Author Archives: Kristin Hege

Maintaining Construction Management Mobility in All Situations

Maintaining Construction Management Mobility in All Situations

Today’s construction projects and job sites require teams to be nimble and agile so they can handle any surprises that come their way. But these capabilities don’t just happen. Construction leaders need to be proactive, encourage their employees to be ready for the unexpected and help set everyone up for success. 

In this episode of the Mobile Workforce Podcast Jeff Gerardi, the president of ProEst Software, shares how to build a company that can adapt to changes on the job site and in the market. 

Key Takeaways:

  1. Executives have a leadership responsibility to move their company to the next phase with technology. Executive teams should carve out a more functional place in the day-to-day workings of their companies by being involved and supportive of new initiatives, while also empowering employees to be more proactive.
  2. Automation gives employees time to analyze and collaborate on what is happening in the field. Manual processes often lead to human errors and lost administrative time. By automating processes, leaders give their employees workflows that streamline processes and eliminate data silos by giving the entire workforce access to the information, increasing collaboration. 
  3. Transparency gives way to the best outcomes in the long run. Transparency can be a painful thing and lead to some tough conversations. But once a team gets over that hump, they will begin to experience higher levels of productivity and effectiveness. 

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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 the president and CEO of ProEst, Jeff Gerardi. Jeff has been running ProEst since 1992. And today, we’ve asked him to join us, to talk about growing your business while keeping quality that you are known for. Welcome Jeff, we are so happy to have you on the podcast today.

 

Jeff Gerardi:

Thanks Mike. Glad to be here with you.

 

Mike Merrill:

Thank you. So first off, I got to know, tell me more about your experience of working your way up from the very bottom in a company, as a new employee, to eventually taking the leap and becoming the CEO of the company.

 

Jeff Gerardi:

Yeah. So I was in a unique position when I started, way back, multiple decades ago. Where I actually started as a salesperson, and literally after a year or two, the owner was just at a position where he was ready to retire, and asked me if I wanted to buy the company. And that point, I had one mouth to feed, so it was an easy decision. And I jumped in, and now we’re three decades into it, and it’s been a fun ride, but it’s been the most fun these last couple of years with the cloud and everywhere we’ve gone.

 

Mike Merrill:

Wow. That’s really awesome, and I think it gives hope to a lot of other people. If you’ve got big goals and dreams, you can make it happen, right?

 

Jeff Gerardi:

Just got to be open for the opportunity.

 

Mike Merrill:

Very good. Awesome. Well, as a software provider, especially cloud-based software, it’s easy to see how technology can help us to solve problems across the board. But what I want to talk to you about today is more about helping your clients create those processes and structures within their organization, as it relates to the pre-construction management phase. So in your mind, where’s the biggest breakdown that typical contractors have when trying to create the standardizations for a pre-construction management process?

 

Jeff Gerardi:

Yeah. So today, and I’m going to go back to who my biggest competitor is, and that’s Microsoft Excel, we like to call the big green giant, right? Every one of us on the phone uses it. We use it for multiple things, but it’s power is also all the risk that comes along with it. It’s really flexible, we know that. We’ve all used it, we’ve all built formulas and we’ve all looked at Excel and built things within it, and it’s really powerful. But it’s a silo, it’s a silo of information.

And for us, our client’s biggest hurdle is going from that 100% control over my silo, my Excel silo, to saying, “Now, there’s a company standard. Now, as we bring people onboard, we onboard new PMs, new estimators, new directors of pre-construction management, that there is a process that our company has developed that is a new standard within our business.” And as we start to put quotes out, there’s a standard we come to expect of what every one of them looks like, and what is the workflow every single estimate goes through. But certainly, letting go of that security blanket called Excel is one of the biggest hurdles, and not knowing what that journey is going to mean, right?

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. Yeah. Excel, I mean, we always refer to it as our spreadsheet addiction around here. It’s that safety net.

 

Jeff Gerardi:

We call it a monster, but I like that you call it an addiction. That’s a different twist.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yes, it is. Yeah. So in some cases it’s worse than paper because it’s so easy to erase and re-type whatever you want, and it looks cleaner, and it feels better].

 

Jeff Gerardi:

And hit a space bar, right? Hit a space bar, wipe out a formula. Now, all of a sudden a line which might’ve cost 50K is no longer being totaled into the summary at the bottom, and there goes my two, 3% profit.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. Yeah. Great point. Very valid, and certainly something that we’ve all heard horror stories about, or hopefully not too many of us, but some of us have probably experienced first-hand.

 

Jeff Gerardi:

Yah, it’s normally when we get the call, right after that day.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. And so the listeners know, Jeff, again with ProEst, it’s basically a cloud-based estimating system. So what he’s talking about is putting those controls in place, so that people don’t have data siloed and at their fingertips ready to be kind of destroyed, or used in a way that’s not helpful to profitability.

 

Jeff Gerardi:

Yeah. And the lack of visibility. So if I have three, four people putting estimates together, and these days, obviously we’re all mobile for a need of what’s going on in the world, but having the visibility at a corporate level of seeing what’s our pipeline look like, because in essence, we’re a sales tool. What does our pipeline look like? What estimates are being produced? What estimates are coming due this month, this week, this hour? All that visibility, within a dedicated estimating platform is possible, with individual Excel silos, is not possible.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. Great point. And everybody in construction management is familiar with the estimating side to some degree, whatever process they go through. But as it relates to your business, I’m sure you have tools within your business, technology tools, things that help you to keep on top of things, what things do you have in place that help you to avoid that communication breakdown from one person to another?

 

Jeff Gerardi:

Communication within our business ourselves?

 

Mike Merrill:

Within ProEst yourselves. Yeah.

 

Jeff Gerardi:

Yeah. That’s a great question. So do we talk the talk? So we’re certainly preaching cloud technology mobility. We internally, went to Salesforce to control our entire platform. Our entire company is run off Salesforce, and it has since 2006-2007. So we’re 13 to 14 years into being 100% cloud-based ourselves. So when COVID hit us all, six months or so ago, we didn’t miss a beat, we didn’t miss a call. Our employees were mobile the next morning, 100% up.

So, I mean, we’re walking what we’re preaching as well. Where we need to be mobile, we need to have technology, where we can access it from a browser but as well as from our phone. We can do that with ProEst, we can do that, obviously with Salesforce. And operationally, we are using Salesforce across the board. So not only our sales, but our client construction management, our tracking of customer support cases and feature requests, it’s all happening through a single cloud-based platform.

So I think we’ve even gleaned some lessons from that, that we’ve incorporated into our platform, like configurable workflow. What’s the process? What’s the process an estimate should go through? From coming in from a business development person, to going to a PM maybe, to validate it, to going to an estimator, what does that process look like? Is there a review process? Can we control and define a company-wide process that every estimate goes through? Just like for us, I mean, every lead goes through a certain process, every support call goes through a certain process. And it’s controlled at a corporate level, and we can get complete visibility.

So right now, I could look at a dashboard and see how many support calls there were today, how many got answered, where they done in the allotted amount of time, and are we meeting what we’ve set our bar to be a great customer service company? Are we meeting that bar? Well, I’ve got that visibility. I’ve got that data to back it up.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. And our organization’s the same. We haven’t been down yet, since COVID or not. We’re using all of these tools. And we did it by accident. We didn’t mean to. We built our own CRM initially, and then eventually got on Salesforce also. And we use a different tool now that has some other options within the platform.

 

Jeff Gerardi:

Yeah. And we went down that path as well. So originally mid ’90s to mid 2000s, 2005-ish, we created our own CRM. We’re like, “We’re going to control this.” But that’s no different than having an Excel silo. So we quickly realized that this is not our expertise. Let’s bring in a system that could help us control this, so we can really put all of our efforts into making software, and products, and platforms that our clients could benefit from, and not build their own back-office stuff. So same type of good versus evil that our clients are going through, Excel versus a standardized estimating platform.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. So what I’m hearing here, I mean really to circle this back to our listeners and some of the things, even running their own business, those communication breakdowns, it sounds like they occur when data of any kind is in a silo. It’s not what others can see, its what you can see, right?

 

Jeff Gerardi:

Yep. Yeah. I mean, if I get a report from an account manager as an example, and it’s in Excel, I’m not a happy camper. It better be in Salesforce as well, because otherwise there’s data being produced that could be helpful for our teams to help a client outside of our operational platform, which is Salesforce. So want everything there, so we can access it and help the client as a team, not just as an individual.

 

Mike Merrill:

Okay. Yeah. That’s great. You certainly are speaking my language on that.

 

Jeff Gerardi:

Good.

 

Mike Merrill:

When we’re looking at standardized data across the whole user base then, what you’re saying is that eliminates gaps, that helps us be more efficient, helps us make better decisions. And so for a construction company, not only when it comes to software, but any process, it sounds like having that inner-office, inner-field visibility with the same data.

 

Jeff Gerardi:

Yeah. I mean, what is the process from a business development person bringing in an opportunity to a construction company, an estimate being created, and now that estimate’s been awarded, and is it in their ERP or the accounting system to properly now track the job costing? What’s that process like? It needs to be automated, especially as you scale. There has to be an automated process where the CEO or the executive team at that business could always look in there and see, where is this opportunity in our process? Is it an estimate? Has it been awarded? Is it being built right now? And if so, what’s the job costing data? Was the estimate accurate? Was it high? Was it low? Did we miss the mark on anything? But that visibility at least allows you to use data to make some real business decisions.

 

Mike Merrill:

So basically, better data collection tools. And then as far as workflow, I mean, when you talk about automation, what does that mean to you?

 

Jeff Gerardi:

So we built a configurable workflow. So I mean, in Salesforce terms, we can create a workflow that when an estimate gets started, first of all, who are the team members involved in it? Someone’s doing the estimating. Is there a director of pre-construction or someone that’s doing a review of that estimate? Does it go to an executive team for a sign-off, depending on the dollar amount of it potentially? Well, that can be automated, so that people automatically get emailed when an estimate’s ready for it to review. There could be an escalation involved as well. It needs to get reviewed in two business days, otherwise flags are thrown up because there’s a due date we need to make.

So that whole process, what’s involved in it? Could there be an escalation? And we want to make sure that there’s no bottlenecks. And if an estimate goes to someplace for a review and it sits there for a week, well that’s a problem if the bid was due in four days. So making sure that we have complete visibility into that, so we do not miss a bid due date. And there’s accountability across the board. And they can define their own. So how many steps does it have, and where does it go? How elaborate is it? We have clients that have three simple steps, estimate, to review, to send to client. We have clients that are controlling billion dollar construction budgets, like the City of New York as an example, and their workflow is much more elaborate because there’s different levels of review, there’s potentially 20 people involved in an estimate, could be a GC, could be 15 subcontractors, could be internal people as well. So as long as it’s definable, we have the ability to build a process, that’ll work across the business.

 

Mike Merrill:

So with that, what have you done, or have you seen done, or what are you trying to do to try and help adoption become more prevalent?

 

Jeff Gerardi:

Yep. I mean, adoption is really the key here. So from the beginning, during the sales process, we want to make sure that there is executive level buy-in to start with, because if they’re not driving the ship, it’s very easy to go back to Excel or to go back to old methodologies, and we want to make sure that never happens. So we want to make sure upfront that there is a serious commitment to technology. There’s a serious commitment to the next level of their growth. So as they scale, obviously things need to change to make sure that as they put 10, 20, 30, more people into their business, that there are systems and standards in place, so there’s not a huge load on them. They’re simply plugging people into an already defined process.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. So you’re talking about helping them feel more comfortable with the tool, getting executive buy-in, so there’s a driver behind it. This isn’t optional. And when you’re talking, and it’s the same with software of any of the vendors that you would see in the construction marketplace, these things are key for any company to recognize is we got to have top-level down, not only support and buy-in, but actually motivated by whatever means necessary, mandate that this is what we’re doing. The bus is going, and it’s going that way. And you need to get on the bus if you want to be a part of it, right?

 

Jeff Gerardi:

Right. Yeah. I think that’s certainly important from the top down, that if there’s a new direction in terms of technology, that there has to be certainly a mandate from above, but buy-in straight down through. So getting as many people involved during the presentation or demonstration phases as possible is important to get feedback, to get buy-in at that level. We think it’s imperative to making sure that a implementation goes live on schedule. Because after we sell a client, we go through an implementation. And we put a stake in the ground and say, “This is our go live date. So who’s responsible up until then? Now who’s the implementation lead on both sides? Who’s the executive sponsor on both sides?”

We have weekly check-ins. We automatically are sending these out because we want to make sure that the project stays on track, just like a construction project, no different. There’s a due date for the bids. And then there’s a start date for the project, it’s the same thing. And we’re excited to… We’re at the point now where we’ve defined the process over our decades of experience. And we feel like we’ve fine-tuned it enough that we know upfront, we’re going to present this implementation plan even during the sales process, so they understand what’s the level of commitment on both sides, because it’s a level of commitment. We’re not kidding anyone here. It’s new technology into a business.

I mean, we’ve even shifted gears where we used to charge per user, and we went away from that because we want company-wide adoption. So now we’re charging based off of a platform versus just a individual user. Because we want the estimators, the PMs, all pre-construction people on the platform. As well as, who else needs to touch it? The executives want to see the dashboard, the accounting department needs to grab estimates for our job costing. So the further we can reach our users, I mean the further within a company, ultimately, there’s no limitations. You can control your own users, and the securities around them, right?

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. So what I’m hearing is you completely changed your delivery method of your system to companies, and there must have been some really specific reasons why you would do that major change in your business. What is that? So people can avoid it.

 

Jeff Gerardi:

That goes right into workflow. So we defined what we thought was this amazing workflow, but then we charged per user and no one’s going to pay a per user cost. So that Mary, the head of accounting gets an email that a project was just awarded and there’s a bid coming her way. So the whole per user costing, we wanted more visibility of the estimate data throughout an organization, not just the estimating team, which might be three, four or five people, depending on the size of the company.

So we didn’t want people to be restrained by only certain users in the system. We want it to be full open, again, trying to eliminate silos. We created our cloud platform, which is now we’re, I don’t know, six years into this. We went live about six years ago. We wanted to make sure that we were not a silo. Because what we saw in the industry was an estimating silo, a takeoff silo, a CRM silo, an ERP silo, and it doesn’t help anyone. Certainly doesn’t help our end users. So vendors like us should open their gates, and say, “Here’s the data. Where does it need to go next? Does it need to go to timekeeping? Does it need to go to ERP?” Well, we’ve got complete tools built, so vendors can grab all that data and it never disappears within our platform. No more double-entry, triple-entry, thing of the past.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. So really, it sounds like your decision to make it readily accessible to whoever, anybody who needs to see it… so the City of New York uses ProEst, not this department, this division. Is that right?

 

Jeff Gerardi:

They have north of 1,000 users in the same account.

 

Mike Merrill:

Wow, amazing.

 

Jeff Gerardi:

All collaborating on estimates, all access to the appropriate data that they’ve been invited to. So there’s still control around it, but it’s still wide open. It’s still wide open. And I think any technology, even if we were to implement a new technology at our business, we would certainly make sure that the data is accessible by all departments, that the data goes where it needs to go, and it’s not siloed in a single individual product. I wouldn’t bring a product in our company that is not first of all, cloud-based and forward-thinking, so that there are APIs and tools to allow us to grab data, to put it elsewhere if we need to.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. So essentially, what you’ve done is you’ve helped contractors get out of their own way. In construction, we’re master negotiators, right?

 

Jeff Gerardi:

Yep.

 

Mike Merrill:

We are always looking to work the deal the best we can. And so I may shave off a few users by not letting Mary in accounting have that license, to try and save money. But in the end, we’re getting in our own way and we’re forcing data into silos, because as a business, we’ve decided we’re going to tighten up that spend on our estimating system.

 

Jeff Gerardi:

Yeah. Yeah. Why not define rules at a user level of what they can and cannot see, what they can and cannot do, and have it be full wide open? And for us, it was freeing. It’s like no longer do we think we have to charge a user for an individual license. It’s more us helping them adopt and drive our product and our platform throughout their business. Because we know it’s going to be more beneficial if it is widespread and everyone has access to the data.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. Well, and when we have these discussions internally at our organization, it’s the same thing. We want to be one of those apps it’s on their home screen. Something that they’re used to using, they need it often. If we can do that, and get a brain share of the users. Then when somebody moves to a different organization, or there’s turnover, or a company slows down and has to have layoffs, those skilled workers are going to go somewhere else. And when they do, and they run into an Excel-based system, or paper time cards, or some other non-software, non-technological system or silo, like you’ve been talking, they’re going to say to their new employer, or to their new foreman or superintendent, “Hey, where I was just at, we used XYZ,” or, “We used ProEst.”

And there’s an opportunity now where a user that maybe otherwise wouldn’t have had that visibility, now actually has a voice and an opinion, right?

 

Jeff Gerardi:

Yeah. And I mean, we’re doing the same thing in our business. So certainly we have to be honest with ourselves and say, “We should bring the same idea to our client base. Of kind of open doors, and cloud technology.” And we started a new education program where we’re trying to get our platform to be utilized and taught at universities, to now teach new cloud technology. What’s going to move the industry forward? Well, it’s cloud technology, and ultimate collaboration between those tools as well, is really necessary for an industry that’s really slow to adopt technology. But that means there’s a lot of space for the executives in the industry to step up and say, “It’s time. It’s time to adopt technology that’s going to help us scale, and help our business work more efficiently and more productively, ultimately.”

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. So going back to you as a CEO now, and the journey you’ve been through as an employee. What advice would you give to people that are trying to move up in their role? Or they’re entrepreneurs at heart, they got to start somewhere. What have you learned in your decades of experience?

 

Jeff Gerardi:

I think ultimately, always being just thirsty for knowledge, thirsty to learn more. You’ll notice things in other industries that will help you, as long as you’re open to it. I mean, my first estimate, I’m 17-years-old, working for a guy in New York, I think we were painting or wallpapering contractor. I grew up in construction. And we walk into this room, his name’s Sal. He’s got a cigarette hanging out of his mouth that wasn’t lit. You know that guy, we all know that guy. We walk in the room, he looks around, he’s got his arms on his hips. He goes, “What do you think kid?” I go, “I don’t know, five grand?” He goes, “Let’s do it.” That was my first estimate.

But from then, everything’s kind of evolved. And as long as you’re continually learning, continually looking at new technologies, even if you look at another product, not necessarily a competing product, but a product that’s helping you schedule something in your personal life. I have three children, I have to schedule all their sports, and everything that’s involved in that, so I have a busy life. So what has been beneficial in other platforms that I could bring to my users, that will help their lives as well? Because we’re scheduling products, and we’re scheduling construction meetings. It’s all kind of combined. It’s something that we could learn from other tools and other applications as well, I think.

 

Mike Merrill:

Well, and even, how many of us are using Amazon Prime? Or maybe you have an Autoship subscription. There’s so much of our lives, the bank accounts, the bills, the mortgage. I don’t even have a paper check book that I carry anymore for anything.

 

Jeff Gerardi:

Yeah. I’ve been banking online probably for 10 plus years now. So if I’m okay with my financials being online, I should be able to be okay with my estimates and my construction data being online as well.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. So then… Oh, go ahead.

 

Jeff Gerardi:

You’re typing your credit card into Amazon every day, so if you feel comfortable doing that, and we’re all hosted on Amazon servers, and Rackspace is are our tier one support, so we certainly have the best security available in the industry right now. So that shouldn’t be a concern at this point. Obviously, security is always a concern, but if you make sure that the vendor you’re going with has those types of credentials and those types of securities in place, then that should be put to the back-burner. And now it’s about, how am I going to adopt this technology? How am I going to drive this thought throughout our business of how this will help us be a better company over wide?

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. Yeah. I think generally the populace within North America, of course, and even worldwide, has moved past those general initial concerns. Thank goodness. Because I remember 15-20 years ago when that was not the case. It was a hard sell, and they wanted it on their server, in their office, right down the hall. But-

 

Jeff Gerardi:

And we’re a technology company, we don’t have a server, okay? We do not have a server in our office. Everything we utilize is 100% browser-based.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. So that’s something to be said for sure. So saying that now, going back to the market that we service, and that we work in and with every day, what are some of those objections that you get that you feel like kind of stall companies from moving forward with not only just estimating, but… Obviously, that’s your wheelhouse, but it effects everything.

 

Jeff Gerardi:

Yeah. if I think about the potential clients that have stalled a decision, I think most of the time it’s the fear of unknown. What does implementing a new platform even mean? And we’ve tried to set up a implementation plan, which has, we call it the six steps to success. So we tried to be as transparent as possible, so they know what they’re going to go through, they know how much time each step is going to take. But there’s still an unknown, there’s still a leap of faith. First of all, with a company, and do we believe in the company? And I think secondary, it’s the product and the platform. And will all the employees within my business agree to utilize it?

That’s… above, and the excitement has to come from above. That there’s a technology change that’s going to help us move forward into the future. Yeah. I think it’s an exciting time, where we can make some changes. And I think the executives of the world, there’s a leadership responsibility now to help move your company into that next phase of technology. And there’s a lot of really cool technology out there now for the construction space, that wasn’t there even three, four years ago.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. And I think to your point, they’re being forced. You’ve got religious services going on Zoom or online, right?

 

Jeff Gerardi:

Yeah.

 

Mike Merrill:

There’s talk of the presidential debate being online. It’s interesting.

 

Jeff Gerardi:

I have three children at home doing Zoom school right now. We had to double our bandwidth, but it’s working.

 

Mike Merrill:

And if your kids are like mine, they’re done in about an hour and a half.

 

Jeff Gerardi:

Now what?

 

Mike Merrill:

But yeah, it’s more efficient at this time.

 

Jeff Gerardi:

It’s more efficient, and it’s a different world. Even at that level, at the education level, there’s more accountability. You don’t have as much in-person teacher communication. So now there’s more accountability to do a lot more work by yourself. No different than our clients having to make a decision, ultimately by their self. It’s their decision. But knowing that you have some support services to help back you up. And wherever you’re going, find the company that’s done it before. They’ve already sold clients that are your size, that are your stature. Make sure you talk to those clients. Ask clients what an implementation looks like. Call a client that’s only six months in. They just went through implementation, it’s fresh in their mind, either going to be fresh good, or fresh bad, you’re going to know about it right away. But I think that’s invaluable information to talk to a peer that’s just gone through it.

 

Mike Merrill:

Well, and I think too, and kind of to your point, your business is booming and you’re having unprecedented success. And part of it’s just because of that cloud visibility, that people, they can’t hide behind that rock anymore. They’ve got to get online, they’ve got to be on one platform, they have to have visibility. They got people working all over the place, some people working from home. The way they can do it. So in some ways this has really helped, I think the construction industry to get more online, get more mobile and really get on one platform, so they know what’s going on every day, on a daily basis. As opposed to a week at a time, when they have their round table meeting.

 

Jeff Gerardi:

Yeah. I think it’s time to get more creative when it comes to how we use technology. It’s time to take off the gloves and say, “Okay. What do we need to do to grow to the level we want to grow to?” You’re a $20 million company today, you want to get to a 50. What does that mean from a technology standpoint, and a systems, and a process standpoint to get me there? And it’s just one example. But certainly, when we all scale our businesses, there’s certain things that we need to do to make sure that we’re ready for that scaling and for that growth. So I think cloud technology certainly helps that, because it scales up and down really easily. It’s flexible. You can control the scaling hopefully, if you pick the right vendor.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. Yeah. I’ve read a lot of different studies and reports, and construction is a laggard for sure. They’re second only to the agriculture industry in technology adoption.

 

Jeff Gerardi:

Oh, we got the farmers beat? Is that what you’re telling me, Mike?

 

Mike Merrill:

That’s it.

 

Jeff Gerardi:

Okay. So we’re not last, I’m happy about that.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. We’re only second to last. But if you ain’t first, you’re last.

 

Jeff Gerardi:

So we didn’t get picked last at dodge ball, that’s a good thing.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. But yeah, we meet with companies all the time that say, “It’s time we get innovative.” And the narrative has almost changed now to where I’m thinking, “You’re not getting innovative, you’re just catching up. You’re actually behind. Your competitors have already done this, and it’s time to kind of get current with the tools that are available to you now.”

 

Jeff Gerardi:

Yep. I agree. And there’s so much more technology out there than there a couple of years ago. So I think now is the right time. There’s a lot of… I mean, on the ERP side, there’s multiple cloud-based options now, where there weren’t three, four years ago. So yeah. Being cloud-based now across a construction business is possible. So I think everyone owes it to themselves to do some research, dig deeper and find out where they could potentially gain some efficiencies in their business.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. I think just like anything that we do that’s scary or new or different, there’s greater benefit on the other side of this fear than we’re going to get by holding back, doing the head in the sand thing.

 

Jeff Gerardi:

Yeah. But maybe talking to some of those people that just implemented, or looking at some true case studies that some of your peers have done, it will help lessen that fear a bit. And say, “Hey, why can’t we do this? Our peer just did it. Let’s give them a call, and see what challenges they went through and talk through it.”

 

Mike Merrill:

Love it.

 

Jeff Gerardi:

And we got good guys, like you and me, here to help.

 

Mike Merrill:

There you go. That’s right. And like you, my background, I started in construction. It’s the same thing. Most innovative businesses were started to solve a problem that they experienced firsthand, and it’s no different here with ProEst, obviously. So in winding things up here, I just had one question I wanted to ask, and I like to ask each guest towards the end. So has there been a hack, or a shortcut, some kind of a process that you’ve come up with that’s helped you in business? That’s become your coined superpower for lack of a better term?

 

Jeff Gerardi:

My superpower?

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah.

 

Jeff Gerardi:

I mean, my superpower, my wife would say is my crux too. And that is my kind of never-ending drive. You can call it a superpower, but always looking for new ways to improve my business, and improve my client’s experience with our platform has always been at the top of our list. Our core values for our business start with integrity, which is truly important, but also transparency. We want to be transparent with our clients and take them through everything we’re going through. We have challenges as a business as well, just like anyone else, we’re scaling now, added multiple employees this month. So we’re going through some of the same kind of challenges that they’re going through, and hopefully we’ve defined processes along the way to make it as painless as possible. And make things just fit together, and it be an easy process.

Because with enough pre-planning, it should be. And maybe I got to it there. Being able to look ahead, think about what your struggles are today and think through and plan for improvements. Whether that’s a technology, whether that’s another employee in a certain place, whether that’s a new process, whatever that process may be. But as much planning upfront is going to help the backend in terms of implementation and adoption, and everything that goes along with that.

 

Mike Merrill:

That’s great. So really, what I’m hearing is almost having a plan to execute and implement the plan.

 

Jeff Gerardi:

Yeah. And hopefully, we’re going to set it up for success. We’ve gone through it many times, where we’ve certainly had good implementations, and we’ve had not so good implementations. And hopefully we’ve learned from those not good implementations to continually improve our process. And I think it doesn’t matter if we’re talking about technology, or business, or your family life, we can glean something off of every experience to improve moving forward.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. I love that. And that’s a great note to end on. So thank you so much, Jeff, for joining us today. Sure enjoyed the conversation.

 

Jeff Gerardi:

You’re welcome, Mike. Talk to you soon.

 

Mike Merrill:

Thank you. And again, thank you listeners for joining us on The Mobile Workforce podcast today, sponsored by AboutTime Technologies and WorkMax. If you liked the conversation or learned anything new and insightful that you can implement in your business, and you are interested in hearing more, you can look at us online or on Instagram at workmax_. Or please subscribe and rate us on your favorite podcast platform. Those five star ratings and reviews will help us to continue to provide this valuable service to the industry that we love, and hopefully help you improve those results in business and in life.

The Unseen Cost of Your Construction Process Problem

The Unseen Cost of Your Construction Process Problem

No one in the construction industry is sitting around on their hands. And if being busy equals success, then every contractor would be a millionaire. We invited Jeffrey Nesbitt, the director of consulting services at CLA, to come on the show and talk about productivity and the costs of not buttoning up your processes and procedures.

In today’s episode of the Mobile Workforce Podcast, learn how to take a new look at your processes and determine what needs to change. Jeffrey gives contractors actionable ideas on how to implement new processes and how they can make sure that the new habits stick for the long term.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Your problem is costing you something. Inefficiencies in business are unavoidable and some are easier to ignore than others. But don’t assume because it’s out of mind, that it isn’t costing your bottom line. 
  2. Profit fade is a great indicator of issues that need to be fixed. Profit fade is the gradual loss of profit over the course of a project. Contractors should identify sources of trouble –– and address them –– to keep their profit levels steady. 
  3. Assign a point person ownership over new process implementations. Before launching a new construction process – whether it’s a technology solution or a time tracking requirement – put one person in charge of owning the implementation to ensure the rest of your team does their part. 

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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 Jeffrey Nesbitt, the National Director of Consulting Services at CLA. We asked him on the show today to talk about the cost of not fixing your business communication problems. Welcome Jeffrey. We are grateful to have you on the podcast today.

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

Thanks Mike. Appreciate you guys having me on looking forward to our time.

 

Mike Merrill:

Awesome. This’ll be fun. First off, why don’t you tell us a little bit about kind of your background, your company and the day-to-day for you?

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

I started off in this crazy industry, I don’t know, 16, 17 years ago. Did some estimating and project management for a masonry company. And soon discovered, although I love the work, that it probably wasn’t for me. From there actually jumped into the construction technology sector. Spent the better part of my career in the technology specific around construction for a decade or so before moving into CLA’s role here. Helping them head up their construction practice for our clients around best practices, operations and utilizing technology.

 

Mike Merrill:

That’s awesome. Well, you have a very diverse background for sure. I’ve seen you around the “circuit”, so to speak, for most of those 17 years.

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

Yeah, we bumped in more than once. That’s for sure. That’s why I was looking forward to chatting with you guys today and sharing with you a little bit about what we’re doing and seeing.

 

Mike Merrill:

Awesome. Well, that’s great. Every week we try and have some meaningful conversations, things that hopefully we can bring some aha moments to people in the industry and in the trades. One of the things that we wanted to focus on with you today is really, what is the cost of companies not addressing or fixing their technology issues or challenges that you teach to companies?

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

That’s a great question because that’s really what drove me to move to CLA. There’s a certain point in time when you’re on the software side or the operations, or being an actual contractor, where we have to merge these worlds together. We just saw at CLA that there was a gap there, if you will, that needed to be filled. We have over 9,000 clients at CLA and over 350 employees focused specifically in construction. We’re another verticals, but really in the construction, we’ve been voted number one by Construction Executive Magazine the last two years in a row. We’re really excited about that because, as a services firm, we want to bring more than some just traditional services. So, for us aligning operations and best practices and technology has been a key differentiator.

When we work with our clients, I know you guys see it too, contractors are busy. Everybody’s busy. There’s no one sitting around on their hands. We’re short staffed. We’ve got a lot to do. We all see challenges or things broken in our own companies or in our own lives. We’re so busy, we don’t have time to fix them.

To your point, there is a cost of not fixing problems. It’s the cost of what are you losing? That’s really what we try to focus on and share with our clients is, “Yeah, we can get better if we implemented a new mobile app.” That’s a true statement. But if we don’t have time to implement it, what is it costing us not to do that. That’s really where I help share with our clients that there is a cost to do nothing. A lot of times that cost outweighs actually doing something.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. Very insightful. Again, with your background, you would know, no question about it. I guess if I’m trying to break it down, it sounds like you use the example of the mobile app. It sounds like communication tools are one area of improvement that companies could take, to kind of fix those communication gaps. What are some examples of things like that the companies can adopt to improve?

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

Yeah, the biggest hurdle in our industry is that communication and within communication is really data, isn’t it? That’s what communication is. We’re sharing information back and forth. And as contractors, if someone tells us, you’re a data company, we go crazy. “What are you talking about? No, I build high rises or I lay asphalt.” And all that fun stuff. But the truth is, you’re collecting data.

When you don’t have a way to get that information from the field to the back office, that’s where I see with our clients, profit fade happening. That’s what the big challenge is. We are so busy and a lot of times we understand we have challenges. It’s just not the technology piece, Mike. I think more importantly, it’s the process piece. That’s really where we focus our efforts, because if we can’t fix our processes, it doesn’t matter what technology we apply. It’s not going to help it, or in some cases, it’s going to make it worse.

 

Mike Merrill:

That’s a great point. You mentioned a word, you talked about profit fade. What does that mean for our listeners?

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

The simplest thing is margin. In our industry, we’ve got some of the tightest margins of any industry in the world, but yet we build the most complex projects. So, profit fade is when we take that very, very small margin and we start shrinking it down and down and down until there’s almost nothing there, because we’re not communicating effectively. We’re wasting time looking for project data information, that’s maybe causing conflicts out in the field, that may be causing reworks.

All this stuff adds up to time. Time is money. When we sit down with our clients and go through sort of, “What is it you’re doing today?” That’s where we really find out what’s the cost of doing nothing, Mike. When we find out, “Hey, what happens when a project manager’s got approve an AP invoice? What does that process look like?”

What if he has a change order and doesn’t submit it in a timely manner? It’s sitting on a notepad in his truck. Because mobile office. That’s the stuff that we look at. There’s been studies done by FMI, PlanGrid, even anecdotally myself, it will show that, in a typical week, there’s almost 35% of people’s time spent on non-optimal activities. That’s the cost of doing nothing. That’s hours. If your PM’s losing four to five hours a week, that’s money. If you’ve got five, 10 PMs, that could be another full-time employee. Who wouldn’t love to find a full-time employee in this market.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. Right. Great point. Yeah. A lot of construction companies have those resources. They’re just not leveraging them properly, because they’re wasting time on tasks and efforts that don’t bring revenue.

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

Yeah. It’s really clean up those internal processes first. The old Michael Jackson song, The Man in the Mirror. You got to do that first look inside and say, “What am I doing, Mike?” I’s hard as a contractor, we’re proud people and we love to just do it ourselves. “Yeah, I know what the problem is and I’ll fix it myself. Who’s got the leakiest roof in the neighborhood, it’s the roofing contractor. Why? Because he doesn’t have time. There’s just no time.

That’s why I always encourage people. If you can bring in somebody to help you to actually manage this process of, “Hey, how do we clean up some of these internal things and figure out what is best practices?” That’s when you can apply technology. Otherwise, you’re just buying technology, for the right purposes. People have good intentions in their hearts. Owners are buying mobile applications, whether it’s a project management, mobile timekeeping, forms in the field, things like that. But if they don’t implement a process that the technology can support, then you’re really losing user adoption. There’s no ROI for these folks, unfortunately.

 

Mike Merrill:

What I’m hearing and something that I always like to say too is, “Software to work properly and to be of value requires users.” That means they have to use, if they’re not opening the app and leveraging the tools within it, then there’s no value.

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

I haven’t seen an app yet that’s like a genie bottle where you rub it and unicorns and rainbows shoot out and everything’s wonderful. It still takes people and processes. The technology is that last piece. You have to do those other two things first in order to leverage technology. Then again, it’s consistently reinforcement and training. Configuring that technology to mirror your processes also helps in the user adoption, because this is the way we work.

 

Mike Merrill:

I love that you talked about people and processes, because again, software can be the magic bullet, but without people utilizing it properly, it’s shelfware collecting dust.

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

Yeah.

 

Mike Merrill:

What are some of the challenges that you see most prevalent in construction companies today to avoid adoption or to kind of knock the adoption into a rut and then what can companies do to help avoid those pitfalls?

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

Well, it’s all about commitment. It’s like anything else in life, if you’re not committed to something or the activity or the task at hand, it’s not going to be successful. You have to have commitment from senior leadership first, then you have to have a plan in place that supports that commitment. Which is, how do we utilize this technology? How do we leverage it in our day-to-day functions? Then furthermore, it’s making sure that they’re doing these things.

If you’re going to buy a project management solution or a mobile timekeeping solution, when you’re having your weekly or monthly PM updates, are you reviewing the reports that the software generates? That helps encourage people that, I have to utilize this tool, because every Friday I’m going to sit down and the boss is going to pull it up and say, “Well, where’s the data? Where’s the numbers?”

You sort of have to build that into your management processes to encourage people getting on board and utilizing the technology. If there’s no accountability there, if we’re not referencing the tool or we’re using it to manage our projects or processes, then you’re exactly right, it can get thrown on a shelf. That’s what happens with mobile stuff. I know you see it, Mike, most of all. It’s not like an accounting system where, “Hey, we got to run payroll, so we have to do it.” It really forces it. You have to take that same thought process and apply that to your field tools.

 

Mike Merrill:

That’s great advice. I think one of the things, I always hear this phrase, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.” I love that and agree with it. However, just because you’ve measured it, doesn’t mean you’re done. You’ve got to execute and apply that measurement to that process. Then, now you’re leveraging the data. People are depending on it and counting on it. There’s kind of a plan to execute the plan. So, here’s what we’re going to measure. Here’s what we’re going to do to review and be accountable and report on those findings. Then, you can actually invoke change is what I’m hearing you saying.

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

Absolutely. When I look at our clients and we talk, the people that aren’t learning today from that data that they’re collecting and the information, those are the ones unfortunately probably won’t be around tomorrow. We used to be in a market where we could throw more people at a problem and fix it. We don’t have that today. If we can’t take these tools and utilize them to turn 1:00 PM into 2:00 PM, have a field supervisor be able to manage just one more project on his plate. We can have the revenue going up without adding the headcount. We can make more effective decisions as an organization. I joke with contractors, I’m like, you’re a data management company and a learning organization. If you’re not, you need to be, because your competitors are.

 

Mike Merrill:

I love that. I’ve heard of contractors referred to as risk managers. That’s what they are. I love that you are calling them a data organization. I haven’t heard that phrase before. I hope you don’t mind if I steal it a little bit.

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

No, just don’t trademark it.

 

Mike Merrill:

Okay.

 

Mike Merrill:

Helping each other out. What I’m hearing though, is that there are some costs to put these processes in place. Some of it’s money, that’s the obvious one, your time, a consulting firm’s time, a software provider’s time. Then, when we get an investment in a process or a solution that we feel like is going to be beneficial, hopefully there’s an ROI or return on investment on that technology, right?

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

Yeah.

 

Mike Merrill:

How long have you seen some of those take, for example, maybe a couple of different systems or process you put into place? Maybe you can share some generic examples, so people know what they’re looking at.

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

When you talk people, process and tools and software, that really is that triangle of truth, if you will, of when we put things together. For me, the ROI on the people, process and software is probably the most easy thing to measure. If I look at mobile timecards. I just was at a client last week, they’re still using paper timecards. We’ve got over 9,000 clients. A lot of them are still using paper timecards. That’s one example where I look at it and I say, “Okay, it’s taking you 20 minutes to get a timecard processed.” That’s from the time that they get it to the office, to them entering it into whatever accounting system they have, to being able to update their job cost reports and then print checks. Well, you know, a simple tool like a mobile timekeeping, that could save you 15 minutes.

That’s like an easy ROI. “Okay, well, 15 minutes times how many employees?” I mean, that’s simple math. For me, it goes so far beyond the ROI, which I think in any application nowadays it’s a year or less, it’s six months or less in some of these mobile apps, quite honestly. But what’s the real value, is visibility. It’s visibility into your job, a snapshot, a look in a window at any point in time. That to me is way bigger than anything I’m going to spend on consulting and or software. Because, I want to know from the time of an occurrence happening to the field, what does that cost impact realized in the office, so I can make a decision. That is shortening that cycle. That’s profit fade. How do we get it down?

For me, it’s about having confidence in my numbers, visibility to my organization, to make decisions about the future of where we’re going to go. Forrester Research, they did this study that said you have only 12% of the available data executives doing decision-makers, were making a decision on their company. That, to me, is the value. Can you imagine in this world, something we can all relate to, COVID-19. When you go into your doctor, are you going to accept 12% of his diagnosis only. Where in life is this acceptable?

 

Mike Merrill:

Or some kind of a bad illness and they say you got a 12% chance of living. Not very good.

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

Yeah, exactly. Only 12% of the solution. To me, that’s the bigger picture. Owners and executives, when I talk to our clients, I’ll be honest, that’s what keeps them up at night. Is not understanding or having that visibility on what’s happening in a project, or even having confidence in it.

 

Mike Merrill:

I read another report, it was McKinsey and Associates, they said that according to that one, it was a certain segment of questioning, but they said that only 6% of the data was being leveraged. This is a few years back. Whether it’s six or 12 or even 20, it’s horrid.

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

Let’s say 40%, congratulations, it’s still not good enough.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. Yeah. Unbelievable. What I’m hearing is really data is the key to not only improving, but really making those decisions that are not only going to make you around next week, next month, next year. There’s a huge opportunity to widen the gap between you and the competition if you can harness this data, even a fraction more.

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

Yeah, absolutely. I think, again, it all just walls back into that, “Hey, how do we clean up our internal processes?” Because, when we go out and we talk with our clients, one of the commonest things I hear is, “I work with the estimating department. I work with the accounting department. I work with project managers, the field, the sups.” The reality is, it’s the way we estimate a job, it’s not the way we account for a job, which is not the way we manage or build it in the field.

But everyone in that company is touching a job at any given point in time. You have to connect those bridges and those dots together to get the full picture in your organization. For companies that are productivity driven, this is really, really important. The units in place, the quantities, the linear feet, square feet, all that type of measureables. If you’re not seeing that in real time today, that’s the real challenge in the market.

 

Mike Merrill:

Real time productivity tracking and trending, I guess, is what I’m hearing.

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

Yeah, absolutely. It’s the hugest risk that contractors are facing right now. Especially when they have separate estimating, accounting, project management tools. If they’re not all talking to each other and you’re still having to do data entry from one to another, that’s definitely a red flag or an area for risk.

 

Mike Merrill:

Okay. So, integrating that data, letting it communicate with other systems or sharing of that data, I heard the real time component. Does that mean cloud-based solutions are kind of where you try and push that or-

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

This is not a personal religious belief of mine or anything, but it’s all to the cloud. It’s trending there. It’s all there. The reality is, is even the ones that are still sell on-prem, you host it and that’s what they push. The market wants that. I know our clients at CLA want that. They’re not looking to become IT companies. The thing I always hear most is, is “I bought my last server. What do I need to do?” Because no one needs those any more in the storage closets and all that fun stuff.

Yeah, having a cloud-based software is more important now than ever. I encourage the contractors listening that whatever product you pick needs to be like Switzerland. It needs to play well with others. Because, it’s about the best solution for the right department to achieve what they need to do. But, as an organizational holistically, ownership needs to say, “Hey, do these things all play well together, because I’m not buying four applications that have four people have to type in information into each one.”

 

Mike Merrill:

You sound like a guy that’s been around the block a time or 10.

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

I have. I’ve got a weird background. I try to use that to leverage to help the contractors. I have a passion around the industry, because we get to see it everywhere. Isn’t it exciting when you walk out your door and you see our industry and the homes you just locked out, the bridge’s tolls you’re going across, the highways. It’s an exciting industry. I do have a passion around making sure we are efficient in what we do and profitable.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. I love that. It is everywhere and it touches everyone. I live in a home somewhere, an apartment or condo, whatever it is.

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

Right.

 

Mike Merrill:

You’re living in a structure and somebody had to build that thing and has to maintain it.

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

Yeah.

 

Mike Merrill:

And the roads you drive down, the bridges, like you say. It’s what attracted me to it. I always wanted to get into construction, because I wanted to be able to do those things. I don’t know my path to get there, but it unfolded before me. I took those roads that led me down the path. Those led me back here where I’m helping growing a software company. But, that company serves the construction industry because just like you, that’s where my expertise and my passion have been. It’s great to have friends in the industry that feel passionate and excited about it like I do.

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

Yeah. It’s an exciting time, I think in our industry. I think it’s been trending that way as you know, for probably the last five to seven years, but really here in 2020, it’s really picked up with the pandemic. I know within our clients, if they weren’t stressing about PPP, they were reaching out to me to say, “Jeffrey, in this, no, on-premise no touch world, how do I know what’s going on with my projects? We can’t drive timecards into the office anymore because the payroll clerk ain’t there to pick them up.”

 

Mike Merrill:

If they are, they may not want to touch the paper.

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

Right. Exactly. We’ve been trending this way, but really it’s been kicked into overdrive this year, because of the pandemic. I don’t think it’s ever going to go back. I think organizations are learning that this is where the efficiencies are in operations. You can make your accounting department a little more efficient, but usually they’re running pretty lean. It’s in the operations. It’s in the project management. It’s in the field. It’s in the crews. It’s in time keeping. It’s in solutions around those areas.

 

Mike Merrill:

Nobody gets paid until somebody built something or put something in place. That means the dollars can either stack up or be siphoned out at that point. So, leveraging that data in real time as those things are occurring, so you can make those decisions. It feels like you’re saying that’s kind of the low hanging fruit, is kind of capturing that at the source initially, then let everything else, all that data roll through the process where everybody else can make decisions based on that.

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

Yeah. It’s at the source and the source of it, it could be anything. It could be at the estimating level, it could be at the field or the accounting level. As I mentioned earlier, everything’s interlinked. So as the life cycle, the job happens, the right person should be entering the right data at the right time, so we can use that to make better decisions.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. That’s great. All right. We’ve talked about some of those gaps, some of those challenges. Are there any stories you can think of, generically, you don’t have to name clients, but where somebody actually put something in place, like these things we’re talking about, and actually shared their surprising results with you and excitement or enthusiasm of “Oh, wow”, anything that comes to mind? Yeah.

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

Yeah. The low-hanging fruit I always find is in the payroll piece. I find it in accounts payable, believe it or not. Then I find it in project management. Sometimes, when we look at a payroll process, like I said, “Hey, if we can cut 15 minutes off, it could save us all this time.” A lot of times, with the mobile apps, there’s more things than just the payroll. There’s different forms out there that they’re filling in, or they’re taking pictures that could relay problems to offset.

I can tell you on the payroll side, I’ve seen companies save literally millions of dollars, a large contractor that had lots of employees, 10,000 employees. Let’s just say they could save, it was $3, $4 million annually every year, year after year after year. But more importantly, what happened is, is it gave them that visibility into some of those job cost reports like we were talking about. Where they were starting to see some of these labor overruns happening quicker on their jobs than they were previously doing. When they weren’t blowing out the truck window or being stuck under the seat, they were missing those opportunities. Depending on the size of contractor you are, it could be substantial.

 

Mike Merrill:

In those cases, were those companies surprised?

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

Yeah. Like I said, Mike people recognize they have challenges or problems. It’s the whole, “I don’t have time to fix it.” That’s why I like to say, “There is a cost of doing nothing” Again, that’s both fiscally money lost, but more importantly, I think it’s opportunity and visibility. Right?

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. Opportunity costs, meaning, I guess if we put this in maybe a trades contract or context, if you’re framing 50 homes a year, one a week or something. That takes you 600 man hours to do it on paper. What I’m hearing is maybe they could do it really in less hours that are now paid and documented because of a real-time app, as opposed to pencil with a timesheet.

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

Significant. You could figure it out or you have a consultant come in who can figure that out. But the truth is, is I would imagine, it could add up to several or a dozen extra homes a year.

 

Mike Merrill:

Wow. It could even be a month.

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

Yeah.

 

Mike Merrill:

Wow. Yeah. Big opportunity. Really, when I hear that and I put my contractor hat back on and think about when I was in business trying to do this same thing, this same hustle, that’s exciting that most businesses today are profitable in their current processes and market. If they could make these changes and invest that little bit extra money in a system and a little bit of their resources, you said six months, or maybe even less on some of these things.

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

Oh, absolutely. Yes, absolutely. It used to be a year, an average sort of, when we looked at across different tools. Let’s just say, whether it was estimating, accounting, the field, it’s down to six months. Like I say, timecards and AP processing, even billing, quite honestly, is improving cash flow and forecasting, when you could tie in some of these mobile applications that let the PM do the billing out in the field.

 

Mike Merrill:

You mentioned before, you talked about change orders and maybe it was on somebody’s book, in their mobile office, their truck, sitting on the seat, now they missed the window or opportunity to submit that bill. Maybe there’s unbilled labor that you’re spending the money on investing and getting nothing for. So the opportunity is gone, the cash is gone and you can’t bill anybody to replenish any of that. Right?

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

Yeah. I worked with a contractor to be nameless and they had some good tools. They had the good software application. They had a good project management software application. Like I said, if it’s not like Switzerland and it doesn’t play well with others, it doesn’t do you any good. Because, when I went in there and sort of did the review, you go in and you find a $300,000 change order for a job that’s been closed for a year. Right? Again, it’s knowing that, and knowing it in a timely manner is more important, isn’t it? What we thought we had winners on, we sometimes have dogs. We didn’t get an opportunity to fix it, because it wasn’t integrated.

 

Mike Merrill:

Interesting. When you hear that pushback, have you had companies that pushed back then maybe came back down the road later and said, “You know what, I think we just got to bite the bullet and do this.” What are some of those experiences?

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

I would say for the most part, by the time it hits my desk or my team’s desk, there’s a fair amount of pain. Through some conversations, they realize, “Yeah, we need to do this because we can’t keep kicking the can down the road” type of thing. Yeah, absolutely. Where we talk to them, we share some challenges that we’re seeing in their market or their industry or their local, as I mentioned, got 130 offices. Each sort of market has its own unique individual challenges. They’ll come back and say, “Yeah, you’re right.” Unfortunately, it’s after they probably lost on a job somewhere by not addressing it and said, “We got to do it now.”

 

Mike Merrill:

You’re more in the emergency room level of care, not the clinic down the street?

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

Sometimes I get brought in, when the fire is on the fifth floor as opposed to the ground floor sometimes.

 

Mike Merrill:

They’re coming in, in an ambulance.

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

Yeah. Exactly.

 

Mike Merrill:

That’s why it’s just best to… “When’s the right time? No time like today” is what I say.

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

Like planting a tree, they say.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah.

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

When’s the best time to plant it? 20 years ago.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, exactly. They’re starting to feel, with this pandemic, these different challenges. I think it’s bringing it sort of to the forefront a little bit, which, if there’ll be one good thing out of 2020, maybe that’ll be it.

I’ve heard that from a lot of companies, actually. They said, a lot of this stuff has been long overdue. This is just forcing our hand. Even with the social distancing and kind of the safe environments they’ve got to create, so maybe they don’t have as much labor. They’ve got to do more work with less people. They’re just being forced to get rid of these extra steps and processes and make decisions that give them visibility that they didn’t never put the time into or the money into before.

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

I think it just leads back to the labor shortage. Like I said, we used to throw people at the problem and we had a bunch of them. We could overcome it with manpower. We just don’t have that today. How do you overcome some of these challenges of getting projects done efficiently and timely when you don’t have people to sort of toss at it? I think that’s been a big driver for folks is, “I can’t find another PM qualified. Maybe I find a junior PM, but how do I support him?” You can’t just give him a note pad and a pencil and tell him, go at it and talk to the 10 other PMs you got, because they’re all doing things differently. There is a way to solve that problem.

 

Mike Merrill:

It also to me, brings up another interesting point you just talked about, kind of these younger PMs are putting somebody in new. I continue to hear out there that there are less and less people entering the trades out of school, if they’re even going to school. The blue collar worker is going the way at the Dodo, it seems by statistic. We’re going to need, as an industry, to invest in tools that can replace the lack of people that we probably aren’t going to have moving forward.

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

It’s really about automation, business process automation. So automate where you can in your processes and that’s what we help companies with a lot. Which is, this is a process we can automate, so we can free up people to do the things that we can’t automate today. Shifting people around organizationally to get better value out of them and taking away some mundane processes. Then again, you have to develop the tools for this market and industry, because the labor force is changing. It’s not a guy coming in saying, “I want to do this manual job or drive a backhoe.” You know, what’s real interesting, is flying a drone over my job site and tracking productivity that way or using it for security measures. The workforce is changing and they’re expecting some of these tools to be there. We really do need them to help recruit these people in.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. I’ve got a daughter, she’s in ninth grade, she’s my youngest, even in elementary school, she was able to check her grades on a daily basis online. That’s all she’s ever known. I remember we’re a similar age I think, I remember not knowing until the day grades came out, necessarily what I was going to get because there was no-

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

All you get is a manila folder that the paper you pull it out. All the carbon copies that went to the parents and teachers and stuff.

 

Mike Merrill:

You’re right. I think society, generally the youth, have been conditioned to not only be fluent with these applications and with mobile technology, they depend on it. They count on it and they expect it.

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

Yeah. Scary enough, Mike. They don’t even do spelling tests anymore, because kids are all using technology and they’re not learning to spell. Everything-

 

Mike Merrill:

We all have spell check.

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

Auto-correct as you go. If you’re like me and I always encourage the field guys, I use the microphones. I’ve got big fingers. So if you can’t type it, do the speech to text.

 

Mike Merrill:

Perfect. Well, that’s great. I’ve had a great time talking with you. There’s a lot more we could dive into and we’ll have to try and schedule another call coming up and do some more of this. I guess before, as I kind of wind up here, one question I’d like to ask towards the end of these conversations is, what’s one hack or skillset or process, something that you’ve kind of learned through your years of experience, that you count on regularly, if you had a superpower, what’s that thing that makes you, Jeffery?

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

I think it’s understanding, I don’t know if it’s a super power as much as it is nose to the grindstone type thing, which says, “If we want to achieve X and Y, and that’s what we’re saying as a company, let’s work backwards from that to today and put a plan in place of everything we need to do to achieve that goal. Then let’s all agree on it and then commit to it, set measurable KPIs and hold each other accountable to achieve it.”

Just like software. It’s no magic bullet. There’s no magic bullet to success. It’s hard work. It’s planning for success and following the plan.

 

Mike Merrill:

I love it. Boy. Well said. That’s a great way to end. Thank you again for joining us today, Jeffrey. This is very enjoyable and I think not only the listeners, but myself, I gained some valuable insights from you, so I appreciate it.

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

Thank you and don’t forget that trademark, we’re splitting it 50/50.

 

Mike Merrill:

Sounds good. All right. Well, thank you to the listeners for joining us today on the Mobile Workforce podcast, sponsored by AboutTime Technologies and WorkMax. If you like the conversation Jeffrey and I had today, or were able to learn anything new and insightful, we encourage you to please follow us on Instagram at WorkMax underscore and subscribe to the show on iTunes or your preferred platform for listening to podcasts.

Also, if you enjoyed the podcast, please share it with your industry friends and leave us a five star review and rating, so we can continue to bring these valuable conversations to you and your organization to help improve your business and your life.

Large Construction Projects: How to Identify, Engage and Maintain Client Relationships

Large Construction Projects

Large construction Projects

Large Construction Projects: How to Identify, Engage and Maintain Client Relationships

Construction companies dream of securing large clients to increase their size and profits. But the process of identifying, engaging and maintaining those types of clients is easier said than done.

In part two of our conversation with the leadership team at KPost Roofing, CEO, Keith Post, President, Steve Little and CFO, Jayne Williams share what it takes to attract large clients and how companies can keep their clients happy. They discuss how they became the official partner of the Dallas Cowboys, as well as lessons learned on scaling their business up to meet the demands large projects require.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Prepare for the clients you want.  Be proactive in building a strong foundation for your business, so you can scale it when larger partners come on board. 
  2. Avoid distractions and focus on your vision. Don’t get preoccupied by what other companies are doing. Put your attention into your unique approach. If prospective clients don’t see a fit, then you’ll be leaving room for other clients that do. 
  3. Don’t underbid to try and win business.  It is more important to be accurate and timely at a large construction project’s end than to be underbid at the beginning of the project and have numbers rack up and surprise clients at the end. 

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Podcast Transcript:

Mike Merrill:

Hello, and welcome to The Mobile Workforce podcast. I am your host, Mike Merrill, and today we are sitting down with Keith Post, CEO. Steve Little, President and Head Coach, and Jayne Williams, the CFO and safety manager of KPost Roofing out of Dallas, Texas. So for those of you that may not have heard our episode yet from last week, just wanted to get a brief background from KPost. So, how do each of you fit into the leadership, starting with Keith?

 

Keith Post:

I’m the CEO, and I work in a lot of different areas. I am over the service group right now, and the estimators, and I work with Steve in Sales. So I’ve got my fingers in a little bit of everything, and I help be strategic. So when we’re chasing large projects, I usually try and take somewhat of a lead or give direction to the team of how we’re going to be successful. Help just push everybody in the right direction so we present well. And then I also work in our educational side of the business, that’s really my passion, where I feel like we are giving back to our employees to help make them all better people, better co-workers and better people in their lives. 

 

Steve Little:

So I handle the business side of the business. I work in the sales side, I work with the project management team, the legal, banking, surety side of the business and the operations team reports to me as well. And I also am the interface for the industry, either involved with ABC, or NRCA, or Midwest Roofing Contractors, and I share some of the NRCA duties with Jayne. 

 

Mike Merrill:

Jayne, how about you? 

 

Jayne Williams:

I’m Jayne Williams, I’m CFO and safety officer. I do all the money and the fuel, as we call it, for the company. I also am the safety officer. I am an OSHA 500 trainer and we have from the very beginning had a strong focus on safety. It’s number one, get our guys home at night. I also started KPost charities and it’s a way for us to give back to the industry and the community that we live in. 

 

Mike Merrill:

That’s awesome. Well, it sounds like you’ve got the dream team put together, The trifecta. So today we wanted to talk a little bit about something that I think a lot of contractors really focus on and try and accomplish. I know, Keith, you mentioned you chase large projects. Something that I thought was interesting is I’m aware of your relationship at KPost with the Dallas Cowboys. How did you get that opportunity? Was it something that you deliberately pursued or was it just another project that you were just trying to win like normal? Or how did you guys land that opportunity? 

 

Keith Post:

Well, I don’t think we pursued being a partner with the Cowboys at first. But when they had, many people remember the old Texas state where the Cowboys started playing. We actually helped the city of Irving put together a spec and coat that building. And that’s when our relationship started. And Tom Williams, Jayne’s spouse, ran that project for us and created a great platform with the Cowboys and Manhattan Construction, who is a partner with the Cowboys. And from there, we were in our infancy, probably year two or three. And then when they put the new stadium out for bid, we went and presented there. And that’s where we put a strategy together, put a team together, and went and presented, and we were successful. And through that project, we got recognized by the general contractor as a leader just on that facility. During the construction of that project, Jayne’s team, her safety leader, Luciano Perez, ran the safety meetings for the project. For 1,500 people on a site, Luciano ran them. That’s pretty strong from a roofing contractor. 

We had our video done by the TV show Build it Better or… Build it Bigger. Which was pretty cool, which is out on the Internet. So we got some sea legs there. We were still in our infancy, probably five, six years old, on a project we probably had no business in doing in most people’s eyes. But we had a very, very strong team, a very tender team, and that led to us going further and we eventually became a partner with them. That’s not something that’s just to be sneezed about because you get vetted by the NFL. And we went through a process there. And today it’s actually led us to open up a residential arm. So it’s been a great success. 

 

Mike Merrill:

Wow. Steve, what about from your perspective? What was your role in kind of working with the Cowboys organization and procuring that opportunity? 

 

Steve Little:

Well, we have a tendency to do a lot of guerilla marketing. We had to be bigger than who we were when we first started. I can remember Jayne doing Excel spreadsheet brochures that she would draw pictures in on projects any of the 11 original employees that we started with were involved in, no matter what company that they were participating in before. And so we would print those off on our… we got a big fancy color copier with staples and collating and stuff like that. And so we’re big marketers. So when we got the coating job for the Texas Stadium, which is known as an icon all over the world, it’s a stadium that the hole was put in so that God could watch his football team play in. Big Texan type scenario. We promoted that, and then we had big thermometers on the roof while our guys were working and the television station could see them, and that kind of stuff. 

And so we would take that information and we would just plaster it all over the city. Well, I can remember when we started on Cowboys Stadium, it ended up being AT&T Stadium, we got the job, we started promoting it. Keith got a phone call one day. And it was from a senior vice president in charge of brand or marketing or et cetera, that he was coaching their kid in his club soccer team. And he was saying, “Hey Keith, who is this Steve Little guy in your company?” And, “He’s stepping on our marks. He’s pushing the envelope.” And Jayne had warned us that we would get a call like that one day because we had a tendency to push the envelope, drive 80 through a 15 school zone. 

And so they wanted to start talking to us because of the kind of quality work we did and the kind of branding that we were doing. And one thing led to another and we ended up hooked up together with each other. And it’s been a great ride. We’ve been successful in doing projects for Blue Star Development, which is the Jones family. We built their world headquarters from a roofing standpoint, the practice field. And it really kind of took this little old West Dallas company that just came out of the blue in 2004 and put us on the map in 2007 or 2006 with the Texas Stadium. And then 2007, eight, nine as we built the new stadium. And it’s been a ride the whole time. 

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, that’s no small feat to have your logo next to the Dallas Cowboys logo on it, which I’ve seen many times out there. So congratulations and kudos on really paving the way for success. And again, a story like that where, again, like you mentioned, you were just a small Texas company that probably was doing a job they didn’t belong on necessarily. 

 

Steve Little:

Well, what was interesting about that, and it was kind of fun because we won the project from the current partner that was out there, we were the final two people. And we show up with seven photos. And Jayne made sure we had our safety manager there, and we brought Tom Williams, who, by the way, although he has the great recognition of being Jayne’s significant other, he also has 28 years as a lieutenant commander in the Navy. So he’d rebuild nuclear power plants inside submarines and aircraft carriers, and Jayne suggested that we go grab him, and he had retired because we had this massive 121 steps. I remember I’ve walked it many times, from the bottom all the way to the top of Texas Stadium. And we needed somebody that had that wherewithal, somebody that could really understand the significance of an operational achievement like that, to be in the view of the public. That was the first real public project that we did. 

So we brought Tom and we brought the estimator, and we brought the project manager, and Keith and I went to the presentation and we took the Cowboys and the contractor from mobilization to demobilization. And it was supposed to be a 45-minute, we were there for two hours. I had a post-bid meeting and they told us that they were going to think about it for a month and then get back to us, but that we were a quarter-million dollars high. And that they want us to go back and really see what we could do to tighten that up on a four and a half million dollar project. And we got in the car and we were all feeling kind of good about it, but at the same time, we were like, we can’t get there. It’s not going to happen. So we’re kind of all a little sour mouthed on the way back, and the phone rings on the way back, and it’s the general contractor. And he said that it was very impressive and they want to go ahead and get us committed.

 

Mike Merrill:

Wow. 

 

Steve Little:

We were like “Oh, crap! We got it.”

 

Jayne Williams:

Exactly.

 

Steve Little:

You know? We felt good because they told us we were a quarter-million dollars high, because sometimes in the construction business you get a job and it’s a large project, and the first thing as the estimator you ask, what went wrong? What did I leave on the table here? What did I do? What more could I have done?

 

Mike Merrill:

What’d we miss? Yeah.

 

Steve Little:

And we’re all such cheerleaders, we want to high five each other. And hey, we have a mission, we had a goal, we had a plan. We accomplished it, we won the project. Well, no, our estimators are going, “Oh, what did I leave out? What did I do?” But we didn’t have that on the Cowboy project because they told us going in we were hired. 

 

Mike Merrill:

Interesting. So, Jayne, I think your role in the background, possibly, was also a key factor. What did you find that was helpful that you were able to kind of help contribute, even if it was less front facing in that kind of project? 

 

Jayne Williams:

When we first got Texas Stadium I was scared to death. We have 35,000 cars that go past that icon every day. And the last thing I needed was something rolling off the roof or an employee falling off the roof. I think us being creative in the way that we did it and the way we did safety, and several people were fired for safety violations. And this kind of just said a lot for us that we got up on this project and we did it creatively as far as the way we stocked, how we’d lanyard our tools so that they wouldn’t fall out of someone’s pocket. And then really stayed on top of the project. We were always involved in it and we made sure that we were there for our customers as well as our employees. 

 

Steve Little:

But Mike, she said it right upfront. The minute we get a large project, she has a sick feeling in her stomach.

 

Jayne Williams:

Oh, I do. Big time.

 

Steve Little:

And it grounds us.

 

Keith Post:

So what we do is we have this imaginary Ferris wheel. We put Jayne on it, blindfold her and handcuff her, and say okay, trust us. Then we spin her. Then she comes out, and she goes, “Okay, okay, okay!”

 

Mike Merrill:

Now she’s dizzy.

 

Jayne Williams:

Exactly.

 

Keith Post:

It’s trust. It really is trust.

 

Jayne Williams:

I don’t think we’ve gotten a single project that I haven’t felt that pit in my stomach at that point. 

 

Steve Little:

Including our largest project that we’ve had in the history of the company, we just… Let’s knock on wood, Jayne, I’m knocking on wood. We just are in the probably first third of a 15 million dollar re-roof project on a high-profile client in the Dallas marketplace. The location isn’t high-profile, but the client is, and it’s a live building to where they make very sensitive items. So we did 14 million our second year in business and this project is 15 million dollars. 

 

Mike Merrill:

Wow. Amazing. So one thing I’m hearing is maybe order your shoes a size or two too large and and then work like crazy to grow into them. Is that some advice you might give? 

 

Steve Little:

And don’t forget to tie it around your leg and your ankle at the same time when you go to tie it in. 

 

Keith Post:

We want to make sure it fits. That we like that style. We want to make sure it’s our style. And so we stay within our lane. And we do check all the boxes. We make sure that when we’re dealing with a project, that our sales team is working the right people. And if we can take price out of the equation, we do. We feel like if we can sell the value of this company and the strength of our team, we’ll have the best shot because we’ve been branded well locally. We don’t travel a lot, but we’re well known in the metroplex. And it’s a good name. It’s a very strong name. So I think being proud of something, that’s one of the things I’m most proud of, is that across the board we have strong teams, and they love coming to work and trying to do their best. You can’t buy that. 

 

Steve Little:

You know, if it’s a high-profile project in town, we’re typically on it because we’ve put ourselves in that position. We’ve staged ourselves that you’re going to have fewer competitors on the larger projects, and you have to have the capacity to do it. And part of that capacity comes with the safety, having that safety record, having the financial wherewithal to be able to fund the project, having the capacity with surety if you need to bond it, and having the history of when something goes wrong, because things go wrong in construction, it’s what we did to fix it rather than what we say we’re going to do to fix it. 

And we try to align ourselves with credible clients, whether they be on the multi-facility side, health care, industrial manufacturing, or on the general contractor side, that they’re tier one generals or tier two that specialize in the specific area. And we just build relationships of trust. We not only have to have it with our employees, but we have to have it with our clients. We have to have it with our vendors. And it makes me think of the strategic partner dinner that we do every year, although this year we’re not able to because of COVID. When Jayne came up with the idea that we need to give back and we need to give thanks to the people that helped us get started, I looked at her like she had six eyes. I was like, “Jayne, these are the vendors. Okay? We but from them. We get business from them.” 

 

Keith Post:

And nobody else had done this. 

 

Steve Little:

Pulls me back by the back of my collar, sits me down, and said, “We built integrity with our employees. We have to do the same thing with our vendors.” And more times than not she was right. Right? 

 

Keith Post:

Yeah, it’s something that our partners look forward to every year. They don’t all get to know each other until this one meeting and now you have your surety, you have your attorneys, you have your top vendors. In the last few years we’d start bringing key employees who are part of the upper management and who make the same run. And I think it’s pretty a special meeting of the minds for that one evening and breaking bread. It’s something that not many people in many industries do. But it was Jayne’s idea. And as much as I fought it, taking somebody to this fancy steakhouse like we’ve been to and bringing 40 people there…

 

Steve Little:

74.

 

Keith Post:

Close. Close. I’m a guesstimator. 

 

Mike Merrill:

That’s the numbers guy. 

 

Steve Little:

I don’t pay the bill, then. At least I don’t write the check. 

 

Keith Post:

So it’s a special deal. 

 

Mike Merrill:

Wow. I heard a few different things there that were impactful. The one thing that just keeps ringing through my mind is because of the integrity that you’ve established organizationally with your employees from the onset, with your customers, with vendors, it’s safe for you to have an event like that. You’re not hiding or trying to… You’re on top of your stuff, you’re paying your bills. You’re obviously going to get paid because of that same integrity. It just feels like you’ve kind of controlled variables that I think a lot of businesses struggle to gain control of. And so when things go wrong, the wheels fall off. 

 

Steve Little:

We can say that at year 17. 

 

Mike Merrill:

Right. 

 

Steve Little:

I will promise you that the first 10 years we pieced it together every week. Every week it’s a struggle, and our vendor community and our client community really partnered with us to put us in a position we’re in today. I was on the phone yesterday with one of our partners, and we’re trying to work through the pricing on a particular deal. And it’s a new area of business for us because in the distribution centers that are happening with all of these online retailers and folks that are building these brands and building these boxes, and all of these automotive centers to manage all of their delivery trucks and things like that. And clients that we’ve had for years that we’ve been working their office buildings and their industrial buildings are getting in this business and they’re asking us to come into that business with them. And it’s a very competitive, price-sensitive area, and so we’re evaluating it. 

And I was on the phone with one of the vendors and I said, “In order for us to be successful, we need to get to this price point.” And they said to me, they said, “The only reason that we were even working with you on this is we know that it’s not a collection issue, it’s not a problem issue with you and the general or you and the developer. That this is a very clean, smooth transaction. And that’s why we would do this.” And that was one of the finest compliments I think I’ve ever heard from any of the vendors, is that we had reached a point in our company and built that trust that they wanted to partner with us in a new area of business that was not very profitable for them either. But it was a large-volume play. 

 

Mike Merrill:

Wow. Yeah, it just sounds like the fabric that you’ve kind of woven your business out of supports the other areas of the business. So I think, again, you’re on a very strong footing and you have a very firm foundation. And I love what you said, Steve, especially about you guys had to fight every day for the first 10 years to get to this point. But it sounds like you’ve continually iterated and tried to pivot and focus on your plan regardless of the situation, even if Jayne was panicking or worried about, “Oh no, famous last words, we just won the project!” And that doesn’t always go well. Sometimes you buy a job because maybe you did miss something. 

Steve Little:

Right. You know, I want to make sure that the listeners are clear that you see the success. You don’t see what goes on behind the scenes. And we have stubbed our toe many times. We’ve lost a good employee or two, or three, or five. We’ve gained a good employee or two, or three, or five. It’s not a perfect science. And anybody that tells you that you can read a Dr… I’m going to date myself, a Dr. Spock book to tell you how to raise a kid, well there’s not a perfect book out there that tells you, or a perfect podcast that’s going to tell you how to run a business. Because it’s just ever-flowing. Something different.

 

Keith Post:

Every day.

 

Steve Little:

I remember the first day I met you and our business director, and it was just a crazy day. I think we had not won a project we thought we were going to win at a previous company. And I was really down. I was like, “Is this what it’s going to be like?” And you walked in my office, and you said, “Tomorrow’s going to be a whole different day, and we’re going to have different opportunities.” And it’s been the truth for the 20 years we’ve been together. Every day is different. 

 

Mike Merrill:

That’s what makes it fun, right? 

 

Keith Post:

Yes. It’s a great business. It’s a great business. 

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. Expecting the unexpected. Then you can be ready, right? 

 

Steve Little:

And it’s still a people business. There are 400 human beings in 200 different vehicles. In lifts, in cranes, in trailers. And it’s just every day they go out and they fight the fight. And we have the privilege of leading them and incubating them. I know that the three of us always talk about it as parental. And we really feel that this is our family. We built this. We started it. Let me be clear about that. We incubated. And the people that we brought on board have built it and made it into what it is today. And we work hard on keeping the train on the tracks.

Because it’s constant in different environments and different bends and turns no matter what. So I don’t want all of this success that we have and the brand that we’ve built, the reputation that we’ve had be distorted to the fact that we’ve stepped on our toes many times to get to this point. 

 

Keith Post:

We had no book. No road map. We had no walk into a business that was ongoing. We created everything from scratch. So that’s the satisfaction that you get. When you had to learn everything that you had to learn to run a business. Yeah, we asked a lot of people, we asked a lot of partners for advice. But looking back, the things that I did in my early career were so stupid. But I learned. There were a lot of them. And so what I said before about you have to make mistakes to get better. That’s what we’ve done. We squandered away lots of dollars, and it’s coming back to us now. We’re kind of in the good part of life. So it’s great to be able to have a team behind you that is so strong, that you’ve worked so hard to build. That’s a lot of satisfaction. Makes you be able to go home at night and sleep well. 

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, I’m hearing another theme of failing forward, right? 

 

Keith Post:

Yeah. 

 

Mike Merrill:

Failing forward. And learning from those mistakes. You’ve said that a few times. And I think that’s the challenge that, in life, we all face every day, is how do we get better? How do we learn from where we did fall short or we did stub our toe, like you’ve mentioned. But it’s nice to humanize this and, again, see and bring it back to the fact that it was 10 years of gutting it out every day that put you in this position to where now you have a little bit more control and you’ve built something that has momentum and probably can be maintained without quite so much heavy lifting, now that you’ve got some things established. But I don’t imagine you’re lightening the load too much. You’re probably working, like you said, harder today than ever. Is that right? 

 

Jayne Williams:

Exactly. 

 

Steve Little:

I had a client tell us one time the difference between KPost and other contractors is that we don’t try to BS them through a mistake. We will admit the mistake right up front, we will give them a solution for it, and then we will double down to execute it, to get it done. And it puts them in a comfort zone that they have a partner. That they don’t have a vendor. And it just changes the dynamic of a project that you’re working on. And we’ve had our mistakes. But we’ve also had a lot of big wins in fixing those mistakes. And because of the way we fixed those mistakes or handled the situation, we got another opportunity with them when they had another project to work on or they recommended us to somebody else. Or they left the company and went to work someplace else and called us back and asked if we want to be a part of this. And that’s that residual that businesses are built on. 

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. Critical. We all depend on residual business in some form or another, because you just can’t reinvent yourself every single day to somebody new and not wear yourself out. 

 

Steve Little:

I remember when you got started. 

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. 

 

Steve Little:

And we try every software that comes out, and we tried yours, and it was light years ahead of everybody else, and somebody asked us about, “What are you guys doing for your taking your timekeeping for your groups,” and, “You’re modern, have you gone to any kind of digital platform?” And we said, “Hey, have you called Mike Merrill?” And one thing led to another and then when an opportunity presented itself on something that you found, you called us up and said, “Hey, you took a chance on me, I’m going to introduce you over here to this person.” And boom, look what happened. Look where we both are today. 

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. And I love the words you’ve used about your clients. We feel like we’re a partner company. We partner with our customers. It’s a partnership. We’re both working together for a common goal. We want to help you be successful in your business. If you are, you’re going to grow, you’re going to be back next year, and so will we. And we’ll just enjoy the journey together and, like we’ve said before, that rising tide lift all the boats in the harbor. And that’s one thing as a software vendor or a roofing company, whatever business that the listeners are in, you have got to look at not only your customers as partners, but also, like you’ve mentioned so many times here on this call, your employees. They are business owners. They have ownership in their role in growing that business, and it sounds like the culture that you’ve created has allowed for them to take that ownership and feel that way. 

 

Steve Little:

You know, we’ve had some success with peer groups. 

 

Keith Post:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). 

 

Steve Little:

Jayne, I remember when you were leading the Timberline Users Group that you would collaborate with other folks that are in our industry and share practices. And I’m curious, Mike, do you do that in the software business? Do you guys have peers that you collaborate with that help you with your business? 

 

Mike Merrill:

We do. And we’re involved in some of those, we’re involved with CFMA, we’re involved with some of the AGC, and the ABC, and other organizations. We do webinars, we’ve done events. National Association for Women in Construction, and other things that don’t have anything directly to do with our business, but they’re supportive of the community that we serve, and we believe in those causes. We believe in higher education. And this podcast, we don’t do it to generate revenue. We’re doing it to help share wisdom and knowledge and insights so that others can hopefully take the ball where they’re at and move it forward down the field with greater success. 

 

Steve Little:

Well, we’ve actually talked to other peers in different cities, and they have ideas, things that have worked for them, and we’ve grabbed some of those and tried them. They don’t all work, and people have tried some things that we have, and it didn’t necessarily work for their culture. But I think we’re better for it because we’re sharing with each other to always try to get better. That’s something that you advocated. How do we always get to be better at what we’re doing? 

 

Keith Post:

Yeah, we do that a lot. I get a charge out of that. When we have 10 people or eight people on a call, and everybody’s talking about what software did you use? Or what’s your process taking the project from cradle to grave? And just seeing how people do that. Say, “Wow, that’s maybe a little tweak that we could do on ours.” And we do it with peer groups around the country. So there’s nobody local, so we’re really not giving anything up. We’re actually bare bones. We open up wide and say, “Here. Here’s us. This is what we do.” Or this problem we have. “You ever had that problem?” And yeah, it’s been very healthy. Very healthy. 

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, I would imagine you probably, on occasion, get more than you give in some of those cases. Where you learn, because you were vulnerable and open and additive to your community, you probably gained that insight from others that maybe you were able to use. 

 

Keith Post:

Yeah. The first time when you do that with a peer group and you start sharing these things, you’re like, “Oh man, I’m giving up my secret sauce.” And then you go, “Wow, they just gave me theirs.” And then that’s the bond that starts taking off. That’s when it’s like, “Here’s my stuff, man.” And they give you your stuff. And you go, “Man, I got this problem over here.” And they say, “Well, we had that problem. This is how we handled it.” And you learn so much from that. 

As an entrepreneur, there is no book to go read. You can go read a bunch of entrepreneur books, but life experiences are our book. And when you can share your life experiences with somebody who is doing the same thing as you as an entrepreneur in New York City or LA or Miami, and their market is a totally different world, but they run into the same issues we run into every day. Same issues. And how they handled it. You know? And those help. Those are healthy. 

 

Mike Merrill:

Hmm. So Jayne, from your perspective, you’re the one holding those purse strings and you’ve probably got the tiger paw that has to be defensive of those dollars sometimes. What’s your secret to your approach with that sacred money to make sure that you’re not putting it places where it’s not going to come back and grow? 

 

Jayne Williams:

I think the biggest thing for us is no matter what you face, whether it’s good or bad, it’s what you learn from that experience. We’ve had some catastrophes. Things that could really have set us back. And it’s the ability to get back up that next day and say, “It’s a new day and we’re going to do better.” And the same thing with money. You have your highs, your lows, you have your fear. You know, COVID hits, and all of a sudden people are like, “Well, we’re going to shut this job down, and we’re going to shut this job down.” And that’s scary. And you have to make sure that you have saved for a rainy day, or you need to make sure that you have a pool out there or maybe something else you could do while these jobs are shut down. 

And it’s all about just trying to do better and make the scary parts less scary or less frequent and the good things happen more often. And so we’ve had the high and low of money, and it’s just being the protector of your fate, I guess, is the best way to put it. Make sure that you’re doing it the best you can do every day. 

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, you’ve got short-term things like payroll that comes. It’s worse than death and taxes, it comes every week, right? 

 

Jayne Williams:

Exactly. Exactly. 

 

Mike Merrill:

Just always churning payroll out. And then you got the long-term stuff like the safety and other things you’ve invested in that have allowed you to have that longer stride as you continue forward in business.

 

Steve Little:

Well, I think it’s important to recognize that we have a group of seven mid-level managers that are either vice president or directors in our company that deal with the day-to-day operation of our business. And it frees us up to actually be a little bit more visionary and to mentor them to deal with the things that they don’t have the tenure or the business maturity to deal with yet because they just didn’t have the experience. And some of the folks that have been on this management team have been on for less than a year, and some have been managers with our company for eight-plus years. 

And all of them that are either directors or vice presidents have only had that officer role within the last three years. So that would be, we were 14 years running before we actually got additional officers in our company. So we would not be who we are today without our teams that are in place. And other leaders that are helping us get to where we need to get to. And so as we transition as a company, we’ll always have our fingers in it, because it’s just our personality, the three of us, to have our fingers in different things. But we also have to transition to empower them so that the company has some sustainability as we go forward. 

And I think that’s part of the stage we’re in right now, is we’ve got I up and running, and we’ve built a good brand, and we have a really good reputation for people and get it done. How do we now take it to that next stage? What do we do in the next five years that allows those leaders to grow and be empowered and to take this brand that we’ve built and make it even better? 

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, so you’re talking about some kind of a succession plan so that all of this sweat, blood, and tears that you’ve poured your life into the last 18, 20 years continues forward. 

 

Steve Little:

Yeah, not as much as a succession of how to pass on the ownership, as much as it is to pass on the leadership. Us transitioning out of the business, the three of us, will happen on a natural basis. We’d like that to happen on the upside, and in a good tax position, as well. But that will all take care of itself. We’ve always said take care of the people, take care of the clients, take care of your strategic partners, and everything else will work out. And we’ve been fortunate enough to be able to do that. But it’s now where we put our energy to each of the leaders that report to us, and how we grow them. 

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. So one thing I want to make sure we don’t miss out on talking about is the Super Bowl incident. So what can you share about that? Some people may not know about this story. I do just because of our relationship, and then of course I was interested in it after the fact. What can you share with the listeners about the Super Bowl incident? 

 

Steve Little:

Well, we knew they were going to have a problem when the temperature inside the stadium was higher than the temperature outside the stadium and they were accumulating ice over the three days prior to the Super Bowl. And so we called out to the stadium, it was about eight o’clock, seven o’clock Friday morning, and said, “You’re going to have some problems here, and we think we can help you navigate those.” And they were like, “Well, we’re looking at it right now, and we’ve got the fire department here to figure out how we can take the ice off the stadium.” And we’re just thinking, “You have the fire department with axes on guys that have not been on roofs, and they’re going to handle the problem with it.” 

“Well, just kind of call us if you need us, and we’re here.” And an hour later, Keith gets a call, and it’s like, “How fast can you get here?” 

 

Keith Post:

That was pretty interesting. You show up and the NFL takes over the stadium. All the people that we had dealt with that were Cowboys personnel had stepped aside. 

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. 

 

Keith Post:

And you almost felt like you were walking into an FBI office. 

 

Mike Merrill:

Oh, wow. 

 

Keith Post:

And it was very intense. And our team went to work, and by then the fire department had started their process of readjusting the roof, let’s just say. With axes. They had shut down. At a Super Bowl event, you have tents all the way around the stadium, and everything was shut down. They had nothing going on. So their revenue source was going out of the window fast. And our people were up there that morning, and they worked around the clock until Sunday morning, about 10 or 11, when they walked off that roof. And they got applause because they were up there getting the ice off the roof. When these chunks of ice came down the side, I remember somebody saying it was the size of a Volkswagen. 

 

Mike Merrill:

Wow. 

 

Keith Post:

That a chunk of ice would roll down the side of this roof, and they have a gutter system around the edge of this roof, it’s about, I don’t know, four foot wide and four foot deep. And these chunks of ice would hit that thing at a high force and explode. And ice chunks would go everywhere. It was very dangerous. Anyway, our team got it done, and we had to end up going back after the Super Bowl and we were there probably for a month fixing the damage. It was a pretty intense deal. But we got through it and we helped the Cowboys out. 

 

Steve Little:

I remember this story of them talking about when they arrived at the stadium and got into the bowels of the stadium into the command center. And they walk into the room, and just imagine the Red Sea parting because the roofers are there. Now, come on, Mike. Roofers show up and Homeland Security is getting out of the way, the police department’s getting out of the way, and the FBI was there. The National Guard was there. And, of course, the firemen were there. And the sea opens up, and here come the roofers coming through. It just reminds me of the days of fixing the oil fires that are out there. And our team just, they did a great job. 

 

Keith Post:

Yeah, they did. 

 

Mike Merrill:

Like Moses parting the Red Sea. 

 

Jayne Williams:

It is, it was. It was like, oh my goodness, I’m scared. We even had the assistant director of OSHA there. We had anyone and everyone that you could think of to be there. I think it just showed we were the subject matter expert on that job. I’m not trying to be cocky or anything, but we were the ones that needed to be called, and we knew what needed to be done, and-

 

Steve Little:

Jayne, God doesn’t like cocky, Jayne.

 

Jayne Williams:

I know. I had to remember that. That’s why I said I’m not cocky, but we were the subject matter expert on this one thing. And it helped the Cowboys, and we did it safely. Again, that is the most important thing, that nobody hurt, no one slid off a roof, or the fireman didn’t slide off the roof with his axe. So it’s all good. 

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, I remember thinking, with my construction background, I remember when that was going on, and that’s what I was afraid of. I thought here’s this high-profile project to begin with anyway, it’s the football stadium of football stadiums on planet Earth, and the biggest game of the year, the biggest sporting event of the year, and so hundreds of millions, maybe, eyeballs on this. The last thing anyone needed, especially KPost, was a safety incident or anything that could negatively shine on all this hard work that you’d done. So I imagine, Jayne, you were pretty stressed. 

 

Jayne Williams:

Oh, yeah.

 

Mike Merrill:

Being in charge of safety. 

 

Jayne Williams:

I was. Yeah. That made for a lot of fun that weekend. But, again, I knew our guys would do whatever they could to be safe and I remember them walking off the roof and telling me, “Hey, we got to hear the Black Eyed Peas.” You know, they got to hear them, we heard them while they were rehearsing. So we did what we needed to do. 

 

Mike Merrill:

All right, so Jayne, obviously we’re talking about safety with the Cowboys stadium and the roof incident with the Super Bowl. What about on the financial side? What do large projects look like from your perspective of planning financially? 

 

Jayne Williams:

I think the biggest thing for us is to… We have become fairly good, very good, I think, as Keith had pointed out, that we’ve formed this team. And from the very beginning of the bid process, safety’s involved and operations is involved. And we make sure that we have the most accurate bid, but we also are prepared internally for any financial… We may be doing business with a new vendor, they have a special product they want to use. Maybe they don’t have terms, maybe they want to be paid the day we order the materials. Things like that that we want to know upfront so we can plan for them. And so that’s what we do is we plan for them. But we, from the very start, we make sure that we are able to determine as many surprises as possible so that we can plan for them. 

 

Mike Merrill:

That’s great. Great advice. I think, kind of winding down a little bit, one thing I wanted to ask, just, and this is for anyone, so what is maybe a misstep or a job that went bad or a challenge that you had that you eventually overcame, and what did you do to overcome it? Is there anything you can share as an example? 

 

Steve Little:

How much time do we have? 

 

Mike Merrill:

Just pick one. 

 

Jayne Williams:

I guess you could pick the sheet metal color in…

 

Steve Little:

Oh, the very first sheet metal job that we did, Jayne. Keith loves this story. 

 

Keith Post:

We don’t want to talk about this. I’ll talk about it. So we did a job, and it was a high-profile standing seam high rise. And we ordered the product, I ordered the product, and it was stone gray instead of ash gray. And we should have put the ash-gray on. So we shipped all the panels, fabricated them, did half of the job, and there happened to be a sister building next door. And the owner of the building shows up and says, “Hey, it’s the wrong color.” And it was about 30, 40,000 square foot job.

 

Mike Merrill:

Wow. 

 

Keith Post:

And what we did do is the general contractor called us and said, “This has got to come off.” And we said, “You know what? We made a mistake. These panels will come off today, and the new ones will be here as soon as we can get them,” which was in three days. And we did that. We took that hit, and whereas we could have sat and tried all kinds of negotiating ploys and tried to fix this or fix that, and in reality, when we had two sister buildings sitting side by side, it just hit us. We made a mistake. We have to fix this. And it can’t be a drawn-out situation. We’re holding up construction on the high rise, and so we did it. We bit the bullet. 

We took the panels off, bought the new panels, and we still have a relationship with that customer. So we did the right thing, unfortunately. I have a beautiful beach house on the Texas coast that has these beautiful ash gray panels on it.

 

Steve Little:

We moved those panels half a dozen times. From when our first building to the building that we’re in now. But it was doing the right thing that came back to us. And that project manager today, of that project, whenever he has another project, he always wants to find out where we are, because that’s part of getting it done. 

 

Keith Post:

That’s integrity. That’s standing behind what’s right and wrong. And sometimes you make mistakes, and you learn from those mistakes. So I know the difference in ash gray and any other kind of gray now. 

 

Steve Little:

And it really was, instead of being oh three one, it was an oh three two item, and we just put oh three two into the submittal process, oh three two into all of it. But when they went back and compared the submittals to what was in the spec, we had submitted it wrong, the GC had approved it incorrectly, and it really should have been the three one number. But we fixed it, did it right, and they’re still a client today. 

 

Keith Post:

That was a long time ago. 

 

Steve Little:

That was like 2005. 

 

Keith Post:

That was early days. 

 

Steve Little:

But even more recently, we’ve just finished phase three of a highrise project. We did phase one and it was not successful for us. It was convoluted, we wanted it so bad we priced it aggressively in the labor, we had a very tough… It was a three-phase project and we had a different operations team from the general contractor on the project, three different operations teams that were not in sync with what they’re doing. It was just a cluster. And we didn’t make any money on that project. You’re talking millions of dollar project that, Mike, you used to be in the general contracting business, or in any of the new ventures that you make doing the software side of it, you at least expect to make some kind of profit. 

We just traded dollars, and it went on forever, and it tied up our crews that make money on projects, and it was a real lesson to learn. So when we priced phase two of the highrise two project, we were three-quarters of a million dollars high. And our competitor got the project. And our competitor stepped all over themselves and had that same operations teams to deal with, and they went south. They had all sorts of problems with the assembly of the roof, to this day there’s still water in the system. And there’s some kind of, I don’t know if it’s gone to legal or what the deal is, but there’s a problem with phase two. 

So when we bid on phase three, they were glad to take us at the price point that we had and, knock on wood, phase three was successful. But you have problems and you take risks, and that’s what we do every day. We have a very high-risk business with a very low margin, and they hold more than our profit in retainage. It’s like, “What the hell are we in this business for?” Well, because we are just so blessed to have 400 employees and great employees that help lead this group, and great strategic partners like yourself, and we just have been very fortunate to be successful. 

 

Mike Merrill:

Okay. All right. So kind of wrapping up, I think we’ve heard so many wonderful things today, very much appreciate all of your time and the opportunity to go through this discussion and share best practices. But I think to wrap up, Jayne, I just wanted to ask you, if there’s kind of a secret sauce or something that you really focus on and have learned from in your business career, what would that be and how can you share how that might help somebody else? 

 

Jayne Williams:

I think the most important thing for me has always been that if you’re going to be the leader of a company that you remember what’s important. And that means your employees are valuable. They’re the boots on the ground, and they’re the ones that do it for you. And also that when you pick the people that you want to be in business with, like I am in business with Steve and Keith, that you are with people that you share the same dedication. These two men are fantastic. They are brilliant and they are forward-thinkers, and I have learned more than I probably can even remember from these two. And it’s important that when you’re doing this, you need to have that family that you all work together. So that really has been very beneficial to me. Best job I’ve ever had in my life, and I think it’s because from top to bottom, it is all about how we treat each other. 

 

Mike Merrill:

That’s wonderful. Well, thank you so much, and I can see why you feel that way, and after 18, 20 years working together you still feel that way. Partnerships are tough, but obviously you all have very aligned common goals and work ethic, and I’ve appreciated this conversation and the opportunity to speak with you all today. 

 

Jayne Williams:

Thank you. 

 

Steve Little:

Thanks Mike, thanks for the opportunity. 

 

Keith Post:

Thanks, Mike. You have a good one. 

 

Mike Merrill:

Thank you all. If you enjoyed the conversation today and liked what you heard or were able to learn anything new or helpful in your business, please subscribe to the podcast and give us a five-star rating and review. You can also follow us at WorkMax_ to learn about our upcoming insightful conversations with other guests and companies like KPost. Thank you all, and we’ll catch you on the next one. 

How Culture Influences Construction Productivity

How Culture Influences Construction Productivity

The construction industry hasn’t prioritized company culture the way many other industries have. For the most part, this has been due to the transient nature of the work. But today, longevity and consistency in a construction company’s workforce is vital, especially with the labor shortages we are all experiencing. And so companies are beginning to put their culture front and center as a means to increase loyalty, engagement and productivity.

With that in mind, we invited the leadership team at KPost Roofing in Dallas to join us on today’s episode. During the episode, KPost’s CEO Keith Post, President Steve Little and CFO Jayne Williams talk about their journey to becoming one of the highest-rated roofing companies in the country and how establishing and fostering a strong company culture is their competitive edge. They also discuss how construction leaders should prioritize their business and people, and why a business’ leadership team has a responsibility to keep their people safe and happy.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Construction can focus on the short term – but it won’t get them far.  Thinking outside of the current project or job will attract employees that are hard-working and successful in long-term relationships, increasing construction productivity. 
  2. The health and safety of employees is the owner’s job. The well-being of employees on and off the job is the responsibility of the owner. Construction leaders should ask themselves, “Am I taking the job of keeping everyone safe seriously?” and “Am I making sure that my employees’ needs are being met?” 
  3. Company culture should be a natural part of any organization’s image. The culture of the company should be a selling point to clients and employees. Every company has a culture; it’s a question of whether their company culture is cultivated and fostered, or if it is ignored and turned negative.

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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 Keith Post CEO, Steve Little, President and Head Coach, and Jane Williams, the CFO and safety manager of KPost Roofing out of Dallas, Texas. With this team of leaders, we have a very special opportunity. We’re going to record a two-part series with these fine folks. Today, we are excited to talk about and focus on the success of finding culture in their organization and making it a priority. With this team of leaders, to come on a very special two-part series, focusing on success and how culture and large client management plays into that success. Welcome Keith, Steven, Jayne. I’m really looking forward to the conversation today.

 

Keith Post:

Thank you.

 

Jayne Williams:

Thanks.

 

Steve Little:

Hey.

 

Mike Merrill:

So before we get too far into the conversation today, give me a little bit of a background on KPost and how each of you fit into this leadership team.

 

Steve Little:

You should start.

 

Keith Post:

Well, we started this together and they needed somebody put their name on the door and I got picked. I had probably been in the industry the longest, so I was more of the true roofer in the group. To this day, I’m the guy that we go to as far as how we do something. You can’t do it on your own. We started small and we grew fast. We both took our lanes and we all went our ways. So we could, we could bond together and create what we have today, which is pretty special.

 

Steve Little:

That was pretty humble because you really, you wanted to call it best roofing or some other kind of name to describe what we were going to end up being. And Jayne, I kept arguing with him that he had the highest integrity in the industry. Even when we started our company, people from around the city would still call even though we didn’t have the job. They would still call Keith and ask him questions about the roofing systems or the applications or problems they were running into and things like that.

So, from a being a marketer for many, many years, it was like, how do we take the guy that has the best reputation and throw it out there and get credibility immediately to start a company? And then that’s what happened. So, we call it KPost Roofing and Waterproofing. When Jayne and I would call on different clients or we would go to different events, we were mentioning KPost, I mean, immediately they knew Keith. They may have known Jayne from all her years of being involved in CFMA, but I was a business guy, so I was more behind the scenes. Jayne, you remember those days?

 

Jayne Williams:

Oh yeah. I sure do. It was quite the start for us on our end. We didn’t have a lot but Keith has been in the industry forever and just really had a name to back up all his experience. Steve’s a brilliant businessman and I just brought the financial and safety side to it and it meshed, and it worked well.

 

Steve Little:

Well, you brought the car because we Neeed it to get around],

 

Keith Post:

I think she had the credit card too and the car.

 

Jayne Williams:

I did. I had a credit card and a car.

 

Steve Little:

So she’s in charge fo the money Mike, and so we said okay well we’ll use your credit card. So we use her credit card now.

 

Keith Post:

Yeah. Very true that first few weeks that we started in November and January where when we opened the doors. 11 people showed up on our doors and said hey. We went to work and we try to find a way to pay payroll.

 

Jayne Williams:

That’s it. That’s the biggie.

 

Mike Merrill:

That’s amazing. Wow. Yeah, you, you have a rich and long history already, even, even though it’s less than a quarter century old. I think it feels like it’s a lot older than that. One of the things that when I think of KPost, and we’ve worked together for, gosh, I think nearly a decade now that we’ve known one another, I think of culture. Was that a conscious decision that you all made together in the beginning? Is that something that you adapted to? Or how, how did culture become such an important part of everything that you do in your business?

 

Jayne Williams:

I was just going to say from day one, it was about making a company different than what we had been with before. And we were going to make it better. We were going to take better care of our employees. Those men that are out on the roofs that are 110 degrees are just as important as Keith and Steve, sitting therte at the table. And we wanted to express to our employees that they’re not a commodity. They’re not, they’re not, chattel. They’re, they’re valuable, valuable assets to us. And so from day one, it was about making them feel part of KPost and also making them realize that their safety was part of their culture. That to be safe and get themselves home to their babies and their wives that night, it was the most important thing. And I think that’s where it started was from day one and wanting to make it better for everybody.

 

Keith Post:

Yeah. Yeah. Years ago we, we’ve got our senior readers together. We did cultural training. Because we’re a diverse group and one of the things that we were taught was that acknowledge that. So we have flags in our warehouse of every nationality that works for us. There’s about, I think there’s 10? 10 different nationalities? And you know, you look at today’s world and what the world’s going through with all the rioting and the protests. It’s something that we instilled in our people way back when it was there. You know what? You come through that door, I don’t care if you’re black, white, brown, yellow, whatever. You’re an equal. We, anybody, can come through that door and go into our refrigerator and get a Coca-Cola. You know, we don’t discriminate in any way. We treat people as your equals. And I think that goes a long way as part of our culture.

And I mean, day one, Jayne has been the leader in this world. She’s, she’s been mother hen and they all know that and it’s spread through the company and we treat each other fair. We treat each other, like we want to be treated. We do all kinds of training in that respect, as far as how to get along with your coworkers. Respect and honesty. If you can put those two together and everybody, and know that when you come to the door, those are the two most important things when you work here, you go along way. We’ve done things for our employees. We’re very charitable. I can go on and on about what we do. And Jayne has been at the forefront of starting all those programs.

 

Steve Little:

And she started to KPost charities. In our charity group, we have scholarship programs. We do back to school backpacks. We help build homes and put on roofs for shelters, and we incorporate the entire company into doing it. So we did a men’s and women’s shelter for one of the developers here that pulled together the three largest general contractors in the marketplace and said, “We need to give back to the community. Go find the subs that you believe, believe in giving back” and they came to us and there was no writer. We jumped right on it. Keith led the initiative for that and we got our residential group involved, we got our roofing crews, our sheet metal crews involved. We got some of our manufacturers involved and we went and we built this, the shelter. This shelter stands today as one of the best men and women’s shelters to help people get back on their feet, and to gain employment, and become confident about themselves.

So it’s one thing about giving back, and it’s one thing about taking care of people but we’ve also created a culture of winning. I think that’s really important because people like to win. Even if they’re not competitive, they want to be on a winning team. It doesn’t go unrecognized that we run our company like a football team. So it was easy to talk in those terms and have red zone meetings, or have huddles and have those types of things. It kind of built a sense of that we’re all wearing the same jersey. It doesn’t matter if you’re on offense, defense, or special teams. You build within the core values of whatever it takes and taking care of each other, and high integrity, and those types of things. It all came part of building a company. We didn’t build a roofing company. We built a company and we built a work family. It continues today. That’s why, getting Jayne back in the office, getting through all of this COVID stuff so that we all can be back together again, it’s, it’s hugely important.

 

Mike Merrill:

Wow. That’s a really, really admirable and, and unique. I think you all would acknowledge that. Especially in the construction industry. I mean, why do you think, why do you think in construction, maybe struggle a little bit more with having that type of a mentality and a culture?

 

Keith Post:

It’s not easy. It’s something that you have to, you have to live it every day. You know, we, every day we wake up and we go to work and we try and get better. Every day. You never quit learning. We have, we have a KPost University that is led by Yolanda here, increasing construction productivity. It is incredible as far as what we’re doing there. We’re giving back to our people. We’re training them and you name it. Not, not how to put roofs on so much but how to get along with your fellow employees, life skills, how to deescalate a situation, how to manage an employee who is out of line. So these are, and we’re having it done by third parties. It’s probably one of our biggest initiatives we put in play in the last few years and it’s really exploding. It’s actually spreading beyond our walls. It’s going into ABC, which is the Associated Building Contractors here locally. Their construction education foundation is wanting us to help them start apprenticeship programs for the roofing units.

So we’re doing that internally. We’re being a little selfish because we want to take care of our own people first and you only have so many hours in a day. We’ve got the foundation well on its way through some grants. So we’re getting half part of the funding done to go forward with this program. The leadership skills that these kids are learning, I say kids, these kids are 50 years old, but they’re kids to me and it’s so cool. I love watching somebody learn something and then showing you how they can do it bigger and better than you, how they learn. So that’s the energy here, it’s just giving back.

 

Steve Little:

But this is typical that we did it as a team. So Yolanda Garcia, she’s a recruiter, and our retainer, and manages our education program. We have Thomas Williams, who runs our field. We have John Barker, who’s our VP of shared services. And Keith, this committee has pulled all this together and then now has executed into the marketplace. Where we were doing this, or Jayne and I were doing it one-on-one. Doing it through the various associations to bring people in, whether it be NRCA, or MRCA, or ABC, because that’s where our faces were. Whether it was being involved in incubating a National Order of Roofing, or the young guns, the council of young people in the marketplace from a one-on-one type standpoint. Now we’ve incorporated it in and put it into an entire university program, geared to our own staff of four hundred. And it has just been, it’s been very well received.

 

Mike Merrill:

Wow. It’s truly inspiring. I’ve been to these industry events. National roofing expo, and around some of these seminars and sessions, and it is not uncommon to have somebody talking about KPost and the session that they just led or the technology they were utilizing. It really feels like as an organization, you’ve become a leader and an innovator, and you’re sharing best practices. You’re sharing some of these secrets with people that are companies that could be considered competitors, and you’re doing it willingly. Why?

 

Steve Little:

Well, that’s really an easy question. I mean, one of the things that, that the three of us decided when we started the company is that, we wanted to be the standard that the industry was compared to. There’s a number of great contractors in the DFW market, much less than the national marketplace. So it was really tough to start that. But we knew that if we took care of our people first, that everything would just fall right in-line. And then once we got it up and running, there’s a sense of pride in what you’re doing. Then if everybody is sharing great business practices, then it elevates our entire industry. The ones that don’t want to participate are no longer competitors because the ones that do want to participate then become the standard of the industry on which the client base wants to do business with.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. That’s, that’s amazing. Jayne, with your role in all this, I mean, what, as, as “chief mother hen” also, what, what have you, from your position, what have you seen that you’re proud of that you’re excited about? Or that you feel like is something that, you’ve accomplished part of what you set out to do when you started this with Keith and Steve?

 

Jayne Williams:

I think what impresses me the most and what makes my heart swell, I guess the word, is seeing long-term employees. People that have been here since day one or been here for 10 years, who still enjoy their job. They still want to be here. They want to be part of the family. It’s truly a family atmosphere. I have seen babies born, and quinceaneras, and everything that is a family type atmosphere. Long-term employees that want to call me when something wonderful happens or something bad happened. And I think that really shows that we set out to make this a special place to work. You could still make good money and you can take care of your family but you could also be part of something really special.

 

Mike Merrill:

Wow. Yeah. What I’m, what I’m hearing is you, you invest in your employees, not just financially, although you do that too, but you invest in them as individuals, as a family member.

 

Jayne Williams:

Yeah, exactly.

 

Keith Post:

I think what’s kind of cool for me is having friends who are not in our industry. Who when their kids grow up and graduate from high school or college, say, “Man, he put my guy to work”, “He put my daughter to work”, “I admire you guys”, “You guys are doing some good things”. To have their siblings come here and start a career and hearing the accolades back from the parents saying, “Man, it’s the best place my kid could ever go”. You can’t ask for anything more than that. I mean, that really makes the world go round for me. Giving back to these kids and making our industry better. So we’re doing something right when, when those things happen.

 

Steve Little:

I’m knocking on wood over here Mike. We got to make sure that we don’t read too much of our own press because every day, every day it’s hard. Every day you have to get up and start all over again. I think the thing that we share with new employees is that this needs to be the place that you can’t wait to get up in the morning. It’s going be work and it’s not going to be perfect. We have to work some place to be able to do great compensation, to take care of our families. We hope that we provide that type of atmosphere here KPost. I was a little surprised that Jayne also didn’t include in part of what she’s proud of is that we carry a point-five-o mod rate. Which is an EMR modification rate from the insurance industry. It’s a scorecard, to where we are on safety for workman’s comp.

And so everybody starts off with a one-0 and like golf, if you get bogeys, your score goes up. So everybody pays a dollar for insurance. Those bogeys mean you pay a dollar 50, a dollar 25 et cetera. Your rating is a 1.25 or 1.5. The roofing industry average is just under 1.0. It’s in the nineties. We’ve got a 0.5, a log rate on $16 million worth of operational payroll. And it all started with Jayne’s, “I’m going to get our boys and girls home every night”. That was the thing that we started from the very first day. We remember those safety meetings we did in the back of the strip center. Literally strips center, where we had offices in the front and a thousand square feet in the back. That was our storage and our safety or whatever. Jayne would be back there with Perez, who’s now a coach and a safety officer for our company. They would for the two crews we had, or the 12 people that we had, they would conduct weekly safety meetings.

That’s one of the things that I’m so proud for us as leaders, is that it was all about getting everybody home at night and trying to make them have a better life for their family. That’s a very long-term approach and you asked what’s the difference in the construction industry. Construction is not long term. It’s bid, bid, bid. Win the bid. Go to the next project. Win, win, win. Lose, lose, lose. We have always taken the three of us, always taken a very long-term investment. Knowing that we are going to have to give not only the dollars, but the sweat equity, and the total commitment to get something 10, 15, 20 years down the line.

 

Keith Post:

Yeah. I remember in our early years when we were so strong in safety and everybody was wearing a safety vest and our jobs were set up safe. Looking at other projects that worked and now today, it’s the norm. So that really makes you proud because you really made it a mantra. A lot of people have followed that mantra. You know, try to lead. We don’t like to be second in anything we do. I’m sorry. I try to take it off 90, but man, it just goes 90 the dang car goes 90.

 

Mike Merrill:

Careful going through both Springs. I’ve got, I got hit with a ticket there. One time coming down to visit you guys.

 

Keith Post:

I’ve been there

 

Mike Merrill:

A mile of freeway and oh crazy. Relentless. Wow. So really, I mean, there’s, there’s so much that we could unpack around that. I think, I mean, the theme that I keep hearing is you’ve got to give, to get. You’ve got to give first. And if you do, you, you seem to have faith and hope and, and confidence that it’s going to come back around. What I love, that I, that I heard said is basically, you’re, you’re hoping to have that rising tide lift all the boats in the harbor. Now you want to be in first place and in the right position, but you’re okay with others being along for that ride, as long as it makes everybody better.

 

Steve Little:

And our clients subscribe to that. So I think about 30% of the total business we do as a company, price is not a consideration. And we respect that. We don’t take advantage of it. But because I remember a quick story about a distribution center on the beverage business, and we went and did the job because it was 17 other contractors bidding it. The General contractor that was bidding this project, it typically was from the school world. And we typically are not in the new construction school world. It’s just a very price-conscious, a low bid, drive the project type of construction business that is not our specialty. So the owner was receiving the bids back from the general contractor and they said, “Where’s K-Post?” And because we do all the service work and do the re-roofs for this particular client. The General didn’t have an answer, they didn’t bid it.

We kind of discarded that out of, we’ll consider them. And so right in the middle of the meeting, the owner calls Keith and says, “Hey, Post, why didn’t you bid this job? You don’t want my work?” And he said, not knowing that the General head was on an open speaker, he said, “This particular general contractor had 17 people there” he says, “We’re not going to compete for that. There’s no standard of roofing in that type of situation. We won’t compete”. He says, “Give me a bid, I want your bid”. Well, we were 18th, in pricing.

 

Mike Merrill:

Wow.

 

Steve Little:

18th and they said keep the contract.

 

Mike Merrill:

Wow.

 

Steve Little:

Because it’s about safety. It’s about quality. And it’s about the value you bring. It really doesn’t matter that it’s roofing. It should be that way across the board to all the trades. But when Jayne said, when we were setting our company up, that three of us are sitting around in this card table, that’s got this burnt mark in it, a bowl there for clips, and pens, and sticky notes and things like that. And we went around and says, “What’s the most important thing that we could possibly do to set ourselves aside from anybody else. And it was safety, quality of life.

 

Mike Merrill:

Wow. Amazing. It’s been quite a ride and you’re still on it. You’re still elevating. It feels like.

 

Keith Post:

You know it’s a blur.

 

Steve Little:

Yeah, Mike, if you want to get into the roofing business, you can take the three of us out of it.

 

Mike Merrill:

You’re selling me. I’ll tell you that. Even if. Yeah, it’s, it’s, it is fascinating. I, you may, you all may remember. My, my background was a general contractor and we all performed. So I’ve worked with a lot of roofers over the years and the speech that’s coming from you all is a little different than what, than one I’m used to hearing. I think it’s a beacon of hope and of something that I think is a lot bigger than like you said, just roofing. I think business in general but especially in construction.

To take some of what Jayne said, it warms my heart to see contractors succeed and do well because I know how hard they work. I know the kind of risks that they take with safety and financial risks. It is a tough business as it is. It’s competitive and all the things that you laid out but, I just applaud your efforts to take that higher road and play the long game and not try and hail Mary, every play. I think some companies just kind of end up doing and I think they create a culture of that. I think that’s not safe and I think it’s not prudent. So I think a lot of businesses could learn from your example and the way that you guys operate your organization.

 

Steve Little:

You know, we’re blessed and we know it, as a company, and our people. But I think that you should talk a little bit about our people because one of the things that we’ve had to do is, when the three of us started this company and we had eight others that joined us, it was empowering the other way. It’s so hard when you have this company with this trajectory, like we’ve had. We have great people.

 

Keith Post:

Great people, right? Great people. When you lose a great person, we’ve been very fortunate that we’ve had somebody step up and typically, they’ve done a better job. I think that we’ve improved. I think we’ve gotten younger. We’ve definitely gotten younger. I mean, we, our youth movement has been incredible in the last two, three years and we’ve had a lot of great people come through these doors. We’ve been known as a training grounds and on all aspects and I think that goes a long way. Anybody that has ever worked for us and has ever moved on for whatever reason, has come back and told us, personally, thank you. You gave me something that I never got anywhere else. And it’s made them be a leader of wherever they go. So, people grow and there’s always opportunities. We try and keep our flock strong and growing gradually. I think we’ve got a great team.

 

Steve Little:

Did you just say growing gradually?

Jayne did you hear that? Did you just see what he said?

 

Jayne Williams:

I can’t talk.

 

Steve Little:

Oh my God. Jayne, talk about our first three years. What was our plan?

 

Jayne Williams:

Oh, well we were, we were not going to have more than what? A hundred employees, I believe? 10 million in sales and we blew that out of the water after a year or two, and we might as well, but we never stopped growing and-

 

Steve Little:

Oh, I just had, I had to call you out because the difference is, is that when you’re going the first few years, you want to do six, eight and 10. You do eight, 14 and 16. Then you jump right out there to 22 in your fourth year. When you get into the kind of numbers that we have now, and one of the $70 million range, you can have those 30 to 40% gross. It’s just unsustainable to be able to do it. And in today’s world, and one of the other things that’s made us successful, we stay in our lane. We kind of know what we do. It’s got to be complicated and high profile if it’s a new construction or it has to be with a partner that we’ve done this with in the past. It’s got to be a multi-facility client if it’s going to be in the remedial side of the business. So, one of the other things I think has made us successful is that we stayed in our lane.

 

Jayne Williams:

Sort of. I think sometimes, Steve and Keith had great ideas and have always been forward thinkers so we have added a few things to our repertoire that from those first few days. But I think the biggest thing for us was, as we were growing, we were also growing ourselves. We were, we were changing into different types of leaders and, and different types of even just coworkers for each other. So, if Keith all of a sudden says that we were growing gradually, I don’t know where that’s coming from because he’s never had a stop button or even an off button. I think it was just the natural flow of us just growing as people and leaders and then encouraging our employees to grow.

 

Mike Merrill:

I’m hearing do is because I do. Not, as I say, right?

 

Jayne Williams:

That’s exactly right.

 

Mike Merrill:

Wow. So, so looking back, maybe we can start with Keith and then Steve, and then wrap up the chain on this. But looking back over everything, you’ve all learned in your careers to date. I know you still got, probably 20 years in the tank each. Right. Is that right?

 

Steve Little:

Divided by what?

 

Mike Merrill:

Okay. So looking back, what would you tell someone else that’s either got a business up and running and really needs to fix their culture and then maybe also somebody new. What advice would you give them? Starting out as it relates to culture.

 

Keith Post:

Respect is huge. Honesty, that’s a given. If you’re, you’re not going to be honest, you’re not going to be in business, treat everybody with fairness. I mean, you’ve got to, you cannot be fair to everybody. I mean, it  puts  a smile on your face. Every day walk into somebody’s office and make sure you’re involved. Make sure you’re engaged with your people. I try and go through our buildings every morning and tell everybody good morning. How you doing. Ask them about their life. We had all of our meetings start with our best of the best. What’s the best thing that’s happened to you in the last week and what’s the best thing that has happened to you in our business. And so I want them to share, I want them to be open. I want them to be, I want them to be engaged because if you’re not engaged, you’re not going to succeed and we can help you with the other stuff, but you need to be engaged.

We got a new apprentice upstairs, been here about three weeks. and he’d been sitting at his computer. I’ve been by when I’d met him and said hi to him every morning for about two weeks. So I went by him the other day, I says, “You want to succeed here?” He goes, “Yes sir, yes sir, yes sir” I said, “Get engaged”. I said, “You need to get out of that chair and go ask for help. You need to go around and start being open because this is a fast place and you may get left behind”, I said. And as soon as I was talking to him, two people came up and started getting engaged with him. And I came up there this morning and I noticed how he was in a huddle with three people and he was speaking up and the kid was engaged.

Now, this is a kid who was 21 years old, right out of college, 22 years old. If I got to do that every day, and I’ll continue to do that. Hopefully, that’s infectious. Hopefully, that’s something that everybody else sees says, “You know what? This guy really got something”. He doesn’t know where the bathroom is yet, but he’s starting to get engaged. And so, today for me was a success. Just seeing this kid starting to care and want to be part of the team. Yeah, that’s all I can do for these people is help them. Ask lots of questions every day. Care about. I think caring is a big deal.

 

Mike Merrill:

That’s great. Steve, how about you?

 

Steve Little:

I think sincerity is a keyword in here. You’ve got to go through the motions, but if you don’t show sincerity that it becomes fake. I have to give Jayne, Keith credit that I first came on board. I’m the nuts and bolts guy and had a little less caring or sincere attitude toward the units. No matter where they are, there were units. They were construction productivity. They were processes, they were systems. Both of them can humanize it for me and it’s made me be a better person. So, I think sincerity is one. I think you have to be vulnerable. That’s something that we work on every day because it’s not easy. You have to empower, and invest in your people, and in your industry. I know a lot of contractors that don’t participate in local, or regional, or national industry because they don’t want to expose their people because they’re afraid they’re going to get stolen. Or that they don’t want to be away from office because then that’s the time that they’re not being productive. We have gotten tenfold return on investment from us and our people being involved in the industry.

That’s where things like our apprentice program or things like that are coming from. We invested in these years ago and now it’s coming back to us on the sense. So, I think those are some keywords to our success. Commitment. You have to be committed to this whole process. It is not instantaneous. This is not a business you want to get into if you think that you have two years, you’re there. You get a storm come through and you make a bunch of money, whether you’re in the residential or commercial business and you have a great year. We need you to take those coins, you need to put them away because there’s some dry spells that transpire in this industry. It’s a long-term play, it’s not a short-term play. So I think that those would be my answers there as to what helped make our culture. Find good people and invest in them.

 

Mike Merrill:

Sage advice. Jayne, how about you?

 

Jayne Williams:

I think from the very start of anybody that’s starting the company needs to remember why they’re doing it. If it’s for just mainly the money and you don’t think about your employees or your coworkers, then maybe you’re doing it wrong. I really believe that every, it’s basically the second commandment as far as treat others the way you want to be treated. And that’s what we, I would recommend to anybody is treat everyone in your company the way you want to be treated. Finally, I said it to Steve and Keith for years but God hates cocky. You can be confident, and you can proud, and you can step out there, and really be invested in what you’re doing. It’s scary sometimes because you’re hoping for the best outcome but you can always be confident. I think that’s what did it for us.

 

Mike Merrill:

Fabulous. Well, that’s wonderful. Well, I guess just to wrap up one final question just for Keith. I just wonder if you were to boil it down, what’s your secret sauce for success and what gets your juices flowing? Where do you feel like you’re really in your zone for, for others to kind of learn from you?

 

Keith Post:

Caring for people is number one for me and winning. When we put a huge effort into our project and we’re not successful. Cause we usually, when we put together a project, it takes four or five guys and women that all put their pieces together. We do a lot of planning and just in the securing of a project. We do presentations where we bring a team in and we do all that stuff. If we don’t win, it hits me. It hits the rest of the team but I take it home and I regurgitate it three times what we did right, what we did wrong and then the next day, I forgot about it. I don’t dwell on the negative. That may be a fault of mine, but we lost it. We’re moving on. I’ll remember what we did wrong but I love the success.

I think it’s not for me. It’s for those teammates that all got to put a smile on their face for all the hard work and efforts they did and feeding all the families that we take care of. 400 people requires a lot of food. So, when we secure large projects, I go around and I give all the accolades to the team. It’s never one person. It’s the team. I guess, you got to have losses to get better. You got to have failures to get better. If you never have losses, you’re never going to get better. I’ve had my share what that bar is going to be. I’m going to be able to be above the middle line a lot.

 

Mike Merrill:

Fantastic. Well, that’s, that’s a great way to end. Well, thank you all so much for joining us today. This has been a very enjoyable conversation and had a lot of fun getting to know each of you a little bit better as well.

 

Keith Post:

Thanks, Mike.

 

Steve Little:

Okay, Mike. Take care.

 

Mike Merrill:

Thanks Jayne.

 

Keith Post:

That’ll be good.

 

Mike Merrill:

All right, well thank you for joining us today on the mobile workforce podcast. Hosted by about time technologies and work max. If you enjoyed this conversation today that we had with K-Post’s team, or the K-Post team, I should say, or gain anything helpful in your business, please subscribe to the podcast and give us a five-star rating and review. You can also find us on Instagram at work max underscore. Give us a follow there as well. Thank you and we’ll catch you on the next one.

Construction Management Skills for Tomorrow

Construction Management Skills For Tomorrow

Dusty jeans, a dingy t-shirt and a cigarette is an old-school caricature of a construction manager. Still, the stereotype carries over. This irks construction leaders, since they know it’s critical how their team represents their business on job sites. That’s also why Damien Edwards, founder of Buildertactics.com and the Host of The Construction Management Podcast, is here to remind us all that appearances matter.

Today’s episode of the Mobile Workforce Podcast is all about how your team represents you and the skills construction managers need to be successful in the eyes of your clients. Damien gives contractors ideas on how to change up the appearance of their job site to encourage success while guiding newbies on the steps it takes to stand out when management positions are available. 

Key Takeaways:

  1. The old-school look doesn’t work. Clients will judge the quality of the work by how your team presents themselves and the job site. Sloppy appearances imply sloppy work. Encourage your team to aim for a more tucked in look and avoid the dreaded plumbers crack.
  2. You are always representing two brands. Every time you show up at the job site, you are representing the company you work for and your own personal brand of work. The good news is that when you represent one to the best of your ability, you automatically are promoting the other to the fullest. 
  3. He who has the best data… wins. Everyone is collecting data, contractors, subcontractors, suppliers and clients. If you aren’t tracking your interactions with everyone on the job site, you will lose any disagreements or, if it came down to it, in court.

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

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 to have a real conversation with Damien Edwards. Damien is the founder of buildertactics.com and also the host of the construction management podcast. So on that show, Damien gives practical tips for construction and contractors, managers that are striving to increase their opportunity for leadership positions and advancement, and achieve new goals. So, if you’re looking to grow your career or advance what you’re doing within the organization you work for, give the construction management podcast a listen and you will not regret it, so. Welcome, Damien and thank you so much for joining us today.

 

Damien Edwards:

Yeah, thanks for having me. I’m super excited to sit down and talk to you.

 

Mike Merrill:

Great, well looking forward to getting to know you. So, first of all, I’m super curious listening to some of your podcast episodes and kind of looking at some of the content that you have out there. Now tell me what drives you to be an advocate for construction managers?

 

Damien Edwards:

So I’ve been in construction for over 20 years now, and the one thing that I know is that that role, construction manager or superintendent, depending on how your company identifies that position is so complex, right. You are a leader, you have to be super organized. You have to have managerial skills, technical skills, negotiating skills. You have to be a creative problem solver. And I feel like once I sat back a couple of years ago I looked around, I was like, there need to be two things. I felt like the position didn’t get the kind of respect that it deserved. And when I asked myself why are construction managers not getting the respect for such a complex position, and it dawned on me that a lot of them weren’t representing themselves in a way that really showed people the professionalism that comes from construction managers. So I kind of just started a quest to elevate the position. And really it starts with the construction managers themselves and trying to help them kind of build that position to give it a little bit more status in the corporate world because it’s a very complex position.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, in my background too. I’ve a very similar background to you in residential and commercial construction. And boy, I think you hit the nail on the head, no pun intended. I think with the way people view themselves, or the way that they’re referred to, even casually or joking. I think that has an impact on how they’re viewed by management and ownership, and I think it’s a challenge. So I applaud you for your efforts in helping people to elevate how they carry and present themselves in their position.

 

Damien Edwards:

Yup. Yeah, I think it’s important. I mean, construction managers are responsible, depending on the project you’re working on, you can be responsible for 30, 40, $50 million. And showing up on the job site in a t-shirt and jhorts does not represent the level of responsibility that you’ve got. So it’s really, I think it’s important. I’ve been a construction manager forever. And it’s just important that I can do everything that I can to help my brothers and sisters out there represent themselves in a way that’s just commensurate with the position that they’ve got.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, that’s wonderful. I always say, I’ve said it for a long time. But in my business today I help run a software company that sells to construction. So I haven’t left the industry at all, and I’m kind of like you, I’m trying to further the cause of helping others improve. Learn from mistakes and challenges that I’ve had, or that I’ve seen work within my line of work. And so, I definitely applaud your efforts to try and raise the bar for others because… Make no mistake, those guys in the field, they are running your business, even if you don’t think they are. That’s the truth.

 

Damien Edwards:

Yeah, for sure. I mean they’re the face of your company, whether you realize it or not, so.

 

Mike Merrill:

Well, and the way they carry themselves in front of customers, or owners, or those that we’re serving with those projects that are actually paying us and hiring us to complete this work. They need to have confidence in who they’re working with and kind of who’s managing their project as well. So I think that importance carries throughout, anybody involved, so.

 

Damien Edwards:

Yeah. Well, it’s funny you say that because one of the things I always tell my guys is, the last thing that they want is the client to come out on the job site and think that they have to help them build the structure. And I’m like, well then what are you talking about? I’m like, well listen, if they come out and the place is a wreck. And there’s trash everywhere, their immediate response, or their thought is going to be, nobody’s in control of this job site. So, I’m like, if you don’t want them to get involved in your day to day, you need to make sure when they come out to the job site they have 100% confidence in you, the construction manager. And then they’re like, oh okay, you’re right. I don’t want their help.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, right. Well, and that’s the other thing that… And I remember being in that position, like you I started in the trades, I was at the bottom, I was the kid sweeping stuff up just out of high school. Picking up boards, straightening nails, whatever was asked of me. And I know for sure, a clean job site and having things organized, and giving the appearance, and also acting as if you’re running a tight ship will also help tighten up the ship.

 

Damien Edwards:

Exactly. Just builds confidence in your customers.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, so tell me, what types of processes, or skills, or even technologies do tradesmen or people that are out in the field, what do they need to adopt or embody in order to advance their role into leadership?

 

Damien Edwards:

I think they need to adopt an attitude of learning, of being a lifelong learner. So many times I run into construction managers that have stopped learning. And technology changes so quickly. And even just, not just computers, but building technologies. The way we flash something, the mix for concrete. Everything is constantly evolving, it’s constantly getting better, it’s constantly just changing. 

And the best thing that I can tell anybody is just never stop learning. The second you think you know everything, you’re done. Then you don’t know anything, because things will change so rapidly, if you’re not constantly asking your trade partners, or your vendors, or whoever about new technologies, new products, new ways of doing things, you’re done. 

I recently interviewed a guy, and I asked him that same question. I was like, hey, what have you learn recently? And he’s like, pah. What do you mean? I’ve been doing this for 20 years. And I was like, oh okay. You know technology changes? And he was like, yeah I’m good. I was like, okay. Next.

 

Mike Merrill:

The old adage of, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Those old dogs are not surviving in this environment nearly as well.

 

Damien Edwards:

You know they’re really not. They’re really not, and it’s an issue. Because there’s a huge, you know there’s a huge gap right now between new guys coming in, and guys that have been doing it for 20 and 30 years. And the guys that have been doing it for 20 and 30 years are used to paper schedules, fax machines, I call everybody. 

And the guys that are new, grew up with technology. And not just technology but rapidly changing technology. And they don’t want to do things… They’re not going to sit there and write everything down on a piece of paper and then make a bunch of phone calls. They’re going to text, they’re going to jump on an app, they’re going to jump on new, whatever the software system is that we’re using. And they’re going to do it all from their phone, and they’re make it look super easy. Which makes me crazy sometimes. But that’s what they do. And the two… So you’ve got these older guys with all the technical knowledge in the world as far as sticks and bricks, trying to mentor a younger generation that is like, look, I don’t need to memorize all that stuff because I have all the information I need right here in the palm of my hand.

 

Mike Merrill:

I got Google.

 

Damien Edwards:

Yeah, I can Google it. I can look up the technical standards in 30 seconds. And it’s tough, it’s a tough… I deal with quite a few construction managers, and it’s a tough relationship to bridge because there’s that generational gap in between them. So, we’re getting there, but it’s definitely challenging right now in construction.

 

Mike Merrill:

It’s painful, no question about it. I mean, in my organization today, we sell software to contractors. So, we deal with and hear these objections every single day. Now they’re last and last, it feels like the bar has been raised enough that people understand, you’re going to have to use an app, you’re going to have to use mobile devices. Everybody’s got iPads and things that we didn’t have when I started. I mean, my first boss had a brick phone, and he was the only guy on the… I mean, within a country mile, that probably had one. It’s like two or three bucks a minute. Some cellular one. You could drive a nail with the thing. But nowadays, you can’t throw a rock without hitting a six year old kid with an iPhone, so.

 

Damien Edwards:

I know. Right. I was going to say, the great thing about those brick phones, was they were great for throwing against the wall when you were super frustrated. And they would just bounce off the ground, you could pick it up and still use it.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, it was a stress management tool.

 

Damien Edwards:

That’s it. That’s it, so.

 

Mike Merrill:

But lots of changes, which… Going back to something you said originally. Kind of a word was popping up in my mind. It almost sounds like you’re saying field personnel need to kind of brand themselves and brand the organization in a way where it’s not just… I mean that logo has to shine through them, their interactions, how they behave, how they interact. Are you seeing people step up and do a better job of that?

 

Damien Edwards:

Well, I think that the guys that really do a good job of kind of self branding… So there’s two brands right, that we represent when we’re out there on the job. We represent ourself, and we represent the company that we work for. And it’s super important to understand the company that you work for. What are their values? What’s their goal? What are they trying to put out to the public? So, if we can understand the brand that we work for, whether it’s ourselves, or whether it’s another company, and strive to represent that brand. 

I’ll give you an example. And I always use Mercedes and Lexus as an example when I’m talking to construction managers. Because I’m like, what do you think of when you think of Mercedes? And they’re like, quality. German engineering. I’m like great. What do you think about when you think of Lexus? And they’re like, same thing, quality, thing never breaks. And I’m like awesome. Now what do you think of when you look at a construction manager, your buddy down the street? And they’re like, oh that guy. Cigarette in his mouth, he’s always eating doughnuts or whatever. I’m like really? Is he representing quality? Is he representing luxury? And, if the answer is no, then he’s probably not representing the brand well. 

So if you’re building luxury homes or whatever, you need to exude that in your own brand. So when you wake up in the morning you need to look at yourself. And I tell this to guys all the time. Listen, you’re walking out this… And I always use jhorts as an example, because they drive me crazy. But I’m like look, if you’re walking out the door, if you’re representing… If you want people to look at you like you’re a leader, and you’re the manager that you think you are. If you look at yourself in the mirror and you’re wearing a t-shirt and jorts, you’re probably not representing that image the way you think you are. 

So, when I interact with a customer, I’m always in a collared shirt… I’m a little unbuttoned today, I’m a little casual. But usually I’m a collared shirt, khaki pants, clean shoes, because I’m representing myself, A. I want them to understand that I’m a serious professional. And B, I’m representing the company that I work for, and I want them to understand that I’m serious about that. 

And it’s not just that, when your customers see that, that you represent yourself well and your company well, they have confidence in you. But more importantly, when your managers see that. When they’re looking around, they’re like, hey we need to promote somebody, we need a new manager or whatever. And they see somebody that’s representing themselves and their company well, that’s the first candidate they’re going to choose. Maybe you won’t get it the first time around, but if you keep that recognition up, that you know how to represent yourself and your brand, it’ll come to you. There’s no question about that, so.

 

Mike Merrill:

Well I love that. So the rusty old ford look isn’t what you’re after?

 

Damien Edwards:

It’s really not. It’s really not. It’s funny, I talk to guys all the time. And it’s not just the construction managers, it’s tradesmen, plumbers. Plumbers crack, you hear about that all the time. And it’s not a myth. But I know plumbing companies that require tucked in shirts, clean uniforms, because they’re trying to get away from the old stereotype of… I hate to pick on plumbers, but. They’re trying to get away from this stereotype and represent themselves as the technicians, and the technical professionals that they are. Because I got to tell you, if you’ve ever hired a plumber, that isn’t cheap. Those guys are making a great living.

 

Mike Merrill:

A lot of those guys are very smart too. And especially when you’re talking with their hands, in the trades. Solving complex problems physically, not just mentally. But they got to not only think it through, but actually execute on it. And, it’s a different skill. And there is great value in it. I mean, I know when I was a general contractor… Man, those guys would feed my family.

 

Damien Edwards:

For sure. No question about it. It’s funny you say that, you mentioned that because trades people these days are so sophisticated. I had a young construction manager, he was having an issue with a trade partner. And I said, well, how are you going to resolve this? And he’s like, well I told them. And I said okay, well did you fix the problem? He’s like, no. And I said, all right. And this went on for a little bit. And I was like, listen, you need to get all your notes together, all your correspondence together. We’re going to sit down with this trade partner, and we’re going to go through. We’re going to look at our schedules, and we’re going to go through this and show them where they need to improve. And he looked at me and said, oh it’s all phone calls. And I said, what are you talking about? And he said, well I didn’t have any correspondence. And I said, you didn’t text, or email, or send them anything through our scheduling software, nothing? He said no. And I said, well, we’re not going to sit down with that contractor, because he’s going to eat us alive. And he’s like, what are you talking about? We’re the general contractor, blah, blah. And I said no man, you don’t understand. 

Trades are very sophisticated, and I said they know when… What’s going to happen is we’re going to sit down and we’re going to say you didn’t show up on this day. And they’re going to say, you weren’t ready and here’s why, here’s a picture. And then we’re going to look foolish. And then you’re going to say, well they didn’t do this. And they’re going to say no, you weren’t ready, or this wasn’t ready, or whatever, and here’s why. And they’re going to show it to us, because I know they track these things. And they use software and their iPads to do it. And this young construction manager was like, oh. And I said, so before you embarrass yourself and me, you need to start tracking this thing so that you need to be at least as sophisticated as the trade contractor that we’re going to sit down with. And they’re like, okay, got it, so.

 

Mike Merrill:

I love that. Interesting. Whether it’s a lawsuit or just a disagreement, conversation. I always say, he who has the most data wins.

 

Damien Edwards:

Absolutely, every time, every time. It’s funny, I sat down with a contractor not long ago, who didn’t… I guess he thought I was like everyone else. And I had a stack of data. And I said, and he… We sat down for the first 20 minutes, he told me how terrible we were and everything else. And I said, okay, let’s go through your issues. And I started flipping through it, and about a quarter of the way through it, he was like, okay, okay. I get it. And I was like, I was just more prepared. So he who has more data, wins.

 

Mike Merrill:

Agreed. And today, we both know this well. You, because you work for a very large organization. And me, because I work with organizations everywhere. There’s really no excuse not to have these tools in place that the technology is available like never before. Paper and spreadsheets are dead when it comes to documentation.

 

Damien Edwards:

For sure. For sure. It’s funny, I teach a class on… I teach a couple of classes at a local community college. And one of the class I teach is schedule management, or production scheduling or something like that. I’m a great professor. Anyway, one of the things I always tell people. I always talk about technology and how it’s changed in construction, and how modern schedules are time machines. And I always tell them, listen a modern schedule because of the reporting aspects of them, they will tell you what happened yesterday, what’s going to happen today, and what’s going to happen tomorrow. And every bit of it is captured forever. So, they become one of the most valuable tools, if you’re going to… You talk about data collection. If one of our trade partners shows up on the job and we’re not ready, he can just go right into our schedule and say you weren’t ready, and vice versa. If they don’t show up, the construction manager can go in and say, hey, your trade didn’t show up this day, and it’s captured, so.

 

Mike Merrill:

If you’re not ready for them, you don’t really want them there either. You don’t want them breathing down the neck of the other slob, who’s now going to cut corners, shortcut. I mean, nobody wins when we’re having those… I was thinking earlier today talking with somebody. And I think back, years ago, I was a general contractor going through this site, and we had a plumbing test. And it was just a water test. And there’s water leaking out all over in the basement, and trying to figure out what’s going on. And I have this picture somewhere on an old blackberry here, I don’t know where it is now, because this was a long time ago. But an electrician had literally drilled a hole and fished a wire right through a three inch ABS train. They put on right through the pipe. I’m thinking, okay, this is adorable. This is the new guy, or it’s somebody with a beef that’s trying to start something and…

 

Damien Edwards:

It could be either one. It all depends.

 

Mike Merrill:

Lots of funny stories with those types of things. But really, again, I thought at the time the electrician probably wanted to go first. But, whatever the case, certainly the organization, the flow, just like you mentioned, the scheduling. There’s really no excuse not have a better handle on that. And I think the biggest thing, and something that I hope that our listeners will adopt and embrace further if they haven’t already is, getting those tools in place that can give them real time, live field data, on the site visibility. The same version of the truth, right, which is the actual version, that everybody has access to. And it sounds like you’re used to utilizing tools like that also.

 

Damien Edwards:

Absolutely. It’s funny, when I first started it was, I had a piece of paper with a grid on it, and it was supposed to be a calendar. And we would write the days of the week, and who’s supposed to be, and what lot, and we would fax it. And that was what we did. And the weird thing is, I actually got into… I used to work for T-Mobile, before I got into construction, in like the late 98, 99, something like that. And when I got to construction, I was like holy smokes. These guys are about 50 years behind the times. 

But, construction has caught up. And I think in the past, I’d say 10, maybe not even 10 years, in the past eight years definitely, construction companies have caught up and are catching up in a big way. Because now I’m seeing everybody on the job site has an iPad, everybody on the job side is using their iPhone. Although, I do have one guy that still uses a flip phone. It always makes me laugh, but anyway. But, technology has definitely, I think, changed the way we build things, and it continues to change the way we build things. And is going to… I can’t wait to see where we are in three, four, five, 10 years with construction technology, because it’s amazing how quickly things are evolving.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, and I think, the other thing to that I’m seeing is, that it’s not just the big guys anymore. The little guys have this stuff. The 10, 20, 30 men trades contractors, they’ve got all the tech, all the gear just like you’re saying. I’m seeing logo-ed vans and nice logo-ed shirts, and like you said tucked in. I mean, it is a different market out there today then maybe 20, 30 years ago.

 

Damien Edwards:

Well, I think one of the things that is driving that is the lack of qualified labor. I think people are realizing that… And I always, I don’t want to get on a soapbox. But for years and years and years, people have been told that if you don’t get a college degree, you’re never going to amount to anything. And it kind of diminished the tradesmen out there, trades people, I guess will say. 

But in the meantime, trades people run around making a great living. Their charging hundreds of dollars an hour versus somebody that’s fresh out of college, and can barely find they’re… They’re making coffee. And I think what’s happened is a lot of these trade companies have said you know what, if I want to attract the best most qualified people, we have to, just like brand recognition, we have to represent ourselves as being the most professional company out there, so that people want to come with us. And the younger generation, you’re not going to hand them a fax machine and say do business this way. You’ve got to hand them the laptop, the iPad, the iPhone, or whatever. They need smart technology, because that’s what they know, that’s what they’re used to. And you can’t go backwards with that.

 

Mike Merrill:

It’s funny you’re telling that experience. I remember back when we first came out with a product that worked on palm pilots to collect time and labor data, instead of time cards and spreadsheets. And I remember a contractor, he was almost angry at me. He picks up the palm pilot, I’m in a trade show at a booth. And he holds it, he says, “You will never see a day where field guys are going to have a device like this in their hand, you’re absolutely crazy.” I said, I appreciate your perspective, I understand how you must feel that way. I said, “but hide and watch buddy, because this trains a coming.”

 

Damien Edwards:

Yeah. Oh my God. 100%.

 

Mike Merrill:

Who knew that the iPad would even be invented back then, so.

 

Damien Edwards:

It’s funny, I had a guy years ago. In 2005, I worked for a company, and they were very forward thinking. And they give us all these Toshiba, it was like an iPad, but it was a Toshiba tablet, very expensive. And I remember I broke one on the job site, I leaned against a brick wall, I had it slung on my back and I broke it. And my manager was standing there, and I was like, oh my God, I can’t believe I broke this. And he goes, who cares. And he goes on this 15 minute rant about what a waste of time it is and how stupid it is. And I was like. 

And in the meantime, I was able to take pictures and write on it and send it to the trades right away. And he’s like, I don’t care if you broke it, send it back to IT. Tell me you don’t need that thing. And I was like, I do need this. And I broke it, and I don’t want to tell anybody I broke it because it was super expensive. So, but my phone can do everything that that tablet did way faster and more efficiently. So it’s crazy how technology has changed.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, and I think, again, where construction historically or certainly as an industry we’re laggards in technology adoption. But I think that wave is coming, and change is upon us. And people are coming out of school, even high school. Mike, I got a daughter in eighth, ninth grade, and they’ve got netbooks that are school issued. They’re doing homework on it, they’re checking their grades. I mean she knows where she’s at on her grades every day. I remember being surprised like, am I getting an A? Is it a B-, a B+. And you don’t know until the end. And you only had like two days to fix it. And so, even on that level our children are being taught and groomed to adopt and utilize and leverage technology like never before.

 

Damien Edwards:

Hell yeah. It’s funny, I have a daughter right now she’s learning to build. She’s actually building robots in college. And the first time I saw a bulldozer operated without an operator, and the fork is going up, the buckets going up and down. I just remember standing there like, oh… At first, I thought it was out of control, like somebody had put it in gear and it was just going. And the operator is standing there with a control pad, and he’s like nah man, it’s all GPS. I don’t even have to be in that thing anymore. And I was standing there like, this is incredible. And that’s when it hit me. I was like, construction is finally catching up. So, it was amazing. Blew me away.

 

Mike Merrill:

And then that kids probably saying, I told my mom that being good at Xbox would help me one day.

 

Damien Edwards:

She should have let me stay up all night every night.

 

Mike Merrill:

I was practicing for my profession.

 

Damien Edwards:

Yeah, so.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, it’s a different time. I know when I used to operate equipment, skid, steer, Bobcat, backhoe, whatever. And yeah, today, looking at those machines with GPS and all the touchscreen, showing everything you would ever want to see: idle time, and fuel consumption, and how many motions and movements of this bucket, how many scoops. All these things that you couldn’t even care about before because there was really no way to collect the data, and even manage it.

 

Damien Edwards:

Yeah. It’s funny, I took my youngest out to a job site and I put him up in a bulldozer, and it had a touchscreen, everything’s joysticks. And I said, what do you think about this man? This thing is really cool huh? Is that my perspective was, I was thinking, an old school tractor from 20 years ago. His perspective, because he’s young and all he knows is technology. He was like yeah this cool. And I’m like, that’s a touchscreen. And he’s like, yeah, I can see that. And I was like, okay I guess not so cool… Yeah. So, kind of funny.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, but it is nice that finally construction is actually leveraging those tools and actually building things better, safer, quicker, more efficiently, greener, all the things that everybody wants. Nobody wants to… You don’t want gaps, nobody’s trying to intentionally build something poorly. Though, it’s a different time for sure, so.

 

Damien Edwards:

Yeah, absolutely. 

 

Mike Merrill:

Now you just kind of, looking at some of your background, I noticed you’ve written actually a book that’s now released in an audio book. And it’s called Builder Tactics, is that right?

 

Damien Edwards:

Builder Tactics: A Practical Guide to Construction Management. Yup.

 

Mike Merrill:

Okay. So tell us a little bit about that and what kind of drove you to write a book? I mean that’s not an easy thing you just, have an epiphany one night and say here.

 

Damien Edwards:

It was not an easy thing. So, I wrote it because, the one thing that I know for sure. So I’ll just give you some background real quick. So, I’m the only member of my immediate family to graduate from college. And when I graduated, it took me… After I got out of the Navy, it took me about 10 years to graduate from college. And I always had this attitude that, subliminally, not that I didn’t deserve to graduate from college, but it was just something that we just didn’t do. And once I graduated, I was 32. It dawned on me, you can do anything you want to do, as long as you do it. The only thing that can stop you is yourself. 

And at that point I wrote this list down of things that I wanted to do. And on that list, why I wanted to start my own company, I want to write a book. A couple of other things. And I slowly started ticking away at this list. And then, about two years ago, I said… I’m a voracious note taker, constantly writing things down. And I was like, I have all these notes, I still haven’t written that book. And I was like, I’m going to write a book. And I started the process, and it was a long process. But I started the process, and I got to the point where I got to about 100 pages, and I was like this is, I’ve written this book. 

And really what it is, it’s a really down to earth practical way to, or advice if you will, or manual to run a job site. I don’t get into schedule management, because everybody’s got their own schedule. But I do get into things like sediment erosion control, where I break it down to the easiest thing to… The most important thing to remember about sediment and erosion control is keep the dirt where it’s supposed to be. It’s that simple. If it stays there, thumbs up. You’re doing a great job. Keep the job site clean. Things like how to manager your site. And one of the bigger things that I added to the book was leadership and how to manage people. Because as a construction manager, I mean that’s 90% of your job. The sticks and bricks will fall into place, as long as you have quality trades on your job site. But how you manage them will determine the outcome of that project, every single time.

 

Mike Merrill:

How fascinating to me to hear you say, after everything you’ve learned and know, and even writing the book. That you came up with, people are the secret ingredient.

 

Damien Edwards:

People are the secret. No question about it. There’s no question about it. If you have a good team, you’re golden. If you don’t, or you miss, or you abuse your team, which I see all the time. Doesn’t matter how good you are, if you abuse that team, they will not perform for you. So, or at least they won’t perform for you twice.

 

Mike Merrill:

So, people are the secret. That’s the ingredient. I’ve also heard, kind of as you’ve laced in, as we have discussed, technology tools. And if people again are that variable, the adoption of those tools or the proper adoption would also seem to be critical. What have you seen through your experience in the field that has been most impactful? With all this technology and all these changes, back from the brick phone to what we have today. What have you seen that’s been the most impressive or impactful to you?

 

Damien Edwards:

I would say, from a technology standpoint, the smartphone has been the most impactful, and for a couple of reasons. I mean I kind of go back and forth between the iPad and a smartphone. Just because an iPad is a little bigger, or a tablet. But the ability to communicate complex drawings and scopes of work instantly. So, it used to be back in the day, you would go out to a job site and… I’ll just give you an example. You’d say, hey, you got to finish whatever. And they said, well, that’s not my scope. Oh, well let’s walk to the other side of the job site, we’ll open up the filing cabinet, we’ll pull your contract out, we’ll find the scope and we’ll verify that. 

Well, now it’s like, oh, it’s not. Hold on. Boom. Oh, yeah, it is. It’s right here. Or with drawings. Somebody’s putting something together. And you’re like, wait a second, I don’t think that matches the detail. Oh yeah, sure it does. Well hold on let me check. Boop, instant. Here’s a picture of what it’s supposed to look like. So, the fact that we have information immediately available to us now. Not only has it shaved a tremendous amount of time off of our to do list and just our production schedule. It’s made building properly almost foolproof. 

I mean you still have to be able to find the information. But it’s like, boom. I’ve got the information, here it is, we’re done. You can send it to the person you’re talking to, you can airdrop it to them, you can email it to them instantly. And information is no longer, or that the availability of information is no longer a hurdle in construction, or really any industry at that point. But in construction, it was always something, well let’s go back and check the plans. I hope I have the right version of the plans. Or let me call somebody, get the scope of work. We’ve eliminated all of that with technology, and it’s in the palm of our hand. It’s amazing.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, that is incredible. And yeah, I would agree that the technology and the availability of mobile tools to manage that. 

 

Damien Edwards:

Definitely. 

 

Mike Merrill:

Live field data, real time. One single source of truth where everything is collaborative, and people have access to the same information.

 

Damien Edwards:

Yeah, and the most current information. 

 

Mike Merrill:

Right. Yeah. Nobody wants to redo something that they just finished, for sure, so.

 

Damien Edwards:

Even things like product specs. How something is supposed to be installed. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been on the job site, I’m like God, are they doing that right? Let me just go to their website and I’ll find out. Boom. Oh, here’s a white paper on it. Yep. He’s got it right. I’m going to tell him, good job and go check on somebody else.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. The accessibility of information, Google or YouTube. Or, you can watch and see physically how somebody is addressing or solving something, maybe how others are doing it. And then these same tools that companies… Kind of like you’re doing, they’re sharing best practices, they’re collaborating with peers, maybe even competitors in some cases. They’re comparing notes. I just love it because I’m passionate about construction, and I love the idea of a rising tide that’s going to raise all the ships in the harbor together.

 

Damien Edwards:

Definitely.

 

Mike Merrill:

And I think, something else when you’re talking about building something efficiently, or the methods of construction today. It used to be the exception when something was done just correctly, and perfect, and right. And now I think not only is it possible but it’s likely. 

 

Damien Edwards:

Yeah.

 

Mike Merrill:

That’s a change. So one other thing, I mean, so you’ve written this book which is fantastic. I’m looking forward to checking that out. But you’ve got another one coming out-

 

Damien Edwards:

I do.

 

Mike Merrill:

On stress management for construction managers, is that what I understand?

 

Damien Edwards:

It is on stress management and kind of mentally preparing yourself for different situations. So, the book is called Building Zen, how to find inner peace while losing your shit in the middle of the street. And it is literally based on a story that I start the book out… So, years ago I drove onto a job site. And I’ll try and condense the story. But I drove onto a job site and there was, it was a disaster. Everything that could, as far as site management goes, everything that could have been wrong was wrong. 

And it affected me to the point where I freaked out. I parked my car sideways in the middle of the street. And I jumped, and I’m yelling at everybody with a pulse. And at one point there was all the mud and dirt in the street. And at one point, this forklift goes by and it catches a rock, because all the mud. Flings it through the air, hits my car, dents my car. I’m so upset about it, I punched my car, break my hand. I’m screaming at everybody. I jump back in my car I speed off. And I’m sitting there, and I’m like, what am I doing? 

And then I had this kind of epiphany, and I was like why am I so fucking angry now? Because years ago I wouldn’t have handled that situation like that. But now I am. And I started thinking about all the, what was changing. And it dawned on me that one thing that I had stopped doing was… And this is going to sound granola. But one of the things, I had stop doing yoga, I had stopped meditating. I had been training heavily in the martial arts, and I wasn’t anymore. Life, kids kind of took that over. And that’s when it dawned on me. I have kind of lost my center when it came to… I don’t want to say inner peace, but I was no longer doing the simple things that I could do to ground myself. 

And I thought, I need to share this with my brothers and sisters out there because construction management is stressful. There are deadlines, you’re dealing with millions of dollars. You’ve got clients, you’ve got trade partners not showing up. You’ve got supply shortages, you’ve got federal organizations and local municipalities breathing down your neck about codes and keeping dirt where it’s supposed to be. And it can be very stressful, and it gets to a lot of… Every profession is stressful. Construction management is, I feel, particularly stressful. So, the book is just a series of stories, and advice, and exercises on how to just kind of bring it back to center. And just find a little bit of happiness when things are going crazy.

 

Mike Merrill:

Wow. Yeah, I love that. Very profound. I think that’s one of the old school view of the contractor construction guy, we’re rough and tumble, we’re rugged, we’re tough. We don’t have feelings, we don’t have emotion. I mean, we can cuss and yell and scrap with the best of them, but we don’t have any feelings. We’re not people, we’re contractors.

 

Damien Edwards:

That’s it.

 

Mike Merrill:

I love that you found a way to cut through that and get to the core of… Each one of us, we’re all people and everybody’s generally trying to do a good job. People don’t set out to try and perform poorly or build stuff incorrectly.

 

Damien Edwards:

Yeah, for sure. So, one of the other things that book touches on is listening. I’m sure you’ve been in meetings where you can say, if you just sit back and watch. You’ve got a bunch of people talking at each other, and they’re not solving any problems. They’re all just trying to find validation in their own ideas. So part of the book is, hey you’ve got to solve complex problems, sometimes you just need to shut up and listen, and try and pick out the best ideas in the room. And try and help everybody else come to the same conclusion. So, hopefully I’ll sell more than one. My mom will buy one. So I’m good.

 

Mike Merrill:

Sign me up.

 

Damien Edwards:

Well that’s two.

 

Mike Merrill:

Hey it’s a start. That’s a plan.

 

Damien Edwards:

It’s a start. And I’ll be totally honest with you. The book that I wrote, money was never a goal. That goal, like I said in the beginning of this. The goal is to help other construction managers raise their game. So, same with the second book. The goal of the second book is to help other construction managers find some peace.

 

Mike Merrill:

That’s a good balance, right. I think that the-

 

Damien Edwards:

Yeah, balance is the term. So, and if I can do that then I think it’s a win, win. So, that’s my goal. That’s kind of the goal I set out for a couple years ago, is to help elevate the position. And so, I’ve been on a mission to do it ever since, so.

 

Mike Merrill:

That’s great. And I love how you cap that off by saying it’s really about listening more, and kind of, what I gather listening to understand, not to speak. Sometimes we got it on the tip of our tongue, we just can’t wait to get those words out, and trying to interrupt somebody before they finish their thought. We got stuff we want to get off our own chest. So, in leadership or management, especially on construction projects, that listening is a skill that cannot be overplayed I think.

 

Damien Edwards:

For sure. You nailed it, so.

 

Mike Merrill:

Awesome. Well, I just to kind of wind down. I’ve enjoyed this conversation very much. I’m sitting here thinking as we’re talking. If you were to kind of look back and pick kind of one strength or kind of a superpower or secret sauce, something that you’ve really been able to lean on in your career. What is that, and what could you do to give others advice to try and enjoy that same epiphany?

 

Damien Edwards:

If I was going to give… And I actually, I give this. There’s two things that I always tell guys. The first one is, don’t ever say that you can’t do something. Whether it’s a deadline, or whether it’s a personal goal, or a professional goal. Don’t ever say can’t. Because you can do it, you just have to find a way. The only thing stopping you is yourself. So, never use the word. You can do it, it might be challenging, it might be really hard, but you can do it. 

And the other thing I always tell guys is to get involved in things. If you want to grow, you can’t have tunnel vision on just what you’re doing. So most companies, and most… And it doesn’t even matter if it’s professional, it could be personally. If you get involved with things going on around you, you will grow personally and professionally, every single time. An example of that. Last time I had to write a resume, I included philanthropic things that I was doing, ways I was volunteering my time. And when I went to the interview, they were like, we see all these things on here, do you get paid for any of this? And I said no, I just do it because it helps the community, it helps me personally, and I’m helping other people. 

And it was because of that I was able to get the last position that I got. And anytime you get involved with something outside your comfort zone, you grow and you learn. And if you’re a lifelong learner, you can take that experience and you can apply it to what you’re doing, what you are being paid professionally to do. And I’ve just always found that if you get involved with things outside of your scope, it will help you in ways that you can’t even imagine, and you won’t even realize that it’s helping you. So, it just helps you grow personally and professionally. So, I’d say get involved with something.

 

Mike Merrill:

Fantastic. Oh, what a great way to end. Thank you so much. It’s been a very enjoyable conversation.

 

Damien Edwards:

Yeah, Mike, it’s been awesome. It’s been awesome sitting here talking to you, for sure.

 

Mike Merrill:

Hopefully we can have an opportunity to do it again in the future. 

 

Damien Edwards:

Yeah, when you come on my show. 

 

Mike Merrill:

Okay. Well that would be great. I would love that. Well-

 

Damien Edwards:

Awesome.

 

Mike Merrill:

Well, again, thanks again Damien. Great time today. And thank you to all listeners for joining the mobile workforce podcast, sponsored by AboutTime Technologies and WorkMax. If you like what you heard today or enjoyed some of the tips or tactics that you’ve heard, please follow us on Instagram at WorkMax underscore, or follow us on iTunes or your preferred method of listening to podcasts. And again, don’t forget to give us a five star rating and review if you’ve learned something valuable here today. So thanks again, and please share the message with others looking to improve their lives and their careers. And take care.