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Why Construction Safety and Mental Health Go Hand-in-Hand

Why Construction Safety and Mental Health Go Hand-in-Hand

Mental health is a subject that isn’t broached often in the world of construction, but according to Stuart Binstock, CEO and President of CFMA, it needs to be. Binstock is on the board of trustees for the Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention (CIASP). CIASP’s goal is making people aware that the problem exists in the United States and around the world with groups similar to CIASP. Based on recent trends, the group’s work has never been more critical. 

In 2018, the Center for Disease Control found that construction had the highest suicide rate of any industry in the United States. During one presentation Binstock gave, he asked a group of construction companies, “How many of you have had a suicide on the job or are aware of an employee who has died by suicide?” Two thirds of attendees raised their hands. This is an alarming reality, but it’s one the construction industry can change.

In this episode of the Mobile Workforce Podcast, Binstock shares why people need to talk about mental health, how the construction industry can prioritize mental health in their company cultures and where to find the resources to educate employees on these matters. 

 

Key Takeaways:

  1. Construction workers are highly susceptible to mental health struggles. In the construction industry, the majority of the workforce is caucasian men between the ages of 20 and 50 – a group considered at high risk for suicides. This correlation demonstrates why more construction companies need to recognize the problem so they may take steps to protect their employees.
  2. It’s time to invest in a culture of caring and well-being. The construction industry’s “Macho Man” stereotypes are destructive and detrimental. These include things like perpetuating the tough guy mentality and ignoring alcohol and substance abuse. The most critical assets a construction company has are its people. Investing in safety tools such as needs analysis, integration checklists and toolbox talks are steps in the right direction to keep everyone safe – but it’s also important to allow space for people to open up if they’re struggling with something.
  3. There are free resources to navigate mental health concerns in the workplace. Construction workers are not mental health experts but they can learn to notice the warning signs and take steps to help colleagues who are having a hard time. CIASP’s website, www.preventconstructionsuicide.com, provides free resources on how to navigate mental health concerns in the workplace.

 

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Episode Transcript:

Mike Merrill:

Hello, and welcome to the Mobile Workforce podcast. I am your host, Mike Merrill:. And today, we are joined by the president and CEO of CFMA, Stuart Binstock. And Stuart is highly regarded as an expert in construction finance. I’ve known Stewart for many years, and we’ve worked together within the CFMA organization. I’m really excited to have him on today. But we’re going to take a little bit different spin on things, and shine a light on a topic that’s a little bit different from construction finance today.

Mike Merrill:

We’re going to talk about a topic that Stuart and I both feel like is probably under-discussed, or not discussed often enough, and that is mental health. So Stuart actually leads the Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention. So, we’re grateful to have him on today to have this important conversation and discussion. And welcome today, Stuart. We’re excited to have you.

Stuart Binstock:

Thank you, Mike. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Mike Merrill:

You bet. Before we get into the deeper part of the conversation, could you just share with the listeners a little bit about your background and what CFMA is?

Stuart Binstock:

Sure. So, CFMA is a national organization. We’re an individual member association. We have somewhere right now between 8,500 and 9,000 members, in 99 chapters around the country. Our membership is composed primarily about 65% of folks on the finance side of construction companies, and about 35% of companies, folks like sureties, CPAs, software companies that want to work for those companies. So, it’s a very powerful synergy that we bring everybody in the construction industry together to talk about construction finance.

Stuart Binstock:

I’ve been with CFMA now for about 10 years. I’m very proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish over those last 10 years. We’ve gotten… probably increased membership by about 20 to 30%, and probably, in terms of revenue, about the same. But perhaps something I’m most proud of is that we’ve increased member value, I think significantly, over the last 10 years, through a myriad of things that we’ve done. But I think our members get a lot of value for spending less than $500 for being a member of both the national organization and a local chapter.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, that’s great, Stuart. Thank you for that Matt ground. And we, as an organization, at About Time Technologies and Work Max, we are involved every year. And we go to the events. We plug in. We rub elbows and talk to folks that are members of CFMA, and just a lot of value that the members get and come away with. And I notice they always come back every year. Nobody ever seems to leave CFMA. They just seem to keep coming.

Stuart Binstock:

Well, I think folks like you have really… We are kind of the sweet spot for companies like yours, that you… I mean, you essentially… I hear this from companies all the time. We need to be at the CFMA annual conference. It’s the most important event of the year for us. Because that’s where the decision-makers that will decide on our particular product, we can find them all in one place.

Stuart Binstock:

And yes, we have a very dedicated group of members, Mike. It always kind of amazes me. Our founder, David Casey just did an interview with our chair, Pam Hepburn. And he said… She asked him, she said, “What is the one thing that kind of surprises you still to this day?” And he poignantly said, “I think it’s the passion of the leadership, the volunteer leadership of CFMA, that has never waned. And in fact, it almost seems to have increased over the years.”

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. And I can attest to that. I see it, like you said. Every year, at the national conference, we go to the local chapter conferences. And we just… We do get excited every time we get to get involved with the CFMA event. The biggest surprise to me is how plugged in, like you said, the passion, but also how companies are willing to share best practices with one another. Even though they may be competitive in some environments, they still work together and try and raise the level of everyone’s performance together.

Stuart Binstock:

Well, the best example I can give you of that, Mike, is something we… on our website, we call the Connection Cafe. And it’s an opportunity for members to raise questions to members and get them asked… answered by the 8,500 to 9,000 members. It’s incredible the amount of information that our members share with one another. They are competitors, and they’re not going to tell them the secret sauce and any thing that makes their company particularly different, but they will share information for instance, on ERP systems.

Stuart Binstock:

I got to tell you, our members can be brutally honest and make comments that I’m sure makes some of the ERP whince a little bit, but it’s a very open and honest conversation. I think it’s… By itself, its worth the CFMA membership is just plugging in and looking at the connection cafe on a daily basis. And I think you’d get just… It’s kind of like a CFO one-on-one on that listserv.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. And I can attest to that. I’ve been in some of the chat threads where there’s 50 or a hundred or more comments back and forth. And you got people from Ohio locking arms with somebody in California, and Virginia, and Florida. And people are weighing in from everywhere and, again, sharing what they’ve learned so that everybody doesn’t have to go through those speed bumps all the time.

Stuart Binstock:

Yep. Yep.

Mike Merrill:

Love it. Well again, highly encourage everybody to check out CFMA. That’s Construction Financial Management Association. The annual conference is amazing. They’ve got a lot of online events, monthly webinars. We love being involved. But more importantly for today, as much as we love CFMA, and I’m sure you get to talk about it all the time, we really wanted to shine a brighter light on something that is a little bit more important and a challenge in our society today. And I think my question is, how did Stuart Benstock, this financial guy, get involved in suicide prevention?

Stuart Binstock:

Well, first of all, let me make a minor correction. I think you may have said something about me leading the Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention. CFMA started CIASP, but we are very pleased that we have joined in with many other organizations to now create an entity that’s separate and apart from CFMA. I’m on the board of trustees of the Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention. So I don’t want to take credit from leading it, nor do I want to get the blame in case we did something wrong. So, I just want to clarify that. But the answer to how a finance guy got involved in suicide prevention, I think it comes with just one simple phrase, and that’s people make a difference. And about five years ago, one of our members, a very beloved and cherished member, a guy named Cal Byer, came forward and penned an article with a doctor who deals with this issue, Dr. Sally Spencer-Thomas, and they wrote an article about suicide prevention.

Stuart Binstock:

Our publisher of our magazine, Kristy Domboski, came into me. And Kristy said, “Stuart, we just got this article on suicide prevention. What do we do about that?” Kristy and I looked at each other quizzically. We usually talk about tax loss, succession planning. Suicide prevention is not in our wheelhouse. And we both decided, “Well, let’s give it a whirl and see what happens.” And we had no idea what was going to happen from that article. But from that article, there was just an incredible outpouring, particularly on the Connection Cafe, I might add, of members who were impacted by suicide, by a family member, or a friend, or a coworker. And we found out that this issue was very real and resonated with our members in ways we never envisioned.

Mike Merrill:

Wow, that is very profound. And I can only imagine. I think in society today, we’re doing a better job of raising awareness. But I think this impacts all industries. But in construction, specifically, it’s really a lot of stress and pressure. And just because me as an individual may not be going through something doesn’t mean that your crew member to the right or to the left of you isn’t.

Stuart Binstock:

Well, that’s true. And I will say, first of all, and I think it’s important to say, this is not just a nationwide problem. This is a worldwide problem. We’ve talked to folks in Australia and the UK who have programs like CIASP in the construction industry. Frankly, they’ve done a better job than we have in focusing on this. And that’s really our mission in CIASP is awareness, is making people aware that this problem exists. And of course, it exists nationwide way beyond the construction industry.

Stuart Binstock:

It is a problem that youth have. I’ve been told… The quote I’ve been given many times as 132 veterans die by suicide every day…

Mike Merrill:

Wow.

Stuart Binstock:

… which is a startling and very overwhelming and awful number. But it is a nationwide problem. The problem for us in construction is that… The CDC did a report… Center for Disease Control did a report in 2016, and later in 2018, and found out that construction had the highest suicide rate of any industry in the United States. That was a real punch in the gut for all of us. And I think that it was only a punch in the gut, but it made us realize how important this initial initiative was and how important it was to carry it on.

Mike Merrill:

Wow. Well, I know CFMA is always involved in good causes, charities, other things, but it’s really very… I mean, I just have reverence for the fact that they have put this organization together and taking this initiative, because I do know… I come from the industry. And I do know and understand that this is a real problem. And it makes me wonder, I don’t know if you know the answer, but who seems to be the most at risk of this plague, really, is what it is?

Stuart Binstock:

We look at the workforce, the labor workforce. And that’s really where this lies. By the way, I want to just mention one thing before I forget. I do have a opportunity to go out and speak to an awful lot of groups. And one of the groups I spoke to a year or two ago now… Given COVID, I forget when it was, probably close to a year and a half ago now. And it was the largest construction companies in the United States and all of their safety directors. They have their own kind of particular small group, about 30 to 50 of the largest construction companies in the United States. And I am a lawyer by training. And you’re always taught never to ask a question that you don’t know the answer to. But I went out on that plank and I decided to go ahead and ask the question.

Stuart Binstock:

So, at the beginning of my presentation, I asked them, “How many of you have had a suicide on the job or are aware of an employee who has died by suicide?” Two thirds of those companies raised their hands. Once again, that was also just an incredible punch in the gut to see how prevalent this is. But let me get back to answering your question. So, white men from the ages of 20 to 50 are kind of the group that died by suicide the most. And if you know anything about the workforce, the construction industry, it is largely white men ages 20 to 50. So, male dominated industries tend to have more suicides. And Caucasians die by suicide more than others. And we are unfortunately, primarily, and hopefully this will change, but largely a Caucasian workforce. But there’s also kind of the nature of the work that has impacted this and explains, in part, why suicide is so high in the construction industry.

Stuart Binstock:

First of all, there’s this kind of tough guy mentality, kind of stoic. I’m not going to tell you if anything’s bothering me there. And because of that… There are a fair number of injuries on work sites. This is not sitting at your desk. You all know that. And so, people have pain issues. And unfortunately, sometimes, they use opioids. Sometimes, they get in problems with opioids. And opioids and suicide are very, very much related. There’s also kind of the isolation when… Sometimes, a company has a project and it’s out of town, so people will travel. And they’ll be out of town. And they’ll be alone for months on end. And that’s not good for anybody’s mental health. There’s project layoffs, the end of the season kind of way offs. So, there’s kind of the financial stress that, that causes. There’s sleep deprivation due to shift work.

Stuart Binstock:

Unfortunately, there’s a tolerant culture for alcohol and substance abuse. And then, probably, some people say the biggest impact is access to lethal means. I’m not sure it’s fair to say there’s a gun culture in the construction industry, but it might be an accurate statement to make. And the more access you have to lethal means, the more able people are… What experts tell me is sometimes this is a spur of the moment decision that somebody makes.      And in that spur of the moment, if you have access to lethal means, you’re probably going to be more successful in doing and dying by suicide than others that don’t have access to those lethal means. That’s kind of a weird way to think about it. But if you think about it, it’s true.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. It’s very eye opening and difficult to even think about. I mean, even talking about it’s a challenge. It feels heavy. No question about it. How do companies create a culture that helps avoid or improve people that are struggling with these things? Do you have any insights to that?

Stuart Binstock:

Well, we talk about that. And I really encourage people, after listening to this, to go to preventconstructionsuicide.com. That’s the website for the Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention. And we have a fair number of tools. We have an assessment tool that a company can take. I encourage companies to look at this. And it is called… I want to just make sure I get the name right, so you understand what we’re talking about… a needs analysis and implementation tool. So, it really goes through a company. And it helps you determine if you have addressed some of the issues that might negate this from happening.

Stuart Binstock:

So, you create a healthy and wellbeing kind of culture, a caring culture in your organization. That’s one of the ways in which you can do this. I encourage folks to look at this needs analysis and integration checklist. And I think, if a company goes through that, they’ll probably learn some things along the way that they can do better to support their people. Because at the outset, and let me be very clear about this… The most important asset of construction company has are its people. And if you’re not going to invest in your people, then you’re missing out on the most valuable resource, then you’re missing out on the place where you can probably make the biggest difference.

Mike Merrill:

Hmm, wow. Profound statement. Yeah. Equipment and machines don’t have a heart or a brain.

Stuart Binstock:

Not that I know of. I mean, maybe they will in a few years, as I watch it on different shows might, but not now.

Mike Merrill:

Wow. Yeah. So, I know in construction, obviously, we do toolbox talks, or safety trainings, and requirements for OSHA and other things. Are those some areas that you’re seeing companies take advantage of an opportunity to communicate more clearly about these issues?

Stuart Binstock:

Absolutely, Mike. Absolutely. Yes. So, we have some toolbox talks on our website. I think another element that’s important is to have an effective employee assistance program. A lot of companies have EAPs, but they… What I’ve been told is they vary substantially. So, you really might want to look at your EAP and determine whether it will bring value to members, whether employees will really consider using it, and whether it helps them address some of the mental health problems.

Stuart Binstock:

It’s that whole building a caring culture of support. Those two things, building a caring culture and the construction industry, don’t exactly go hand in hand. Those two words don’t usually coincide. But it’s something to consider and think about doing if you want to have everyone come home at the end of the day, safe and sound.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. I love that. I know. I mean, here in our organization, one thing we do is regularly we’ll have book clubs. And not that I necessarily know that construction companies are going to do something like that, but I can tell you firsthand that, that is a wonderful experience to get to know people personally, and to be more vulnerable in ways where you can communicate about some of these things that are not easy to talk about out on a job site necessarily.

Stuart Binstock:

You’re absolutely right, Mike. I mean, this is not the conversation you have on the work site. You don’t walk up to Joe and go, “You look a little bummed out today. Joe. Are you thinking of dying by suicide?” And by the way, you’ll note, I use the expression “die by suicide”. I don’t say “commit suicide”. And that’s because people who kind of work in this field don’t really believe someone can commit to suicide. It’s… There’s got to be an underlying mental health issue for someone to die by suicide. So, you won’t hear people knowledgeable in this area talk about someone committing suicide. You still heard it on TV. But it’s interesting. Every once in a while, I’ll hear somebody on the news talk about this issue and say they died by suicide. That’s really the proper phrasiology to use.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. And I heard a statistic. And maybe I’m speaking out of turn here. I don’t have the exact reference. But I did hear and read a story. And they talked about survivors of that attempt. And in a hundred percent of the cases that they interviewed, they all had regretted making that choice.

Stuart Binstock:

And that’s why I mentioned lethal means and spur of the moment, because that’s exactly right. A lot of this does happen kind of in that spur of the moment, and someone has access to lethal means. They can accomplish what they probably would regret afterwards, but it’s too late. So, you’re absolutely right, Mike.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. And I know… So, we’ve talked about… I mean, I brought up the book club idea. You talked about toolbox talks. Are there some other tips, or tricks, or ways that companies can bring this subject up more comfortably?

Stuart Binstock:

Well, we have… Within the website, we do have Living Works training. So, it’s a group called Living Works. And they’ve created some training programs. You could start off and have your supervisors trained through this Living Works program. It’s really a nominal fee through our website. But every once in a while, I’m not sure where we are right now, but sometimes we even offer the training for free. But if it’s not for free, it’s for a nominal fee. And you could get maybe your supervisory staff trained and go through that program. It’s not very long. And that would, I think, help… There’s another expression that people in this area talk about, and Cal Byer used to talk about, and still does, which is remove the stigma, remove the stigma of having this conversation. And I would say that’s probably the most important thing you can do as a company. The single most important thing you can do is remove the stigma, because… I gave a speech on a association that has safety and health conference, and I kind of leveled them a little bit.

Stuart Binstock:

And I said, “I know you’re going to talk about safety. I’m not sure how much you’re going to talk about health during this two day conference, but I can well almost guarantee you will not be talking about mental health.” And that’s because people are afraid to talk about it. It’s not an easy topic to talk about, but you’ve got to start the conversation. And that’s… Part of our message is do something. Start the conversation somehow. Go have some folks in your company go through training. Have an EAP. Do a toolbox talk. There are a myriad of ways. Go through the integration checklist. There are a myriad of things you can do to start in this area.

Mike Merrill:

I know, just statistically speaking, I’m, I’m a hundred percent confident that we have somebody listening to this right now that’s either contemplated this action, or they know somebody who has. What would you tell that person that is dealing with that right now that might be listening?

Stuart Binstock:

Well, I mean, one of the dilemmas in this area, particularly for construction companies, is we are not mental health experts. And so, thinking that you are, and you’re going to be able to provide mental health expertise to someone, I think is a mistake. And so, you need to get them in touch with something like the suicide prevention hotline. We have, on the website, the warning signs to look for, for someone who might be thinking… having suicidal thoughts. Either someone in your company, or even if someone’s listening today, who has this, they should contact the suicide prevention line, and immediately.

Stuart Binstock:

And they will get some kind of assistance. If you are talking to someone who has suicidal thoughts, and they admit to those suicidal thoughts to you, it’s probably important to not leave them alone. You probably want to initiate getting them some help. And then, you can leave somebody alone. But you probably should not leave somebody alone who has expressed some of these thoughts. If that’s you, or someone who’s listening, or someone in your company, you want to help let them get some help before you leave them alone. I think that’s just a basic important premise.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. And I think, like you said earlier, these things are often a spur of the moment, or they may come on quickly. And so, it would be urgent that we don’t leave anybody in that moment.

Stuart Binstock:

The other thing I’ll tell you, Mike… This isn’t coming from me, but it comes from mental health experts, and it’s in our Living Works training. There’s nothing wrong with asking someone if they have suicidal thoughts. I know, when I first went through the training, I thought, “Why would I ask somebody that? What if I spurred them to do something that they weren’t already thinking of?” Mental health experts tell us, “If you ask someone that, and they said yes, it’s not like you put it in their head. They were already thinking of it.” So, you shouldn’t be shy about asking that if you see someone that you think has some signs of this. It’s important to actually get that out. And sometimes, just talking to somebody can make somebody feel better. This is kind of a labor intensive kind of issue.

Stuart Binstock:

You can’t have a process in place, and have someone go through four steps, and feel like they’re going to be great at the end of the tunnel. This is one-to-one kind of personal contact that you need to make, and connect with somebody, and take them aside, and ask them how they’re doing. I did a webinar yesterday for a group. And somebody asked the question, “I’m a female supervisor. And I think it would be really hard for me to approach one of my older laborers and ask them. And I don’t think they’d be that receptive.” And I think a good response to that is, “Well, find someone who they value, find someone who they look up to or see as an equal peer, and have that person do the work for you. But don’t not do it because you think you’re the wrong person. Find somebody else to have that conversation.”

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. I love that. And I love how you said earlier, this is a process, and it’s not just like four quick steps. I mean, it’s not like pulling a sliver out or something. I mean, there’s… This is a deeper seated issue that probably requires some professional help and direction by those that know how to best help that person. But in the absence of that, or before that can happen, talking about it, raising awareness, normalizing it to a degree that you understand that it’s okay.

Stuart Binstock:

Yeah. That’s the whole notion of removing the stigma. Yep. That’s exactly right.

Mike Merrill:

Love that. So, obviously very heavy subject, and not easy to talk about or even think about, but I think it’s important. And I’m so thankful that you’re able to share this with us today. Is there a website URL? Obviously, we’ll link it in the show notes and elsewhere, but can you tell us where to this information easily?

Stuart Binstock:

Preventconstructionsuicide.com. That’s the Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention’s website. It has a whole host of things. One of the things we would like people to do is stand up to suicide prevention. So, that’s an acronym that stands for five different things. And we want people to kind of take the pledge to stand up for suicide prevention. And we’d love companies to do that. We run this organization on a shoestring budget. If anyone has the wherewithal, and feels compelled to support this, we would love that kind of support. We get it periodically from some big construction companies.

Stuart Binstock:

And we very much appreciate the support that we get. Anything you can do to help support that. Here at CFMA, every year at our conference, we have a run, a fund run. And it’s for charity. And every year, over the last couple of years, we’ve made all of the funds that we’ve been able to accumulate go to CIASP. I think, last year, we were able to give CIASP $17,000. So, anyone who feels compelled to do that, we’d love to hear from you as well.

Mike Merrill:

That’s great. And do you have like a donate now button on the website or is there…

Stuart Binstock:

Yep. Yep. There is.

Mike Merrill:

Fantastic. And I will certainly raise awareness to this as I am able, and use our platform to do the same. We’re heavily involved in our local AGC chapter also. And so, I will bring this to the attention of local group here as well.

Stuart Binstock:

AGC, and actually ABC, are both very involved in this initiative. The current chair of CIASP is actually a staff member of ABC. But the problem that we find, and this is true of CFMA, is we have this national initiative and we believe in it very much from the headquarters level, but it doesn’t always get filtered down to the chapter level. So, anything somebody can do to help grow this initiative, and grow the interest at a local level, is really important. The grassroots is where it’s really happening.

Mike Merrill:

I love that. And that’s… CFMA is definitely a grassroots organization. How many years have CFMA been in existence?

Stuart Binstock:

This is our 40th anniversary. So, you’re… Good question, Mike, the perfect timing for me to plug CFMA’s 40th anniversary.

Mike Merrill:

Wow. Yeah, I was going to say, it’s got to be the high thirties, at least. So, 40, that’s that’s a big deal.

Stuart Binstock:

Yeah.

Mike Merrill:

Love that. So, before we wrap up.. And again, thank you for having that difficult heavier conversation, because I think it is very important, and I appreciate the opportunity to help you get the word out on that. I do have a few personal questions for you.

Stuart Binstock:

Uh-oh.

Mike Merrill:

Not too personal.

Stuart Binstock:

Okay.

Mike Merrill:

I’ve been to a few cocktail mixers with you here and there.

Stuart Binstock:

We’re going down…. We’re going down a rabbit hole here.

Mike Merrill:

Just kidding. CFMA does have a lot of fun. They do find some time to let loose a little bit.

Stuart Binstock:

They do, absolutely do.

Mike Merrill:

So…

Stuart Binstock:

Love that about our members.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. That’s a great time. So, thanks again for helping us learn more about this important organization. Just to wrap up, what is one thing that you are grateful for in your professional life?

Stuart Binstock:

Well, I’m grateful for, I’d certainly say, my family. But my professional life, the last 10 years, CFMA has been the highlight of my career, no question about it. I’ve dealt with an amazing group of volunteers. As I talked about before, we have really passionate leaders as part of our organization. And they are so dedicated to this organization. If I was heading down a wrong path, they would correct me very quickly.

Stuart Binstock:

I try not to go down any wrong paths. But if I was, trust me, I’d get yanked back into reality. We really have some tremendous volunteers. We have folks who volunteer on our committees. We have an executive committee. We have an officer group. They’re all super, super dedicated to this organization.

Mike Merrill:

That’s great. Well, I love that. And I know it’s clear, you love CFMA and I know that CFMA certainly loves you, Stuart.

Stuart Binstock:

Thank you very much.

Mike Merrill:

What about a skill or a superpower, something you’ve kind of developed or learned over the years, and honed, that’s been a blessing to you and in your pursuits?

Stuart Binstock:

Well, I guess I’m someone, I believe… I’m not… This is not a superpower. I was going to say two separate things. First of all, I do believe physical health is connected to mental health. And so, I do pretty religiously walk 10,000 steps a day. You can’t see it in my physique because that hasn’t changed all that much, but it does make me feel good. And I think it’s really important to get out there. And so, I do walk 10,000 steps, which is about five miles every day. At the end of the day, if I haven’t walked my five miles, I’ll walk around in my house, walk up the stairs and down the stairs.

Stuart Binstock:

It looks kind of silly, but I’m pretty committed to my 10,000 steps. The other thing I would just say from a business standpoint, I’ve really been a firm believer in, keep your head down, and do your job, and you’ll be recognized. Once again, that’s not a super power, but that is kind of a belief that I have. Too many people, I think, worry about, “Did I get credit for that? Did I get credit for this?” trust me. You get noticed when you do something well in an organization. You don’t have to tell it yourself.

Mike Merrill:

I love that. There is absolutely no substitute for activity, getting things done, right?

Stuart Binstock:

Hard work.

Mike Merrill:

Love it. So, what about in your career earlier on, are there some things that you worked through, that you’ve improved upon, and you wish your younger self would have known earlier? Anything you could share with our listeners?

Stuart Binstock:

I would say yeah. I certainly… yes, under that category. And I think one of those is, if you’re going to leave an organization, make sure you better look behind to make sure you got people supporting you, and they’re behind you, instead of knifing you in the back. And that can happen. You get knifed in the back if you’re too far out front. You have to… There’s a delicate balance, in leading an organization, to lead and yet follow the lead of those that you’re trying to lead.

Stuart Binstock:

And sometimes, I would say, in my career, I just forged ahead. And I was going like blockbusters, gangbusters. And I turned around and I went, “Oh. Now, is there that really anybody supporting this?”

Mike Merrill:

Where is everybody?

Stuart Binstock:

“I think I better look backwards before I look forwards, and make sure I have the support of people.” You don’t get the support of people when they think you’re a little too out front, and you’re trying to do things that are not supported by the whole group.

Mike Merrill:

That’s an interesting insight. I think that’s not what I’ve heard before on the podcast. So, thank you for bringing that up. It’s important to make sure your team’s still with you.

Stuart Binstock:

Yep.

Mike Merrill:

Leadership means you’re still there having an effect on them, not out ahead, too far of the curve… the group. Love that. What about… Is there one challenge, or something really that was difficult, that you overcame? And what did you learn from that experience?

Stuart Binstock:

Well, I think, over the years, I’ve learned that it’s really important to collaborate. When I came on board with the staff, I inherited a staff. And I’m not sure I would have hired every single person that was on the staff. But I think, over the years, we’ve built a team here. And you don’t do this by yourself. And collaborating with my team. And giving them the power to do things on their own, I think. Has been very, very freeing to them, and I think important to our success.

Stuart Binstock:

I think they really appreciate having the freedom, within certain parameters of the organization, to do the right thing for the organization, and then collaborate together. I think no one is an island. No one does it on their own. And I’ve learned… I think I really have learned how important collaboration is. And the thing I’ve learned is I don’t always have the best ideas. There are other people in the room that have better ideas. And so, you really elevate the organization the more you get input from everybody in the company.

Mike Merrill:

I love that. I heard a quote the other day. They said, “If you’re the smartest one in the room all the time, you need to find another room.”

Stuart Binstock:

Right. That’s good advice.

Mike Merrill:

So. Thank you. Boy, I can’t add much to what you just said there. I love your advice. You’re clearly a veteran leader, and a great individual, and we really have enjoyed having this discussion. I guess finally, just for the listeners, what’s the one takeaway that you would leave them with here at the end of our discussion?

Stuart Binstock:

Thanks for asking that question, Mike. Do something. I made a comment at the outset, or during the middle of my presentation. Have a conversation. Do a toolbox talk. Have an overall conversation with your folks, maybe the… When a construction company… Maybe you have a… You bring everyone in and you talk about this issue collectively. And you’ll be shocked at some of the comments you’ll get from people. Do something.

Stuart Binstock:

And if you do something, you will lead to removing the stigma. And if you remove the stigma, and you create awareness, we can actually make a difference when it comes to this topic. I think we have made a difference so far, but there is a long way to go. There are still way too many people who die by suicide. Mental health is really not discussed enough in our society. It’s too difficult a conversation, and we need to remove the stigma.

Mike Merrill:

There you have it folks. Wonderful. Well, thank you so much for joining us today, Stuart. I’ve really enjoyed the conversation, and always get to know you better when we have these opportunities. I appreciate them.

Stuart Binstock:

Thank you, Mike. I really appreciate you taking the time to talk about this important subject. Thanks for your organization and your leadership.

Mike Merrill:

You bet. All right. We’ll look forward to connecting again soon.

Stuart Binstock:

Thanks, Mike.

Mike Merrill:

All right. Thank you to the listeners for joining us today on the Mobile Workforce podcast. If you enjoyed the conversation that Stuart and I had today, and have an opportunity to share that out with your coworkers, or associates, or other contacts that you have in the industry, we feel like this is a very important topic and something that cannot be overstated, or discussed enough.

Mike Merrill:

Again, thank you again for your listenership. We always love those five star ratings and reviews on the podcast. Give us a review. Let us know how we’re doing, what you liked. And make sure to share this episode with others. Again, we appreciate the opportunity to bring these valuable conversations to you. After all, our goal is to help you improve not only your business, but your life.

Compliance with OSHA: How Technology Can Help Get You Ready

Compliance with OSHA: How Technology Can Help Get You Ready

Construction management teams prioritize the safety of their workers, but rules and regulations can be confusing to keep up with. On top of that, visits and surprise inspections from OSHA and its state-level affiliates can cause anxiety among even the most diligent of construction firms. So how can contractors ensure their job sites are safe and issue-free? According to Cotney Attorneys & ConsultantsTrent Cotney, preparedness is key.

In this episode of the Mobile Workforce Podcast, Trent shares why an OSHA inspection doesn’t have to spell trouble. He shares advice on employing the right strategies, documentation and training to ensure your business is safe and compliant with current laws.

 

Key Takeaways:

  1. Most OSHA violations are business failures: Many times when there is a safety issue that OSHA would issue a write-up for, it is tied to a business failure such as not knowing what the process is for an inspection or not knowing your rights during the inspection. Trent says these can be avoided by knowing what OSHA is looking for, being honest, and being cooperative. 
  2. Technology doesn’t replace real-world safety training: The job site is changing rapidly. While toolbox talks are helpful in training workers on processes, procedures and safety regulations, they do not replace the need for real-world training. Make sure that the topics – especially those around safety – that require hands on training are given priority away from the screens. 
  3. Proactively manage your safety program: Don’t wait until an inspection is scheduled to get a clear picture of your safety program. This leaves you little time to make improvements where they’re needed. Keep in mind there are situations in which OSHA shows up to job sites unannounced. In this case, there’s no time to prepare and you risk violations. Make it a priority to know the status of your safety program at all times. By being proactive, you’ll be able to take action in advance and avoid costly violations. 

 

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Episode Transcript:

Mike Merrill:

Hello, and welcome to the Mobile Workforce Podcast. I am your host, Mike Merrill. And today we are sitting down with Trent Cotney, the CEO of Cotney Attorneys & Consultants, and also the author of a great book on OSHA Defense for the Construction Industry. Today, we’re talking about safety regulations and how to make sure that your job sites are safe and ready for those OSHA inspections. Trent’s a highly regarded expert, and I’m also looking forward to digging into not only his background and experience, but also some of the stories that he has to share from the industry with us. Hello, Trent, and thanks for joining us on the podcast today.

Trent Cotney:

Hey, thanks so much for having me. I’m looking forward to today’s talk.

Mike Merrill:

Awesome. Well before we get into the conversation, if you could just share a little bit of your background with our listeners, that would be awesome.

Trent Cotney:

Sure. So I come from a background where my family did construction. I grew up in that. I’ve been practicing for about 22 years now solely and representing the construction industry. I started down in South Florida and then moved up to the Tampa area in the late 90s. And I started this from my company about 10 years ago where we, focused solely on representing the construction industry, primarily contractors and trades.

Mike Merrill:

Wow. So you’ve been around the block a few times and literally written the book on how to pre-prepared for OSHA. 

Trent Cotney:

Right.

Mike Merrill:

So getting into that a little bit what should a company do to be prepared for an OSHA inspection if somebody was aware that that was about to go down?

Trent Cotney:

Yes, that’s a really good question and what I always tell contractors out there and if you’re like me, I’d much rather hang out with contractors and lawyers. So I spend most of my time around them, it’s about having a good game plan in advance of an inspection occurring. So you want to understand what the process is. You want to know what your rights are, you want to make sure that the people out in the field understand that, and that you’re communicating that effectively. Because that’s where I see the majority of the problems happen is just not understanding how an inspection goes, right? 

By the time you actually get a citation, yes, we can work some magic, there’s a lot of different defenses into the things that you’ve got at your fingertips. But the best word that you can do is at the start of the inspection, by making sure that you understand what exactly is that OSHA is looking for, that you’re putting your best foot forward. Obviously you’re always telling the truth and being cooperative, but understanding where those boundaries are, right? Being civil and professional, but knowing your rights and that’s what we preach.

Mike Merrill:

That’s a great point. I think, a great advice for the listeners. So obviously your inspiration came from somewhere to write this book. What was it that spurred you to do that?

Trent Cotney:

Sure. So we represent a lot of trades, specifically roofing contractors, HPAC, et cetera. And they were getting cited a bunch by OSHA. So on a granular level, we were defending them, on a daily basis and multiple states, fighting OSHA and seeing what their tactics and techniques were. And oftentimes, what we see is, if it’s a failure from a legal standpoint, it’s usually a business failure, it’s a process failure. And that’s what a few years ago, I started thinking about this and I was like, you know what? I need to write a very simple book that you can read in four or five hours that summarizes what your rights are. There’s no case sites, it’s not written for lawyers. It’s a very easy digestible book that anybody can pick up and understand this is what I can do and what I can’t do, because what I’ve seen is unlike a criminal case where the police come on to your home or your office, or it might be, they’ve got to read your rights to you, OSHA doesn’t have to do that.

Okay. Even though you could potentially have some criminal ramifications depending on what’s happening. So, that’s what I want to do is I really wanted to educate, and I wanted to write a down to earth message that resonated with the contractor base so that they understood what that line was.

Mike Merrill:

Interesting. So it’s making me think back to, For Dummies books that they used to come out. It’s kind of like OSHA regulations for dummies.

Trent Cotney:

Yeah. I mean, it’s designed, look, it’s the kind of book I would want to read. You know what I mean? 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah.

Trent Cotney:

I want something that’s just going to get to the point. I don’t need a lot of puffery, and case sites and other stuff. Just tell me what I got to do. And if you’re like me, I’m assuming, most of our listeners are the same way. Just get to the point. That’s what this book does. It’s from start to finish. It just tells you, “Hey, this is how to go about doing it. It talks about things like the walk around inspection.” When OSHA comes out, you want to make sure that you are asking them, “Why are you here?” Normally they will show you their credentials. They’ll say, “Hey, I was just driving by I saw four people on a roof without fall protection, or I saw the scaffolding issue.” But that puts that inspection in a box.

And that’s what you want to do is you want to start it off by understanding why they are here, because, if they say, “Hey, look, I want to go inside and inspect your electrical outlets.” That’s not part of their inspection. So it’s very important that you set the tone and you start off with that box so you know where things are going.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. I love that. I know in researching a little bit about your background on my own, I have noticed that we have a lot of common connections in the industry, a lot of roofing contractors, some of the larger roofers. Obviously, you’re doing something right, because it’s resonating with these folks and they’re very connected to what you’re doing in the industry.

Trent Cotney:

Mike, I’ve been blessed, I have a little bit of a background in roofing. My grandfather was a roofer, but it’s something that has really kind of always, they always say, once it gets in your blood, you can never get rid of it. So I am very fortunate and I work with a lot of great contractors, I serve as general counsel for the national association. So it’s something I take a lot of pride in and obviously advocacy is part of that.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, that’s great. Yeah. We love the roofing industry and all the trades that we serve as well, so great people and they need some help, there’s no question about it.

Trent Cotney:

Absolutely. 

Mike Merrill:

So tell me this. I know obviously with the new White House the Biden administration, we’ve got some different regulations and rules and different changes that typically happen when there’s a change out in The White House. What types of things should people expect to come down the pipe because of that?

Trent Cotney:

Interesting question, Mike. And it’s something that I was just talking to a general contractor last week about the Biden administration, from my perspective, it’s going to bring a lot of change. We, as an industry, benefited a lot from the Trump administration, and the approach that Secretary Scalia took with regard to OSHA, the Biden administration is going to change things up. So what I’ve told contractors and trades, I said, “Look, you need to expect that there’s going to be more rulemaking, there’s going to be more inspections, there’s going to be more citations. It’s absolutely going to happen. The department of labor is going to be very aggressive under the Biden administration. And here are some things that I would watch out for just briefly, if I’m a contractor or trade I can almost guarantee within the next month or so, there’s going to be some emergency temporary standard for COVID 19 and infectious diseases.”

So we have a lot of contractors. We were just talking to a mechanical contractor on California that had a Cal/OSHA violation for COVID-19. A lot of these state plans are already very aggressive. This is going to be the federal standard. So they are going to apply to any state that does not actively have a state plan. There’s a due, it’s going to trickle down to that. Something else to look out for Mike is the heat injury and illness standards I anticipated they’re going to redo those probably towards the end of the summer. I expect that they’re going to see some changes to the silica standard. I would absolutely anticipate there are going to be a lot more inspections once the hierarchy within OSHA becomes solidified, okay? And it tends to take a little bit of time, but by this time, fourth quarter or next year, you’re going to start seeing a big uptick in OSHA inspections and citations.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. And I, as a former contractor myself, I’m grateful for OSHA and that organization. I’m grateful to make sure that employees are safe, but as a contractor, I definitely don’t want the regulations coming down on my project, right? And I think most people feel the same way they want to operate safely, but they don’t necessarily like the idea of somebody breathing down their neck so to speak. That sounds like there might be a bit more of that coming down the pike.

Trent Cotney:

Yeah. I think that’s a great point. I firmly believe that every penny you spend on safety is a penny will spend and OSHA does a great job with training, it’s not to say I’m not trying to paint OSHA in a bad light, but my concern is, is that you always have to balance regulation with the reality of doing construction, right? There’s a happy medium. And oftentimes I feel like some of these regulations come out without a lot of thought or foresight into what actual job site hazards there are. They’re written on a desk somewhere without a true understanding of what contractors and trades experience on a daily basis. So I would love OSHA to focus on safety, less on citations. I love to see retraining, I would love to see a lot more invested in that because I do think that it serves a great role. I do think there’s an opportunity for education out there. But it’s just finding that correct balance.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. That’s a great point, I guess, as you’re talking through this, I’m also starting to wonder what role does technology play in this process from your perspective?

Trent Cotney:

Yeah. Technology, I mean, look how we’re communicating now, this has become how the world exists now. I was telling somebody the other day I rarely do I have a conference call anymore. It’s Zoom or go to webinar Teams or whatever it might be. There are a lot of technology based apps out there that can assist with safety that can make data collection easier for you, okay? So for example, your safety director, let’s say you’re an electrical contractor and you’ve got a safety director and you send them out to a job site. They can assess the job site, take photos, whatever it might be, get it back to the home office. And that way you’ve done an audit and you can notify all the people that need to be notified and then turn around and make sure that you’re correcting whatever it needs to be corrected.

Along those lines though, you also want to make sure someone’s monitoring stuff because a lot of times what we’ll see is, that safety director, that safety person that’s taking photos via the app may be showing an unsafe condition. And if somebody doesn’t catch that and correct that OSHA can get that, right? And that could potentially be a no-no because you’ve got a supervisory level employee not properly identifying and correcting a safety violation. So you want to balance technology with the potential for liability, but I do think that there is a heightened role for technology. Not just from an app standpoint, but from cameras out in the field, from all the different technologies from drone technology, other things that we’re starting to see pop up with regard to safety and safety planning.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. So you mentioned safety trainings and some areas there that maybe OSHA can focus more on what types of technologies are acceptable for safety training? Are there options to do some of that remotely or digitally?

Trent Cotney:

Yeah, absolutely. There are a variety of ways you can obtain safety training digitally. I have an OSHA 10 and OSHA 30, I’ve taken the OSHA 24. All of that was over a laptop. You can have toolbox talks and engage in weekly or monthly safety trainings on a variety of topics, everything from signs of impairment, to opioid abuse, to heat illness, and injury, to whatever the issues of the day might be, you know COVID-19 training. So there are certain things that can be done that way. There are other things in my opinion, may require some, at least in-person access or the possibility of using VR or augmented reality to maybe supplement that or change to that so that you have the capability of being immersed in a real world situation. There is some necessity for that, but I do see technology playing a bigger and bigger role within safety train, just because of ease of access and just efficiency ability to access it whenever you want.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. That’s a great point. I know you’re mentioning apps quite a bit, obviously the technologies and the cloud systems that are now available, are a far cry better than anything I ever had 15, 20 years ago when I was heavy in the industry, it was a whole different world, everything had to be in person, so.

Trent Cotney:

Oh, yes.

Mike Merrill:

So with the issues that contractors are facing related to COVID and some of these other, just more recent developments, have you witnessed companies, number one, being successful with those and being able to refute challenges that maybe came from OSHA and maybe when did somebody get stuck as well? You have a couple of different examples that you could share?

Trent Cotney:

Sure, absolutely. I mean, this is something that we deal with on a daily basis and the companies that are most successful during informal conferences, which is the conference that you have after the citations issued, it’s an opportunity for you to potentially resolve your case, possibly gain some additional facts before you go on to contesting it, if that’s what you want to do. The companies that come prepared, the companies that show that they have a culture of safety and oftentimes, technology or paper or whatever it might be, that’s going to make the difference. If you show up to a conference and you’ve got a nice binder or an app that’s organized with thousands of audits and pages in there, that’s a big difference than you’ve shown up with a folder with a bunch of random stuff in it.

You got to be able to convey that message properly. So I can give you a couple of examples. We had one where we were representing a contractor that engaged in historical restoration work. In particular, this was some storm damage that they come in to fix, and they were cited for a lift violation. We were able to show that this was unpreventable employee misconduct because of a variety of toolbox talks and training that this person had, the job site plan, there was just three inches worth of documentation that I could present on this job. And the investigating officer had to look at it and be like, “What can we do?” Now on the other hand we had one where a new contractor carpenter just getting started, didn’t have much anything, by the time he got to us, we’re helping them after the fact we’re getting him the safety manual, we’re getting him, all those things that he needs.

But it’s a lot of, well, I said this, I didn’t say this. So you got to go in there with a little bit different game plan. And we were able to help him, but at the end of the day, we could have helped him a lot more had he had better paper to back it up, the party with the best paper always wins the day that’s really. And whether it’s electronic or physical, that tends to be the case in almost every aspect of construction.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. We always say, “He who has the most data typically wins.” And that sounds like you’re you’re on the same track there.

Trent Cotney:

Right on. That’s it. 

Mike Merrill:

So how often should contractors expect to see other changes? Is it quarterly? Is it someone annually? Is it a yearly thing? How often do big changes usually come down the pike?

Trent Cotney:

So for our listeners in California, while we were talking, they probably just had another major change. But generally speaking, what I suggest is take a look at your safety manual and your toolbox talks every six months. And the reason I say that is that you may have a local or state legislation that’s come out, has changed things, there may be significant changes that have been caused by the pandemic. So you just want to take it and then at least once a year, you want to do an audit of it and just make sure that everything that you have in there is up to date that you’ve got the current regulations

Every time OSHA comes out with a new regulation, you want to make sure there’s another toolbox talk on it, that you have it in your manual, if it is applicable to the type of work that you do. So obviously if they come out with, something that deals with electrical and you don’t touch electrical, you don’t need to worry about it. But if it’s something that’s right in your wheelhouse that you touch every single day, definitely update your employees, show that training and update your manual.

Mike Merrill:

And I would imagine these manuals, are they most commonly digital or are they printed or are they both? Is there a requirement?

Trent Cotney:

We see both, digital tends to be an easier way to convey it because a lot of times these manuals are thick. There’s a lot of stuff in there. And the key is, is that a couple of things about this mike that I want to hit home to the listeners is you want to get sign-off. You want to make sure your employees have signed off on it, okay? You want to make sure that they’ve got access, have whether it’s digitally or hard, copy one should be in every single work truck. And the reason I say that is a lot of times, OSHA will come up to a job site and the last superintendent say, “Okay, well, what’s the swing radius here.” If you don’t know the answer, it’s very easy to say, “Look, I can’t tell you, I have it in my head, but I keep my manual in my truck. I look at that. And then I call the home office to get whatever the answer is.” Okay?

Another thing that you want to do, Mike, is you want to make sure that if you’ve got a Spanish crew or a crew that doesn’t speak English, you want to have that translator in whatever language that is because OSHA’s, they’re going to look to see that you have provided that message in a way that they can understand it, right? So you might have the most beautiful four-color, spiral-bound safety manual in English, but all of your labor only speaks Spanish and reads in Spanish. You’re not doing them a favor, right? So spend the extra money to get that translation it’ll come in handy and OSHA will definitely ask for it.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, that’s a great point. And I think that’s not what I’ve heard commonly. So I really like that. What kind of contractor do to expand their current safety program? Obviously there’s a range of people that have little to nothing in place and they really need to get on the stick. And then there’s other companies that probably do a pretty good job of this, but how do they expand it and improve from wherever they’re at best?

Trent Cotney:

So we always like to approach everything in a phase by phase approach. So let’s start from nothing, if you have absolutely nothing. The first thing that you need to do is create the base of your safety program. The base of your safety program is the safety manual. So your safety manual wants to account for certain things that all contractors experience like signs of impairment or heat exhaustion, that kind of stuff, but also wants to really hone in on the type of stuff that you do on a daily basis, okay? From that safety manual, you then branch out and create the system with toolbox talks that really hits that home, right? The key thing is you want to make sure that, well, I always said, you do it when that paycheck is coming, right? So they’re sitting there waiting for that paycheck, you do a toolbox talk, you get the sign off that way you know they’re paying attention.

So that’s a great way to do it. You want to engage in safety audits, okay? You want to do unannounced job site audits where you can go out, you can see where the problems are. A lot of times I get asked Mike, it’s like, “Well, Trent, why would I want to go out to a job site and identify problems in writing? Isn’t that going to be bad for me?” It’s not, if you correct them, right? If you go out and not only punish those that didn’t do what they were supposed to do but retrain, that shows OSHA that you care about those employees, okay? And the last point I really want to make Mike is, is the biggest thing that I see contractors failing to do is they have a great safety manual, great toolbox talks, they do these audits, they engage in outside consultants, all the kind of stuff that we like to see, but they don’t follow their disciplinary program.

So I’ll give you a classic contractor example. You’ve got your number one superintendent or foreman producer. He makes money for you left and right, right? But not a big fan of safety. So are you going to fire that guy? Probably not, right? So you need to make sure that whatever disciplinary program you have in place, you can enforce it because disparate treatment, meaning that you’re treating your number one producer different than the guy you just heard off the street, that is going to eliminate any, a lot of the defenses that you would have to an OSHA citation. So be consistent it doesn’t matter whether it’s your Uncle Larry, your best producer, or the guy you just hired from work release at the end of the day, it’s got to be the same treatment throughout.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. That’s great advice as well. I think why there’s been a lot of great nuggets here. You started off the conversation talking about some of the don’ts from a do’s and don’ts perspective. Let’s say, I know that I have an OSHA inspection coming up. What can I do to best prepare my crews or that job site for that inspector to show up?

Trent Cotney:

So the one thing I’ll give you. So this was in 2001 I’m dating myself a little bit. I represented a underground utility contractor on an OSHA violation. And what happened is OSHA came out, they did the inspection, there was a trench box violation, there was sloping violation, standard stuff you see in underground. And as the inspector was giving the closing conference, one of the crew wearing tennis shoes and no hardhat jumped into the ditch to get his lunch pail and then skirt and climb back out, that cost that contractor, another $5,000. So one piece of common sense advice is so do you really want your crew continuing to work while OSHA is on a job site? It’s a lot like inviting a cop out to a meth lab at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how good your safety program is, I’ve had inspectors and area directors pull me aside and said, “Trent, you put me on any job site long enough, I’m going to find a violation.” Right?

So the idea behind it is you want to make sure that you are doing what you can to control the situation. If OSHA asked to come out, have them come to your office or better yet go to the area office, don’t invite them back out to the job site, because at the end of the day, you can’t necessarily control a hundred percent of what’s going on all the time. And obviously everyone wants a safe workplace that’s the goal, but you want to be very careful and cautious about how you go about doing that. So I would say that’s something to watch out for. Another nugget that I can throw out there is don’t forget that if you are a supervisor and officer or director, you do not need to talk to OSHA, unless you are welcome to have counsel present and a member of management, okay? You are free to talk to them, but you can also request having counsel present.

And there is a big difference there because it gives you the opportunity to really think about your training. Obviously, always tell the truth, always be cooperative. But at the end of the day, it’s about having that clear mindset and making sure that you are remembering your training, remembering what you did, how you did it and not being scared and anxious about the process.

Mike Merrill:

More great tips. You mentioned some do’s and don’ts, what are some common mistakes you see people make out there in the field?

Trent Cotney:

So one of the biggest things is when OSHA comes out, oftentimes they have the ability to talk to crew without management or council present, okay? And we see this a lot in Florida and Texas and Arizona, Mexico, California, if your crew only speaks Spanish and they only read or write in Spanish, oftentimes the inspector that has come out knows broken Spanish or isn’t fluent, okay? I like to insist on having someone that is capable of translating. And the reason I say that is I witnessed this firsthand, okay? We had an OSHA, OSHA said, “Hey, I want to come out to your job site.” We said, “No, why don’t you come to our office?” So they came to our office, they sat down, I had management present and they were interviewing a superintendent. Superintendent was from Mexico, okay?

The OSHA investigator was Puerto Rico and they were discussing a tile, okay? And I know enough Spanish to get around, and the manager was fluent. So as the superintendent was providing testimony, it became apparent that the inspector was misinterpreting what this individual said, and it would have been catastrophic had I not caught it and the manager caught it. That is a great example, the terms of art change. So you can be in Guatemala, Mexico, Honduras, Puerto Rico, wherever. And the same term is, there’s 20 different terms for it. So you want to make sure that if they are asking to speak to someone that does not speak English, make sure that they are capable of accurately translating that information to get that statement.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. That’s very interesting as an example, I never would have imagined, but yeah, the Spanish side of this is probably a great takeaway for a lot of the companies that are listening right now.

Trent Cotney:

Yeah, absolutely. It’s one of the things, we have a lot of situations where there are crew members that are illiterate in Spanish and English, and they’re asked OSHA normally what they do federal OSHA is they write out a written witness statement and they ask you to sign it, okay? And there’s never anything great on there that I’ve seen. It’s never, hey, you got the best safety policies ever. It’s always, all the things that you should have done. And most of the crew, when they get that, they see that and they just sign it without even really looking at it. And obviously you don’t ever want to tell your crew members what to do, what not to do, it’s their choice, okay? Always tell the truth. That’s what you want to tell them. But from a supervisor standpoint, if I’m involved representing a supervisor, a manager, a director, I don’t want them to sign a written witness statement.

I really don’t see a lot of value in that because you can provide your testimony without doing that. And rarely does it tell the whole story. So that’s one of the things, when I say, knowing your rights, if you understand what the context is, you’re going to be in so much better position to be able to put your best foot forward. Again, everybody wants to be safe. You want, I want, we all want our employees to go home safe and sound every single night. That’s not what this is about. What it’s about is understanding what those rules, boundaries, and limitations are when it comes to a government inspection.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. That’s great. From a technology perspective, are there things that can help somebody in that situation? Are there technology tools they can rely on when they’re put on the spot like that?

Trent Cotney:

Yeah. Having an SOP in place, a standard operating procedure that dictates what you should do and how you should do it. There should absolutely be one for if you have an OSHA inspection. So your a superintendent of OSHA gets to the job, they should know they need to immediately call management, call the safety director, see if the inspector will wait for that in that member of management or safety director to get out there in the field with them. And then go through the process. They need a similar one for if there’s a serious injury, and then they need another one if there’s a fatality, it’s a different set of rules for each one, right? So you want to understand what the rules and the guidelines are for that. There’s a variety of technology management, software tools, that it can be useful to do that.

Here in the office and for a lot of our consulting customers, we utilize Smartsheet, which is a publicly traded company that acts as an operating system and provides I’m not an Excel spreadsheet kind of guy. I’m a show me pretty colors on a graph and I get it. It does that, but it also allows you to go in deeper in, if you are an Excel spreadsheet guy, you can look at, I’m looking if I can count on my finger. It’s a collaborative software tool that acts as an operating system for your business. And it integrates with almost every single app out there.

So it’s been very useful as a management tool to drill down SOP is it’s sort of like a playbook that you would go to. So that’s one that I know that I’m aware of. There’s a variety of other tools out there that people can use, but the key is make sure, you know that gameplay, it’s here’s the SOP, let’s get rid of the anxiety. Let’s go to page five. This is what I have to do, follow the checklist. That’s the key because when people get nervous and they get anxious, that’s when mistakes are made, they’re not understanding what they should be doing.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. So you mentioned some technology options, which sound great. What about even basic email, phone calls, voicemails, what roles do those play in? How to companies make sure they’re using those properly?

Trent Cotney:

So a good rule of thumb is if it’s good for you, put it in writing, if it’s bad for you pick up the phone. And that includes text messages, instant messages, Facebook groups, whatever it might be. So I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had, a social media post of, hey, another great job finished by ABC contractor. And it shows, 10 people on a roof without fall protection. I’m going, “Hopefully these are actors, it’s hard to refute that. So there’s often a disconnect between marketing and safety. That’s one thing, if you recognize that anything that you put down OSHA logs is a great example. So you’ve got to report, as a contractor, you know this you report your safety, injury and illness on a variety of OSHA, 300 logs put just enough detail, I’ve looked at plenty of OSHA logs that go way too much into detail. I fell off scaffolding because I didn’t build it right.

Why would you put that? I mean, I get it, but you don’t need to say that much. Be very careful when you’re communicating with your insurers. All of that is discoverable. If you have a fatality or a serious injury and you talk to the Sheriff’s department, that’s exhibit A, in any OSHA inspection. So make sure that you recognize that you must always tell the truth, I didn’t hit that home. That’s the key thing is, is it’s not worth a investigation because you told one investigating authority one thing, and I know there’s something else. So consistency and just always having that awareness of liability hat on is going to pay dividends, not just in OSHA, but in all aspects of construction.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. And it’s, I mean, there’s a lot to keep track of here and obviously companies are standing out, I’m just trying to put this roof on, or I just wanted to frame this wall up, or I’m just trying to pour concrete. Maybe these things aren’t second nature to them, but what I’m hearing is consistent training, regular training, regimented training is the key to help make sure that you’re taking care of these things in the best light so that you don’t get stuck in a mess.

Trent Cotney:

Absolutely. Yeah. You’re a hundred percent spot on, that’s exactly what it is. And one of the things I should mention is for the listeners that are doing commercial jobs, if you’re doing a daily report, that’s a great opportunity for you to put your best foot forward safety wise, did job site audit, checked all the equipment, everything looked great, took this harness out because the rope was frayed. All of those self-serving statements, you can use to show that you are actively checking your job site for safety. Why not use it?

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. I love that point. So what you’re saying document every correction or improvement or every step taken to be safer so that you’re showing that you’re putting forth that effort?

Trent Cotney:

Absolutely. Yeah. That’s key and party with the best paper once a day. That’s always the truth.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. And they say photos don’t lie, and I guess that can go both ways, right?

Trent Cotney:

Oh yeah. You don’t want to be taking a photo of, a guy with a frayed electrical cord, using it as a harness or a tie off that’s not what you want. You want to be smart about what you’re doing, you want to be able to know exactly the stuff that you’re going through and make sure that your safety directors are actively auditing these images. If you are engaging in that it’s great, it’s a great way for you to gain that information, get it, and figure out what’s going on. But at the end of the day, yeah it all depends on that follow-up. It doesn’t matter how good your technology is, if you don’t have that follow-up, if you’re not tracking what’s out there in the field, that’s what’s going to get you.

Mike Merrill:

So from a workflow standpoint, how often are companies required to have toolbox talks or to have safety trainings? Is there a general rule of thumb that people can take away from the conversation?

Trent Cotney:

Yeah. So unless it’s a brand new rule or an emergency or a retraining, I like to see at least every month I would prefer probably every other week, if I can do it. And there’s nothing wrong with doing it every week. And at some point you run out of topics, do you have 52 topics you could talk about? I don’t know, okay? But at a minimum you want to make sure that people are taking a knee and you’re talking about potential issues on job sites. If you’ve got a hairy job site that you know that there’s some potential safety issues, you want to talk to the crew about that, identify that in advance, you can have what I call informal toolbox talks. And then it’s as simple as documenting that as a memo to file.

I’ll have phone calls all the time where I just pull up an email said to talk someone so did this and send myself an email, that way it’s a current understanding recollection of what that conversation was. So that’s something that’s potentially useful, anything that you can do to engage your crew and a mentality in that culture of safety is paramount.

Mike Merrill:

Love that. So is there a recommended duration of time to hold those trainings for 10 minutes, 15 at a certain point? Is it too long and you’re actually diluting what they need to know?

Trent Cotney:

Yeah. We live in a Twitter world now, so Facebook or Instagram or whatever. So, people’s attention spans are very short lengthy training sessions, unless it’s like an OSHA 10 or something where you’re going to get an actual certification afterwards, it’s hard for your crew to pay attention. You want to keep them short, sweet to the point. I would say most effective is 30 minutes or less. You’ve got to be able if it requires demos where you’ve got to actually physically show things, I can understand a little bit more, but at the end of the day, less tends to be more. You convey your point, you get the point across and you move on.

Mike Merrill:

Great. Lots of great tips and rules of thumb, for sure. Let’s say on a given day there’s an injury or an accident or some type of a problem, is there a hierarchy of how that reporting needs to be documented? I mean what’s the first step somebody should take when something occurs, they have an incident?

Trent Cotney:

Sure. So here’s normally what happens. And unfortunately we handle a lot of fatalities and that’s when you have, you got the press involved, you got the Sheriff’s office, there’s all these different things that you have to navigate, not dimension, customer concerns, and family concerns and all this other stuff. So really what you want to do is the people on that job site, ultimately, it needs to get in the hands of the crew leader, the superintendent, the foreman, whoever is manning that job, right? That person needs to understand that they need to call the home office. And there needs to be a go-to person that if you don’t have a safety director, then it’s a member of management. That member manager that needs to understand that if they can’t get up to the job site, they need to provide that superintendent with strict instructions if they haven’t already been trained.

Mike I want to tell you a brief story, because I think this will hit it home to our listeners. My dad was a very patient man. I’ll just put it that way. And I grew up on the Westside of Jacksonville, Florida. For those of you that have been there, you know what I’m talking about. My dad taught me how to drive. Like most fathers have, and he took me out to a lot and he taught me how to three-point turn. And he taught me how to parallel park. And the last thing that he told me, and he always called me their son or boy. And he said, “Son, what I want to do is I want to pretend I’m a police officer and I’m going to pull you over. And when I pull you over what I want to do is see how you’re going to react.”

Okay. And he did this because he knew I was a punk kid and he knew that, at some point I am going to speed and take it or something else. And he didn’t want me to do something stupid, right? So we sat there, we went through the process, I showed him my insurance, my driver’s license, my registration. And sure enough, six months later, I got a speeding ticket and he whooped my, you know what. But the moral of that story is it’s not the listeners that are problematic, okay? It’s those people out there in the field, it’s the superintendent, it’s the crew.

If you train them on the inspection process itself on what to expect, that takes that anxiety away that’s what training does, right? It doesn’t matter what kind of training you get, if you learn how to do something, then you’re not scared to do it, right? So if you understand what the process is, if you train in advance of that process, then just like my dad did with me, you’re not going to do something stupid, right? And that’s the key thing is you want to have that game face on, you want to make sure that you are doing whatever you can to stay active and involved so that you’re focused on the mission at hand.

Mike Merrill:

That’s great. What a great story to end the main part of the conversation on, I think that definitely paints a picture and preparation, right? You got to practice ahead of time so that when you’re in the real game, you’re you’re in the real game your ready

Trent Cotney:

Right? Absolutely failure to prepare is preparing to fail, so.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, love it. So just to wrap things up here in the conversation, what’s one business process or a skill that you’ve developed over the years that have really made the most impact on your success?

Trent Cotney:

So I think the key thing is top down organization, right? It’s oftentimes, the business owners that are listening to this, you’ve got the vision, it’s all on your back, I get it. I’m the same way, I’m a business owner. But at the end of the day, you got to be able to drill down your vision, your mission, your process, to the lowest common denominator. So that is done through great technology and through great process and through great people. And it takes a while to accomplish all of that. So as you continue to grow and if you’re scaling your business, you’ll see oftentimes we’ve been blessed with growth and we’ll start off one year with a great game plan. By the end of the year, we’re already trying to up our technology, up our admin, up our everything, because we’ve outgrown the previous system. So that’s part of the process is as a business owner, especially in construction, you always have to be able to improvise, adapt and overcome. It is the key to being able to be successful.

So the other thing that I do is I listen, I remain humble if you remain humble, it was beaten into me to remain humble. If you remain humble, you remain hungry and I don’t ever, rest on any laurels to the extent that I’ve got any, I always say, “Okay, what’s next? What can I do next?” And if you check that ego, that’s always going to keep you razor sharp.

Mike Merrill:

I love that, yeah that’s great. I guess one other question I’ve got, what’s something that you have learned over the years that you wish you would’ve known at the very beginning when you first started practicing law?

Trent Cotney:

So my role has changed a lot over the years. I went from being a typical lawyer, to use contractor terms I was in production, okay? I was in production and that’s what I did. Over the years, I’ve switched operations, and obviously there’s a business development component to that. I have learned more about myself through operating this business than I ever did by not doing it. In the last 10 years your business is a reflection of you, and that is a painful experience, it is a humbling experience. So if there is a failure in your business, it is your failure and you have to own that. So learning those lessons, that any business owners had to learn it makes you tougher, and I know I’m very thankful for all the different, not necessarily legal things I’ve learned, which I’m very appreciative of I consider myself an expert in various things, and I’m proud to do that.

But from a business perspective, learning those lessons and improving upon them, that’s what makes you a better business owner and in construction, that’s the key. Construction is a fabulous industry, I have made lifelong friends through this industry and feel very grateful and give back routinely because of it. But I can tell you that those that continue to thrive are the ones that take those lessons and use them as learning opportunities. Again I’m just very blessed and fortunate that the good Lord has found plenty of things for me to overcome, so.

Mike Merrill:

That’s awesome. Absolutely love it. So, very last thing. So what is the key takeaway that you want listeners to have today? Once they get done listening to this they’re to remember one thing, what would that be?

Trent Cotney:

Be proactive and not reactive. Okay. Now’s the time take some of the nuggets that we talked about, look at your safety program, nobody wants to look at their safety program because it’s like a will, right? By the time you look at your will, it’s too late. So, if OSHA shows up to your job site, you’re stuck with what you got. So take the time now to really buttress and fortify your safety program, think about some of the things that we talked about. And hopefully my goal is to never have you call a lawyer, I’d prefer that your success ultimately is as success for the industry. So that’s the goal, but definitely take the time to be proactive, get those SOPs in place. Make sure you’ve got some top-down command that drills all the way down to the crew.

Mike Merrill:

That’s awesome. Very insightful Trent, thank you so much for joining us today. I’m sure the listeners gained a whole lot that they can put into practice.

Trent Cotney:

Thank you. It’s my pleasure. 

Mike Merrill:

All right. Thank you to the listeners. And again, if you enjoyed this conversation with Trent Cotney and I, I encourage you strongly to follow Trent or reach out to him on LinkedIn and also check out his book, OSHA Defense for the Construction Industry. Also, if you enjoyed the podcast, please give us a rating and review. We love the five star ones the most. So encourage you to rate us well and continue to listen and share this podcast with your friends and associates in the industry. We want to continue to bring these valuable guests and conversations to you to help you improve your business and your life.

Cloud for ERP: Simplifying Job Site Technology

Cloud for ERP: Simplifying Job Site Technology

The construction world is too competitive and fast-paced to rely on analog systems, especially when it comes to accounting and payroll. This is why the future of construction technology lies in cloud-based software. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software, in particular, is on the rise thanks to its ability to connect people from job sites to the main office on any smart device or computer, giving them the opportunity to share information in real-time. This leads to benefits such as expedited labor reporting, connected and reliable information across the entire organization and up-to-date rules and regulations. So how does ERP work? Is it easy to implement? And how quickly can a business see benefits? 

Darcy Boerio, President of DAB Partners, joins Mike Merrill on this week’s episode of the Mobile Workforce Podcast to explain what to know about ERP software and how to make the most of it. She breaks down the differences between cloud-based software and cloud-capable software, and shares why cloud-based software will push legacy systems to the side for good.

Key Takeaways:

    1. An ERP is a central hub that connects key areas of a construction business: Contractors work with various systems and run into problems when these systems can’t connect. However, when they implement an ERP, data from job sites, such as labor tracking, can flow seamlessly to departments like finance and accounting. This results in everyone working from a single system of record.
    2. Giving employees cloud-based software increases mobility and productivity: Mobility gives workers and employees the freedom to access and update their systems from any device, no matter where they are, at anytime they choose. This eliminates risks of delays and guesstimates that throw off data. 
    3. Cloud-based software ensures your policies and systems are evergreen: One reason manual and analog tracking is so detrimental is that it slows productivity, increases errors and decreases user confidence. Cloud-based software ensures up-to-date with any changes and updates that the developer makes. Additionally, an evergreen platform ensures that payroll, accounting, and safety policies are in compliance.

 

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Click Play to Listen to the Podcast Now:

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 Darcy Boerio the president of DAB Partners and the cohost of the Enterprise Software Podcast. Darcy has nearly 25 years of experience in onsite technology and implementations. So we are very excited to have you on the podcast today. Thank you for joining us Darcy.

 

Darcy Boerio:

Mike, I’m so excited to be here. Thank you for asking me to come and it’s great to see you.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, we’ve had some of our events that we used to see each other at shutdown this last year.

 

Darcy Boerio:

Yeah. To submit the only time I see you is when you’re out running on Instagram.

 

Mike Merrill:

Well, I try and do that as much as I can. So I like some of your running pics too.

 

Darcy Boerio:

I need to do more of that.

 

Mike Merrill:

Sounds like I’ll post more and I’ll watch for you too. So well, before we dig into the conversation today, can you give our listeners just a little bit of your background and experience?

 

Darcy Boerio:

Sure. So I started my software career at Timberline Software about mid ’90s and worked in the Beaverton, Oregon headquarters for the next 10 years or so. I started in support and over the course of the 10 years, I always joked that I worked on every segment of every floor in the building because I went from support. I did consulting. Then I moved upstairs and I was in QA for three years, believe it or not. And then moved to sales and marketing. So worked kind of in all facets of that business before joining Alliance Solutions Group of what as one of the original employees, then Timberline as… well, Sage Construction and Real Estate, or many iterations of that over the years reseller. Around 2012, I decided to exit the construction business because I can name with the economy. So I went and worked for Avalara, a cloud-based sales tax automation software, and then did a couple of years with some different ISVs.

And then 2017, somewhere along the way I started co-hosting a podcast, Enterprise Software Podcast. I’ve been doing that for about six years and really have discovered my passion for all things, ERP software. And then started my own business DAB Partners in 2017 where I consult with software publishers to help them grow their partner channels and referral networks.

 

Mike Merrill:

Wow. That’s a long and illustrious career, and you’re not done yet, right?

 

Darcy Boerio:

Oh, no.

 

Mike Merrill:

Your husband says no, right?

 

Darcy Boerio:

Yeah. Right.

 

Mike Merrill:

So Darcy’s husband, Tim also works for Alliance Solutions still. So I run into him quite as well. And he’s another good friend of the industry. So you mentioned something there, you used the word ERP. Can you just explain what that stands for those listeners that maybe don’t, or aren’t familiar with that?

 

Darcy Boerio:

Absolutely enterprise resource planning software and it’s not a term that we’ve used in, I would say in the construction industry, when I was around the construction industry, we’d call it construction accounting software, or we called it even maybe construction financial and operations software, but ERP really implies… you’ll get different answers from different people. But to me, it’s not just saying, “Okay, we’re just doing accounting and then we’re going to do something else over here and something else over here and all these disparate solutions.” It’s saying, “We’re going to find a product or products that work together that cover our entire enterprise.” And so we used to leave it to the realm of manufacturers and distribution. We didn’t really talk about it in terms of construction until fairly recent years, but really it’s… For a construction company, we’d want something that’s going to cover obviously their job cost accounting, their estimating, their project management, maybe service management, and have it all be integrated together seamlessly rather than having a bunch of different products for each of those things. So I would say that’s the big difference of what an ERP is today in the construction world.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. Versus just an old accounting and payroll system.

 

Darcy Boerio:

Yeah, exactly.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, that’s a lot of areas of the business that a system like that touches. So I imagine with mobility being such a big piece of today’s ecosystem, that’s just a whole other dynamic. How have you seen that play into the ERP space at this point?

 

Darcy Boerio:

I mean, it’s huge and it really expands out the ability to have a true ERP environment, because you’re able to put integrated tools in the hands of people that aren’t sitting in the office connected to the server. And so it just makes it that much easier to accomplish that goal of keeping everyone on the same system and all in sync and together in ERP. And mobile it’s such a crucial part of ERP. I mean, you can’t have an ERP or an ERP add on solution without some sort of mobility component, especially today, obviously.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. And the mobile, I guess, essentially it would be an app, or some type of collection to feed that ERP. Is that how you’re seeing it utilized?

 

Darcy Boerio:

Typically, yeah. I mean, there’s different variations, but mobile kind of implies also just general mobility. So I mean, it is apps, it is handhelds and tablets and devices like that, but it’s also being able to work from anywhere. Especially obviously today that’s mobility too. So it’s all part of mobility. Back in, oh gosh, it was, I think 2005, I used to sell this product called Field2Base. Have you ever heard of it?

 

Mike Merrill:

I remember Field2Base very well actually.

 

Darcy Boerio:

I don’t know if it’s still around or not, but I would go out to meet with contractors with this big tablet. I mean, they were so heavy and huge, but they were tablet PCs and nobody really knew about tablet PCs back then, but they were in these ruggedized cases and we’d go out and we’d be like, “Look, you can go out on the job site and you can take a picture and write on it and then send it back into the office.” And everyone’s like, “Oh wow.” And these things were… they were $2,000 for the hardware alone and then the monthly after that, we actually just ran across when the other day we were cleaning out some closets and found an older one that we had sitting around the house and we were laughing about it because it’s so long ago, it’s come such a long way.

So I mean, that back then was people had… sometimes they would have a laptop on the job site. Often they would not have internet on the job site. They would maybe have a fax line on the job site. So we’ve just come so far in just maybe 10 years or whatever.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. I remember we had the PalmPilots back then to collect and they had these tablets and we remember just thinking, “Wow, that is amazing that they’ve…” We felt like at the time, maybe it was a little bit too far of a… Sorry about that. Oh, jeez. That’s new John. That’s my RingCentral system. We’ll just take a pause for a second, if I can… The funny thing is that their marketing director, she’s probably forgotten I’m on this podcast right now. Exit out of that altogether. Let’s see. Where were we? I said PalmPilots and you’re talking about…

 

Darcy Boerio:

Maybe just start with Field2Base. I remember those back then.

 

Mike Merrill:

Okay. Sounds good. I remember running into Field2Base back then. They were again, kind of ahead of their time for sure. Definitely, they were onto something. I think it was just a little ahead of the curve. We were using the PalmPilots to collect data and we thought, “Wow, how cool that would be to have the whole computer and a tablet and all that in one solution.” But obviously it was probably a little too far of a gap to bridge early in those days.

 

Darcy Boerio:

They think it was. It was interesting because we had a lot of really quick early adopters that were just like, “Yes,” but those were like the bleeding edge people and then it just tapered off and it was really hard to get adoption. I remember the first time I saw your product, I think it was either at Southeast Building Conference or the International Builders’ Show. And I was like, “Wow, that’s so cool.” And I can’t remember what device it was on. Maybe it was a PalmPilot, but it was so cool because it was just… somebody showed it to me. It was a time entry. It was basically clocking in and clocking out, I think, and it was just so simple. It had big buttons and you just go I’m in, I’m out. And it was like, “Wow, that’s so different from having to buy a $2,000 tablet and then have one person holds the tablet and everyone else comes and checks in on it and everything.” So it was a pretty revolutionary what you guys had already back then in the mid 2000s. I think it was or something when I first saw it.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. That sounds about right. I think it was the International Builders’ Show in Florida if I remember. And I think it was Field2Base South and North Carolina. Is that what I’m remembering?

 

Darcy Boerio:

Yeah.

 

Mike Merrill:

Okay. Seem like that. So again, going back, we’ve come so far in actually a short period of time really, we’re talking like a decade or so, like you were mentioning maybe decade and a half. So I was a general contractor and when I was in my early and mid 20s and growing up in the industry, so to speak, I know accounting was almost a swear word back at that time, it was like a necessary evil, paying your taxes you had to do it, but you didn’t really like it. What’s changed? Is it the same? And why is that perspective out there do you think?

 

Darcy Boerio:

I think for one maybe there’s a perception that you need to understand accounting to use an accounting software. You don’t need to do a T-account or debits and credits or things like that. I mean, that’s all in play, but that’s behind the scenes. Assuming that you get it all set up right, then a modern accounting software, ERP software does it for you. You don’t have to sit there and every time you make a transaction entering what GL account is going to and all that kind of stuff, if you set it up properly based on your rules. So it can be actually very beneficial because it’s not just invoices AP and AR, you’ve got now your job data in there and that’s all incorporated in and you can get important reports out of it. So it’s very valuable. It’s not just this little thing that should be set over on the shelf alone to pay your bills and bill your customers.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. And I love what you said earlier about the mobility, because that’s something I think is a great reminder for everybody. Mobility doesn’t mean smartphones and tablets and apps, but the ability to work remotely, like you’re saying Darcy, even on the accounting level, have that data out there at your fingertips on the job.

 

Darcy Boerio:

Yeah. I remember when I was selling Timberline and it was an on-premise software. There wasn’t any cloud options for it. And then there’d be these other cloud products out there and they’d go, and this was years ago. So people come to me and go, “Is your software in the cloud?” And I’d say, “Is that important to you?” And they’d go, “Yeah, that’s really important.” And I’d say, “Why?” They didn’t even know what it meant, but they just knew that they were supposed to be in the cloud. But the argument was that, well, I mean, does accounting really need access from the field? I mean, they’re in the office, where are they going? That was the thing back then. Obviously today we know that’s not the case because number one, accounting this past year, hasn’t been in the office, but number two-

 

Mike Merrill:

No, it hasn’t.

 

Darcy Boerio:

But secondarily, I mean, I live in Florida and sometimes we have hurricanes coming and people have to go and if they’ve got their server in their office, they got to go, “Wrap it up and put it on high ground and pray for the best.” If their server’s damaged, then no one can work. If their power’s out of the office then they’re all relying on connecting to that on-premises server, even if they have figured out how to connect it remotely securely. They still may not be able to access it if there’s no power or the server has been damaged. So that’s just one of the reasons why I mean, back then we didn’t think of all those things in cloud wasn’t as accessible as it is now, but today it’s like, “Okay. Yeah, you need to be in the cloud even accounting.”

 

Mike Merrill:

Right. And then you’re challenging Florida definitely. I mean, I’m in Utah. We don’t have hurricanes here, so that’s not… maybe earthquakes or avalanches, but a different challenge, but it is interesting that a server is so critical for those that have their business hosted on it. I mean, what a risk to have that in one location that maybe isn’t so secure. So tell me with cloud based accounting systems are options now that the job site has visibility into the same data that the office does, what has that done in your perspective for efficiency of just construction or even industries in general that utilize these types of technologies?

 

Darcy Boerio:

I mean, it’s the real time data and it’s the real-time bi-directional data. So when something’s happening on the job, there’s technology, like what you guys do, that it makes it so easy for someone on the job to…. they don’t have to dig into some software and get it on the laptop at the end of the day and go enter a bunch of information and then maybe print a report or whatever. And then someone else back at the office enters it in manually. And so the office gets access to that information much more quickly for whatever they may need it for their accounting purposes. And likewise, possibly more importantly, the field gets access to the data from accounting without having to wait until, oh, that invoice hasn’t been entered yet, or that invoice got entered, but I’m not sending you a report until tomorrow.

And it’s right there immediately in real time. And ideally even with abilities to analyze the data, drill down into the data slice and dice, do what if scenarios with the data right there in the field and to really know about any risks that you have on the job, as far as budget or schedule issues that may be arising. So you just know that much faster and are able to react in time to mitigate the problem.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, that’s a great point too. And I mean, I still hear this commonly, if companies aren’t getting their invoices out quick enough maybe the jobs closed out or maybe now they’re hitting another draw cycle. So not only speed of making decisions, but just getting paid and ensuring that you are getting paid. Sometimes companies don’t get paid. And if the budget runs over and there are challenges with ownership or whoever the bank, whatever, it doesn’t really matter. If you’re last in line to get paid, sometimes if you do get paid, it might be pretty late.

 

Darcy Boerio:

All of these things can make or break a job very easily. So under billing can do that and off schedule can do that. So there’s a really lot of things to keep an eye on. In the past, I mean, I’ve seen people getting faxes with the stack of papers. Aging myself a little bit on that, but I still think there’s some of you guys out there that are doing that, that are maybe not faxing, but there’s still a lot of paper being transmitted around, a recording being transferred around to be able to sift through and everything. And it’s yesterday’s data because somebody ran the reports this morning or whatever. So real time information is so much more accessible and so important.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. So you mentioned cloud-based and that was the buzz word or the question, the check box that somebody should be checking off in order to be innovative, but what’s the difference between cloud-based systems and cloud hosted?

 

Darcy Boerio:

Typically hosted is really just going to be your software only it’s on someone else’s server. well, it’s all on someone else’s server, but someone else has a physical server for you or a virtual server somewhere and they manage it, instead of you managing it. And typically those are data centers where they’ve got the temperature controls and the security and things of that nature. But there’s still anything subject to cyber terrorists and things like that. Ultimately it’s on-premise software. You still have to do your updates. Somebody still has to come in and update the software when there’s a new version and that kind of thing. It really isn’t substantially different from an on-premise server, except that you typically have someone else who’s maintaining this hardware for you and you don’t have to do that yourself versus cloud software where it’s actually out of the office.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, I said, so they’re wrapping it in plastic from the hurricane instead of you.

 

Darcy Boerio:

Typically, they hosting centers will pick it and in a location where there’s very low natural disaster, they’re probably a lot in Utah and whatnot, not many in Florida probably. But with a with a cloud-based software that’s typically not the case. Now there are some cloud based softwares that are actually really just hosted on a large instance of AWS and then there’s also just true cloud software. So it’s all varying degrees, but typically with a cloud-based software you’re not responsible for even worrying about that server or even thinking about it, the upgrades can be pushed out automatically to you instead of you having to go say, “Okay, it’s time for an upgrade. Let’s go get all our ducks in a row and upgrade the software.”

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. And I think in my history, both as a contractor and as an executive here at a software company that sells cloud based systems that used to do on-premise software, I can speak to the great cost savings of going to a cloud based system where you’re not paying for the labor to do those updates and the effort and the lags and the delays, I mean, just that cost alone is very expensive and something that I think contractors have primarily started letting go of that. I don’t think that’s the majority any longer, which is a good thing, but there are still some, like you said, that are still hanging onto their fax machines and still got their paper.

 

Darcy Boerio:

Yeah. The typical contractor does not have the technical expertise on staff to take care of all that. I could go on all day about this with security risks and things like that. It’s just, I would never want to trust it to the guy down the hall who’s real good with computers. So you usually just go ask him when there’s something wrong, you don’t want that person in charge of your sensitive data and your operations being up and running.

 

Mike Merrill:

Right. Yeah. It’s very critical data. And definitely, I think sometimes we forget we get busy and our hair’s on fire and we are just used to doing things the way that we’ve always done them, and in construction we’re problem solvers. We’re good at fixing things and jerry rigging stuff to find a solution quickly, but this is not an area to try and cut those corners on for sure.

 

Darcy Boerio:

Well, you don’t think about it until you’re lying in bed at night thinking, “Oh, do we even have a backup? We might have one, but have we ever tested actually restoring it?” And those things get alleviated.

 

Mike Merrill:

Or does the guy that know even still work here? I mean, I’ve heard that a lot, they lost the guy that knew.

 

Darcy Boerio:

Yeah. Well, and that’s another point that I think we should talk about is losing the guy that knew, because I think whether you’ve been on a software for a long time or you’re new to a company that’s using a software, I think it’s so interesting that so many businesses only use just a fraction of what their ERP software can offer. And the person who set it up, did it for whatever your business conditions were at that time. And maybe haven’t evolved. I mean, maybe you didn’t have a lot of people out in the field running all over the place. And so it wasn’t a big deal at that time, but I think businesses just need to remember that they should be checking and saying, “Where do we have manual processes? Where do we have gaps in communication?” And just saying, “How can we fill these?” Because chances are, there’s a solution. It may even already be in your software. It may be an add on solution, but you always keep evolving with your software because I know that people that make the software are always evolving for you and if you’re not paying attention, and you’re just assuming that you can’t do things, then you’re missing out on a lot of the value you could be getting out of your software.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, that’s a great point. Last month it was very enjoyable. We were at a local AGC event. It was the 99th annual Utah Chapter AGC Conference. And they did have an in person. So it was wonderful. And the fact they’ve got another event, a couple of days here, a safety conference that we’re going to so pretty excited about getting out there and seeing people again a little bit. But anyway, I was sitting down at dinner with a group that was telling me they’re still on the same software, but they started doing concrete work. Then they got into general contracting. Then they started doing paving and now they focus on construction for mining. And so they’re like… and oh, by the way, and cell phone towers and maintenance. So it’s like their entire business has shifted multiple times. And now they’re looking for a software that’s more designed for the things that they’re doing. And they’ve tried to just navigate all of that with one ERP solution that probably is under serving them.

So it’s a great point you bring up that our business has changed and we should regularly look at those different tools that we’re using, make sure we keep them sharp. So do you have any scenarios that you’ve heard of companies that maybe for a specific reason they’re not on the cloud or they can’t be for one reason or another? Do you run into those scenarios?

 

Darcy Boerio:

Yeah, it’s usually when people don’t like to be efficient or save money or communicate well, that’s usually the type of person that’s best served steak. No, I always say there are a couple of examples where it’s arguable that maybe it’s not best to move to the cloud, but one being there’s people who just… there are businesses who are located in places where there’s just not good internet. And that’s going to be a challenge no matter what you do. So there’s tools out there that can combat that for the field tools, because a lot of tools, I believe yours will go ahead and work off a wireless connection or we’ll collect the data and then sync back up when you’re in range.

So for that, argument’s even going away a little bit, but if you’ve got a huge manufacturing plant in the middle of nowhere and you just don’t have good internet, then that’s another one I would say is people who have a lot of HIPAA requirements tend to balk against having any kinds of cloud-based solutions because there’s just a lot of the products out there don’t deal with that. I don’t know that a lot of contractors have that problem. So those would really be the only cases where I’ve encountered people having legitimate reasons not to go to the cloud.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. No, that makes sense. Well, that’s good. So that means everybody else has an opportunity, I guess we’ll say to maybe look at it further, if you haven’t made the jump.

 

Darcy Boerio:

I don’t know, have you seen any other legitimate objections? I mean, I’m sure you’ve heard some, but-

 

Mike Merrill:

I hear from companies say they do government work that’s maybe certain reasons or maybe a division or department of their company that, like you said different very site-specific, or again where they physically are located. But I haven’t heard too much that I don’t think we could help solve with a cloud based system, but people still think that on occasion that maybe it’s not best for their business. And maybe it’s worth investigating that a little bit further with today’s technology. So in our pre-call you had mentioned something about cloud based systems being evergreen. What does that term mean for the listeners? And is that something you can shed some light on?

 

Darcy Boerio:

Well, so I don’t know, there’s a lot of moving parts in regulations and forms and things of that nature that change very regularly. I mean, the best example I can give is a great one, which is Avalara, which is a sales tax automation software that’s cloud based, because they have thousands and thousands of rural rate and boundary changes every year. And they just push those out to the cloud. And so when you’re a connected to Avalara, you get the latest and greatest automatically because it’s a cloud-based software. So all those types of things, any kind of compliance it’s much easier to keep on top of if you’re not responsible for manually entering it into your system, because you’re connected to the cloud and it’s going to automatically bring the latest compliance, whatever type of apparatus you’re going to need, whether it’s tax or payroll forms or things of that nature automatically that can save you a ton of time and also keep you out of being in non-compliance.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. Right. No, that’s a great point. Actually, the OSHA or different safety regulations, especially with COVID, I mean, how many things are changing almost daily, weekly, monthly? I mean, there’s been so many changes that everybody’s been dealing with and it would be nice to know that some institution or organization is on top of those things and that’s a full-time job, and you can just continue building buildings and doing the things that you’re used to doing and let them focus on keeping those things up to date for you. So with somebody who’s maybe on a legacy system today, a server based client server, and they’re looking to move to the cloud, what does that journey look like? Or what project do you think that they’re in for to make that change?

 

Darcy Boerio:

So there’s a lot to that. I would say it’s scary. We have what we have. We don’t want to lose what we have in our functionality. I mean, my advice would be definitely number one, to talk to… contractors talk to each other. They’re in the AGC, or in the ABC, or in the CFMA talk to your peers and find out what they use, what shortcomings they’ve found and that kind of thing to try to just make sure you’re picking the right choice based on what they tell you, not based on what you read on the Rocher or from a software publisher, but what your peers are really saying. And then find a partner who specializes in construction and a software reseller typically, then you’ll know within a few minutes of talking to them, probably if they really understand construction or not, it’s very imperative that they understand construction.

There’s a lot of companies out there that understand ERP but don’t necessarily understand the intricacies of construction. So finding a partner… but that it doesn’t have to be horribly painful. You are going to probably have to make some decisions about how much data you want to convert. And people get a little scared about losing their historical data, but there are ways to mitigate that. You get choices to make about how much you want to bring over and how much you still need to be able to access. And there’s a lot of technology out there to bring over the important data that you need. So those are the things and just think longterm what you’re seeing with some of the legacy systems in general, in ERP, and I’m not calling out anyone particular, but the non-cloud basis that they’re not investing a lot more in the future of these legacy products.

And so if you want to keep being able to get the latest and greatest and even a product. So if I’m a software publisher who makes an amazing business intelligence tool, and it’s the coolest technology, and it’s really awesome and everybody wants it, but I’m going to look at your old legacy product and I’m going to go, ” I’m not going to write an integration to that because that’s dying off.” And so you’re potentially cheating yourself out of a lot of cool new technology and ahead of the game, because if people just aren’t developing all this great new technology is out there, there’s AI machine learning, all these things, nobody wants to go build that for a product that’s going away. So that’s another consideration. Just start the move. Every journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. So talk to people, hear their stories and get with the 2020s.

 

Mike Merrill:

And I guess obviously you would say because of what you’re sharing that it’s well worth the move as soon as possible, not later, right?

 

Darcy Boerio:

I mean, that’s what I’ve seen with adoption. I mean, honestly, I can’t think I’ve ever heard of anyone say to me, “Oh, I wish we never moved to the cloud.”

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. We did that here. We moved our accounting and ERP from an on-premise. And I remember having to get backups to the accountants. And yeah, wait, hold on. Don’t do anything in this until we get the backup back from them. And I mean, it was just a mess and you were in a holding pattern and you just can’t do that these days. So we are so thankful that we… I mean, I got to be on my phone a thousand miles away looking at a report or a dashboard in the accounting system.

 

Darcy Boerio:

Out in the woods, running around, what’s my county doing?

 

Mike Merrill:

Fair warning, checking those reports, no questions. So before we wrap up, I always like to ask a few more personal questions, but even before that, I know, I mean, you’re a respected podcast hosts, I’ve enjoyed many of your episodes. You have awesome guests on, and I’ve really enjoyed listening to your Enterprise Software Podcasts. Are there any guests or topics or stories or just something that really stuck out to you that you could share with our listeners that you learned or heard, or you think that they might enjoy hearing?

 

Darcy Boerio:

Oh, thank you for the compliments. That’s very kind of you. That’s really hard because I have so many favorites and one of my favorites is always a guy named Ed Class, he’s with Sage.

 

Darcy Boerio:

I’d be curious to know how applicable his topics are to a construction company, because he is very much against hourly billing. Now, I don’t know that the construction industry could ever really get away from that, but he does it. His whole concept is value based pricing. So you’re basing your pricing on the value of the output, not on the actual cost of the inputs, essentially. So this stuff’s really good. I don’t know how much of it you could adopt as a contractor, but it’s very thought provoking.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. Well, and interesting to you. I mean, the phrase, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, so to speak those ideas are always fascinating for me to hear, because again, I am constructions in my bones. I think like a contractor still, sometimes I have to try and put on a technology hat and not look at things the way that I might have in order to be more effective in a technology space. But I think there’s a lot of contractors out there that want to be more innovative. They just don’t quite know how. And so when you’re busy and especially in a market that’s just booming and crazy right now, it’s pretty hard to find extra time and bandwidth to go and try something new.

 

Darcy Boerio:

I agree 100%. Another facet of what he talks about too, is he’s very passionate about subscription pricing for anything. And even just as a human being, as a consumer, you can learn a lot from him about how he’s basically saying everything’s going to be in subscription very soon. Look at how much we’ve switched everything to subscription. So he’s got some really interesting thoughts on that as well. So that helps maybe comfortable people feel more at ease with a subscription model that you typically have with cloud-based solutions is just understanding, look, you’ve subscribed to Netflix, you subscribe to whatever else you have. So you’ve always had certain subscriptions and now it’s more and more, so why not your software, lower your operating expenses, I mean, I’m sorry, your capital expenses and shifts a little bit towards your operating expenses.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. Great advice. Well, so now that you’ve been on the podcast a little bit, and we’ve had a little bit of dialogue, I want to ask you a few personal questions, so nothing crazy, but so what’s one skill that you feel like you’ve mastered, or been able to really implement in your business life that you could share with others that maybe they could learn from?

 

Darcy Boerio:

I think one of the most valuable things that I’ve mastered is how-

 

Mike Merrill:

Don’t be bashful Darcy.

 

Darcy Boerio:

Oh, no, actually I would say one of the biggest things that’s had an impact on my business has been podcasting. It has been such a great opportunity for me to meet people that I would probably have otherwise never had access to and learn from them and get their insights. And it’s also really pushed me to keep up with the industry news that’s important to my business, even though sometimes I’m like, “I don’t want to read that article. I don’t have time to keep up with everything.” I’m like, “Oh, I got to do it because you might talk about it on the podcast. I need to talk to my listeners about this.” So that’s been really valuable and I encourage anyone to look into it to, to doing a podcast. It’s a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun and can be very rewarding.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. I love that. You had that always learning attitude and it shows you’re very well versed on a lot of topics. I’m sure this is a big part of why.

 

Darcy Boerio:

Thank you.

 

Mike Merrill:

You bet. So what about your superpowers? There’s something that’s just like when Darcy puts her cap on what is that something you’re excellent at?

 

Darcy Boerio:

Okay. Well, I guess if we put my cap on, it’s when I put a badge on at a conference. My stupid human trick, I prefer to call it than a superpower, because I feel like is networking. I love networking. I love going to conferences and meeting new people and introducing people that can partner together and help each other out. So it’s just something that I really enjoy and I humbly say, I think I’m pretty good at, so that would be my stupid human tricks, super power.

 

Mike Merrill:

I love it. I remember meeting you at a conference over 10 years ago and that wasn’t by accident. So I’m sure that there’s many others that were memorable for it. So I agree. So what’s one mistake that you’ve made in your business career that you wish you would’ve learned earlier? I guess, maybe not a mistake, but something that you feel like you were able to overcome and improve that an impact for you.

 

Darcy Boerio:

I think one thing I learned is to be more willing to say no to things that aren’t in my wheelhouse, which is not to say that you shouldn’t try new things and branch out, but what it tends to do in my experience and from what I’ve seen other people doing it as well is take you on a learning curve that distracts you from your core profitable facets of your business. So that’s a lesson I have to learn to myself. To me is like, “Oh, I could get involved in that. That sounds cool. Oh, but wait, I do have all this other stuff I have to do that I’ve been meaning to do that actually is part of my core business, stay there. It’s okay.” So I mean, it’s not to say don’t try new things, but just be aware. Is it worth going into, is it going to help be healthy for your business in the long run to take something on?

 

Mike Merrill:

No, that’s great. I love that. Super applicable to our audience of course. Do you take that job on that’s totally not what you do just because you can and it’s there, or do you stay in your lane and focus on what you’re already good at?

 

Darcy Boerio:

Yeah.

 

Mike Merrill:

Love it. All right. Well, so the last question. So if our listeners were to take away one thing from yours and my conversation today, what would you hope that would be for them?

 

Darcy Boerio:

I would say to just keep in mind that cloud and mobile are not going anywhere, they’re here to stay, so get into it.

 

Mike Merrill:

Buckle up.

 

Darcy Boerio:

Yeah.

 

Mike Merrill:

I like that. Well, thank you very much. It’s been a pleasure Darcy. I’ve very much enjoyed catching up with you a little bit and having this conversation. I think our listeners will really enjoy this one.

 

Darcy Boerio:

Oh, thank you. It’s so good to see you. Thanks for having me.

 

Mike Merrill:

Absolutely. We’ll do it again down the road.

 

Darcy Boerio:

Okay.

 

Mike Merrill:

Thanks. And thank you for joining us on the Mobile Workforce Podcast today, to go listeners sponsored by AboutTime Technologies and WorkMax. If you enjoyed Darcy and my conversation today, or were able to learn some helpful tips or tricks or insights, please give us a five-star rating and review. And we would love you to also subscribe to the podcast. We appreciate you sharing this with your friends and colleagues. After all our goal is to help you improve not only your business, but your life.

Technology for Construction Advances Careers

Technology for Construction Advances Careers

The way individuals land jobs and move up in construction companies has changed since social media entered the picture. Today, sites like LinkedIn serve as one’s digital brand and resume. And while leveraging technology isn’t formally required to get a job in construction, it is how HR and hiring managers search and vet prospective candidates, giving these job seekers a clear edge over their tech-wary competition. Fortunately, there are simple steps everyone can take to stand out in today’s competitive hiring landscape. 

In this episode, Karla Meador, the Managing Partner at NEAR Search Group, joins host Mike Merrill to discuss how technology has changed the way companies hire, as well as actionable advice for breaking into the construction industry and seasoned professionals looking to make a change. 

 

Key Takeaways:

  1. Build your LinkedIn profile before you start looking. LinkedIn gives individuals an opportunity to demonstrate their skills, strengths and job history. It’s also the go-to social platform for professional networking and recruiting. Avoid building up and being active on LinkedIn only when you’re searching, as you’ll miss out on connecting with others in your industry. It’s also a good idea to add references throughout your career journey, because hiring managers will check your profile to see how others view working with you.
  2. Engage with online recruiting websites. LinkedIn may be the biggest professional platform, but it’s not the only one. There are a number of free websites like indeed.com that will connect a potential candidate with job opportunities. By setting up your digital profile, you’ll allow recruiters to come to you. 
  3. Research the position you want – including important keywords. Studies show that resumes get looked at for under 10 seconds before being decided on. To stand out and earn the attention of hiring managers, do your research online. Understand what is most important for the hiring manager and make sure to use the keywords in your LinkedIn and job site profiles.

 

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Click Play to Listen to the Podcast Now:

Episode Transcript:

Mike Merrill:

Hello, and welcome to the Mobile Workforce Podcast. I am your host, Mike Merrill. And today we are sitting down with Karla Meador. Karla is a managing partner at NEAR Search Group. And her experience working with construction companies hiring needs for over 20 years is going to give us some really awesome insights today in helping employees and individuals improve their opportunities in their career. So thank you, Karla, for joining us today. We’re excited to have you. 

 

Karla Meador:

Thanks, Mike. I appreciate the invite and looking forward to a spirited conversation. 

 

Mike Merrill:

I’m sure it will be. So before we jump into the dialogue too much, can you give our listeners just a little bit of your background and experience? 

 

Karla Meador:

Sure. I came up through the sales side of the house and have sold a variety of things, but often with two construction firms usually tied to IT. I love technology. I’m worked my way into management in a hiring role, and then doing like an executive and as an owner, as you know, my past. And then decided I had the chance to join a partner and create our own search firm. So now we help other owners and individuals looking for better jobs. We help those folks. And we’ve got over, as you said, over 20 years experience and a lot of expertise in IT and construction. 

 

Mike Merrill:

That’s awesome. Well, I’m looking forward to the conversation today. So I guess to get things started off, the first thing I’m wondering, moving up the corporate ladder, or at least improving someone’s role out a project or a job site or within a construction company is usually everybody’s goal. Everybody wants to move up and improve and grow. It used to be back in the day, you could work hard, bury your head and just do your thing. And eventually your boss would notice and you would get promoted and have new opportunities. That doesn’t seem to be the case today for some reason. Why do you think that is? And maybe what’s changed?

 

Karla Meador:

And that’s a good insight. I do think it has changed. One, we have more turnover, even at a management level or companies buying other companies, used to have a mom and pop forever for 30 years. Then you get bought out and you have different management. So number one, it’s hard to get noticed if your boss is changing every year and/or your company’s getting bought out or moved, etc. And then number two, we just live in a society that’s more showmanship, for maybe lack of better words, where social media things like LinkedIn, Facebook and those things are predominant. And we’re just a society now that catches bits and glimpses. And you want to make sure that you’re part of that new way and that you’re capturing bits and glimpses of your best and able to present that to whoever is your new team lead or owner. 

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. That’s interesting. So it sounds almost like people need to be more aware of marketing themselves aside from just working hard. Is that what you’re saying? 

 

Karla Meador:

Absolutely. We tell people to market themselves, like for a small business, actually in looking to garner a new client. Put the same amount of emphasis and detail into what you want and how to present yourself. It’s no longer, “Head down, work hard. They’ll see me and they’ll reward me.” It’s almost like the squeaky wheel gets the grease. 

 

Mike Merrill:

Okay. Well, that’s a valuable insight and I think you’re really onto something there. So what can an employee do within an organization to align themselves with that success and make themselves more refreshed in that light that you’re talking about? 

 

Karla Meador:

There’s a lot there and I’ll just hit the highlights and certainly dive in anywhere you want. Number one, I always, me personally, find a coach or a mentor in the group. Most folks feel like it’s a compliment or an honor to have somebody come up and say, “Hey, you mind teaching me a few things.” You have to be able to humble yourself to work with somebody and gets some tips from them. And if they’re in your tutelage, if you will, they can often help you get up the ladder. And that’s worked for me as well. I think social media, things like LinkedIn. Pay attention to your background, the picture. Make sure you get a lot of references, long before you’re looking. Get them along the way. As soon as you finish a great project and you have a really happy customer, get that reference then. Don’t ask 10 years later. 

Build your portfolio, if you will, your marketing material. We always caution folks too, to be careful what you put on Facebook, if you’re looking to get new customers, or if you’re looking to get a new job. And also in work, it’s just being a cultural fit and being able to show where you add value. And I really thought about this. There’s several ways, but it can be you can raise revenue. You can have ad-ons and produce more. You can help cost efficiencies and improvement. But you can also just be a great morale person. That time when the power went out and you ran and bought up a bunch of extra battery packs and gave it to the crew. What are you doing? And how do you showcase that? And let people know without looking like you’re always bragging, and there’s a fine line and it takes practice. 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. Lots of great points in that bit of information you shared there. So as far as really impressing management or doing those little things, are there some little tips or secrets that you think somebody could utilize to do that, if they’re not already actively or proactively doing those things? 

 

Karla Meador:

Absolutely. I think one, mirror your audience. So if you’re in front of a manager who, let’s say, likes to golf, maybe make that a little bit of your interest. You’re going to have to look for something connection. It has been proven people tend to hire people that are like them. Notice, I didn’t say, “They like.” I said, “That are like them.” So if you’re a curmudgeon and a grumpy personality, they tend to hire that. So we always tell people to mirror their environment. If they’re a jokester, you and I are very outgoing and talkative, that’s a plus. Some places, telling jokes isn’t. So I think the biggest thing is that you fit into the culture. 

And then again, to be seen is to make sure that when you’re doing something that you find a way to highlight it. And that can be verbally. Maybe a peer gives you kudos. “This is what happened, and this is how I solved it.” That’s not cocky. “This happened, this broke. I stepped in and this is how I fixed it.” And you can always at the end, “Could I do anything better?” Managers are like, if I get something like that, I’m like, “Wow. This person really takes this company seriously, their job and wants to improve.” 

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. I love… Earlier you mentioned LinkedIn and some of these other tools, and I know on LinkedIn, you can recommend somebody or you can request a recommendation. So that might be a way from what you’re saying. 

 

Karla Meador:

Oh, absolutely. I think it’s an underutilized tool. Understand as companies get bigger, HR departments and a lot of companies now always look at your LinkedIn and always look to see if they can find your Facebook. That’s 80% of the companies now from the data that I read. So make sure you have a great background picture. You have a great picture of yourself, whatever that might mean for whatever job that you have, as well as that you have detail. And to me, other than the relevant pictures would be the references. As you do accomplishments, it can be your resume. “Mike closed this project under budget and early. Mike did this and this,” and you’re showing that trajectory of your career. And it’s extremely valuable. LinkedIn is used by so many people now, and there’s still people that aren’t on it in our industry. And even at the beginning level, the entry-level, I would encourage everyone to get on LinkedIn and really spruce it up.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. Lots of great advice there. So what I’m also hearing is you’re saying strike while the iron’s hot. Document. Make sure that there’s a trail of the goodness that you’ve helped provide for your employer. 

 

Karla Meador:

Probably a lot of things I’m going to say are obvious today, but that’s probably the least obvious. And you’re absolutely right, because you will forget. You don’t remember some of the brilliance you did 10 years ago, but it may be applicable to a new job. That again, a lot of the questions they ask are what do you do in a tough circumstance? That’s a great question. I would ask people, what if this happened, what would you do? And what a great example of our systems crash and our buildings fell apart, and this individual stepped in, but you need to capture while they’re there and they’re happy. When you try to go back and collect this information, it’s stale. It’s dated. And often people forget. It’s not until I start interviewing and bringing these pieces out that I’ve see that they’ve done some incredible things. But most of us have never been instructed or taught how to showcase our strengths. 

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. That’s a very underutilized from my view as well. What do you think the role is for maybe employees to, I guess, showcase themselves even to other businesses within their industry? Is that a part of this, where you’re making sure you’re visible to other potential employers? 

 

Mike Merrill:

Of course, we want to be loyal, but that can come into play, right? 

Karla Meador:

Absolutely. Well, if things change, you might want to move. You might want a different career and you’ve hit the ceiling. Absolutely, LinkedIn is a great way. A lot of people don’t know there’s a little button that you can click that says, “Seeking employment,” but generally other people don’t see it, but recruiters do. You can give signals that way. I think other things you can do are join user groups. I know on LinkedIn, there’s a lot of great construction groups. Find what is in your niche particularly, and where you want to go. Always remember, it’s not where you’ve been and not necessarily what you’re doing now. 

If you want to grow, it’s what you want to grow into. So if you want to grow into a project manager, I would suggest, obviously, joining that forum and learning about that. I find the user groups, whether they’re in person or virtual, that matters. And again, finding that person that you make a connection with, that’s willing to help. Or you ask a network and I’m finally always networking is the biggest piece. And I’ve even been able to network off LinkedIn. It’s like Facebook, you develop a friendship, if you will. And just say, “Hey. Help me out.” And I help you out.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. I love that. And I think to your same point, if you’re sharing valuable content on LinkedIn that’s additive and inspiring or helpful in some way, that also adds to your resume. Just like a personal social media post, that is something positive and encouraging and something that you’re proud of, and that you’d be okay with your grandmother to see, so to speak. Is that what you’re saying? 

 

Karla Meador:

Absolutely. Again, sometimes what you put can hurt you, so just make sure it is showcasing your professionalism. And I would always say your niche. What I’m seeing in all industries is things are becoming more, you’re less of a generalist. If you’re a bricklayer, you’re a bricklayer. And you want to show that you are the subject matter expert in what you do. And it could be shoveling, doing a ditch, but what is it that you do better than anyone else on your crew? And showcase that and get references for and join a forum.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, that’s great. So what about somebody who maybe they are laying bricks or digging ditches, but they have an aspiration to move into the office eventually? What can somebody like that do to try and create an opportunity where they can upgrade their position in their view? 

 

Karla Meador:

Okay. Great question. Number one, let your manager know and let HR know if they have an HR department. I can say, as a manager and you might concur, sometimes we just forget. We just think they’re happy laying bricks 10 years down the road, that maybe their back’s starting to hurt and they would like a change. And understanding as well, people are allowed to change. Maybe they were happy three months ago, but now the onus is on that person to say, “Hey, Mike. I’ve been laying bricks for you for 10 years. You’re my manager. I would like to do estimates, take calls and do estimates and go out in the job site. Do estimates, come back and write them up. Can you teach me how? Let me shadow or give me a mentor.” So I think understanding what it is you want to do and being able to articulate that, and then reaching out to your manager and, like I said, HR makes the best sense for the quickest path, if you want to stay in the company that you’re in. 

 

Mike Merrill:

Oh, that’s great. So what about, let’s say somebody moves from the field to the office and maybe they lean technically in one regard or another. They like computers. They like IT. What can they do to stand out in a more technical role? 

 

Karla Meador:

And if they like computers and technology, I always encourage everyone, one, on your own time to show initiative. Learn, maybe it’s AutoCAD. Learn more about the computer, social media. There’s a lot of classes, often free or near free that you can take now. A lot of companies offer that as part of their HR employment package and people don’t even know it. There are free online classes for the betterment of you and your career. So always be learning and be soaking up that knowledge. And technology, it’s doubling itself every six months. So what are you doing to stay relevant and current? Walk in and say, “Hey Mike. Why aren’t we using Zoom meetings more during COVID?” Those types of things, so you’re on the cutting edge of that. 

And you do not have to be with the company long or a technical expert to find a couple of neat little apps or tools that can really make a difference. And people are all the time bringing something to me that I’ve never heard of. And it’s so cool and can help the business. And I think things like that and IT, that don’t take a team. It’s not a huge software conversion of hardware. It’s something simple that can be effective for the company. 

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. So you’re very experienced in this field. Obviously, you’ve been a recruiter and helped hire and find talent for decades now, even at the young age of 28, is that right? 

 

Karla Meador:

That’s correct. I’m 29 in July. 

 

Mike Merrill:

Good for you. Wow.

 

Karla Meador:

Yep.

 

Mike Merrill:

We’ll get your card out for sure. So-

 

Karla Meador:

Awesome.

 

Mike Merrill:

But having said that, I can imagine there are times when you look at a resume or you look at somebody’s portfolio and there are things that really stand out and you think, “Wow. This person is very hireable.” What are some of those things that you look for that really seemed to be a no-brainer for placing?

 

Karla Meador:

Great question. And obviously, it depends on the job. But if it’s at a certain level, a degree. That does still matter when we’re talking more inside the office. A degree in ideally your field of engineering, if you’re an architect, what have you. Tenure, stability, a rule now is about three years or more. It used to be five or 10, but if you stay with a job every three years or so, or more, that shows stability. Then I know another thing that we’re looking for is progression. So if I am at WorkMax, and I’ve been there five years and oftentimes we are doing the same role. But what have I been doing to show progression in that role? An example might be winning a contest, winning an award, added responsibility. It’s not always a promotion or a job, a title change, but people are looking for someone that shows that they’re learning and gaining a new territory, or they learned a new skill. Those things are really important. 

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. And in our current environment, obviously, some industries are really struggling. If you’re in the hospitality or other areas where business is just down, what do people in those positions or situations have to do to remain employed? Are there any tips or tricks or things that you would recommend? 

 

Karla Meador:

Well, in hospitality, you’re right. That is a downmarket, but our group’s part of SRA. And that is one of the top 10 search firms in the country. And hospitality’s killing it. And they’ve found ways to repurpose those folks and put them in different jobs. And again, not an expert in that and what all that they do, but there are companies that doing quite well. So you have to, in times like this, you have to look at what skills that you have and how that can be transferable into a booming business, whether that’s delivering, whether that’s doing banquets, whether just… I don’t know. There’s just all kinds of different things that people are looking for. 

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. So what… So how does that translate to construction or engineering or architecture? What are the differences there? 

 

Karla Meador:

I’m sorry, I missed that. How about to construction? So if it’s down how you want to… If you’re being laid off, et cetera, obviously you’re going to look for the company’s hiring. I would recommend two things immediately. LinkedIn and hooking up with a great recruiter or head hunting firm. The reason LinkedIn, it shows a lot of jobs. It’ll show… And a lot of people don’t know this, but it does show if you can click on jobs, you can search on location and what your field is. And also another good thing, I like Indeed. I’m not sponsored by any of these companies, but indeed.com is free. You can sign up and it will gather all the jobs within the parameters that you set and deliver it to you. So you don’t have to go on every website. 

But obviously, you’re going to look at competitors. Look at your network, but to technology-wise, Indeed and LinkedIn. And then I would hook up with a good recruiter, because as we know, some of the best jobs are never advertised or put on the website. They want it on the down low. Especially, we’ve got a search now where we are probably replacing someone. So even HR doesn’t have that role. So if you do all these things and you have a good resume, there’s still a lot of great jobs out there. 

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. We use Indeed here and it is a great tool. We make sure every position gets posted there. And actually I got feedback. I was doing an interview just the other day for a new position we’re hiring. And this candidate said that they were getting notices from Indeed as if it was us saying, “Hey. We’re potentially interested in you coming in for an interview.” And basically, they took them through… It was a bot basically-

 

Karla Meador:

A pre-interview.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. Basically, the system was pre-interviewing them to see if they’re a qualified candidate. And what that did is that encouraged this person to apply. And so even though we didn’t intentionally do that, his skills matched some of the requirements we had. And so Indeed automated that. And actually, I just sent an offer. Letter out this morning. So it worked.

 

Karla Meador:

Well, that’s a great testament to you using that technology as a business owner to increase your hiring pool. And they all are doing which… A lot of these different sites are doing pre-interviews. They’re screening. They’re looking for key words. They’re searching on key words. They’re looking at the salary ranges. If you have a max of say 70K and somebody wants 90, it’s already filtering out things for you and ideally delivering in a tunnel, the cream of the crop that are the best fits for you. 

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, that’s great. I think some of the points you’ve nailed down, the three years, that’s an interesting thing. And I would agree with that. It makes sense to me. If they’re eight months or a year, a year and a half at eight different positions, I know we probably got a challenge with this individual knitting and sticking with something. So, and then as far as… So we talked about hospitality, construction also and the up and down market, different challenges that we have, when you’re interviewing or trying to find or fill positions for candidates in construction, can you just step through that process, what you’re looking at, what types of things that you’re doing? So that maybe somebody is looking to apply for a position might how to peek into what a recruiter like yourself might be looking for. 

 

Karla Meador:

Absolutely. So some of it we hit on, but it’s good to reiterate we’re here. One, obviously, a resume that showcases their talent. Shows that progression, that they haven’t job hopped. If they’ve had a couple of reasons that they had to move on, I like a little quick blip in the resume. Because we only get about 10 seconds, if you can believe, that’s the studies. 10 seconds for a hiring manager that’s going to look at your resume. So that summary must sing your praises and succinctly to say what job you’re going for as well as again, that progression and adding value to the current organizations that you’re at. I think that’s huge. Another thing is key words. I oddly, probably one of the most things that I do is tell people, “You do this, but it’s not in your resume throughout.” 

So making sure whatever the key words are, whatever programs you use, whatever equipment, tools, if you’re traveling and locations, put all of those things in, because a lot of us do keyword searches. So make sure those key words are in there. Then when I actually talk to the person, we’re looking for the obvious things, cultural fit, and again, that can be different at different organizations. We like to use tools like Zoom. We listen very closely to our clients and what culture they’re building and need. And some are more particular than others, but we find… We try to get to know them and warm up and get that right cultural fit as well. And obviously, LinkedIn, and any of your extracurricular activities, throw in there somewhere. But I think a LinkedIn presence is important. 

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. Lots of great pointers there. So I hope the listeners are taking notes. If they’re in a position or possibly going to be in a position where they want to change or move to a new organization, I think, like you mentioned, Karla, at least three years at a job shows stability. So I think in this day and age, for sure, people do tend to move around quite a bit more than historically. You don’t hear very many 30, 40 year ways anymore. 

 

Karla Meador:

No. And if they have, the name of the company’s changed three times. 

 

Mike Merrill:

That could be very true. So winding things up a little bit, just like to ask a few questions here at the end of you personally. So what’s the one skill, Karla, that you feel like you’ve mastered in your professional career that served you well?

 

Karla Meador:

I would say in what I do and almost anything, staying in touch with people. I’m a people person. I’ve stayed in touch with you. Stayed in touch with others. You reach out and you genuinely make a connection and you care, so staying in touch. It may be once a year, but I feel like if I was there with you right now, it would be as if no time had changed. Go out to lunch and have a good time. So I think that’s made that connection and staying in touch with people that I resonate with.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. Relationships matter, don’t they? 

 

Karla Meador:

Absolutely. 

 

Mike Merrill:

So what about Karla’s superpower? Is there something else besides relationships that you feel like you really have in your wheelhouse and you just lick your chops every time you get an opportunity to do this certain thing?

 

Karla Meador:

I think just on a broader scope, I listen to what other people say, my energy level. And you can probably attest to that. People are like, “Wow. If you’ve met her or been in the room with her, you know it.” There is some cultivating to that. And just like you exercise or meditation, prayer, eating right, being healthy, positive aspects, but I’ve always had a lot of energy. And so when I see something, I get excited because I have energy. Even if something good comes your way, but you don’t have the energy to deal with it, it’s hard. So I think energy I hope.

 

Mike Merrill:

Love that. Yeah. I would completely agree. You are a firecracker. 

 

Karla Meador:

Yeah. It’s hard for me to just sit still in this chair for 30 minutes. 

 

Mike Merrill:

Well, you’re doing a great job, so thanks for putting your best foot forward on this. So another thing, what is the importance of data in your business? What does it do for you and why is data so important? 

 

Karla Meador:

I think for any business of any size, it is now the business analytics, using data to help make future better decisions. A couple of things I’ve mentioned during this interview, we know that the average hiring manager spends 10 seconds on a resume, decide they’re going on, and they rarely get to page two. We know that job hoppers in anything less than three years. An older person reading it might think it’s five or 10, but it’s three. So we use these things to understand and educate sometimes our customers what’s the market, what’s real and what’s to be expected? So data helps you predict what’s happening and what’s going to happen in the future, what we’re going to see more of. And of course, and all of that allows you to build your business and build your revenue.

 

Mike Merrill:

Oh, that’s great. Yeah. Lots of great stuff here. Great pointers again. I hope everyone’s taking notes. What about… Are there any mistakes you’ve made that you wish you could go back and change in business? Something that you have since learned from and think, “Oh, man. Why did I do that?” Is there anything you want to share with us? 

 

Karla Meador:

Sure. For the most part, like everybody, it happens for a reason and you have to be okay with that. But for me and for others often, I think it’s garnering and getting input from others and accepting that, being open, especially when you’re younger, it’s a little hard to humble yourself and ask, “Hey, Mike. What could I do better?” But it is getting input from the outside. And maybe that’s even outside your organization. If you’re having trouble with somebody in the office, maybe talk to a coach, a life coach, professional level. But it is seeking outside input and not thinking that you have to fix everything on your own. 

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. So I’m hearing being vulnerable is okay. 

 

Karla Meador:

Yes. And that is hard for some of us. And I think that was harder for me when I was younger. And as you get older, not so much. You actually have to be very secure to ask another person for help or how can I be better? What can I do to be better in this role? 

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. I love that. Love that. So just to wrap up, last question. So if there’s one thing that you want listeners to walk away from this conversation today with, what would that be? 

 

Karla Meador:

It’s going to be motivational. If you want it, it’s there. You can find it. In this market, in any market, that we are always seeing jobs for good people. So if you see that job that you want or that client that you want, you want a huge client, you keep at it and try different things. Use social media. Send them an interesting link. Tout yourself. Tout your company. But you’ve got to be your own small business, if you will, and showcase your talents. And if you do that and do it enough to the right people, it will happen. You’ve just got to continue to, again, market yourself well.

 

Mike Merrill:

I love that. I’ve heard others say, “We are all CEOs of ourself, the business.” 

 

Karla Meador:

Yep.

 

Mike Merrill:

And so it’s like, what you’re saying. 

 

Karla Meador:

Absolutely.

 

Mike Merrill:

Love it. Well, thank you, Karla, for the conversation today. Had so much fun, and hoping to connect again down the road as we continue our long-term friendship. And again, you’ve made an impression on me and our organization, and that’s why even after 10 or 12 years or whatever it’s been, we can pick up a conversation like this, nice and easy. 

 

Karla Meador:

Absolutely. And I do want to add this, that I appreciate it too. Same thing we could get in a room and it would be like time hasn’t stopped, hasn’t moved forward at all. I think that what you have is a great product, knowing IT and construction. I was always impressed with WorkMax and AboutTime and what y’all were doing and what you’re about. And I do think that’s going to be, we all know, technology is key. And I think you heard that a lot for all my points today with LinkedIn and social media, et cetera. It’s going to be technology.

 

Mike Merrill:

Well, thank you. That’s fantastic. So thanks, Karla. And thanks again for the listeners for joining us on the Mobile Workforce Podcast. Today sponsored by AboutTime Technologies and WorkMax. If you enjoyed the conversation Karla and I had today, and were able to gain some helpful tips and insights, please give us a rating and a review on iTunes or your favorite podcast platform. Those ratings and reviews help us a great deal to continue to bring these valuable conversations to our listeners, to help you improve your business and your life.

 

Live Field Data Protects Your Budget

Live Field Data Protects Your Budget 

Technology permeates every aspect of the construction job site, giving contractors better control of their projects, workforces, safety and budgets. And while creating financially efficient job sites can be a tall order, live field data is a reliable way to get on track. With so many ways live field data streamlines business and increases profits, we decided to go straight to the experts to break things down.  

Jimmy Gabbard is the IT Manager at Potter Concrete and Austin Chiapuzio is a Systems Engineer at Flair Data Systems. They join the podcast to talk about an exciting data management project they’ve been working on –– collecting live field data from all of Potter Concrete’s job sites. In this episode, they share how construction teams can leverage data, hands-on reporting and how live field data can protect your construction budget.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Review your processes to identify inefficiencies. The first step to ensure a financially efficient job site is to pour over your processes. This begins by analyzing live field data, which gives you the ability to see all of your teams, projects and jobs –– the very things that impact your budget the most.
  2. Get prepared to implement new technology. When construction companies decide to invest in live field data, they can’t assume it’s like an on/off switch. The implementation of any new system or software requires putting a plan in place. This means understanding what information is needed on the job site and how you are going to incorporate your current standard operating procedure.
  3. Stay focused on your budget. Even with the top technology at your fingertips, you can’t make the most of it if you aren’t asking the right questions. What data do you need access to? What are the implications for my budget? Will this data allow me to make better decisions? When you stay focused on your budget, and what impacts it, you’ll better understand how live field data can improve your business.

 

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Click Play to Listen to the Podcast Now:

Episode Transcript:

Mike Merrill:

Hello, and welcome to the Mobile Workforce Podcast. I’m your host, Mike Merrill, and today we’re sitting down with Jimmy Gabbard, who is the information technology manager at Potter Concrete, and Austin Chiapuzio, a solutions architect at Flair Data Systems. We’re going to discuss how Potter Concrete is enjoying the benefits of live field data and a tracking system that they have developed and customized, leveraging mobile and cloud technology on smart devices.

 

Mike Merrill:

Really looking forward to the conversation today with Jimmy and Austin, and also this fresh approach in content for our episodes. Glad to have you guys with us today.

 

Jimmy Gabbard:

Thank you.

 

Austin Chiapuzio:

Thank you, thank you.

 

Mike Merrill:

Absolutely. Before we jump into the conversation, can you gentlemen give the listeners a little bit of a quick introduction of yourselves and maybe your experience? Jimmy, if you want to go first, and then Austin, you can go after.

 

Jimmy Gabbard:

Sure. I was born and raised in Chicago. Moved to Dallas early ’90s, ’94. Got involved in IT mid-’90s. Started out as a PC technician, went to a systems admin, junior admin, worked as an admin and then I’m in the role now here at Potter Concrete as the IT manager.

 

Jimmy Gabbard:

I’ve been in the industry for over 20 years and seen a lot. I remember the days of server rows being full of modems, so that goes way back. That’s a little bio for me.

 

Mike Merrill:

Great. How about you, Austin?

 

Austin Chiapuzio:

I spent most of my life here in the Dallas, Texas, area. I went to college at UT Austin, hook ’em, horns. I started working at Flair Data Systems as an intern back in high school. My dad actually worked for the same company, so I helped him out during summer breaks, spring breaks, things like that, specifically doing voiceover IP. That’s when I got the glorious opportunity to meet Mr. Gabbard here. I helped install the phone system for him 14 years ago when you guys moved to the new building?

 

Jimmy Gabbard:

You were a young pup.

 

Austin Chiapuzio:

I was. I was 16 years old. Went to college, came back, did Cisco voiceover IP for several years, then Flair Data Systems opened an analytics division. Being the math nerd that I am, I immediately jumped on that opportunity and have been doing analytics ever since.

 

Mike Merrill:

Wow, so a very technical background. Good for you. It sounds like Jimmy’s aligned with the right kind of guy to accomplish the work that he’s doing.

 

Jimmy Gabbard:

Yeah, we’ll see.

 

Mike Merrill:

The jury’s still out. Okay, even after 14 years, huh?

 

Jimmy Gabbard:

Yeah, I know, right?

 

Mike Merrill:

Well, one of the most important aspects of construction and the industry today, really, is the technology that companies are leveraging, so can you tell us a little bit about this project that you guys have created and how you are utilizing web solutions and mobile technology to help your construction business?

 

Jimmy Gabbard:

A little bit of issue of how it came about, I’ve been working with Flair Data Systems about 15 years. We had a customer appreciation, actually Flair Data had a customer appreciation night and so my wife and I, we went. I seen Austin over there at his little booth, his little Click booth. He walks over.

 

Jimmy Gabbard:

I hadn’t seen him in a while so I’m like, “Hey, what are you doing?” He was talking about analytics and I’m like, “Okay.” Well, my wife does analytics for DHS. She does Power BI, so of course, they started talking nerd. I’m like, “Oh, my gosh.”

 

Jimmy Gabbard:

Then they started getting detailed as far as the data they’re pulling and what they’re able to see and how their users are utilizing it and making business decisions. I’m like, “Hmm. That’s interesting. I wonder if it can help us with our saving money and can it see this and can it see that.”

 

Jimmy Gabbard:

I started asking a few questions and I think at the end of the night, I’m like, “Hey, you need to come out, talk to my manager, which is the CEO, and let’s just see what it can and can’t do.” Here we are a year later and it’s worked out very well so far.

 

Mike Merrill:

Wow, so you’re about a year into this project or since you got this thing going?

 

Jimmy Gabbard:

Yes.

 

Mike Merrill:

Awesome. Austin, tell us a little bit about Click. What is that exactly and how does that relate to what Jimmy’s trying to do at Potter?

 

Austin Chiapuzio:

Click is a business analyst tool. It takes a bunch of different data from a bunch of different data sources, marries it together and then provides front end visualizations on that said data. As he mentioned, Power BI is another competitor to Click. They both do similar things, Power BI, Tableau, Click. All three of them are data analytics tools.

 

Austin Chiapuzio:

As far as what it does for Jimmy, he has multiple data sources for the time being. He uses About Time and Timberline, so it connects to the backend database of both About Time and Timberline, pulls the data in. Then I’m able to take these two different data sources, marry them together and use data from both these different data sources to provide insights and things like that into what they’re doing on a daily basis.

 

Mike Merrill:

Wow, so you’re essentially aggregating data from multiple systems and presenting it in a more meaningful way.

 

Austin Chiapuzio:

Correct. There’s a lot simpler way of saying it.

 

Jimmy Gabbard:

Yeah, there is.

 

Mike Merrill:

Well, so if we’re being honest, Jimmy, isn’t that normally a little bit outside of the scope of what most subcontractors are doing today?

 

Jimmy Gabbard:

Absolutely. Most subcontractors, you hear the word analytics, data analytics. My first thought was that’s a number. That’s going to cost some money, but at the same time, you’ve got to think about, “Okay, what can it do for you, as a subcontractor?” Some contractors, a lot of them are small. There’s some decent size ones, but any area that you can cut cost and know where you’re, if you will, winning, areas you’re losing, it’s a great insight, on a daily basis, to know how your business is doing.

 

Jimmy Gabbard:

Subcontractors, man, I can’t say it enough. You need a tool that you can dive deep into to see all of your numbers because if you don’t know, you don’t know whether you’re winning or losing on a daily basis. On a daily basis, you can make just better business decisions and you see the train before it falls off the track.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, that’s powerful, very well stated. I don’t know if you put a calculator on those numbers of if you even know what kind of money you’re talking. Even in general terms, how much money do you think you’ve saved from implementing a system like this?

 

Jimmy Gabbard:

We’ve talked about that, my manager and I. It’s hard to put numbers on that right now, but I will tell you, being able to look at the Click dashboard and what Austin has done for us, it’s going to be difficult unless something catastrophic happens on a job site, to lose money.

 

Mike Merrill:

I like that. I think any business should like to be able to make a statement like that, especially if they mean it and it’s true.

 

Austin Chiapuzio:

Something I heard Noel say, I’m pretty sure it was last week, a lot of the data we’re showing on this visualization is something they used to get, but it was something that would take anywhere between six to a dozen accountants digging through their data to be able to provide the same type of information. Even then, it was just in Excel format. It was just numbers, which is meaningful to someone who understands those numbers, but it’s also hard to look at it and know right off the bat what’s going on, or as Jimmy always says, am I winning or losing? As far as the numbers savings, I guess you could say it’s however much those accountant salaries are.

 

Jimmy Gabbard:

Those number change daily, so they might work on those numbers for a week. Well, by then, you’ve already spent $10,000 in labor, so those numbers that you are supplying to those guys, it doesn’t matter.

 

Mike Merrill:

Old news.

 

Jimmy Gabbard:

Yeah, old news.

 

Mike Merrill:

Wow. Yeah, that’s a common thing that we hear in construction and, I think, just generally. People, they’re resistant to change and you hear if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it or we’ve always done it this way; that’s why we’re still doing it this way, we’re a business, we’re still making money. What would you say to people that are making claims like that but don’t understand what you’ve been able to figure out here?

 

Jimmy Gabbard:

How do you know you’re making money? Can you make more money? How can you make more money? By something like Click being used with About Time, all of our numbers go through About Time. About Time is so vital in this process and to be able to see all of our units and panels and slabs and soon to be rebar, you get a deep down dirty view of everything that you’re making money on and everything that you’re losing money on.

 

Jimmy Gabbard:

We have a crew that works on a Saturday. That’s a $6,000 day. Did you really have to work Saturday overtime? What did that do for us? Was that a game changer, working an extra day for $7,000, $6,000? It’s stuff like that. That’s great data to have and I can tell you what the guy did yesterday, how much you spent yesterday, who I spent it on. People don’t have that information now unless you go to accounting and you get it a week later.

 

Mike Merrill:

Essentially, for those that don’t know, About Time is a mobile technology. It works offline. It collects the time and the labor and the production. Why would you say that is becoming such a valuable tool, and not just the software itself, but the process? What makes it so different than what you were doing before?

 

Jimmy Gabbard:

We were doing time cards before. Time cards is labor intense. You might have a few extra employees that you really didn’t have. Anybody can manipulate the time, an extra two or three hours here, my cousin needs five hours here this week, and this and that, ghost employees. Those things happen. It is what it is.

 

Jimmy Gabbard:

When we implemented About Time, we took away the ability for superintendents to be able to change time. We have one person that does that. That one person gets an approval from the COO or VP to change that time and so pretty much, whatever they worked, they get paid for.

 

Jimmy Gabbard:

You clock in at 9:37, it’s not 9:45 or 9:39:15. There’s not 15-minute grace period. You get paid to the minute and that’s a big number when you have a company of 1,000 employees. It’s a big number of savings. We saved over a million dollars the first year with About Time in just payroll.

 

Mike Merrill:

Wow.

 

Jimmy Gabbard:

That’s incredible and even About Time will say this. In looking at About Time, our first thought was, “Wow, that’s a number. That’s a big number,” like with Click. Click’s not as big as About Time’s, but we couldn’t afford not to have About Time. Just the amount of money that we would save. If we’re going to pay a guy to work 40 hours, he worked 40 hours, not 42 hours, not 41 hours. About Time has brought that to the table and it’s just been a game changer, a game changer.

 

Mike Merrill:

I love that you addressed the issue up front that really at the source where the data is being collected, by who and holding them accountable. Then when it comes to great work on the back end, he’s taking that manual calculation, tabulation, spreadsheet entry out of the mix and giving it back to you in a way you want to see it.

 

Mike Merrill:

Austin, on your end of things, how have you felt the implementation of this new process that you guys have developed is going and what are some of the lessons that you’ve learned in helping field adoption and the company enjoy the benefits of the work you’ve put in?

 

Austin Chiapuzio:

The implementation has been super smooth. One of the problems I commonly run into is companies just want to go, go, go, go, go. They want everything yesterday. One of the things that I’ve just praised Potter and Jimmy and Noel for is validation. We’ve gone in there, we connected the database, brought all the data in, did the math on it, made sure that everything lined up, all the numbers looked right, made sure that everything was perfect from a data standpoint, and in that process, found some process flaws in how they were doing their time entry, how they were doing payroll, things like that.

 

Austin Chiapuzio:

Fixed those processes and then slowly moved forward. It has been invaluable, being able to take it step by step, being able to validate things at every step of the way. It’s going to make going forward that much simpler.

 

Austin Chiapuzio:

Getting the initial setup was super important and then now whenever we go add phase codes, when we add other data sources, we don’t have to worry about is this data right. We know this data is right. When I look at this number, I don’t have to say, “Why is that number wrong?” It’s not. That number’s right.

 

Jimmy Gabbard:

Yeah, we’ve done a lot of validation, a ton of validation to make sure everything is correct because when I rolled out About Time, it was a big roll out to a lot of people and what I didn’t want to have happen, a lot of times when companies roll out an application, they roll it out, get it all out there and it’s not fully complete, if you will, because a lot of times IT departments get a thumb on them and we need to get it out as fast as possible.

 

Jimmy Gabbard:

The problem with that if things don’t work correctly, you get a bunch of people shooting holes in it. Then you get a bunch of people saying, “Oh, that’s junk software. It’s not going to work.” With About Time, we rolled About Time out to just a few superintendents. They tested it for a few months. Then we got more superintendents involved. That’s what we did with Click.

 

Jimmy Gabbard:

We validated, validated, validated to make sure everything was correct. Now going forward, when we start adding equipment in through About Time, add in more data sources through About Time and whatnot, it’s going to make things go that much more cleaner, smoother. I’m so sorry for Austin because I beat that kid up with, “Are you sure” and “This isn’t right.” He’s like, “Well, you’re doing this wrong.” I’m like, “No, I’m not. Oh, wait. Yeah, I am.” There’s a lot of that, which is great that we have that relationship that we can badger back and forth, but the validation has been priceless, just priceless.

 

Jimmy Gabbard:

He also built an app. I think it’s in Click, where it validates weekly time, hours and dollar amount with Timberline and About Time. We can see if somebody added time into Timberline and not into About Time. Those numbers will be off, so that’s a great validation for our owner, for VPs and CEO, right? Pretty much it goes back to, “Okay, if you’re going to pay for 40, I want to make sure you can pay for 40.” All the time goes through About Time and through Timberline, so when that validation is off, we know right away. You can’t get away with anything.

 

Austin Chiapuzio:

I can see if people put time into the wrong phase code, so if a superintendent clicks the wrong button and now they’re putting their time into panels instead of the superintendent phase code, I can immediately say, “Hey, that time is not supposed to be there. Go back, fix it,” and everything is married up. As far as from a backend data perspective, it’s all clean and accurate.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, that’s fantastic. That is powerful. Of course, as Jimmy’s field guys are collecting the data out the source, Sage 300 RE or the Timberline product is the Bible, if you will, the master database and because your About Time database and your Timberline are Sage database are integrated, you’ve got them sharing the same dataset. I love that middle piece that you’ve got other validation going on, making sure visually that people can keep things balanced out. You’ve found a lot of holes, it sounds like, and plugged them.

 

Jimmy Gabbard:

Trying to. He’s done a great job.

 

Mike Merrill:

With that, going back a little bit, Jimmy, are there any things on the roll out or implementation of this you wish you would have done a little differently and maybe also, what did you do that worked really, really well that others might be able to learn from?

 

Jimmy Gabbard:

Austin and I talk about this all the time, what we wish we would have done better is knowing what question to ask. That’s big, why this and why that, so that’s a big one. What was the other question? I’m sorry?

 

Mike Merrill:

Oh, that’s okay, and then what did you think went really well or exceeded your expectations, was awesome, was a good approach?

 

Jimmy Gabbard:

Exceeded my expectations? We have a magnifying glass into every part of our data. I’m blown away at what Click can do for us. I’m still just amazed every time he says, “Oh, it can do this; it can do that.” I look at him like, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” That’s amazing in itself right there. Hopefully, I answered your question.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, that’s great. Between the two of you, it sounds like you’ve both been through similar projects with other systems. Jimmy, obviously, you learned how not to roll it out before you even started this, right? That probably helped. Would you say that’s accurate?

 

Jimmy Gabbard:

That’s highly accurate. At other companies, we’ve rolled things out and you’re having to just chase your tail trying to fix things, and you knew what was going to happen when you rolled it out so fast.

 

Mike Merrill:

Speaking of that type of a rollout, if you look back and think of where this decision came from, who made it? Did you make it? Was it your executives? Did they put you on a mission to go find something? How did the idea even come about to look for a solution like this?

 

Jimmy Gabbard:

There was no mission. Nobody sent me on a task to go find it. I have a money-saving mindset. It’s just what it is. I try and find ways to save money, and it just happened. I happened to be at the right event and he’s in the right kind of software and my mind started going. He knows how my mind is. My manager knows how my mind is, and I’m like, “Wow, this has got to be able to help us.” It just happened.

 

Austin Chiapuzio:

Click does a really good job. I wanted to bring a point back on what Jimmy was mentioning on knowing what question to ask. Click, and data analytics in general, does a great job at answering questions and giving you more precise questions to ask. When we first started this, if I could go back and change anything, the one thing I’d go back and change is finding out specifically what question they wanted answered.

 

Austin Chiapuzio:

When we first started it, we got in there. We looked at the data, found what data they had access to, gave some stuff on what I could show, but didn’t really have any guidance on what I was showing. I would show them this and they would say, “Oh, that’s cool, but can it do this?” Then we’d show them this and it was, “Oh, that’s cool, but I really want to see it this way.” Once they asked the question, “Am I winning or losing,” and that was the big question they asked, once they asked that, it was off to the races.

 

Austin Chiapuzio:

That made it super easy to be able to see. When you first look at this dashboard, you can see a speedometer that has green, yellow, red. If your speedometer’s in the green, you’re doing good. If it’s in the yellow, you might want to look into stuff and if it’s in the red, as Jimmy says, “Some tang wrong.”

 

Austin Chiapuzio:

It does a really good job at answering questions and once you ask that question, am I winning or losing, if you’re losing, it does an even better job at giving you reasons why. The next thing that we would do it try to answer the questions, why am I losing, where am I losing, things like that. Then you can drill down and look and be able to see, like Jimmy was saying, “Did I spend $7,000 in overtime that I didn’t need to spend? Did someone put their time in the wrong phase code? Are they moving money around? Was there eight people on a job site and you only finished two panels? Why did you only finish two panels when you had this many people?”

 

Austin Chiapuzio:

It gives you more direct and specific questions to ask. It just does a really good job of doing that. As my VP says, analytics is a feedback loop. We just analytics to find opportunities for process changes to boost performance. Then you use the analytics to see those performance boosts and then find other areas where you can become more efficient. It’s just a good way of giving an overview or insight into that information.

 

Jimmy Gabbard:

That’s a good point, to be more efficient. Last week we had a meeting with five field superintendents and we were showing them Click and what it’s doing for us and why it’s so important to enter the units in through About Time. We created a form in About Time to be able to enter units and we sync it daily and it populates Click.

 

Jimmy Gabbard:

Towards the end of the meeting, I’m like, “Look, this is a fabulous tool. It’s going to make you a better superintendent. You’re going to get up in the morning and you’re going to look at your dashboard because we’re going to present it to them on their iPads, wherever they’re at, and they’ll be able to see their speedometer. Are they red, yellow, green?

 

Jimmy Gabbard:

The red areas, they’re calling somebody. Our project managers, same thing. Why is this red? Pick your phone up, you’re calling the superintendent, “Hey, we’re red on panels. Why is that?” If we keep going this way, we’re going to lose $75,000, so what a great tool to know whether you’re going to lose money and you’re a week into the job, starting the job, and it’s already trending for you. It doesn’t get any better than that, so the About Time and the Click, the way they flow together and work, they were meant for each other.

 

Mike Merrill:

Wow, a match made in heaven, huh?

 

Jimmy Gabbard:

A match made in heaven.

 

Austin Chiapuzio:

Something cool, also, that has come out of this is, like Jimmy said, we’re moving into equipment next. There’s a ton that can be done in About Time. Jimmy’s forgotten more about About Time than I know, but just in looking in the backend database, I can see all these tables and I can see all these different fields that they’re currently not taking advantage of.

 

Austin Chiapuzio:

It’s other things that they can use, things like the form. We built that form and that was something that existed that Jimmy was unaware of from the beginning. In doing this, he’s also doing more in About Time and utilizing their existing software more to give more data to get more insights. That’s, again, where that feedback loop is. It’s what can I do to get better visibility into my day to day business without actually having to go out to the job site and physically look at what’s going on.

 

Jimmy Gabbard:

Austin, talk about the geofencing that I tasked you to do. We have a girl that does face confirmation and geofencing. It tracks guys if they’re clocking outside the geofence of inside or whatever. There’s some great reports in About Time that she’s been utilizing for, I’d say, six or eight months. I’m like, “Hey, can you pull that data from About Time?” Of course, he goes through his big long deal of, “I can do this. Let me pull this.” I’m like, “Just do it.” He’s working on a dashboard for her that’s going to pull all that information.

 

Austin Chiapuzio:

Right now, back to the validation app that Jimmy was talking about, right now all it does is it looks at Timberline and About Time and says whether or not the hours match, which is huge, as Jimmy says, but along with that, everything needs checks and balances, so things like that geofencing. About Time does a great job at being able to see that information. It’s super valuable information, but it takes a second to go through all those different entries, being able to find which ones are within a certain range, which ones are outside a certain range.

 

Austin Chiapuzio:

I have the ability to see their home address as well as the address of the job site. Then I can take the address that they clocked in at or the coordinates. Then I can say, “Okay, I have this coordinate that they clocked in at. I have the coordinate of the job site and I have the coordinate of their home address. Now give me the difference between all of this.

 

Austin Chiapuzio:

I can tell you, okay, they clocked in five miles away from the job site, but they clocked in half a mile from their house, so just right off the bat, I can tell you who’s not clocking in from their job site and if they aren’t, how close are the clocking in to their home address that they have in Timberline. Again, that address is not in About Time. It’s data that’s in Timberline and utilize that with what About Time is doing to be able to give more insight into that data and make it quicker to see.

 

Austin Chiapuzio:

All of the people are at the top so instead of having to go through everybody, she just clicks, “Okay, I want to see people that are clocking in greater than X distance away, greater than five miles away.” Now she has a condensed list of people she can look at. It’s a better use of her time.

 

Jimmy Gabbard:

A result of that is, “Okay, why are you doing that? I don’t want to pay you an extra 30 minutes there” and oh, by the way, when they get home, then they clock out. We’re able to see that data through About Time. That’s an hour a day for one employee. How many people are doing that? That’s a big number at the end of the year. That’s information that About Time gives us and Click just compiles it and gives us what we need to see.

 

Austin Chiapuzio:

Yeah, About Time is super awesome and a lot of the stuff that I’ve seen from About Time, it collects great data. You can never have enough data but the problem with having as much data as we’re given is we don’t necessarily have a tool to see it easily. That’s where Click comes in.

 

Austin Chiapuzio:

A lot of people will see this use case and they’ll say, “Okay, well I don’t necessarily have the same type of situation that Potter or Jimmy has. It’s not going to be useful for me.” That’s not the case. I use Click at home to do my own budget. This is a specific use case, but anywhere there’s data, something like Click is really good at showing that data in a different, more efficient way and making it interactive.

 

Jimmy Gabbard:

You’ve got to have somebody like Austin to know how to present it.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, will, that’s great. We both know, Jimmy, in construction and obviously, Austin, through your affiliations, information is king on everything. That’s what really matters in construction, is managing data results.

 

Mike Merrill:

One of the things, going back a little bit, Jimmy, that you said that I thought was really powerful and impactful, was how you empowered a superintendent to utilize the mobile app by, “This is going to make you a better super.” That’s what a lot of companies seem to be missing out on. They are focusing so much on their money savings or budget savings or profitability for the business and not necessarily highlighting how it can really make the individual employee’s life easier by leveraging those tools. Do you agree?

 

Jimmy Gabbard:

Yeah, I agree on that and to give an example, at that same meeting last week, one of our better superintendents, at the end of the meeting, said, “I’ve been waiting for something like this for so long.” It’s going to make him a better superintendent, more efficient, help him manage his job a lot easier, and at the end of the day, everybody is going to make more money. That’s great for the company, great for the superintendent, great for me, great for Austin, great for About Time, everybody. It’s a good deal, man. It’s a great tool.

 

Mike Merrill:

That’s powerful. One other last thing I wanted to ask: How important do you think was buy-in from the top down, Jimmy, in your company’s case?

 

Jimmy Gabbard:

The importance of the buy-in? We’re subcontractors, just a bunch of good ol’ boys that have done things a certain way for a long time, but I will tell you the men that I work with, they’re very open as far as… Like my manager, Noel Nalls, he’s like, “If the numbers make sense, we’ve got to do it.” That’s a great mindset.

 

Jimmy Gabbard:

A lot of people are just like, “I’m out” at a certain price, 100 K, $1,000. “We can’t do that.” If you just break even, that’s a no-brainer, right? If the numbers make sense, let’s do it. That’s what we did in the beginning. That’s why Austin came out and presented, “Here’s what it can do; here’s what it can potentially do for us in the future.” Once that happened, “Wheels up; let’s get it going.” The buy-in was… Austin, would you agree, from the beginning, it was pretty well 100%?

 

Austin Chiapuzio:

Oh, yeah. The buy-in was 100%. The way we always say it is we have to have a champion. In any project, especially something like this, you’ve got to have a champion. You’ve got to have someone that’s invested. You’ve got to have somebody that understands the data and understands the benefits of seeing the data a certain way. Noel, Jimmy, everybody has been just super invested from the get-go and I could easily say they’re both huge champions for it. Yeah, it’s super important to have somebody there that’s willing and wants to see that data and wants to see it succeed.

 

Jimmy Gabbard:

Yeah, and you’ve got to know what technology can do for you. A lot of people are just against technology, especially in the construction industry, but you know as well as I do, in any job site nowadays, a job site is full of technology, wireless, mobile. We have big jobs where we have job trailers. We have wireless. We have servers out there. It’s just incredible.

 

Jimmy Gabbard:

It’s a remote office. Guys are on the 13th floor and they have their iPads looking at plans. Changes happen and they get it like that. You have to. You have to have technology to be able to grow with the big boys.

 

Mike Merrill:

Um-hmm (affirmative.) It’s a better way to build better buildings, for sure.

 

Jimmy Gabbard:

I like that.

 

Austin Chiapuzio:

I like that. I’ve never heard that before.

 

Jimmy Gabbard:

I like that.

 

Mike Merrill:

I just made it up.

 

Jimmy Gabbard:

Wow. You should go into advertising.

 

Mike Merrill:

That’s it. Lots of great information and insights on this discussion, no question. Austin, if there’s a listener out there that’s in the construction business and they’re looking to get access to aggregated data like you’re providing for Jimmy, how’s the best way to get them in touch with you and see if you can help them as well?

 

Austin Chiapuzio:

They can either reach out to me via email. It’s going to be A Chiapuzio, A-C-H-I-A-P-U-Z-I-O @flairdata.com or you can just go to flairdata.com/analytics and I believe they have a contact us somewhere there. Those are probably the two best ways.

 

Mike Merrill:

Perfect. That’s awesome. Well, just in wrapping up this awesome conversation, Jimmy, if you could look back, is there one thing in your career that, really, you felt is a strength of yours that served you well, a hack or a superpower of whatever you want to call it?

 

Jimmy Gabbard:

You’ve got to be open-minded to everything, to all technologies. If you’re just straitlaced and you’ve got tunnel vision, you’re not going to be successful. That’s all there is to it. You’ve got to be open-minded to every piece of software, every idea that people bring to you and just see what it can do.

 

Mike Merrill:

I love that and in listening to you describe how your business and your company and your coworkers seem to approach things, it sounds like you’re a learning organization at Potter Concrete, which those words don’t usually go together when you’re talking about a construction company.

 

Jimmy Gabbard:

Oh, our guys, they embrace it. It’s like, “Um, let’s just see what happens,” but once you’ve proved the concept, they’re onboard, man. Everybody’s ready to go, man. We have to tap the brakes a little bit because they want it so fast, right?

 

Austin Chiapuzio:

There’s been several times they sit there and start talking and get off and get excited. I love those conversations and then Noel’s like, “All right but wait. Wait, wait wait. Not yet, not yet, not yet.”

 

Jimmy Gabbard:

Yeah.

 

Austin Chiapuzio:

He’s great.

 

Jimmy Gabbard:

People see the benefit of it and they just want it now because they know what it’s going to do, not just for them, for the company, to manage their people. We have superintendents that have a very large group on a job and it makes their job easier, it’s going to. We’re just scratching the surface of what we want to do with it. It’s exciting.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, if you’re saving over a million dollars in payroll in the first year and that’s just the surface, boy, you’re in a good place.

 

Jimmy Gabbard:

Yeah.

 

Mike Merrill:

What about you, Austin? What’s your hack or your superpower, if there is one?

 

Austin Chiapuzio:

Numbers, I guess, would be mine. In college, I took math classes for fun. I like numbers. I like logic. That would be probably my biggest superpower and my biggest downfall.

 

Mike Merrill:

Okay.

 

Jimmy Gabbard:

Let me throw this out there, Mike. Here’s one thing. A few weeks ago, my manager, Noel, after a meeting with Austin, we were looking at, “Okay, we need to add burden into the numbers and that way we have a true number and this and that.” Austin was talking about burden in some accounting lingo. Well, I know the numbskull, so I know what he talks about and this and that.

 

Jimmy Gabbard:

Noel calls me afterwards, on the way home. He was like, “I’ve got a question for you.” I go, “Yeah?” He goes, “Austin’s a great guy, but how does he know all that accounting lingo?” I said, “Oh, we went to UT Austin. He’s a CPA.” He was like, “Ah. That makes sense.”

 

Jimmy Gabbard:

Not only does he have the analytics, but he has the accounting side, which you’re talking about is so valuable. Oh, my gosh. He can get in Timberline and do what he needs to do. It’s phenomenal. You kill two birds with one stone, but I wish he’d trim that beard a little bit, though.

 

Austin Chiapuzio:

Yeah, my wife says the same thing.

 

Jimmy Gabbard:

I’m kidding.

 

Mike Merrill:

Well, what I’m hearing, Jimmy, is you’re saying it’s not just the what, but the why and how that Austin really brings to the table, which is what a winning one-two combination.

 

Jimmy Gabbard:

Yeah, he’s done a great job for us and is a good kid. I love him.

 

Mike Merrill:

That’s awesome. Well, again, that’s important, the personal relationship side of your vendors, having that relationship. I know, Jimmy, you and I don’t know each other real well, but we hit it off real well and I knew immediately, man, we’ve got to have you on the podcast. This has been a fun conversation.

 

Jimmy Gabbard:

It has been good. It has been good and the product has been fabulous.

 

Mike Merrill:

Well, we appreciate that and I guess just to wrap up, Jimmy, if you made a mistake in business or just in your career, what’s one thing you wish you could go back now and redo? Is there anything that stands out in mind to help others avoid that pitfall?

 

Jimmy Gabbard:

I’m real big on doing my due diligence as far as research. Sometimes there are times when you get rushed and sometimes you miss a few things here and there. Like we’ve done with this project, tap the brakes, slow down, do due diligence and research, validate stuff.

 

Jimmy Gabbard:

Validation has been huge to me, just a validation mindset, not just in Click but everything in general. That’s been key to me. The validation through Click has helped out with payroll in About Time and a few other areas in the IT department, so I’ve taken validation pretty seriously over the past year, if that makes sense.

 

Mike Merrill:

That’s great. Yeah, it does. I’ve very much enjoyed this conversation with both of you, Jimmy and Austin. I appreciate you joining us today.

 

Jimmy Gabbard:

Thank you.

 

Austin Chiapuzio:

Thank you very much.

 

Mike Merrill:

I look forward to many years of working together in the future.

 

Jimmy Gabbard:

Yes.

 

Austin Chiapuzio:

Absolutely.

 

Mike Merrill:

All right, well, thank you for joining us today on the Mobile Workforce Podcast, sponsored by About Time Technologies and WorkMax. If you liked the conversation that Jimmy and Austin and I had today or learned anything new or helpful in your business, please give us a follow at Instagram, at WorkMax Underscore and subscribe to the show on iTunes or your preferred podcast platform so you don’t miss another insightful episode.

 

Mike Merrill:

Also, if you enjoyed the episode, please leave us a five star rating and review. That helps us bring these valuable conversations with other folks to you and your organizations to help you improve in business and in life.