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Supply-Side Processes Improve Job Site Productivity

Supply-Side Processes Improve Job Site Productivity

Material delays. Out of stock materials with no anticipated date of availability. These are the realities even the best contractors face from time to time. The good news is there are ways to avoid supplier shortages so you can keep your project’s timeline and budget intact. 

In this episode, we invited Buck Buchanan, the president of Buchanan Business Consulting, to share his experience from the supplier side. He breaks down tips and tactics to remain in control of your supply chain no matter what is happening in the market. 

 

Key Takeaways:

  1. Build multiple supplier relationships. Expand upon what your options are by having one supplier that is cost-effective, one that is reliable in all situations, and a third that is very flexible to meet your unique needs. 
  2. Be aware of the trends in your community. Knowing what is happening nationally and internationally is really important for your planning, but don’t underestimate the effect on supply that the trends in your local area have.
  3. Building relationships goes both ways. Build authentic relationships with your suppliers. Give grace when possible and avoid treating them like a commodity. Engaging during good times leads to suppliers going above and beyond when you are in a pinch.

 

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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 Buck Buchanan, the President of Buchanan Business Consulting. And buck is full of wisdom and practical tips from many years of working on the supply side of construction. Buck has a rich and long history, lots of experience, and, I think, a unique perspective on job site productivity as it relates to supply and demand. Welcome, Buck. We’re glad to have you on the podcast today. Thank you for joining us.

 

Buck Buchanan:

Thanks, Mike. Thanks for having me, and I look forward to the conversation. This ought to be fun.

 

Mike Merrill:

Great. Sounds awesome. Well, first off, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself and your history and your company, and also just your day to day.

 

Buck Buchanan:

Okay, sure. So today, I have a consulting business. And I do some consulting with a variety of clients, some construction, some not construction. I do some executive

coaching now. But my roots go back to construction. So for over 35 years, I worked on the construction product side. So I worked for two different manufacturers that made products. We made plasters, paint, stuccos, waterproofing material, tile grouts, tile adhesives, things along those lines. And we sold them in both residential and commercial markets. We had some outlets that went through the DIY supply side, some of them went through the dealer side, some of them went through the national distribution side. So we went through a variety of different ways to get our product to market. But I was able to really work throughout the United States, and really even into Canada, and even got involved in export developments for a while. So I’ve seen it on that side.

And the people that I’ve dealt with, which I think might be important for your people that are listening in, I’ve dealt with the architects, the contractors, the general contractors, the builders. So I’ve touched all pieces of the people that are actually on the ground working on projects.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, that’s an interesting perspective for sure. And I’m sure our listeners will appreciate learning some insights from you. Obviously, this last year has presented us with a lot of new challenges with supply and demand and materials and travel restrictions and shipping restrictions. What things should business leaders be looking for while trying to navigate these types of challenges moving forward?

 

Buck Buchanan:

Well, I think the big thing is to really understand where you are and what are your relationships with your suppliers? Because it’s interesting, the people that I talk to, it’s a very fluid process. But if you go back to March when this started, nobody really knew what to expect. So everybody plodded along, and the jobs you had work in, you were trying to finish them up. In some states, you were able to work. Some States, you had to shut down. So we all had to go through that. And now that we’re six, eight months into this, some people are doing well, some people are finishing up jobs. Some people don’t know what’s going to happen next year, other people think it’s going to be great next year. So there’s a lot of that that you run into.

And then you’re also seeing on the supply side of things that some of the things are not as readily available as they were in the past. And some of that was because, I think, industry shut down. Industry shut down in some cases for two or three months and they stopped production. And now that people are trying to get done before the winter starts, get their jobs ready, there’s a shortage of material. So that’s where things are. And so people really got to keep their eye on the supply-side today.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. And I think, too, this is true with a lot of parts of business, job site productivity is important but communication is always key, and especially when you’re trying to work out completing a project where you have resources that are required in a timely manner. What is the main communication issue that you see between the job sites and suppliers today?

 

Buck Buchanan:

Well, I think it’s the because of the, let’s call it potential shortages, that you’re running into, what a contractor needs to be looking for is to make sure they’re really dealing with a supplier that they can trust and rely upon. And I think it’s because there is a flux in certain products, again, depends on where it was. Last month, wood prices went through the roof. So if you’re building a house, number one, your cost went up. Number two, why did costs go up? Because there was a shortage of material. So that was one thing that people need to be really aware of.

The only way to navigate through that is to make sure whoever you are, whether you’re the subcontractor, the builder, or the general contractor, you need to make sure that you’re staying in touch with the supplier so they can give you the heads up of what are the lead times. When are they getting materials in and how’s that going to impact my job? And again, obviously there’s a cost factor, as well as a time element, of just the pure raw material. So the key element, I think, is you really need to be in touch with your supplier.

One other thing I’ll throw in here is some of the dynamics may change a bit in that the contractors need to have reliable suppliers. Now, some contractors say, “Well, I’ll just shop that out tomorrow and I’ll go to supplier A, B, or C, whoever’s going to give me the best price.” And that works pretty successful for some of these guys. But now may not be the time to do that. They may need to be thinking about going to supplier A because he’s more reliable than supplier C, which may have the better price.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. So what I’m hearing is regular communication with those suppliers to keep a finger on the pulse of the supplies that are available. 

 

Buck Buchanan:

Yeah. Because it is fluid, again, some products may be readily available, they may have inventory. Others, they may not have inventory. Some are specialty products, which there’s not as much manufacturing time as it was in the past. So it really depends. Anywhere from lighting fixtures to lumber to drywall all have their own set point of what their availability is these days.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. And I’ve heard quite a bit, and I’ve seen this over the years, where larger companies, sometimes they’re able to stockpile and maybe warehouse and store materials that they know they’re going to need a lot of in advance. And of course, that can cause more shortage of the available materials on the open market.

 

Buck Buchanan:

Sure, sure.

 

Mike Merrill:

So if you were a contractor today, what kinds of things would you do to shield yourself from those types of shortages or those issues in delay?

 

Buck Buchanan:

Well, again, planning is really an important thing now. And I think you’ve got to plan your job and what your needs are so you schedule them accordingly. And in that schedule is you’re taking into account is when can I get my materials? When can I get them delivered to the job site? Are these products that are in inventory, if they are normally, you need to make sure you check with the supplier to make sure they do keep these products in inventory. Is it a specialty product?

If it’s a specialty product, it’s got additional lead times. You need to be thinking about that as well. So if it’s a specified product, if it has to go through an approval process at the architectural level in the specification writer level, then you need to make sure that you’re taking that into account along with the supply side of the goods. Because just because it goes through an approval process, then you just have to order it. Well, okay. If you’re not aware of what the lead times are on the order end, then you’re going to have problems with that.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. I know we were talking a little bit before we hit record, but I built a home last year, finished it pre-COVID. But there were some interesting things that I ran into. As a former general contractor myself and trades contractor, I have a handle on this stuff normally. But when it came time to do my trusses, all of the truss plants, just about every one of them were over three months out. that cuts into your job site productivity. And so you better be measuring that foundation as soon as it’s poured, because if not, your house is going to be sitting for months on end. And that was partially related to materials a little bit, but most of it was just the labor shortage, and the space that they had to build only so many trusses a day for a home, and you just had to get in line.

 

Buck Buchanan:

That’s right. And you bring up labor, and that’s before COVID has been an issue. There has been a labor shortage in construction really since the recession that we had in 2008, 2009. And that has also put a real damper on construction, because now these builders got to figure out where am I going to get the people to build a building? Do I have skilled labor? Is there just general labor available? And that’s really been a big challenge.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. And I’ve heard, too, and I don’t know, maybe you can shed some insight on this, but I’ve heard, and I’ve seen this in the past as well, but it seems to be coming up to the surface again, where some of these suppliers are getting into the installation business maybe where previously they weren’t. Can you talk about that a little bit?

 

Buck Buchanan:

Yeah. I haven’t seen that too much, except I would say the flooring industry seems to have done more of that than, let’s say, any of the other trades. The lumber trade, the concrete trades, the drywall trades, I haven’t seen that happen. But certainly in the flooring side, hardwood floors, carpeting, tile, et cetera, there are cases where that’s happened, and there’s some trend lines going in that direction. But I’m not really aware of other ones. There probably are, but I’m just saying that I know in flooring, it’s been going on for some time.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. I know previous, you mentioned the housing bubble in ’06, ’07. At least where I’m at in Utah, we had a lot of the lumber suppliers here that were running and managing their own labor crews to install the lumber, to do the framing.

 

Buck Buchanan:

Oh, really?

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah I know the work. And I think at the time, there was so much demand on subcontractors that they felt like they had more lumber to sell than they could have installed, and so they decided to get into that end of the game just to help make sure that they could keep the lumber moving through their yard quicker by providing labor also.

 

Buck Buchanan:

Well, that makes sense. That certainly makes sense. Again, what’s interesting is when I had the opportunity to travel the United States and see lots of the markets to find that there’s niches of how things are done in certain markets, and it can vary from one end of the country to the other.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. Another thing that we talked about a little bit, I had heard here through the grapevine, some of the more specialized lumber suppliers, the non-Home Depot, Lowe’s type lumberyards, weren’t selling to retail customers. They were conserving their inventory for the contractors that had accounts and were frequenting them because there was just such a shortage that they weren’t going to shortchange their contractors that were giving them business all year, year after year.

 

Buck Buchanan:

And I would say that I could see that happening. And I actually experienced that when I was in California. And this was in 2005, 2006, and we were making stucco. Well, if you drive out in California, stucco’s everywhere. And business was so good, this was ’06, that we had to do that. We had to limit to our better customers that we supplied our stucco to. So that can certainly happen when there’s a shortage and when business is rolling along.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. So we’ve talked a little bit about this 2008 time period, that recession that we hit. Are you seeing any trends today with COVID or other things going on resurfacing? What are your thoughts on that?

 

Buck Buchanan:

Well, I think there’s a couple things. One thing you learned from 2008 was that you need to readjust your business according to what’s going on in the world today, or the economy or your local market. So I think that’s one big thing. So just because maybe businesses booming in Colorado, the business may not be great in Kansas. So you’ve got to adjust your business accordingly.

I think what a lot of people are running into now, if you look at construction, either on the residential side, most markets, certainly particularly the Sunbelt, the South, you’re seeing that the residential market is still pretty vigorous right now. There’s still activity. Multi-family is coming in big, particularly in metro areas. You’re seeing a lot of activity on the residential side.

But when you get into some of the commercial markets, you’re seeing some shifting going on. So for example, if you’ve been by a shopping center lately, we got lots of them here in the Atlanta area. They’re in Dallas and Salt Lake and Los Angeles and everywhere else. You’re seeing that those places, those stores are closing. And that’s shifting because somebody rings your front door and your package is delivered. So that’s causing some change in that you’re going from the standalone stores, which retail was a huge part of, that shift is now going to more of the warehousing or the industrial construction. So fulfillment centers and distribution centers are becoming big, whereas some of the retail is going away. So you’re seeing some of those things shift and change, and so you have to adjust your business according to those particular models.

I think that’s one thing we’re seeing… It was going on before COVID hit, but it’s been accentuated now that COVID’s been here because people just don’t go out. So that’s caused changes. You look at transportation, airports. Where has the airline industry been in a while? Last eight months hasn’t been very good, which means hotel and motel industries are going down. So if your business was heavily focused in those sectors, you needed to make some adjustments.

 

Mike Merrill:

Well, so speaking of that, what can our listeners learn from the experiences you had in going through 2008 and coming out the other side, different or changed or whatever adaptations you made? Is there any wisdom you can impart for them?

 

Buck Buchanan:

Well, I think you’ve got to be realistic as to what you think your business is going to be doing. You can’t go back in history and say last year was really good, so this year should be really good. You’ve got to look at it is your market there? And the market being is whatever your niche is, your target markets are, are those still moving forward? And are they moving forward in the short term and the mid term? And I think that’s one thing. And then you need to be making adjustments to say hey, are we adjusting our business to fit where the market is going? Because for example, if you’re working 100 guys in the field and you see there’s a shift in your marketplace, those are really good 100 guys, you got, but you only need 60 going forward. So you need to make those kinds of adjustments now as you move forward. So I think that’s certainly one aspect.

Another aspect, too, is to look at, on the supply side, is to say do we really need to be doing all this? Or can we narrow our focus down to concentrate on where we’re really making money? And if we do that, then we may eliminate some costs. Maybe you got involved in doing some form of your business because the general contractor said, “Hey, can you do this?” “Yeah, I can do that.” “Hey, can I do this?” “Yeah, I can do that.” Before you knew it, you got into three or four things beyond what your specialty was, and now you’re just getting by. So point being is refocus your business based on where your focus is as how you see the business is going to be operating in the next 12 to 18 months. That would be the biggest thing that I could offer. And then you got to have the guts to make the changes. Again, if you see your business going from 100 to 60 people, that’s not an easy decision to make, but you got to make the right decision for your business as it goes forward.

 

Mike Merrill:

So you mean the bury your head in the sand business plan isn’t very effective?

 

Buck Buchanan:

I don’t think so. I don’t think you’ll last. And I can tell you that our philosophy was, when we were going through this, is we wanted to be stronger when we came out on the other side. And so we did what we had to do to keep our infrastructure in place. We had eight manufacturing plants. We wanted to keep those eight manufacturing plants going, but we weren’t going to be able to run them six days a week like we had been. So we had to scale down, we had to move products from one plant to another so they became more efficient. So we had to readjust our focus on our business, what we were making, what we were doing. We had to refocus our employees. We had to move some of them around. And frankly, we had to get rid of some of them because we just couldn’t afford to carry that number. So again, you got to make the adjustments based on where the business is going to be.

 

Mike Merrill:

So what I’m hearing, too, is the old adage measure twice, cut once. You really need to take an accurate measurement before you start cutting.

 

Buck Buchanan:

Amen, brother. That’s for sure.

 

Mike Merrill:

All right. Well, so looking back over your career, you have a lot of experience, many years, decades. What’s the biggest lesson that you’ve learned that still comes into play for you today?

 

Buck Buchanan:

Well, I think that a lot of people need to consider this, is in construction, and you can get involved in dealing with BM systems and CAD drawings and digitizing of drawings, et cetera. But at the end of the day, it’s you’re still dealing with people. And I think relationships are very important. And I think that’s probably the biggest point that I could bring out, is number one is you got to have relationships all up and down through the chain. And the chain in construction starts with the owner, it goes to the general contractor down to the subcontractor to your supplier. All those people are involved in the construction process, and you need to have good relationships all throughout that. And if you’ll do that, I think that’s the number one thing.

There’s a couple other things that I think are really important as well, is number one, listen. A lot of people like to talk and they don’t listen. And I used to manage sales forces couple of different times in my career. I found out that a lot of times, that salespeople like to just talk and not listen to what the customer was trying to tell them. And I think that’s true whether you’re a builder, whether you’re a subcontractor, whether you’re a supplier. If you’re dealing with people, listen to what the people are telling you. Because if you do that, you’ll find out what their real needs are. And you’ll find out where they are in their emotional level and where they are in their business levels. So listen is one.

Another thing is once you listen, is to make sure that you follow up with them on that. And a lot of times, people will listen and then they won’t follow up. So you’ll go in and have a good meeting with a subcontractor and you think things worked out well. And you said, “I’ll give you a call Friday and let you know how you’re coming on that contract.” But you don’t call the subcontractor. You don’t call him until you’re in a jam and you call him. Well, guess what? By the time you’re in a jam, he’s picked up four or five more jobs, and you didn’t follow up with him and you got no point on his radar. If he can pitch in, he will, but he may not be. So that relationship goes back into it. So follow up, and then do what you promised the guy you’re going to do.

So again, relationships, listening, and follow up on what you say you’re going to do. If you do those things, I think you’d be pretty successful in what you do. Because again, people want to deal with people they like doing business with. And that can make a difference whether you’re a big general contractor or you’re building two houses. It’s the same with supplies.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. I love what you did to tie all that up together, because I think too often, especially with sales guys, they they’re listening to respond. They’re trying to get the words out of their mouth sometimes before someone else is done talking. You can listen, and it’s not like the text message where you get the read receipt. Well, they opened my text. Well, it doesn’t necessarily mean they read it or that they thought about it or made any decision on it.

So I think that following up and treating them with respect. And then also, fostering that relationship as another person and not just a supplier or a sub or something that you don’t have respect for them. When you need to call in those favors, when you are in a pinch, you have that relationship to fall back on to ask for that special favor or a little extra help. And I think in my experience, most of the time, generally, people want to do well, want to do the right thing or do good things, and they’ll try and help you out in a jam if they can. If you have that relationship established, to your point.

 

Buck Buchanan:

Absolutely. Absolutely. And I think that’s really important, is to make sure you’ve got those kinds of relationships. But again, when I refer to the selling chain, everybody that’s going to be involved in the building process, you need to have the relationship with them and you need to listen to them. A lot of times, people, they’ve got programmed in their head well, I’m going to say this when I get in front of that guy. It’s almost like they hit play. Well, they don’t know when to hit stop. Well, they hit stop once the guy says you got the order, that’s when you hit stop. You just don’t keep going after it because you’re only on slide 35 of the 50 slide show, right?

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. Sage advice, no question about it. So in winding things up, one of the questions that I like to ask, and that I’m always curious with our guests, is what’s been a hack or a shortcut, something you’ve found in your career and your experience, that’s helped you really get ahead or have an advantage that’s been a blessing to you?

 

Buck Buchanan:

Well, again, I go back to the relationship point. And to me, again, I think that’s key. A key element is to have the relationships, get to know the people. Another thing is know as much about the business as you can. Too many times, people don’t understand what they’re dealing with. They don’t understand how the other side deals.

So for example, when you’re competing against another supplier, what does that supplier do better than what I do? I need to know that. What does that owner of that business do that I need to know about? The guy that’s going to build this track of houses down the street, that’s going to build 200 homes, what’s in his head? What do they like to do? What are the things that turn turns them off? What are the things that gets their hot buttons going? So know as much as you can about who you’re dealing with, whether they’re going to be a customer or whether they’re somebody you’re competing with. Because the more you know about them, the better off you’re going to be.

It’s no different than when you sit down on Sunday and you watch the NFL play football. And there’s 20 some odd coaches and they’re trying to figure out what that other team’s doing. So why? Because they want to know how they can compete with them and how they can beat them. It’s no different in life or business. You need to know… And too many people don’t know what’s going on in the business. They don’t know who they’re competing with, they don’t know what they’re up against.

We started this conversation by talking about supply. And again, the only way you can understand that supply is have a good relationship with the people that are supplying your stuff. And if you do that, then you’re going to be okay. So understand what your supplier’s doing, understand what you’re competing with, understand what your customers want. So those, to me, are things that you understand the landscape, you got to understand who you’re competing with. If you learn all that, I think that’s a big benefit for you.

 

Mike Merrill:

Well, and it’s almost like for those of us that are married, you’re going to spend eight to 10 hours a day with your spouse or your significant other. And you’re going to probably spend eight to 10 hours a day working, and then you’re going to sleep and do whatever else the rest of the time. So if a third of our lives is spent behind a desk or at an office or on a job site or somewhere related to our construction business, it’s a pretty significant portion of our time investment in life. So I think what I’m hearing you say is act like it.

 

Buck Buchanan:

Yeah. Learn the business. Understand… And the businesses is the entire business. It’s how everything works, it’s the people that are involved with it, it’s the people you compete with. That’s what the business is all about. If you’re building houses, you’re competing with somebody else building a house. If you’re selling material, you’re competing with somebody else that’s selling material. So it’s really no different. So you got to understand the entire market. So yeah, you’re right.

 

Mike Merrill:

Well, thank you so much. This has been a great conversation today. Very insightful. And it’s a the silent side, I think. Sometimes the companies, they forget about the supply side, I think, more often than not. So great to have your insights and thank you for joining us today.

Thanks for the listeners for joining the WorkMax Mobile Podcast, sponsored by About Time Technologies and WorkMax. If you liked this conversation, please feel free to give us a like, and follow us on Instagram @_workmax.com, and subscribe on iTunes or your preferred platform. And if you enjoyed the podcast, please give us a five star rating and review to help us to continue to provide this valuable resource to our market that helps you improve your business and your life.

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. 

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 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. 

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 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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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.

From Office to Field Communication Breakdown 

From Office to Field Communication Breakdown 

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

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

Key Takeaways:

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

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Episode Transcript:

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Tony Booth:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Tony Booth:

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

 

Tony Booth:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Tony Booth:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Tony Booth:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Tony Booth:

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

 

Tony Booth:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Tony Booth:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Tony Booth:

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

 

Tony Booth:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Tony Booth:

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

 

Tony Booth:

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

 

Tony Booth:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Tony Booth:

Right.

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Tony Booth:

Right.

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Tony Booth:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Tony Booth:

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

 

Tony Booth:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Tony Booth:

Absolutely.

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Tony Booth:

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

 

Tony Booth:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Tony Booth:

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

 

Tony Booth:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Tony Booth:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Tony Booth:

No.

 

Mike Merrill:

Excel, really isn’t a platform either.

 

Tony Booth:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Tony Booth:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah.

 

Tony Booth:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Tony Booth:

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

 

Tony Booth:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Tony Booth:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

Right.

 

Tony Booth:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Tony Booth:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Tony Booth:

There’s nothing.

 

Mike Merrill:

It’s just an expense, right?

 

Tony Booth:

Uh-huh (affirmative). No, exactly.

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Tony Booth:

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

 

Tony Booth:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Tony Booth:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Tony Booth:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Tony Booth:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Tony Booth:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Tony Booth:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Tony Booth:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Tony Booth:

That’s right.

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Tony Booth:

Absolutely. Totally agree.

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Tony Booth:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Tony Booth:

Oh yeah.

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Tony Booth:

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

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

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

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Tony Booth:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Tony Booth:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

No problem.

 

Tony Booth:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Tony Booth:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

Be the Construction Job Site Hero

Be the Construction Job Site Hero

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

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

Key Takeaways:

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

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

 

Ron Babich:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Ron Babich:

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

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Ron Babich:

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

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

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Ron Babich:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

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

 

Ron Babich:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Ron Babich:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Ron Babich:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Ron Babich:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Ron Babich:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Ron Babich:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Ron Babich:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Ron Babich:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Ron Babich:

Digits, years. Yeah

 

Mike Merrill:

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

Ron Babich:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Ron Babich:

That’s right. That’s right

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Ron Babich:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Ron Babich:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Ron Babich:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Ron Babich:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Ron Babich:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Ron Babich:

Yes. North Phoenix

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Ron Babich:

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

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Ron Babich:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Ron Babich:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Ron Babich:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Ron Babich:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Ron Babich:

Yes, yes.

 

Mike Merrill:

Like Pilates right?

 

Ron Babich:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Ron Babich:

Thanks, Mike. Always a pleasure. Take care.

 

Mike Merrill:

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

Construction Data: Understanding the Value 

Construction Data: Understanding the Value 

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

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

 

Key Takeaways:

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

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Episode Transcript:

Mike Merril:

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

 

Dennis Stejskal:

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

 

Mike Merril:

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

 

Dennis Stejskal:

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

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

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

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

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

 

Mike Merril:

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

 

Dennis Stejskal:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Mike Merril:

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

 

Dennis Stejskal:

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

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

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

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

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

 

Mike Merril:

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

 

Dennis Stejskal:

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

 

Mike Merril:

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

 

Dennis Stejskal:

Yep. Yep.

 

Mike Merril:

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

 

Dennis Stejskal:

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

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

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

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

 

Mike Merril:

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

 

Dennis Stejskal:

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

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

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

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

 

Mike Merril:

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

 

Dennis Stejskal:

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

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

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

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

 

Mike Merril:

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

 

Dennis Stejskal:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Mike Merril:

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

 

Dennis Stejskal:

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

 

Mike Merril:

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

 

Dennis Stejskal:

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

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

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

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

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

 

Mike Merril:

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

 

Dennis Stejskal:

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

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

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

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

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

 

Mike Merril:

Wow.

 

Dennis Stejskal:

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

 

Mike Merril:

Wow.

 

Dennis Stejskal:

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

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

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

 

Mike Merril:

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

 

Dennis Stejskal:

Yeah.

 

Mike Merril:

One last question for you, Dennis.

 

Dennis Stejskal:

Sure.

 

Mike Merril:

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

 

Dennis Stejskal:

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

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

 

Mike Merril:

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

 

Dennis Stejskal:

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

 

Mike Merril:

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

Purpose Process and Profit, The Keys to Construction Business Success

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

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

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

Key Takeaways:

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

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

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

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:

Podcast Transcript:

Mike Merill:

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

 

Brian Kaskavalciyan:

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

 

Mike Merill:

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

 

Brian Kaskavalciyan:

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

 

Mike Merill:

Sure. Yeah tell us about it.

 

Brian Kaskavalciyan:

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

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

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

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

 

Mike Merill:

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

 

Brian Kaskavalciyan:

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

 

Mike Merill:

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

 

Brian Kaskavalciyan:

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

 

Mike Merill:

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

 

Brian Kaskavalciyan:

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

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

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

 

Mike Merill:

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

 

Brian Kaskavalciyan:

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

 

Mike Merill:

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

 

Brian Kaskavalciyan:

Exactly yeah.

 

Mike Merill:

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

 

Brian Kaskavalciyan:

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

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

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

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

 

Mike Merill:

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

 Brian Kaskavalciyan:

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

 

Mike Merill:

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

 

Brian Kaskavalciyan:

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

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

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

 

Mike Merill:

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

 

Brian Kaskavalciyan:

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

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

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

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

 

Mike Merill:

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

Brian Kaskavalciyan:

Exactly.

 

Mike Merill:

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

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

 

Brian Kaskavalciyan:

Right.

 

Mike Merill:

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

 

Brian Kaskavalciyan:

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

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

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

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

 

Mike Merill:

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

 

Brian Kaskavalciyan:

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

 

Mike Merill:

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

 

Brian Kaskavalciyan:

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

 

Mike Merill:

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

 

Brian Kaskavalciyan:

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

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

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

 

Mike Merill:

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

 

Brian Kaskavalciyan:

Yep, absolutely.

 

Mike Merill:

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

 

Brian Kaskavalciyan:

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

 

Mike Merill:

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

 

Brian Kaskavalciyan:

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

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

 

Mike Merill:

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

 

Brian Kaskavalciyan:

Cool. Thanks Mike. Thanks for having me.

 

Mike Merill:

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

Delegation, The Thin Line Between Success and Failure

Delegation, The Thin Line Between Construction Success and Failure

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

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

Key Takeaways:

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

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Click Play to Listen to the Podcast Now: 

Podcast Transcript:

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Randy Brothers:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Randy Brothers:

Heck, yeah.

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Randy Brothers:

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

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Randy Brothers:

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

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Randy Brothers:

Absolutely, yeah.

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Randy Brothers:

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

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Randy Brothers:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Randy Brothers:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

Randy Brothers:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Randy Brothers:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Randy Brothers:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Randy Brothers:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Randy Brothers:

Yep, absolutely.

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Randy Brothers:

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

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Randy Brothers:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Randy Brothers:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, we win together, right?

 

Randy Brothers:

Absolutely. All ships rise, right?

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Randy Brothers:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Randy Brothers:

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

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Randy Brothers:

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

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Randy Brothers:

Yeah, very much so.

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Randy Brothers:

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

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Randy Brothers:

Oh yeah, way late.

 

Mike Merrill:

Your competitors are.

 

Randy Brothers:

Oh yeah.

 

Mike Merrill:

No question about it.

 

Randy Brothers:

Your competitors are creating technology.

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Randy Brothers:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Randy Brothers:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Randy Brothers:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Randy Brothers:

Let’s do it.

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Randy Brothers:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Randy Brothers:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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