really enjoy trying to get people excited. Motivation is this funny thing. Sometimes it’s hard to come across and sometimes it’s easy to lose. Anytime you can motivate a group, that’s what leadership is. Leadership is motivating ordinary people to do extraordinary things. That’s the important part of life and business, so I think that’s probably one of [crosstalk 00:41:50]

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, I love that. I believe the same. I think that great leaders are people that empower others to implement their good ideas, not to just come up with all the good ones on their own, right?

 

James Benham:

Yeah, exactly.

 

Mike Merrill:

So tell me this, what’s a big challenge that you’ve overcome in business and how did you solve that?

 

James Benham:

I’ll say this to wrap our conversation up. The biggest challenge was we were hitting the ceiling in our business several years ago. We didn’t have an actual methodology we followed, and so I discovered and found this methodology called EOS, Entrepreneurial Operating System. It allowed me to put a really defined way of achieving vision traction and health, and fixing our meetings. We have awesome meetings now. Fixing our planning, we have planning documents, we follow them. Fixing our process, we have process, and we follow it.

I stopped flying by the seat of my pants. I started running our business on the process and it was like just putting really high octane fuel in the engine. It started performing so much better. We started having so much more fun. My Chief Operating Officer Sebastian and I, who’s just my right hand man, started getting along a lot better. That was a huge issue. We were stressed out. We were burnt out. The wheels were falling off seven years ago and really getting serious about implementing a process, US isn’t the only one, but it’s my favorite eosworldwide.com, I have nothing to do with EOS. I’m not a planner, but it changed my life. It changed my business. It fixed the biggest business problem, and by the way, my personal life made it a lot better, too, because I was able to not be so stressed all the time. I was able to put a system in place and delegate and elevate, and really trust my people.

That’s by far the biggest challenge we had in business that we were able to tackle with a process. It was a lot of change and some technology and a whole lot of people. It was same thing: people, process, technology.

 

Mike Merrill:

What a great tribute and we’ll be sure to link that in the show notes so that listeners can check that out. I’m interested personally as well.

 

James Benham:

Yeah, hire an implementer. I hired the world’s best implementer. He’s now working for me, but there’s over 250 implementers of EOS now. Hire one, pay them the money, it’s worth every penny you pay them. We made the money back ten fold.

 

Mike Merrill:

Love that.

 

James Benham:

It was the best decision we could have made.

 

Mike Merrill:

Last thing, what is one takeaway that you want the listeners to come away with from our conversation today?

 

James Benham:

Embrace change. Don’t fight it. Don’t embrace change for the sake of change, but embrace change for what it is, the potential to dramatically improve your life and your business.

 

Mike Merrill:

Well said. Well thank you, my friend. I’ve sure enjoyed our conversation today, looking forward to connecting with you again in the future and maintaining this relationship on technology for construction.

 

James Benham:

Thanks Mike, appreciate you, appreciate your business, and let’s go geek out. OK?

 

Mike Merrill:

Sounds good. Thank you to the listeners today for listening to the podcast with James and I. If you enjoyed our conversation and were able to gain some insights and somethings that you can implement in your business, please share this episode with your friends and colleagues. We also love those five star ratings and reviews, of course. Those help us to continue to bring valuable guests like James on and grow our podcast platform. Again, our goal is not only to help you improve in business, but in life.

Successfully Marketing Your Construction Business on Social Media

Successfully Marketing Your Construction Business on Social Media

Construction leaders know a lot about the art of construction. But marketing a construction company? That’s a whole different story. Promoting a construction company can be challenging, especially in today’s competitive market where the landscape is often flooded with advertisements and noise. That’s why companies are increasingly thinking outside the box – and their tactics may surprise you.

Dillon Hales, the owner of Yeti Welding, joins the Mobile Workforce Podcast to share how marketing his construction business on social media helped him build his welding company from the ground up. They discuss different ways to leverage social media, including building trust with general contractors, raising brand awareness to attract new prospects and strengthening relationships with current customers. In this episode, Dillon also dives into speed bumps he’s encountered and how you can start using social media to grow your business today. 

 

Key Takeaways:

  1. Show off your difficult jobs on social media. Whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or LinkedIn, social media is all about grabbing the attention and imagination of your potential clients. Putting up pictures that anyone can get won’t do the job. Look for the opportunities that will get the wheels turning in the client’s head and spark their interest.
  2. Getting started is as easy as pulling out your smartphone. Putting quality images and posts on social media might seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t take a team of experts – simply pull out your iPhone. The camera on any current smartphone is more than capable of capturing the right images. Start taking shots and you will quickly learn what looks good and what doesn’t. 
  3. When the camera comes out, job site safety actually increases. Pictures are worth a thousand words, and that goes for double on the job site. OSHA and other safety organizations do monitor pictures posted on social media and will look for safety violations. But don’t let that scare you. Think of it as an opportunity to increase safety on the job site while increasing your marketability. Everyone on the job site benefits from the cameras coming out because it requires everyone to confirm that the job is being done safely.

 

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Episode Transcript:

Mike Merrill:

Hello and welcome to the Mobile Workforce podcast. I’m your host, Mike Merrill and today we are sitting down with the Dillon Hales, the owner of Yeti Welding. How are you doing today Dillon?

 

Dillon Hales:

I’m doing really good. Thanks for letting us come out. It’s a little bit hard getting everything set up. I kind of come with baggage, I guess I could say.

 

Mike Merrill:

Well we all do, right?

 

Dillon Hales:

Thanks for inviting us man.

 

Mike Merrill:

Happy to have you here. This is fun. A little different format for us too, so excited to do this today.

 

Dillon Hales:

Yeah.

 

Mike Merrill:

So a little bit about Dillon, and I’ll let you tell your own story but basically Dillon grew up on a farm. Being on a farm, had to learn how to weld and probably weld well or your dad would kick your butt up and around your shoulders, right?

 

Dillon Hales:

Right.

 

Mike Merrill:

So that part of it you nailed but then you had to find a way to accelerate your business and really learn how to grow that footprint and find success. What Dillon did that’s really unique and that I don’t see a lot of yet, I think it’s catching on and companies are starting to try and do this better, but Dillon used social media to really grow that business more rapidly than just doing a good job at welding. Is that right?

 

Dillon Hales:

Yeah. Yeah, for sure. You’re spot on. I guess I could give you a little bit more background of what you just said. The first time I ever received money for welding, they’re a local grain dispensary here, called me up and said, “Hey, we need something to be welded on a forklift.” I welded it and they said, “Well how much do we owe you?” and I’m like, “I don’t know. We’ll catch you on the next one.” Do a good turn deed daily on the farm. It was always like that. They’re like, “No, we’ll get you some money. Should we write a check to you?” and I was like, “Please, I don’t need any money. You guys do great for us.” I told them just give me $50 would be good. I was there for five hours. I’m 14-15 years old.

 

Dillon Hales:

Anyway, he brought me out a check for $250 and that’s when I was like, “Whoa. I can make money as a welder?” And that’s where it all sparked from there, kind of evolved into getting into the welding and stuff. I just knew I needed to be a little bit more loud in the welding because I was super young when I got into welding. I just escalated from there and I did my great success in using social media to get where we’re at.

 

Mike Merrill:

Nice. Did you learn most of that in shop or was it just on the farm?

 

Dillon Hales:

The weld skill?

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah.

 

Dillon Hales:

When I grew up, we had an old 1971 miller welder. It didn’t even have the dial on it to control your head. You had to plug it out and plug it into a different port for as far as the heat. My grandpa had this old welding hood from Geneva Steel from way back when and when you weld, I didn’t know you could actually see what you were looking at. I didn’t.

 

Mike Merrill:

Oh, okay.

 

Dillon Hales:

Until I went to high school and I took a welding class and they had these brand new auto-darkening helmets and I could weld and I could see the puddle. I was like holy crap. I went home and told my grandpa. I was like, “Grandpa, did you know you could see the weld puddle?” He was probably just like well I probably just cleaned the lens out in the hood. But he’d built up that excitement and was like, “What do you mean?.” So to answer your question, I learned on the farm but I didn’t know you could actually see. I thought you had to weld by Jedi force.

 

Mike Merrill:

You feel the weld.

 

Dillon Hales:

Yeah, you could kind of see this orange glow and then I got to high school and I was like whoa, you could actually see the puddle and the metal form together. That’s when it escalated and I really took hold of it in high school. Sean Black was the teacher there. He’s now teaching at Payson and he helped me understand the principles of welding.

 

Mike Merrill:

Okay.

 

Dillon Hales:

Right out of high school, there was a company looking for experienced welders. Me and my friend just applied for it as a joke, “Hey we got experience. We’ve got seven years of experience. We’ve been welding since we were 14.”

 

Mike Merrill:

Right.

 

Dillon Hales:

So we applied and they laughed at us when we went in, this big company. Anyway, we did a weld test. They’re like, “Hey, if you guys can pass a weld test we’ll send you on the road.” We passed the weld test and a week later I hit the road and I did a lot of on-the-job learning that way and hit the pipelines for about five or six years. I didn’t want to travel as much so that’s why I settled. For the most part I’d say I learned most of my welding principles from the farm and honed them in through high shool. I didn’t take any trade classes or technical training.

 

Mike Merrill:

Right. On-the-job.

 

Dillon Hales:

Just high school and then on-the-job, yeah. Most stuff in welding needs to be done on the job. You can learn a lot in the trade schools and get your principles right where they need to be but as it escalates, to gain the majority of the knowledge that you need at skill, it’s got to be done in the field. There’s just no other way around it. Yeah, that’s how I got into it. I don’t know why I stuck with it to make money. I went to college. I was in college two years and then one day I told my wife, “I just want to be a welder.” I got a D on my business plan for my business class and it was on a welding company.

 

Mike Merrill:

Okay.

 

Dillon Hales:

I was just like, “I’m making $40,000-$50,000 part time going to school. How much could I make if I was full-time? I was making great money on the pipeline welding and I knew if I could just do it on my own, struggle for a couple years, that maybe we could make something out of it. I never thought it’d be what it is today.

 

Mike Merrill:

Wow. So you were getting a D in college but an A on the job, right?

 

Dillon Hales:

I guess. I hope I was getting an A. I don’t know.

 

Mike Merrill:

Well you’re here, right?

 

Dillon Hales:

Yeah.

 

Mike Merrill:

You’re still rolling.

 

Dillon Hales:

Right. We’re still rolling six years later. This is year six welding for us.

 

Mike Merrill:

Cool.

 

Dillon Hales:

Completely debt free in our company too.

 

Mike Merrill:

Good for you man.

 

Dillon Hales:

I want to make that known. That we just literally didn’t take a dime from anybody. We started from a 2-wheel drive Ford Ranger and a 1971 Miller Welder. Now we have four employees and I have six welding trucks and 12 welders. I do have a problem with buying too many welders. That is a problem.

 

Mike Merrill:

You need to get some guys for those if you can find them.

 

Dillon Hales:

Yeah, if I can find guys. Growing up, if you have a nice engine drive welder or in any shop they’re always like, “Man, if only I had an engine drive welder I could make it. I could make it.” Every time I see a good deal on the classifieds for a good welder I pick it up. Just stock them up. That’s how I got into welding and here we are. We started originally welding decorative ornamental iron, when I started on my own.

 

Mike Merrill:

Railings and stuff like that?

 

Dillon Hales:

Railings and decorative stuff. I knew it was a lot lower entry point versus doing big commercial projects. Then I just built it off of that one tool at a time. Now there’s a lot of different ways I do it now but that’s how it started. That’s how I got into welding and here I am. Just a dirty welder.

 

Mike Merrill:

You clean up nice.

 

Dillon Hales:

It’s funny, Mark’s like, “How come you look all dolled up?.” I’m like, “What? I always wear this.” He’s like, “No, that’s a new shirt,” and I’m like, “Well yeah, I didn’t want to have holes and stuff all over my shirts everywhere.” Show up to you guys’ nice castle here. Maybe if we were at the shop I would’ve had on my holy shirts but since we were able to do this in person, unlike the other podcast, I was like, “I’ll throw on a fly shirt.”

 

Mike Merrill:

Nice. You look like you’re ready to go to a wedding.

 

Dillon Hales:

I know, right? Give it a couple months and this’ll have holes in it. Burn marks all on the chest. I’ll have UV fade on the right-hand because that’s where you hit the weld. My left arm will be perfectly the same color and the UV will be all faded on this side.

 

Mike Merrill:

I like it.

 

Dillon Hales:

Then you’ll see me in the gas station and be like, “Is that guy… Who is that?”

 

Mike Merrill:

Who is that kid?

 

Dillon Hales:

Some people’s children, you know?

 

Mike Merrill:

That’s funny. So tell me, you start real young. You came essentially from your farm and from some high school welding, essentially. How did you go from that to getting the kind of camera angles and video footage and shots and things that you do. Because you’ve got a really cool… your Instagram page especially is very entertaining, it’s fun to watch. I’m a construction guy, my trade historically, but it’s just enjoyable to watch you guys on your lives. You’re up in that tower welding stuff, craning people up, and doing funny, crazy things. You film that yourself? How did you catch that footage?

 

Dillon Hales:

How it started, I didn’t think I would push social media as hard. In the beginning, I worked in a shop where everybody was always complaining about the boss. Everybody wanted to change stuff in the shop and nobody was willing to go off on their own. I went off on my own but like I said I’m just starting, young kid. I’m young right now and I look young but when I shave and clean up really nice, you’ll still think I was in junior high. I got that effect when I wanted these big job sites. I thought the only way to get work was to go onto a construction site and get the work. So I’d go with my two-wheel drive Ford Ranger and my little welder and I’d go to a construction site and I’d be looking around, looking around… This is me at 19-20 years old.

 

Mike Merrill:

Okay.

 

Dillon Hales:

I’m looking and be like, “Who’s the superintendent? Can I talk to the superintendent?” and I’d find the GC on the site and I’d say, “Hey, I’m Dillon. I do welding.” They’d look at me and then they’d look at my truck and they’re like, “We got some stuff going on.” I could tell that they needed structural iron in the house and they needed some handrails but I could tell the feel. When I’d meet those GC’s on the project that they were like, “I can’t give…”

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. You’re not welding my stuff.

 

Dillon Hales:

What kind of credibility is his high school dude? He’s rolling up in this two-wheel drive Ranger. I beat my head against the wall trying to get these general contracts to see me. How do I tell them that I grew up on a farm that on the farm you have to fix and solve problems and I’ve been doing that for already years. Although young, most farm kids will attest that you do everything. You do everything. How do I convey that to these GC’s that I’m meeting and say, “Although I and my crew could be young, we can handle your project.”

 

Dillon Hales:

I knew that the only way it was going to do that is to slip into their bedroom at night, when they’re scrolling through social media, Facebook, when they’re scrolling through LinkedIn, when they’re scrolling through Instagram and all of a sudden they see me in that same two-wheel drive Ranger but doing something else. That’s free time to enter into that GC’s head. When I’m on the construction site, when I was just there trying to get his business, it wasn’t working. I started my Facebook with just some really ugly, not very glamorous shots at all. Of just some handrails, but I was getting comments on my Facebook page from local people saying, “Hey, I saw that you did a handrail. Can you do mine?.”

 

Mike Merrill:

Nice.

 

Dillon Hales:

Then it just went from one project to the next and as I took pictures and built more of a social media portfolio, it just grew and escalated. That’s when my eyes started opening, when people were contacting me through Facebook saying, “Hey, we live in Santaquin… We need this” that’s when I need to figure out how to do this more because none of the shops around in Utah County were doing that. There’s a lot of startups and a lot of dudes I could call out here on the podcast. They were doing the same but we were all figuring it out at the same time.

 

Mike Merrill:

It was new.

 

Dillon Hales:

Yeah, it was new.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah.

 

Dillon Hales:

It was new at the time but I could see that if I was going to be in it and in a trade, I wanted to have the loudest shtick.

 

Mike Merrill:

Nice.

 

Dillon Hales:

So even though I look young when I roll up on the job site, even if I’m in a brand new Ford or that old two-wheel drive Ford Ranger, that the generals would be like, “Those guys, I’ve seen what they can do.” Not just judge me from the very beginning. That was my take off and then the social media just evolved from there.

 

Mike Merrill:

I’ve seen your content evolve and obviously your projects have gotten more complex and bigger. You’re doing some more cool things, so to speak. How have you had to adapt your approach to capture that content for social media out on the job site in order to continue to display that in the best light possible?

 

Dillon Hales:

As we were capturing content social media, it became a saying in our shop that we’re not a welding company. We’re a photography company.

 

Mike Merrill:

Interesting.

 

Dillon Hales:

We want to take pictures of the cool stuff we’re doing. After we did the handrail game, everyone’s doing handrail around because of how much construction is going on around here. A lot of iron needs to go into the homes so what would set us apart from the other companies? We like doing handrail, we enjoy it, there’s money in it, but we don’t like and we don’t enjoy it at the same time. It’s a love-hate relationship. So then we only want to take pictures of the cool handrails. We’ll only post pictures of the cool stuff. Then me and McKay, I think it was about the time we met Ryan, one of the founders here at WORKMAX, that we only want to take pictures of cool stuff. We said that and we turned down a lot of projects actually because it wasn’t quote-unquote cool.

 

Mike Merrill:

It wasn’t as marketable, right?

 

Dillon Hales:

Yeah. We didn’t want to do it because we wanted a cool picture. We wanted a floating staircase.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah.

 

Dillon Hales:

So then as we started doing that and we literally made it a mentality of we have to want to take a cool picture. We molded it into that. That was what set us off but it’s not what we go off of now. Now we go off of, we’re going to still take on any projects that we can and do them, because we’re bigger, we have larger infrastructure, but we’re going to post the coolest ones obviously. We do post a lost bet or whatever. We didn’t win on this one. We bad weld this valve.

 

Mike Merrill:

Which is good, right? The authentic content that’s real.

 

Dillon Hales:

Yeah.

 

Mike Merrill:

People appreciate that. Every job isn’t amazing.

 

Dillon Hales:

No, no. Right, right. And off that same note that you mention, Mike, people want to see their own projects on your own stuff. People took that to heart. When they’d have us do a project for them, they’d see us posting it on our stories and stuff, they could see their project in the shop. That meant a lot.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, sure.

 

Dillon Hales:

And it does. It’s cool. It’s cool. So then that helps propel what our agenda is in doing projects because more people, even if they pay more or less, they just want to see their own project on somebody else’s page.

 

Mike Merrill:

Sure. They’re proud of it, right?

 

Dillon Hales:

Yeah.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. Ryan showed us his barn, the beams, the different decorative iron, the doors, the gates, all of that stuff. Guess what? We thought it was awesome. Wow, that’s really cool.

 

Dillon Hales:

Yeah. The homeowners aren’t going to take a picture… You’re living in the same cul-de-sac, right? I remember I saw your railing and I wondered who did that. I mobbed Instagram until I found it.

 

Mike Merrill:

Nice.

 

Dillon Hales:

But you didn’t post it on your own stuff.

 

Mike Merrill:

I didn’t.

 

Dillon Hales:

You weren’t like, “I just built a new house, check out this awesome rail.” But when you see it on Ryan’s page, because it was Rigby that did your stuff, you’re like, “Hey honey, take a look. This is our house.” You’re showing her, in your house, that’s special to you guys.

 

Mike Merrill:

Sure.

 

Dillon Hales:

And it’s special to our clients.

 

Mike Merrill:

I take pride in that. Yeah.

 

Dillon Hales:

We took awesome pictures of Ryan’s projects when we were done and we sent them to him.

 

Mike Merrill:

That’s nice. So you share that content with the customer so they can then hopefully share it out, tag you and give you an opportunity to get more people.

 

Dillon Hales:

Yep, exactly. Exactly. That’s how I evolved in taking pictures. I didn’t set out to say we’re going to be a media company or we’re going to do what we’re doing now. It just evolved. The whole end goal was to share more with our customers and to be able to get in front of people with the credibility that I was looking for.

 

Mike Merrill:

Love it. This is modern day marketing, people. Listen up. This is good stuff.

 

Dillon Hales:

One hundred percent.

 

Mike Merrill:

Now you’ve invested in some equipment, probably got some drone stuff, you’ve got somebody full time that spends time capturing content for you. Is that right?

 

Dillon Hales:

Yeah. In our notes here, there’s a picture of a pool.

 

Mike Merrill:

Right.

 

Dillon Hales:

The Olympic sized pool.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yep.

 

Dillon Hales:

Right? That’s a pretty cool project and I didn’t want to miss it.

 

Mike Merrill:

Because you wanted the footage.

 

Dillon Hales:

I wanted the footage. We floated a barge on an Olympic sized swimming pool.

 

Mike Merrill:

Wow.

 

Dillon Hales:

And then they put a lift on it.

 

Mike Merrill:

Because water was still in, right?

 

Dillon Hales:

Right.

 

Mike Merrill:

So how do you get above that to weld in a building?

 

Dillon Hales:

The way that the architects have engineered the building, there was no way to get a boom lift in the building. They didn’t put a door big enough, they didn’t put a removable window. There was no way to get a lift in there.

 

Mike Merrill:

Okay.

 

Dillon Hales:

Inevitably it was going to cost more money to blow out a wall just to get a 100-ft boom lift in there, versus just to float a barge on there. But I didn’t want to miss it because that’s a cool shot.

 

Mike Merrill:

Right.

 

Dillon Hales:

How often do you do that? So I just tried to get some part-time people to shoot some footage of it and Lad did a great job. But there was times that we were doing cool stuff that Lad wasn’t there and so I need to have my own stuff. I went to the camera store and I got the nice Cannons. I got some more equipment to help us capture it and that’s the behind-the-scenes things that people don’t see as often. We did it for four years off our iPhone.

 

Mike Merrill:

Right. Selfie stuff, right?

 

Dillon Hales:

Yeah. Selfie stuff. Cameras are great on iPhones. That’s really all the people are looking for too. We have invested a lot and the next chapter of Yeti Welding is going to be a lot more loud. We’re looking to grow a lot more in the next year to two years. I know from our success that whoever has the loudest shtick in marketing, even in the welding word, is going to get the game. I think that goes for any industry.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah.

 

Dillon Hales:

I don’t think that everybody needs to have this fancy equipment in their own arsenal, their own tool box. That’s just the way we’re taking it. But I think anybody could use it on an iPhone and get away with it.

 

Mike Merrill:

Well how do you start anything? You start.

 

Dillon Hales:

Yeah. You start.

 

Mike Merrill:

Do something, right.

 

Dillon Hales:

One hundred percent.

 

Mike Merrill:

Start with your slipping phone, right? Or not your flipping phone because they don’t have flip phones anymore.

 

Dillon Hales:

Yeah, your touch screen phone.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, that’s great.

 

Dillon Hales:

Yeah, so just start. You just have to start.

 

Mike Merrill:

The thing that I really keep going back to is that phrase. Say it again. So you’re not a welding company, you’re a what?

 

Dillon Hales:

We’re a photography company. We’re not a welding company, we’re a photography company. We’re a media company. We wanted to take pictures of cool stuff. That’s what we wanted to do. Inevitably, that’s what came to us. As we posted that stuff and we said, “Do you guys have a staircase you need? A floating staircase?” That’s what we did. “Hey, do you guys have a really weird project that none of the other people are wanting to do?” That’s what we did.

 

Mike Merrill:

Interesting.

 

Dillon Hales:

There was little bit of money side to those things because a lot of the companies around here, they didn’t want to do the weird stuff or the wild stuff. People would stay away from it. On the other hand, for us, that’d be a great opportunity to, one, get a great picture. Two, help out our client who can’t find anybody to do it. And three, make a little bit extra money because it’s a project nobody wants. But it all started off with let’s take a cool picture.

 

Mike Merrill:

What is the craziest project you’ve ever done in your mind? Anything come to mind? I know I’m putting you on the spot.

 

Dillon Hales:

We worked on a building on a construction site where we cut apart shipping containers and used them as sides.

 

Mike Merrill:

I heard about that.

 

Dillon Hales:

For around a building in Springville.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yes. Over by the restaurant Strap Tank or next to that, right?

 

Dillon Hales:

Yep.

 

Mike Merrill:

Okay.

 

Dillon Hales:

That was probably one of the wildest projects that we worked on.

 

Mike Merrill:

So like the big Conex’s? The huge suckers.

 

Dillon Hales:

The huge Conex’s. The big shipping containers. Our client wanted to make a building look like shipping containers. People were dipping out of it, people were dipping out of it, and honestly I wanted the shot, Mike. I wanted the photo. It was hard work. We burned through a lot of people because they didn’t like doing the work that we were doing.

 

Mike Merrill:

What did you have to do? Tell the listeners about that.

 

Dillon Hales:

They wanted it to look like a shipping container building but the engineering wasn’t allowing them to do it and build the building as big as they wanted without having extra supports everything. He just didn’t think it was economical but he really wanted that look. He wanted the feel of it being shipping containers. Their way of doing it was they would use the big corrugated sides as siding on the building.

 

Mike Merrill:

Wow.

 

Dillon Hales:

We cut them apart. We cut the roofs out of them, we cut the floors out of them, and then we used the sides of them essentially as the siding for the building, for its protective coating.

 

Mike Merrill:

Wow.

 

Dillon Hales:

I think we cut probably 70 or 80 of them. We lost track after 50 or so.

 

Mike Merrill:

How many blades did you… thousands, maybe? Hundreds? Was it blades or what did you use?

 

Dillon Hales:

We used a lot of variable, different stuff.

 

Mike Merrill:

Okay.

 

Dillon Hales:

We used 8-in Milwaukee carbide blade saws. Those were really good at cutting certain aspects. Other aspects we used 16-in gas powered Stihl. We had them all. We had Stihls, Husqvarna, we had them all.

 

Mike Merrill:

Right.

 

Dillon Hales:

We used diamond blades that cut through pretty much anything because we needed the depths of those to cut the floors in the bottoms.

 

Mike Merrill:

Okay.

 

Dillon Hales:

Then we used torches and plasma cutters and stuff like that. But mainly our 16-in saws and our 8-in saws. I think we had 200 of those diamond blades. They’re $100 a piece.

 

Mike Merrill:

Twenty grand, then.

 

Dillon Hales:

Yeah, twenty grand in just 8-in carbide disks.

 

Mike Merrill:

Wow.

 

Dillon Hales:

And then the 16-in blades, we’d go through about one every other week so we used about 20 of those maybe per saw. There was quite a bit. Probably about $40,000 worth of cutting consumables just in blades, aside of gases and stuff. That was probably the wildest project we’ve ever been on.

 

Mike Merrill:

I’ve never heard of anything that wild.

 

Dillon Hales:

Yeah. It lasted a full year. It took us a full year to do the project. It was just really cool, the whole process of it. I’d say that one to date was our wildest project.

Mike Merrill:

And still profitable?

Dillon Hales:

Yeah, it was. It was. It took a lot of my manpower and I got tunnel vision in it. I was just really focused because it was so cool. I was so focused on it that I let others go.

 

Mike Merrill:

Sure.

 

Dillon Hales:

That probably could’ve been a great opportunity for growth but I was just so tunnel focused on social media and that was bad on my part. It was great. Then 2020 hit and we actually did six times the amount of money and projects than we did in 2019 as we were there for a full year. It was a great paying project, yeah. For sure.

 

Mike Merrill:

Good for you. It’s long-game, right? Maybe the opportunity cost short term but down the road, you are always going to be the dude that did that building.

 

Dillon Hales:

Yeah. My name’s plastered all over that. We didn’t miss a shot. One regret I have is I wish I could go back in time and say hire this dude, Mark, behind the cameras who I’m pointing to. Hire this dude to capture it all. We’ve captured a lot with our iPhones but we didn’t capture everything.

 

Mike Merrill:

Sure. You have to work too.

 

Dillon Hales:

Yeah, we definitely had to work. We definitely had to work but I think the payoff would’ve been much worth it. $20,000 in blades, what would’ve been the payroll cost of somebody to work for three or four months.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, sure.

 

Dillon Hales:

You do the math.

 

Mike Merrill:

Right.

 

Dillon Hales:

It was fun.

 

Mike Merrill:

Awesome. With that, how much time do you have to allot for getting the footage, the shots. As far as taking a hit on production, do you know what that number looks like?

 

Dillon Hales:

Yeah. That’s a good point. When I saw that in the notes, I laughed. I was like, “This is funny.”

 

Mike Merrill:

You’re like wait, I don’t know if I want to ask that question.

 

Dillon Hales:

I don’t know if I want to answer it, Mike.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah.

 

Dillon Hales:

At first, we would do something and we’re like, “Dude, we should grab a shot of that” and we would undo it and redo it. But that was in the very beginning stages where it was just me and one other guy.

 

Mike Merrill:

Okay, okay. That makes more sense.

 

Dillon Hales:

It’s become so normal now that we’re four years into it, that my employees all know, I know, that if something we’re doing they know could be a good shot…

 

Mike Merrill:

They’re telling you in advance?

 

Dillon Hales:

They don’t even tell me now. It’s become a company culture that if somebody pulls out a phone, and they’re not going like this or looking to scope, but if they pull out a phone like this, that just means keep working because they’re going to get a shot. If they stop, then it slows us down. We like to execute projects as fast as possible. We love doing stuff. The faster you get something done, the more money you can make. Your time is money. So when we see a phone come out now, it’s just really normal for us to keep moving on.

 

Mike Merrill:

Just background noise to what you’re doing.

 

Dillon Hales:

Yeah. I’d say in the beginning stages, creating that culture was a little bit strugglesome. I see an employee pull out a phone, I’d be like, “Dude, get off your phone.”

 

Mike Merrill:

Interesting.

 

Dillon Hales:

But then later we’d finish a job and I’d be like, “Hey, does anyone have any good shots?” The one employee actually put me on my place and he’s like, “Well, you told me to get off the phone.”

 

Mike Merrill:

Interesting.

 

Dillon Hales:

I was like, “Oh, dude. Were you trying to get a shot?” “Yeah, I was trying to get a shot of that crane flying that big box in the air.” “Oh, shit. Dude, sorry.” That’s my bad. That’s a little painful to tell employers you have to give a little more leniency to your employees to use their phones.

 

Mike Merrill:

Sure.

 

Dillon Hales:

But now, camera comes out, shots. The best practices that we’ve found are shots are taken and then shots are taken to whoever’s posting for the day.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah.

 

Dillon Hales:

That person just hurry and add them into an air drop to the phone and we’ll just keep moving on with the project. To answer your question, in the beginning stages it took a lot of time. Now it’s almost seamless and it doesn’t seem like it takes any more time than it regularly does. When that camera comes out, everybody works safer, everybody works smarter because of the backlash that you can get online.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, I’m glad you brought that up.

 

Dillon Hales:

Right? Because the camera will come out and if they’re doing something that could be a violation or even just something that could be made fun of. It’s as simple as your shoe’s untied. I know you got those people online. When a camera comes out, people are working safer and smarter and more effective. It almost makes everybody rethink. Do we have that piece of metal rigged right? I know it can go into the hole once with the crane but are we sure because what if somebody sees it and then makes a stink? Our safety practices almost gone up, especially on that tower project.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. I saw that. You guys were strapped in, everybody had harnesses, you were talking on your Instagram live about being safe and making sure… I was really impressed, actually. I thought, wow, these guys have it dialed in.

 

Dillon Hales:

We even swapped out our hard hats. We have those Italian hard hats with the chin straps. Got fun of a couple of times. The first time I had my hard hat on and I looked down, my hard hat was going to fall. We were in a really confined space and I didn’t want anybody to get hurt.

 

Mike Merrill:

Right.

 

Dillon Hales:

We had all of our safety stuff. Double yo-yo lanyards, everything 100% tie-off, it was a super safe job. Our GC on the project, he walked in and he’s like, “Man, you guys really go all out.” I’m like, “What do you mean we go all out?”

 

Mike Merrill:

That’s how you roll.

 

Dillon Hales:

He’s like, “I thought maybe you’d have a safety rope or something. You guys got everything.” He’s puling my harness. He’s like, “You guys got everything.” I’m like, “Well yeah. That was included in our bid. To be safe.”

 

Mike Merrill:

Right.

Dillon Hales:

To be the best.

Mike Merrill:

Good for you. I love it. We had a guest, I don’t know if you heard this episode, but Trent Cotney. He’s an attorney out of Florida that specializes in safety and OSHA regulation and defending and helping contractors, training contractors how to be safe, avoid OSHA fines.

Dillon Hales:

Okay.

 

Mike Merrill:

That was one of the things that he talked about, is that companies do have to be careful making sure, again, they’re not documenting something that’s unsafe.

 

Dillon Hales:

Right.

 

Mike Merrill:

Glad to hear you’re aware of that and have gotten ahead of it. Like you said, it actually has made you safer because there’s an awareness that you have to be more careful and cautious because you’re out in front of the world.

 

Dillon Hales:

Yeah, yeah. Speaking from experience, I took a picture on that project. I was standing on a pallet and the pallet was on a forklift. The pallet was maybe two or three feet off the ground but nonetheless the picture portrayed that I was in the air. I wasn’t tied off but two-three feet off the ground was really all the picture was. I don’t know if it was that exact photo or if it was just coincidence because the gal didn’t tell me but later the next day or the same day, within the time I posted, we had an OSHA inspector on the job site. Me being the young, innocent dude that I look, I played the innocent card. I was walking through the parking lot and I saw her sitting there watching me guys and I was like, “She’s going to grab a picture,” you know and I saw the state seal.

 

Dillon Hales:

I just poked little questions and texted all my dudes and said make sure you’re all safe. That’s when it really hit me. You can definitely get in trouble for it. But at the same time, what’s the risk for reward. The risk is you’re going to get a fine or a penalty for doing something wrong but the risk of losing the shop, to me, is worth more. As long as everybody’s being safe, it doesn’t matter if it’s a photo or not. They can come and talk to me. As long as our photos are safe. It’s just evolved that everybody works safe now. Just like that tower you said. You could see. You joined our lives.

 

Mike Merrill:

It was obvious, yeah.

 

Dillon Hales:

It was obvious that we were 100% compliant with whatever we could-

 

Mike Merrill:

And you don’t know who’s joining. Anyone can join. You’re live to the public.

 

Dillon Hales:

We had 1200 people join that live.

 

Mike Merrill:

It was crazy.

 

Dillon Hales:

In and out. Again, it almost made us more safe because we’re not afraid to document what we’re doing because we are being as compliant as possible. If we’re not compliant, I’d hope that somebody would come and tell me as an employer. In my shop, if you use a grinder without a guard, you’re done. You’re out. You get two warnings and that’s it. In most welding shops, you don’t see guards on grinders. We get made fun of. We post a picture of the guard on our grinder, “What you got that guard on there for?”

 

Mike Merrill:

Sissy guard. Right.

 

Dillon Hales:

I’ll fly to Alabama and show you how to use a grinder with a guard on it. If there’s any position you can’t do with a guard on it then… I haven’t listened to that podcast but some people might be afraid of that but my advice to those listeners is just trust in your employees a little bit more and make sure that company culture’s simply safe.

 

Mike Merrill:

Love that. I think the most refreshing thing… I like social media. We have accounts here. We try and post and share content as well like a lot of companies. It’s just so refreshing to see, not only the cool jobs you’re doing, but I can see, I can feel as a third party, you guys are having a great time. You’re enjoying your job, you’re enjoying your life, you’re enjoying this journey that you’re on. I think it’s just really cool that you’re doing it and you’re sharing it with the world and being an example to others.

 

Dillon Hales:

Yeah, thanks. I appreciate it.

 

Mike Merrill:

Do you mentor others? Do you have people that check in with you or ask your questions or try and get ideas?

 

Dillon Hales:

As far as for media?

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, like other companies. Maybe other subs that are on the project. Do you have companies that reach out to you for those types of feedback items?

 

Dillon Hales:

Yes. I don’t feel like I’m pioneering it away but when we’re on a job site and there’s electricians and plumbers and stuff but we want to do a video, we quickly ask everybody. We’re like, “Hey, are you guys good? We’re going to take a quick photo. Are you guys okay?” I’ve been surprised that some people run out of the photo or whatever. There are those people that’ve come up to us and say, “How come you’re doing this? What are you doing?” Then we’re like, “Don’t you follow us on Instagram?”

 

Mike Merrill:

Nice.

 

Dillon Hales:

I’ve used that line all the time.

 

Mike Merrill:

Cool.

 

Dillon Hales:

Don’t you follow us on Instagram? I don’t give business cards out to people because I just see them get thrown away.

 

Mike Merrill:

Intentionally.

 

Dillon Hales:

Yeah. It goes back to my original days. I bought Vistaprint, I got my thousand business cards, I was handing out to all general contractors. And then just out the door, in the garbage.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah.

 

Dillon Hales:

But when I go there and they’re like, “Send me your contact info.” I’ll be like, “Do you got Instagram?” “No.” “Do you got Facebook? You got TikTok?” They’re going to have one of them.

 

Mike Merrill:

Right.

 

Dillon Hales:

They’re going to have one of them.

 

Mike Merrill:

Right.

 

Dillon Hales:

I use that all the time. You can just hit the contacts link and all my stuff’s there. Make sure you follow us to keep up on cool projects.

 

Mike Merrill:

Nice.

 

Dillon Hales:

They’ll say they didn’t follow me. They’ll say they didn’t check our stuff out but being a business account you can see the analytics.

 

Mike Merrill:

You can see it, yeah.

 

Dillon Hales:

I can see that John just watched my Instagram stories and he went through and liked a couple photos from a year ago so they were mobbing the account.

 

Mike Merrill:

You’ve got what, close to 15,000 now on Instagram?

 

Dillon Hales:

I think we’re 15,000 or 16,000 followers.

 

Mike Merrill:

That’s great.

 

Dillon Hales:

That number doesn’t matter and it shouldn’t matter for any company.

 

Mike Merrill:

Okay. Why not?

 

Dillon Hales:

Because in my view, this is my personal view, I would rather have five people follow me through the fire versus 10,000 people watch me burn.

 

Mike Merrill:

Okay.

 

Dillon Hales:

Even if you’ve got a small following, your company is trying to start media and you’re like, “But we don’t have this many numbers” or whatever. If you have 100 people following you and you have really good people who are following you-

 

Mike Merrill:

They’re plugged in you’re saying…

 

Dillon Hales:

That’s what should be more important.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. How engaged are they.

 

Dillon Hales:

How engaged are they. Because inevitably at the end of the day it’s not about your main number because analytics of all these social medias are all running completely wild and different now. Not all 15,000 followers of ours get to see our stuff on a daily basis or a weekly basis or whatever. It’s just about how many people are actually genuine on there. I think we have about 15%. I think that’s our rates right now.

 

Mike Merrill:

That’s a good number.

 

Dillon Hales:

Yeah.

 

Mike Merrill:

Anything over 10 is a pretty solid number.

 

Dillon Hales:

Yeah, so we’re like 15% right now. Because you can see over my Instagram as you said, you can see how we started and evolved up and I do talk a lot about my humble beginnings and how I started, I do have a lot of people ask me, “How should I go about getting work.” The first thing I say is, “You need to start building yourself a portfolio online to give yourself that credibility.” I do help people, influence them a little bit in that way, to answer your question in that regard. They reach out and say how could I do this or what should I do that. I reach out to as many people in Utah County that are doing welding and try to be in their shop and say this is what we’re doing, this is what we’re seeing that’s worked.

 

Mike Merrill:

Wow. So you’re doing it even with competitors?

 

Dillon Hales:

Yeah. That’s another rabbit hole we could go down. I had a competitor that we were like this. I’d show up and he’d give a bid. I’d show up and they’re like so-and-so just came here and I’d be like, “I’ll do it for half.”

 

Mike Merrill:

Oh, boy.

 

Dillon Hales:

There was big animosity between us and one day I was like you know what? They’ve blocked us on Instagram and I have to follow my personal account to see what they’re doing. I’m done. There’s so much work in the construction trade, everyone should be working together.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah.

 

Dillon Hales:

Because everybody’s numbers are different but they’re all the same at the same time. It doesn’t matter about who gets the project or doesn’t. Like I mentioned earlier in the podcast, who did your rail? I’m logged in Instagram looking for your rail. Why didn’t I get Mike’s rail? Why did I only have to do Matt and Ryan’s?

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah.

 

Dillon Hales:

But I started reaching out to those other people and showing up in their shops and tagging them in our photos and calling them out. We built a really great community of welders around here that we all jab and have fun on Instagram together. We also share a lot of projects.

 

Mike Merrill:

That’s what I was going to say next. You probably need some help from those guys on occasion. They got more guys, right? You got a big project, might need some help.

 

Dillon Hales:

Yeah. A lot of the guys around here, they know that I don’t like to do rail anymore. We do it for certain contractors but in the same regards, those companies love to do rail. So when we come across a rail project that we’re like, “We can do this for you but this is our timeframe because of our bigger projects, but we know a guy that’s amazing” and then we send them that way. They get a weird project and they’re like, “Whoa. We have to give those to the Yeti guys.” Follow the Yeti guys. We built a really great community just simply because we’ve been able to reach out and talk amongst ourselves. Literally it all became because of Instagram. I don’t think I would’ve just randomly walked into some guys shop and been like, “Is Dillon around here?”

 

Mike Merrill:

Right. Love it. I did notice you don’t really have a website or anything either, do you? Not really anything that you keep up to date.

 

Dillon Hales:

No.

 

Mike Merrill:

No online presence other than social?

 

Dillon Hales:

When will this podcast air?

 

Mike Merrill:

Probably the next few weeks.

 

Dillon Hales:

Next few weeks so it won’t be right away?

 

Mike Merrill:

Not right away.

 

Dillon Hales:

We did have a website. I took it down. We were actually going to become an apparel company.

 

Mike Merrill:

Like welding apparel? Safety stuff?

 

Dillon Hales:

Yeah. Safety stuff. Then money got the best of me. Had some cool projects come up. That website’s turned on and turned off. Right now it’s currently down and we’re in the construction mode. We’re going to roll out something pretty cool now that we have a team for media. We’re going to roll a sweepstakes. We’re going to give away one of my dearest welders.

 

Mike Merrill:

Oh, wow. Okay.

 

Dillon Hales:

As long as it’s going to air in a couple of weeks-

 

Mike Merrill:

Does it come with free training to use the welder?

 

Dillon Hales:

Yeah, yeah. I’ll come out and show you how. I’ll come out and show you how to use it if you win it.

 

Mike Merrill:

Fire it up.

 

Dillon Hales:

Yeah, fire it up. Run some beads.

 

Mike Merrill:

Okay.

 

Dillon Hales:

I wasn’t planning on being a welder my whole life.

 

Mike Merrill:

Interesting.

 

Dillon Hales:

This little welding, it just evolved, and I didn’t really think that we needed a website because we have Instagram. We have our contact info there on social media. We have our Facebook with all of our info there. If you google our name, our Facebook and Instagram comes up. So why do we need to pay to have someone build us a website and maintain it and then hope it’s going to work. Tech’s changing so fast and what’s the fastest way to keep up with tech? Have somebody else keep up with tech for you. These free social media platforms, they’re keeping up. Instagram changed and they’re like do you want to change your bios, we’re allowing more characters and we’re allowing shop links and this and that. So it just evolved. We’ve never really ran out of work hard enough for me to be like, “Okay it’s time to build this kind of a website.”

 

Mike Merrill:

Interesting.

 

Dillon Hales:

Because our credibility is already built there. You don’t need to go to a website and look about us. Go to the bottom of the page on social media and learn who the founders are. My face is all over there on social media. My face is everywhere on social media and my guys’ faces are all over there on social media. So we don’t have a website currently and we do have a website that’ll be rolling out just simply to share with all of our followers and the people who support us. They all love our hats, they love our logo, so they just want some of their own.

 

Mike Merrill:

They want a piece of the action.

 

Dillon Hales:

Yeah, they want a piece of the action. Hey, where’s my hat. The tradesman, you know that. The lumber guy comes around, he’s handing out free hats. That free hat means more than a paycheck to you.

 

Mike Merrill:

Sure.

 

Dillon Hales:

You’re a contractor, you’re building that whole house, and that dude gives you a hat and you’re like, “Dang.” You don’t care about the $100,000 you just made on the house.

 

Mike Merrill:

Right. You’re excited about the hat.

 

Dillon Hales:

“Hey honey, guess what. Mike just gave me some new hats. I’m going to rep them everywhere.” That’s kind of what we’re doing with the website now. It’s just so people can have a little bit of apparel and support us that way.

 

Mike Merrill:

Cool. Now that you’ve gotten some notoriety, you’re out there, people are recognizing you, know your name, I imagine you’ve probably had some opportunities to represent products? I noticed Keen Boots seem to be you’re tagging all the time or shouting out. Are there some products that you represent or that you’re sponsored by that hook you up from time to time?

 

Dillon Hales:

Honestly, that’s a great question. I truly believe in the products that we use. I love them. If I love them, I’ll let you know. If I don’t love them, I will let you know. I will let you know.

 

Mike Merrill:

Okay.

 

Dillon Hales:

We did have a shoe company that reached out to us in the early stages. I think we had 5,000 or 10,000 followers. They’re like, “We’ll give you some free boots.” I wore them but there was a contract. The contract was you got to wear these boots and we’ll pay you this much but we need you to post this many times or whatever. I did that but the boots were garbage.

 

Mike Merrill:

Okay, cool.

 

Dillon Hales:

Now all my guys wear these Keens. We don’t have any sort of affiliation with Keen.

 

Mike Merrill:

Okay.

 

Dillon Hales:

Other than these boots have just performed and we love them. I hope that they give us credibility… If Keen ever needs us to weld something, I hope they’re like, “We’re going to call the Yeti guys because we know they do good work.” So we’re not sponsored by Keen in any way. We just really love their boots. We love the protection. But we have done other promotional projects where people have reached out. In the emails and the pre-emails, I’ll tell them the same thing I just mentioned to you. If I like it, I’m going to tell you. If I don’t like it, I’m going to tell you and I’m going to tell my followers too.

 

Mike Merrill:

Straight shooter.

 

Dillon Hales:

Straight shooter. And if you don’t want me to be honest, you want me to do a script-

 

Mike Merrill:

I’m not your guy.

 

Dillon Hales:

I’m not your guy. I learned this thing a long time ago from one of my favorite contractors. He said you hire and you fire your own clients. Your clients don’t hire you. You hire your own clients. Same thing with the apparel. That stuck with me early on, especially right after I wore those boots because I did wear them in you know? and see actually where they worked. They were garbage. My feet hurt so bad.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah.

 

Dillon Hales:

I just let people know beforehand and I do try them out and if I like them, we’ll do them. We have done a handful of other products and stuff like that that were paid promotion but after they passed the test, after I liked them I’m like, “I got them. This is what we’re going to do for you.”

 

Mike Merrill:

Good for you. Well, I love your coolers.

 

Dillon Hales:

No, those are not our coolers.

 

Mike Merrill:

I’m just kidding.

 

Dillon Hales:

I wish.

 

Mike Merrill:

I know. They’re expensive right.

 

Dillon Hales:

I wish I owned a company like that, man.

 

Mike Merrill:

You’re like, “I wish I owned a Yeti cooler.”

 

Dillon Hales:

I wish I owned a Yeti bike. The bike.

 

Mike Merrill:

Oh, yeah. They got all kinds of stuff.

 

Dillon Hales:

I’ve been riding a Yeti bike for a little while. I’ve always wanted a Yeti bike. My friends always had them but I’ve never had the money. I’m just an scrubby welder, dude.

 

Mike Merrill:

That’s it. Love it.

 

Dillon Hales:

I’m just broke. A broke welder.

 

Mike Merrill:

Good for you. Such a cool story, very fascinating. I think people really love this and it’ll resonate with a lot of folks. More on a personal level, I just have a few questions I want to wrap up with. What’s one thing that you’re grateful for, just in your personal life?

 

Dillon Hales:

My personal life?

 

Mike Merrill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

 

Dillon Hales:

Probably be my wife.

 

Mike Merrill:

Okay.

 

Dillon Hales:

My wife and my kids.

 

Mike Merrill:

Okay.

 

Dillon Hales:

I come home all the time and I’m like, “I’m done. I’m quitting. I’m done welding.” The world out there is hard. But Sarah, she always reaffirms me. She’s there for me.

 

Mike Merrill:

Cool.

 

Dillon Hales:

She appreciates what I do outside and that’s probably one of the most grateful things, my wife and her support in being an entrepreneur. That’d probably be my…

 

Mike Merrill:

That’s great. Yeah, it’s not easy, right. She’s signed up just like you are.

 

Dillon Hales:

Yeah, especially when you want to do your own thing as a boss, it’s a whole family deal. It’s a really lonely road that you walk but it’s also everybody’s signed up. Sarah calls and texts and says, “Hey, when are you coming home?” And I’m like, “I’m on my way. I’m just in a longer meeting.” It’s not a set schedule. I’m super grateful for Sarah and sticking with me. Allowing me to drop out of school and be one of those rogue dudes. I’m done with college, going to be a tradesman. Which isn’t a bad thing.

 

Mike Merrill:

Good for you. Yeah, I agree with that. I love it. Blue collar is not a bad option.

 

Dillon Hales:

No. Actually I had a client the other day told me I was charging more than doctors and lawyers. I said I might not have gone to school but I know how to fuse atoms together and you don’t.

 

Mike Merrill:

Right? That’s it. Yeah, value of what you’ve got to offer. Good for you. What about a personal skill or Dillon’s super power. What would that be if there’s something about you that’s just your wheelhouse. What is that?

 

Dillon Hales:

My super power?

 

Mike Merrill:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

 

Dillon Hales:

I think my super power is when I put my mind to a timeframe or something that we need to do, I get it done in that timeframe. My guys know that too. I’ll give them a deadline and be like, “Hey, we told these guys it’d be done then.” They’ll be like, “There’s no way.” It took a long time for my two hands to know that but I think that’s my super power. When I set my timeframe on something and we say we can accomplish it at that, we figure out a way. You make time for things that are important to you and if completing the task is important to you, you’re going to figure it out quick. I think that’s my super power is figuring it out in that timely matter.

 

Mike Merrill:

Love it. Yeah, that’ll continue to bless your business if you’re practicing that now.

 

Dillon Hales:

Yeah, we try. I definitely try.

 

Mike Merrill:

Good for you. What about something you learned more recently that you wish you would’ve known six years ago or so when you started? Is there something that you’re like, “Man, I got a lot of bruises on this thing. I wish I would’ve had this figured out…”

 

Dillon Hales:

Yeah. That I don’t know everything and my employees know just as much. That I can trust my employees. I wish I could’ve done that… I can weld but so can a lot of other people and I wish I could’ve trusted them to say you guys can do this or you can do these welds too just as good as I can. I wish I would’ve known that four years ago when I hired my first employee. I wish I could’ve instilled and let them know how much I trusted them. It’s one thing just giving an employee a job and saying go ahead and do this, but it’s another to give them affirmation like I trust you to do this and I know you’re going to do a great job. Giving them that affirmation, I’ve seen way more success in letting people run with that versus just here’s your job.

 

Mike Merrill:

Lets them grow, right?

 

Dillon Hales:

Yeah, lets them grow and lets them think this guy trusts me with this and I’ve got to do a good job. I don’t jut have to do it and then clock out at five o’clock. I wish I would’ve known that a longer time ago. Doing everything yourself for your whole life on the farm and growing up, “I’ll just do it. That’s kind of a hard weld so I’ll just do it.”

 

Mike Merrill:

Pretty soon you’re doing them all, right?

 

Dillon Hales:

Yeah, yeah. And I can’t do them all. We’re getting too big. I simply can’t do it all.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. I heard a quote the other day. I’ll probably butcher it but it was something like true leadership is not being the only person with the good ideas, it’s creating an environment where your teammates and other people, people that report to you, can have their good ideas come to life.

 

Dillon Hales:

Yeah.

 

Mike Merrill:

And then you can implement those.

 

Dillon Hales:

Yeah, I like that. I like that.

 

Mike Merrill:

Love it. What about a challenge or something that you really had to overcome and work through in business. What was something that was hard and what have you learned from that?

 

Dillon Hales:

Learning to say no. Learning to say no. I have a very wide variety of skills. I can do a lot of stuff. Whenever somebody would say, “Can you do this?” It was always, “Yes.” Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. But that’s been a big challenge and I think it probably took me up until last year to finally start saying no to certain projects and to certain stuff. It was always can you do this? Even if it’s like you’re a welding shop, “Can you make this wood table?” “Yes, we can. Of course.”

 

Mike Merrill:

Right, right. And hang those doors surely, no problem.

 

Dillon Hales:

Yeah, I can do that. I can change a pipe. But that’s probably one of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn is just to say no. Knowing what avenue you should stay in and report to.

 

Mike Merrill:

Love that. To wrap up, last question. What would you hope the listeners walk away with after hearing our conversation today? If there’s one thing.

 

Dillon Hales:

Yeah. If there’s one thing, you mentioned it. Just start. Just start. Don’t feel like you have to have a huge following to do any sort of on social media. And you can only capture it once. Like I said in the beginning, we would do projects then we would undo, we would put a piece of stair strainer in and we would undo it just to take the shot. It’s easier to start now, take the shot even if you don’t use it right away, you have the shot and you can use that later. So I hope that the listeners learning about what I’ve done for media and how I’ve grown with our media and what we’ve done, I hope that they just realize that they can start it. They don’t need anything fancy. They just need to make sure that they’re employees know that it’s okay to take a picture of something and to send it to somebody who’s simply managing it. Let them take off with it because it’s not about what you do right now, it’s about who has the loudest voice.

 

Mike Merrill:

Love that. Awesome. Well, I hope you all learned how you can have a louder voice and swing a bigger stick.

 

Dillon Hales:

Yeah.

 

Mike Merrill:

Dillon Hales’s a great example of that and he is definitely out there proving it every day. You can follow along and watch.

 

Dillon Hales:

Yeah. Follow us on Instagram @YetiWelding. It’ll come up.

 

Mike Merrill:

We’ll link everything up in the show notes and make sure that we tag all of your socials and your content and share that with our listeners as well.

 

Dillon Hales:

Yeah, for sure. I appreciate you letting us come stop by.

 

Mike Merrill:

You bet. Thank you to the listeners for joining us today on the Mobile Workforce Podcast, sponsored by About Time Technologies and WORKMAX. If you enjoyed the conversation that Dillon and I had today, please give us a five star rating and review and follow us on all the socials, LinkedIn, on Instagram @WORKMAX_ and please again share this with those of your friends and other colleagues that you have that might be interested in learning from this discussion. Thank you all again. After all, our goal is to help you not only improve in business but in life.