Construction Field Operations and Finance: Bridging the Gap

A construction company’s success hinges in part on how cohesive its finance and field operations teams are. The well-known challenge, however, is that these two teams work in silos and notoriously struggle to align. So how can construction leaders help these two teams overcome rifts that can lead to massive losses and inefficiency?  

In this episode, James Coyle, co-founder of Event 1 Software, explains why communication is key to getting finance and field operations teams on the same page. James shares tried-and-true tactics that companies of all sizes can implement to help these two teams understand each other’s needs and work better together. He also breaks down the ways these teams can support one another and where tech comes into play. 

 

Key Takeaways:

  1. The key to any coordination is a deep understanding of KPIs. Construction companies need to make use of the transparency that technology offers. Encourage your finance and field operations teams to share each other’s KPIs. This leads to better understanding and increased mutual respect. 
  2. Use technology that showcases both team’s pressure points. Everyone knows that finance cares about dollars and cents while operations cares about quantities and budgets. Tech solutions like digital forms give visibility to projects, shining a light on the key areas both teams prioritize. Transparency helps them better understand and empathize with one another’s needs and concerns.
  3. Insights from the field ensure more accurate budgetary goals. When the finance department creates budgetary goals solely based on numbers in a spreadsheet, they’ll miss critical insights from field operations. However, by using collected data and cost codes from previous projects, finance can make more informed recommendations based on these insights from the field.

 

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Episode Transcript:

Mike Merrill:

Hello, and welcome to the Mobile Workforce Podcast. I am your host, Mike Merrill. And we’re sitting down today with James Coyle, the co-founder of Event 1 Software and currently, a transitional specialist after their acquisition by Insight Software. We asked James to come on the show today to discuss effective communication between the financial and operation teams. Welcome, James. Looking forward to the discussion today, and appreciate you joining us.

James Coyle:

Thank you very much, Mike. And I appreciate your investment in this really important topic. And thanks to everyone who’s listening to the podcast.

Mike Merrill:

You are most welcome, James. It’s our pleasure to have you on. Before we get too deep into the conversation, I just have to say, you’ve got a very unique background and experience with technology as it relates to construction. I know going over some of the history that you and I have talked about over the years, and also just your background, you were actually in the room when Microsoft made that fatal decision to or fateful, fatal. Okay.

James Coyle:

Yeah, fateful, or fatal. It depends on the direction of perspective, right? Yeah.

Mike Merrill:

That’s right. So on our call today, we wanted to discuss a little bit about your experience when you were in the room when Microsoft made that fateful decision to go after the personal computer market. That’s a pretty crazy situation. Tell us about that and maybe some more of your background, if you would.

James Coyle:

Yeah. Well, thank you. In the room where it happened a little Alexander Hamilton gameplay here. But truthfully, the history leading up to the interaction between Microsoft and IBM was quite interesting. I was at Timberline. I was a programmer and then support and in different capacities. And I had a business systems that was going to center around OS/2 from a graphical user interface and we were very excited.

And for the record, I really liked OS/2. But leading up to that, there was a lot of interaction about what the direction Microsoft was going, but it was behind the scenes. Not a lot of people at Microsoft knew. I think people at Timberline probably did know because Timberline had a word processing and spreadsheet system for the PC that was actually pretty good, and then Timberline decided to discontinue it.

And I remember the announcement thinking that we’re accounting solution and a vertical, and there’s … That’s where our business is. There’s not a lot of feature in these little apps and stuff, like spreadsheets and word processors. Kind of funny it shut up. And so, I think maybe the direction that Microsoft was going. But really, yeah, they were just focusing on, “Oh, we’re just going to do this little side thing with.” But they were the wheelhouse behind the OS/2, right? And doing that for IBM.

So when they backed away, there was some puzzlement. But I think IBM didn’t really question much about that direction because they’re leaders in technology. And at the time, like for people today, not thinking back then, IBM was the deal. So I think that some upstart could have any impact on business, what technology people would use for business. It’s like, “Okay, fine. Don’t mess around with …” The personal computers people were having them all over. I don’t think that impressed people as much as it did a couple of years later. Yeah. Right. Yeah. It was pretty interesting Forrest Gump moment. Yeah.

Mike Merrill:

Well, and to go all the way from that to smack dab in the middle of construction technology, which we know, there’s a digital revolution going on there, mobility’s making a big play. Lots of different things that are evolving and changing continually. But one of the things that I think sometimes gets overlooked is the financial department. I mean, what has changed in their overall function in these last few years of this technology age?

James Coyle:

Well, it’s very interesting. When I was in development, programming and support and sales through when I was recruiting and training resellers and then working for what became the largest business partner, the main people we catered to and talked to and interacted with who made the decision was finance that they were. But then technology was really just more simplified, right? It was mostly I need accounting system, or cost accounting system, and I’m coming off of paper or whatever else.

And so, all centered on that. All the other things that we have from a technology standpoint like phones that you could use wherever, none of that stuff was around. And so, all through the ’90s still it was a finance and construction accounting that was the most important, which is kind of weird. Because part of the organization that actually was out there that made the difference, whether you made money or not operations, they got what was left. When you’ve seen it got around to it, they made it, they got a report to them and it was outdated or whatever.

And I remember being in different meetings with companies from operations’ perspective and that frustration. But a large chunk of the ’90s the focus was on finance. Then it began to change. So we got drawn into operations. Like I never gave much thought to it. But we created an Excel based. First it was an Access, but then an Excel based project, cost forecasting work.

Look, I never thought much about it because historically we always just printed that and gave it to them. And that was the demand. And really even after we created it, I thought, “Well, it was that one company.” And then a company that’s pretty prominent in tug historically Arno construction saw it and they instantly recognized like, “What’s that?” And they got it to deploy on a palm devices.

But really, remembered technology wasn’t around. I never of it like, “How do you even get it on a palm device? That’s pretty small screen, you know?” But when you start to see where that began to change operations and owners like, “Oh, I can make money,” then the cycle switched with Primavera and then Meridian, getting into that market. Then more people try to get into that space. And the focus then was on operations to the point where we have pro core now. And then you have all this field technology, none of that stuff exists. You remember coming up? None of that stuff existed.

And so, and the finance person would even know what, know what to do with that. What does that mean? And then today, I remember being asked about this thing just in the last like projecting what the new technology would be. And I said, wearable technology integrated through big data so that families with the other information, it will be the big game changer because you could count the steps. And people were like, “Why does that matter?” It’s like, “Well, if you count the steps and you see the same number of steps every day and then today it’s a lot less, something happened.” You probably should know about that and ask questions, right?

Mike Merrill:

Figure out how to duplicate it.

James Coyle:

Yeah. So it just came full circle. So I think that finance just got way behind and they were still looking at that age old way that people were doing finance when they were the most important people to talk to. And they haven’t come forward in time. But I think today in the ’90s when the economy tanked, like I’ve preached this for years, like best practices and no one listened. And then when the economy tanked, people started listening to transparency for surety and bonding companies.

Like I need to know what’s really going on, not guesses. And now today, with all everything’s going on here, or if someone ill, is there a protest or something like that, you don’t know if those things are how they’re affecting you. And that affects cash. And for a finance person not to think that … So today, finance has to be aware of the technology that’s out there and utilize it from a reporting, and family well with operations. You just don’t have a choice not to do that.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. It’s interesting. Back in the day it was like, oh, there must’ve been weather problems, or there’s an issue with permits. It’s a different age right now.

James Coyle:

Yeah. We created a report on LaunchPad and people thought it was so revolutionary. It occurred to me that if the job address and all that was in Excel, I would still come up to speed like, “Oh, right. Well, people are addicted this Excel thing. I guess I got to try to figure out a way to make it work.” The address, when you go to Google and you send someone a link, the address is embedded in the link so that, well, you could just pass that. It’s just programming. Right?

And so we created a link so that the job status report could link to maps or the weather. And people were flabbergasted like, “Wow, this is amazing.” It’s like, this is just pretty … The state of the art, all the technology that was sitting out there and waiting out there no one recognized back then it was just like a weather report or whatever and you’re guessing. It’s not instantaneous. But there were people when that stuff was red readily accessible not incorporating it into their meetings and stuff even though it had been out for awhile because no one questioned the status quo because we’re making money. Why does it matter? And tell it’s harder to make money, then you start to pay attention to it.

Mike Merrill:

Right. Well, which with those advancements, of course, now we have different metrics that we can measure these key performance indicators or KPIs and accountability goes up. How have those been impacted by these technological changes and advancements?

James Coyle:

Well, first, I mean, obviously, technology has transformed what we can look at and know the state of our businesses, all sorts of key performance indexes. I think one of the biggest areas, though, is that whether people understand what’s behind KPI and the transparency. Like how transparent is it how those KPIs are calculating presented graphically or so? Generally don’t know that much about it. They just say, “Well, if you use your system, then these numbers mean that.”

And I think that someone whose job you know, you buy solution and it’s got these KPIs and then you’re making decisions, and someone is, “I don’t really know that these are accurate.” And there’s a pause before someone begins to say whatever they’re saying. And that pause is a lot, like the visibility behind the KPIs.

So I think what happened is, a lot of people when I implemented construction companies, they did not understand their system. And we took the time to even understand it, and understand their business and how the two related to each other, and understand where things could go to sleep. So that transparency wasn’t there from a visibility standpoint.

So as you March forward in time and technology keeps moving, people go, “Well, we got to really start using these dashed stuff because everybody else is.” But they get them and they don’t even know what’s behind them. So the KPIs are fantastic if people take the time to understand the visibility. And so I think that that has been very transporting and how relevant the KPI is because of wearable technology and things like that, collecting information from the field. You can’t afford not to do that today. People who aren’t doing that, I’m flabbergasted. And then understanding how it incorporates into other things, the status of the job today and using that to project out the future are both into consideration. Did that answer your question? I’m passionate about this, obviously.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. Yes, you are.

James Coyle:

I’m passionate about everything.

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. And there’s a lot to unpack that you … I mean, you mentioned a few things. Obviously, visibility, transparency, KPIs, and it makes me wonder how do we create alignment between the field personnel and the office? Because obviously, the field has better tools to collect the data. Now, the office has to act on that and give a feedback loop so that those teams are working in symphony together. And what are some secrets to make that happen more efficiently?

James Coyle:

That’s interesting. So when I was a consultant in the ’90s at the same time we were developing the technology that would become Event 1 Software, my focus was getting operations and finance groups to work better together. But at first, I didn’t even know what the differences were. It wasn’t until I started working with operations and what they needed and what, and the state of technology. And then got a sense for their feelings for the people in the office. Well, they’re just a bunch of overhead and blah, blah, blah.

And I get that perspective, right? But they threw the baby out with the bath water. It’s like, well, there are a lot of things to run a business. And if you can’t get bonding and you can’t borrow money so that the cost of the money is less than what you’re making, you’re not going to be making a big bonus. So, I think that I was successful getting them to understand that communicating information, they have a stake in it.

Now, I thought that the other way would be less challenging, getting accounting to respect and work with the construction, the operations people. And really, it was harder because it was … Part of it, I think, is a lack of knowledge. I don’t know really what they do and what is compelling. I want to know. But they don’t take the time to share and they dismiss me and whatever. I mean, there’s some passive, aggressive … Not some. There’s a lot of passive, aggressive. There’s a ton of attention between those two groups.

So, educating the finance people so that they have somewhat of a better understanding of what you need. Like the personality of a project manager just frustrates a lot of finance people. But you need to have that personality in order to do that job. And so you have to understand. It’s like those birds, they have these wings and they are … Well, you need them if you’re going to fly. So get past that just because you don’t fly.

So getting the two groups to understand each other’s needs and how best to communicate, you got to go through things. And then why do they need to communicate? Why isn’t it important to really understand the field? And then why is it important for the field to be understood? All the rest isn’t going to work unless those two things are done. People tried to rush past that. And the two groups would sit and they would be separated, their arms cross, and they wouldn’t talk or get along.

So I was pretty good at being able to talk with the stakeholders and what they really need in order to be able to effectively cooperate and communicate. Then we could begin like, number one, let’s get operations, actionable information so they can do their job. They need to play with the numbers. Don’t take that away. Just project the finance-related numbers, because you need to know what’s doing on the field. And then the thing, well, they’re just going to lie to themselves and me until it’s too late.

Well, they aren’t doing it on their piece of paper or somewhere. So get them used to using certain technology that they use to run their job, and then with horrible and making a bad person begin to share it, it’s those kinds of things. I think that if there’s operational people listening or finance people, they can relate to the kinds of things that we’re talking about. I’m sure you had those experiences because you can talk to both parts, and you’re pretty unique in that with real life experience.

 

Mike Merrill:

Well, and I think the big thing, and it’s not to disparage one side or the other at all. It’s one speaking Chinese and the other one’s speaking English. It’s just not the same language. And they both think that their role-

 

James Coyle:

And they’re worried they’re one or the other.

 

Mike Merrill:

Right. They feel like their role is the one that matters because to them, it does because that’s their job. But today, what we continue to see and a lot of the guests that we’ve had to this point, what seems to keep being the recurring theme is that we have data capture solutions to get live field data that’s shared among both teams, and then agree that these are the key metrics that each needs.

And as long as the engine in the middle is calculating those just to your point, so that the numbers are getting crunched in the financial manner so that the office and the finance people speaks to them and what they need to know. But the field guys, they don’t care about the dollars and cents. They want to know quantities and budgets. And of course, the challenge with that-

 

James Coyle:

But we’re talking about factors. If we’re worrying about pennies, great. Let’s worry about the pennies. But I just lost $10,000. What do you think is more important for an operation person and a pennies person? Well, the pennies matter. Both are right, as you said.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. And exactly I guess really the sum of both of these is that they need one common platform or solution to communicate from each side. And then from there, they have the KPIs that matter to the field. They have the KPIs that matter to the finance office. And ownership management, the teams that need to make those financial decisions that have all the data they need for the next projects that they’re getting in the hopper.

 

James Coyle:

You have hit it spot on. I mean, there are KPIs that … There’s areas that I think that there’s distance and the two stakeholders, the two groups of stickers are not going to be on the same page. And that’s okay, right? People think, “Well, we have to do everything the same on both areas.” No, you don’t. Operations technology should serve operations. But the information necessary for finance should distill from that.

Finance has information that operations should need and should be given to them in a way and timely that is useful and reasonable, right? So both parties are served best by that. You can still hear me, right? It sound like my sound cut out a bit.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yep, I can hear you.

 

James Coyle:

Okay, good. I mean, I’ve heard all sorts of things on the periphery. But when we think about getting to the position of respect, respecting why finance exists and then it’s necessary, and you don’t have to know all the details, they know it. But you have to communicate in this way and finance accepting that an operational person is not a finance person and you don’t want them to be. Right?

But they can agree to communicate certain things. These performance indexes that can be communicated, benchmarks, some kind of information that can then be utilized, feel status. I mean, I don’t know how many people calculate whether they’re on budget by the budget and cost, which is that’s it. And there’s no field relevance. It’s like, “Seriously?” Or we have a contract and so it’s like, just because you have a contract with someone and if they’re underperforming, and the work has to be done before other work gets done, you don’t think that’s going to have an impact and you think you’re protected on a project? You’re not. They’re going to fall through.

You need to know all of that stuff regardless of whether you have a contract with someone to do it, or if you have a crew that’s mixed one way and the players are healthy and not infecting each other. There’s so many things to keep your eye on today that you didn’t even have 10 years ago. And it was hard back 10 years ago. So, yeah, I think you need to focus, distill out what’s most important and focus on getting that so that the numbers that people are working with are credible and you know what the dependencies are on those numbers. I think that’s absolutely essential today.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. So one of the things that I’m hearing you say is that you got people in the field that they’re very skilled at swinging hammer, or very skilled at welding, or doing something very specific to their role and the finance people don’t need them to understand what their job is. They need to focus on the production out in the field, the labor.

 

James Coyle:

They annoy them when someone’s counting saw blades that got broken, or one guy someone took one home. It’s like, they’re going like, “Who cares? Let’s get the job done.” Right? Well, someone’s watching those things. And I think it annoys the person doing the job and vice versa that the finance person goes, “Yeah, but I’m responsible for accounting for things.” No one’s going to except for me waving my hand going, “I don’t know.” But tolerance. A certain degree of tolerance on both parties is important. And then a desire to understand, right? That’ll allow them-

 

Mike Merrill:

Both sides think that they understand the big picture and the other side may not. And I think that’s the challenge. There’s one big picture and then there’s two semi big pictures and each of them have one of those and then all this is up there.

 

James Coyle:

And it just summed up our society as a whole. Well done. You could use this interaction for it and apply it to really a lot of things. Yes, I agree with you 100%.

 

Mike Merrill:

So one of the things … There’s a couple of areas that I know you and I we’ve known each other for 15, 20 years long time. We work with a lot of mutual clients, lots of similar companies out in the industry. And one of the things that I hear, and I know you’ve heard too, is companies will have what they call dump codes, or they’ll have a slush fund area that they bury costs that are overrun from a budget. What are the dangers of things like that that companies are facing?

 

James Coyle:

Well, like when I first started thinking about it I thought, “Okay, so the opposite of that is the illusion of accuracy and accountability.” I have everything coded and those are the right numbers. People will do that and wave their hand as if that really is the truth. I think the first thing is, let’s be real about what the information is and how accurate it is, your ability to account.

If you don’t have the practices in place from the beginning to take your expectations, transform them into real life actionable, right? The expectations that I’m going to conduct the project done, that’s your first danger point in having these little … I mean, a certain degree of this like, “I don’t know where to put this amount.” I mean, that’s fine. Overhead in the office and things like that, the CFOs like allocating them across jobs. A certain amount is you’re just not going to get away from it.

But if you don’t start a project with an idea of what my expectations are and how I’m actually going to produce this profitably and allocate it realistically, and then keep coming back to that and checking in with that, then this fund that is moving dollars around that I’ve seen and you’re referring to is going to grow. And there’s huge danger because right off the bat, a churn is there’s no expectation tied to that money. There’s no expectation and then how did I do?

So it’s just a big pool of unknown. And they’re not going to be comfortable, sorry, with that unknown at all. Like the people who you need in order to be able to say, “I can conduct this work profitably and finish the job.” And the surety says, “Well, I don’t believe you. I’m not bonding.” There’s a danger there, right? Then the project manager goes, “Oh, we do need them. I mean, they wouldn’t just …” Or that money costs something. So I have to account for it against expectations, because I don’t have all that money just laying around.

So the bigger that number is that’s in that unknown grouping, and I’ve seen people they’ll go, “Oh, well, we want a budget shift money.” There’s a big difference. The earlier it happens on a project, I think the more realistic the shifting is. So, if an estimator comes up with my estimate to get a bid, all right. Now, did they really know what their estimate was, and what it was based on where the risks? I don’t know, always, right? They go, “Well, I had to do it or wouldn’t have got the job.”

The project manager, someone has to look at that and go, “Okay, set that aside. This is what it’s going to cost to get this job done and this is how I’m going to do it.” Now, how much money do I have here? Right? And then they’re looking at going, “That’s not enough.” You better know that. Don’t pretend it’s not enough or it is enough when it isn’t. It’s like, “Well, we need to get as close to it being enough.” Right? It keeps people employed and all that.

So right off the bat, taking the estimate and allocating it the way you’re going to build it. But the other part in the challenge I’ve seen is, it’s like I have my way as an operational person of organizing my expectation. Finance has this rigid structure. They’ve got this general ledger thing. I don’t know what that thing is at all. And then they’ve got this CSI, Construction Specification Institute of codes, and I don’t think that they’re all that accurate.

But they want to confine me to that. Well, that’s fine. But I actually have to do the job. And then I have to communicate to the customer who might have a completely different way. And that finance doesn’t worry about that until they have to bill the person. So operations has to sit down and get everything laid out in a way that it can come with operational people, but communicate to finance.

And I think that is challenged. The earlier they do that in the cycle, and the more streamlined you are, the less you’re going to have this big, I don’t want to say it’s a slush fund. It’s a pool of unknown. But the thing is you and I both have seen. I’ve people meticulously account for things and I’m like, “What is that number based on?” Well, that’s the number. It came from where it’s like, “How does that have any semblance in reality? I don’t see any field related stuff that they’re even working with that.” Right? And they’re making business decisions on … What is that number? And so I’m passionate like, “Well, let’s not lie to ourselves.”

 

Mike Merrill:

Well, yeah, it makes me think of the, the statement that we hear all the time, if they ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Or, this is the way we’ve always done it. This is just the way we do it. And that could go for the field or the office, right?

 

James Coyle:

Yes. Yep. That’s one comment that has a historical frustration. And the other comment is that people make technology decisions, implementation decisions that affect large number of deals without understanding its impact on the other technology in organization, right? We’re going to change from this and this, and I just made that decision and you have no idea what that’s going to do or if the person could even use that technology. Right?

And IT people will do that. I’ll look at it going, “No, the right way to go about this is we look at how our company is going to operate what we need, and how the software has to weather. And then we make our decisions within that. And we make changes. No changes made just because your neighbor says, “Oh, you should buy XYZ,” what the heck does the neighbor know?

You need to know that it resonates with the rest of your technology. And IT people tend to just go, “Well, everyone else is using blah, blah, blah and it’s better.” Like 64 bit Microsoft office kinds of people, “Oh, that’s the thing.” As I dig deep, you get to the IT person is like, “Do you really know what you’re …” The only thing that resonates is that is the standard and it’s a pain to put on 32-bit. I get that. I understand that. That is a real cost. It’s a pain.

But they’ll go, “Well, we got big spreadsheets.” And I’m like, “There’s multi-billion dollar companies with a lot bigger spreadsheets on 32-bit. That’s not exert.” But IT people will pat each other on the back end say, “Yeah, that’s how I make a decision.” So I’m saying that there are legitimate business decisions and a drive toward technology. There are people who will go down a path and they’re like cows sometimes.

I’m down this path out here in the steel and all of a sudden you don’t realize that there are offenses around you. At first, they were a long way away. You never saw the fences. And then they’re closer and priests and you realize, “What is that?” Well, that’s a fence. What does that mean? It means we’re not here for all that. The closer those things get, the less time we have. Right? They don’t realize that.

And so, technology decisions can be like that. We make decisions. And pretty soon we find ourselves confined by the limitations of whatever the technology is. And someone says, “How did we get here? How do we ever make a decision that we’re going to do this when this mission critical thing didn’t work with that?” Well, because you didn’t follow good process. So that’s my other areas, not just going to the latest and greatest because it’s the latest and greatest, right?

Lots of people have all sorts of gadgets and stuff in their house they don’t use. They seem great. But when push comes to shove and you’re stressed, you go to your habits and the status quo. It needs to be intuitively incorporated. And training can overcome that to an extent, I think. There’s a lot here. I’m sorry. You asked me questions opens up a whole can. But I think you understand what I’m saying and appreciate it. I can see some pain in your eyes so you feel it too from your past experience as a technology provider and a consumer of technology. And I think that the people listening to this can relate to that.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, you’re really spot on. I think because I look back, there are so many things that we wish we could do over. Everybody says, if you could just go back and make that decision again. And my whole technology career has been basically trying to repent from the sense of the past that I didn’t do well and wish I would have. And so, I try and share that pain and that wisdom gained with those that are making those same decisions today. And hopefully, not the wrong ones.

 

James Coyle:

The worst of vendors are technology companies, right?

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah.

 

James Coyle:

You’re a technology company and you make a decision that …

 

Mike Merrill:

Right.

 

James Coyle:

Well, the most important thing is that sales can actually operate and we can follow up with our customers. If it doesn’t aid our communication with our customers, prospects and existing ones, then get rid of it. Right? And so, well, we need this because it stayed in the yard. It’s like, “Well, you just eliminate my way to timely communicate with customers. Did you not pay attention to what was most important to the company?”

Technology companies make that mistake. We’re human, right? And we’re all attracted by everybody’s going in this direction maybe I should too. And no plan to make sure that that you can utilize that within what you’re capable of using as a team, right? You get a highly motivated, good, intelligent people, not the most. It doesn’t matter. But they’re motivated to communicate with each other, working together with even aids technology, and they will outperform these smart people with the newest technology that aren’t on the same page and are tuned into the most important criteria profits are tied to. Absolutely.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, and if I read between the lines of in your comment, I think what you’re stating is effective communication between the teams is really the secret in the middle.

 

James Coyle:

Absolutely.

 

Mike Merrill:

It’s not just a new system or a better system. It’s communication first.

 

James Coyle:

The systems are supposed to serve that. But look at where were technology was. Once upon a time, we didn’t have … I mean, when I first got hired for this wine technology reseller, I learned a fax machine. So I could fax a proposal and they go, “Well, why do you need a fax?” Now, fax is we’re newer. Okay. But it’s like what everybody has and I need the fax so I can get it down there. So I don’t have to drive downtown Cleveland from outside. Right? It depends on when I have to leave. I didn’t want to do it. And they were like, well, don’t buy technology just for the sake of buying it I think was the point.

But you go forward in time to other technology decisions that people have made and I have made, right? And it’s like, “Do I really need this? How is it going to help?” Well, sometimes the technology is amazing. Like this. A mobile device is fantastic tool. And it can also be the bane of our existence. What do you mean? I’m very responsive. When I get an email, I respond. And when I get a text I respond. And this is supposedly a phone. And no one picks it up and talks to people, right? Right?

It’s like communication has to be personable. You have to know what that person is and what’s going on in their life. But people use technology to get away from those things without even being aware. And I think that a lot of people listening going, “Oh my God. Yeah, that’s right.” Yeah. And I do the same thing.

 

Mike Merrill:

That was very insightful what you share that the technology is supposed to serve that communication process and not the other way around.

 

James Coyle:

We’re places.

 

Mike Merrill:

We’re slave to the technology.

 

James Coyle:

Right. If it aids in timely communication, responsiveness, great. But remember that I said what people don’t do is they don’t set up. Here’s our business. Here’s how we operate. So what’s our mantra? What’s really our KPI? Well, we need to touch our customers global at times. Well, I did by email and text. No, you miss the human element. It’s the bane of a lot of existences is different between a service company being called back or me tolerating some issue. And it really all the companies. Right?

Well, you’re highly effective, communicating timely and everything, but you miss the human element. They didn’t get the email and you never knew it. You just assume they did. If you don’t pick up the phone and call and confirm every now and then at least, you don’t get that. And so now the technology that dialed in more and more and more and timely communication began to not serve its core purpose. And where a phone doesn’t act as a phone anymore. It’s so funny, right?

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. Brilliant. Well, this has been a very enjoyable conversation. I’ve had a lot of fun today. We could probably go on another couple of hours, I’m sure.

 

James Coyle:

Yes, totally, would fun. Maybe I’ll be back sometimes.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. We’ll need to do that for sure. So I guess just in wrapping up, one of the questions that I like to ask each guest at the end is, is there a hack or a super power or something that James Coyle does and something that you try and embody that you’ve learned over the years that’s really served you in your career that others might be able to learn from?

 

James Coyle:

Well, my biggest superpower things that differentiated me all along was my desire to interact with actively listen, communicate to the person. So I really heard them, right? And that I communicate and follow up. Right? So that’s how our technology was built for the smartest people out there. But we listened to what people wanted, built something they could use, and then we kept checking in with them. It’s that person contact, but really listening. And I think a lot of times people listen to get their point confirmed, right? Like, “Oh, at some point they said this, so that validated our decision. Let’s move forward.” It’s like, “Did you actually listen to what they were saying?” It’s one thing they said. So, that’s the biggest superpowers is I think I do a pretty good job on that.

 

Mike Merrill:

Well, great. Well, very insightful. And again, thank you so much for joining us today, James. This has been fantastic and we’ll definitely have to have you on again and talk a little bit more shop.

 

James Coyle:

Absolutely. My pleasure. And thanks to you for this investment in the people and really the industry in general. That’s what I love is that we’re improving that experience for all these folks. Not just making a profit at someone’s expense, but improving their experience. I’m passionate about that. Thank you. I really appreciate you doing this.

 

Mike Merrill:

Absolutely. We’re on the same page there. We’re on this together.

 

James Coyle:

Absolutely.

 

Mike Merrill:

All right. Thank you, James.

 

James Coyle:

You’re welcome. Take care of them.

 

Mike Merrill:

Thank you for joining us on the Mobile Workforce Podcast today sponsored by AboutTime Technologies and WorkMax. If you like the conversation, or were able to gain insightful tips or tricks, give us a follow on Instagram @workmax_, and subscribe to the show on iTunes, or your preferred podcast platform and you’ll never miss another insightful episode. Also, if you enjoyed the podcast, please leave us a five star rating and review and share the show with your friends and colleagues. Our goal is always to help you improve your business, and improve your life.