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Analytics in Construction: Beginner’s Guide to Data Visualization and BI 

Analytics in Construction: Beginner’s Guide to Data Visualization and BI 

Every industry has trends that come and go, so it’s understandable leaders get wary of the latest buzzwords. The true test of what’s a shiny toy object versus what has longevity is the value it provides. Take Business Intelligence, or BI for short. BI gives contractors the ability to visualize data and quickly decipher it so they can recognize trends on the job site and take action. The buzz around the power of analytics is for good reason. BI and data visualization signify a huge step forward in construction technology and productivity. 

In this episode, Frank Di Lorenzo Jr. and Ben Harrison from Preferred Strategies share how to take the data you have and leverage it with the help of BI. They also share how BI can be used with other key technologies, such as machine learning and artificial intelligence, to put powerful reporting in the hands of everyone on the job site. 

 

Key Takeaways:

  1. Data visualization makes KPI tracking actionable and timely. According to Frank, visualized KPIs give a contractor the same power that the dials and instruments in an airplane cockpit give a pilot. When everything is going right, it’s hard to say if altitude is more important than how much fuel is left in the tank. But when the fuel is getting closer to the red line, the pilot is immediately alerted where to focus. Frank says data visualization is much the same. It gives insight into the analytics of a project to reveal how it is doing and offers alerts on KPIs contractors should focus on.
  2. Contractors need a data feedback loop. Labor used to be tracked by filling out time cards, only for them to be put in a filing cabinet never to be seen again. Now everyone on the job site has a phone or a mobile tablet that’s always connected and providing real-time data, like safety forms and task progress, back to the main office. This connection creates a feedback loop where the information flows from the job site to the office and back again on a continual basis. This is important because it is this feedback loop that gives BI and visualizations their power. Giving users the ability to see the data analytics from others on the same job site ensures that everyone makes the best decisions with all of the information available. 
  3. Business Intelligence far surpasses spreadsheets. In its day, Excel was a useful tool for basic tracking and reporting on a job site or business –– that has all changed with BI. BI consists of dynamic data coming from different parts of the business and provides historical, current, and predictive views of business operations on the fly. Unlike Excel, this means data only needs to be entered into the system. From there, BI will process the data instantly to deliver insight into your KPIs. 

 

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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 Frank Di Lorenzo Jr, the client relationship director and Ben Harrison, the product director at Preferred Strategies. Today, we’re going to discuss the predictive data and data visualization. I’m looking forward to this unique conversation with these gentlemen today and looking forward to getting a fresh perspective about project information. So hello, Frank and Ben. Welcome on the podcast today.

 

Frank Di Lorenzo:

Hey Mike, thanks for having us. I know Ben and I are both really excited to be here. 

 

Ben Harrison:

It’s great to be here. 

 

Mike Merrill:

Awesome. Well, thanks again. So before we jump into the conversation too far, can you gentlemen give the listeners just a quick introduction on your background, maybe your experience in the industry, and if we can start with Frank, that’d be great. And then Ben, you can follow.

 

Frank Di Lorenzo:

Sure. Happy to. So Frank Di Lorenzo Jr. Thank you Mike. As he mentioned, I’m the client relationship director of Preferred Strategies but Reader’s Digest version of my background, I’ve been in the industry construction ERP-wise for 36 years. I’ve implemented just over 700 construction accounting systems, grew up with a solution a lot of folks know out there known as Timberline. That’s where I got my start. And what’s interesting is I’ve seen solutions evolve. Back then, we started early on, it was getting computers to process financial data. And then we grew from there and we started putting systems into other departments, project management, estimating, CRM and then we matured further to excellent field mobile applications to collect data in the field. Very important. 

So now just for one year, I’ve switched my career to where I think the industry’s evolving to now, which is we’ve got these systems in place. We’re collecting mountains and reams of data. How do we make it actionable information? So I’m having a lot of fun now for one year working on the data side of things, Mike. So that’s my background.

 

Mike Merrill:

Awesome. Ben, how about you? 

 

Ben Harrison:

Sure. Again, Ben Harrison. I spent about 18 years as a business analyst and then a business manager for a construction company, Heavy Highway Construction but did a lot of analysis, a lot of reports. We’ve watched the technology merge over time. But really the idea of how do you take that information and turn it into actionable data drove me in my path now to where I’m at a company that that’s all we do is business analytics. And it’s honestly an exciting job. It’s fun. We get to have fun every day.

 

Mike Merrill:

Well, that’s awesome. We are certainly in a period or an age I would say of information overload at times. So lots of data to look at and lots of things to analyze. So appreciate all that you gentlemen do for the industry. So a couple things I wanted to just ask about. So what’s the difference between front end and back end data? Those are terms that we hear. What are your thoughts?

 

Frank Di Lorenzo:

Well, I’m going to take a first stab and then Ben I’m going to ask him to take it a little bit deeper, but from a business application standpoint, we have our data sitting wherever it may be hosted. And I hope I’m answering your question, Mike, but I’ll go ahead this way, our data viewpoint or your ERP may be hosted in the cloud, private cloud, Azure, on-prem. How do we get to our data in a meaningful way to report on it? And what if I have data that is living in multiple places, some on-prem. So I’m in One Cloud, some in Azure. So how do I take all of that information, transform it into, I’ll call it a front end data cube that I could report on. 

So I think the difference is transactional data for processing, which is what all the ERPs are optimized to do and taking that data and transforming it into something that’s report friendly. So in a nutshell, that would be my first pass at that. And Ben, why don’t you add a little more color to it if you will. 

 

Ben Harrison:

That’s exactly would be my take that transformation of data from transactional to be aggregated suitable for analysis. There is a metadata layering that happens there that makes it more useful. But again, you think about data and information. I like to think of the front end data as information and the back end as all the detailed transactions. And so that’d be how I would define it.

 

Mike Merrill:

Okay. Great. So that’s a great foundation to start from. Now talking about that data, when you heard the term predictive data, how does that differ from flat data and maybe what are those differences once you have that data in store?

 

Frank Di Lorenzo:

Yeah. I have my thoughts on that, Ben, but I think you would have a deeper insight. So if you wouldn’t mind. 

 

Ben Harrison:

Sure. So often I think about what you hear these days in the articles I read about predictive analytics, right? Taking that data and understand how to predict it. And I think that has to be context, right? Context driven. When you think about what you want to analyze, you want to analyze backlog and everyone knows what backlog is. It’s your contract amount minus your earned revenue so far. But you can’t hope that the data model will discover the relationship between those. And so the predictive data is arranged in a way to where that backlog can be analyzed. The end result is that you get insights you might not have had before with predictive data. 

I know that at the company I worked for, we struggled for a long time at understanding housing stats, right? Housing was a big part of our construction business. And what you wanted to do is find what’s the smoking gun that indicates housing stats down the road. Is it on permitted land? Is it county permits? What drives that? But again, the predictive data is going to allow you to take something and use it to understand what’s going to happen. And there’s lots of ways that could be structured.

 

Mike Merrill:

Okay. So I’m thinking of the term maybe triggers, is that what you mean? Data triggers that would make you look at a certain thing?

 

Ben Harrison:

That would be it. Yeah. So predictive analytics is… So here’s another example. The company I used to work for used lots of diesel fuel, lots of it, or heavy highway, heavy iron usage heavy iron. Changes in fuel prices is a big deal, right? So the predictive data would say, “If fuel goes up so much, what’s that going to do to my cost of sales, right?” Because I know the type of work I do, the type of equipment I do, but that lets you prepare and plan for… The trigger would be the fuel price change, but the action is, should I buy futures? Does that make sense? So triggers is a good way to put it.

 

Mike Merrill:

Great. Well, all right, so we’ve got the data types, we’ve got triggers and things that are indicators. There’s another term out there, Frank, maybe you can answer this the term BI, what does that mean to a contractor for those that may not be familiar?

 

Frank Di Lorenzo:

We have our buzzwords that come and go in our industry. We’ve all lived that. It could be cloud it could be mobility. Now BI is a big buzz word, stands for business intelligence. And to me what that means and what I think it means to a contractor is being able to decipher my information and see the trends so I can act on them before it’s too late. So in other words, in construction, most of our teams still look at data in a very text printed 2D format. There’s a great book I’m reading. It’s what I could recommend. It’s called Data Strategy by Bernard Marr. And one quote in there is when you visualize data, you’ll see things that you never knew were they are right in front of you. 

So part of business intelligence I think is being able to see the data in a more meaningful, impactful way so you can act upon it. Now you take that and you’ve coupled that with some of the machine learning capabilities that AI, artificial intelligence that Microsoft provides, and there’s a lot of power that you can put in the hands of reporting. 

 

Mike Merrill:

Great. Great answer. So really in my mind, I’m visualizing maybe the difference between a paper report that’s just printed out and I’ve got to pick through the data to find out the details or dashboards and graphs and things that are more visually appealing and at a moment’s notice green or red or yellow means something to me that I can then act on is that visual.

 

Frank Di Lorenzo:

Yeah. And that’s part of it and even more. I mean, now that we’ve become truly a mobile world, just imagine having the power of all that data on your mobile device coupled with your location. Maybe whenever I’m near a certain client and they owe us more than X, I want that report to pop up on my phone and maybe I’ll go visit them. But it’s that actionable activities we can now put into play. 

 

Ben Harrison:

And I’d like to just add to that. BI is a term and it’s a ubiquitous term. But to contractors today, historically people thought about ERP systems and Frank mentioned to begin with were the financial business side of things, right? Just AR, AP, GL. But business intelligence, more and more includes operational intelligence, which is productivity rates over, under production. Right? So there’s a lot more to business intelligence. It’s a much broader thing now than it’s ever been in the past.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. That’s a great insight. I think another buzz word that comes to mind is KPI or key performance indicators that you then have with that type of data. What types of KPIs or key performance indicators should contractors focus on specifically?

 

Frank Di Lorenzo:

Yeah, I’m going to answer from what I see from gaps currently clients are experiencing in their reporting and then I’ll ask Ben to take it with his actual experience a little bit further. So key performance indicators, another buzz word as you said, Mike. And it’s really a wide open loaded statement because it could be financial KPIs on our cash performance, could be operational KPIs on a project specifically. It could be productivity KPIs on how our labor is performing, how equipment is doing in the field. So there’s a number of KPIs but as an executive, maybe I want to be able to visualize a dashboard where I have several KPIs before me. I want a snapshot of how we’re doing from a cash standpoint and I want to know if we have any issues in the field, maybe from an equipment standpoint, so different KPIs but I want them in front of me and at my fingertips. Does that make sense?

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. Yeah. That makes a lot of sense. So to me, I’m picturing a front end and a backend to that side of the story. I mean, what do each take to be effectively managed?

 

Frank Di Lorenzo:

Well, one thing to consider is you got to get the information from the field, right? I mean, you ever hear the old adage garbage in, garbage out with all the cool stuff we have, that still applies. So provided that we put the tools in the, I’ll say the right procedures in place to collect information, make sure it’s accurate, timely. Now we can deploy all these reporting tools to establish our KPIs and our dashboards. And that’s something I know Ben, I think you’ve actually done in practice. So I don’t want to steal any thunder you may add. 

 

Ben Harrison:

No, I think that’s what I do see. You think about KPIs, think about an airplane cockpit. There’s a lot of indicators that are really important there. So it’s hard to say that altitude is not more important than how much fuel is left in the tank. But from a construction point of view, field productivity is where margins are tight. You estimate it based upon some assumptions to know whether it’s going bad or not. You can’t wait till the end of the month reports. You really need that daily productivity understanding. And then construction industry, that’s where I see the biggest benefits is that field business intelligence has given me insight into how did I do today so I can take action to fix it by tomorrow.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, that’s great. I know in my world the term we like to use, and I think companies should be more focused on than they are today is live field data. And so I don’t know that that’s a buzzword yet, but if we can make it one, we’d sure love to because I think that visibility is really what everybody’s after, wants to have their finger on the pulse of the money if they can. 

 

Ben Harrison:

Yeah. 

 

Mike Merrill:

Go ahead, Frank.

 

Frank Di Lorenzo:

I was going to say, I mean, absolutely. Think about this for a minute. I could provide you the prettiest dashboard on the planet with the nicest, most vibrant colors but if it has a column that says hours yesterday, and it’s a zero, because I can’t get that information for three days, the report is pretty useless, frankly. So having that data stream in place is very important from collection all the way through to backend.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. That’s a great analogy. And another thing, you talked about garbage in garbage out. One thing that we see and hear commonly is there are people putting numbers in that cell, in the spreadsheet or in the report that are guesstimated or estimated and maybe aren’t even accurate. So that could be worse than a zero.

 

Frank Di Lorenzo:

Could be worse. Because misinformation now is dangerous.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. All right, well, so speaking of labor in the field, we all know today the crunch in the construction industry to find mid-level skilled labor, just everybody said, I just came from a large, the 99th annual AGC event here in Salt Lake City, just a great event. It was a live event, something fun to get to with everything that’s been going on and get back in front of people again. But that was the theme of every conversation I was in. Everybody was saying, “Our biggest gap right now is just finding enough good help. We were so backlogged. We just can’t find the labor and have a major shortage in skilled employees to come and help us work on these projects that we actually have locked in.” So how can having better data or more proper and appropriately managed data get ahead of that to a degree?

 

Frank Di Lorenzo:

Ben, do you want to take that one? 

 

Ben Harrison:

Yeah. Yeah. I think I that’d be good. So that’s a great question. And I think it’s something that every contractor struggles with as long as I’ve been in the industry and has been for a few decades now, where am I going to get the crews to do the work that’s been important. Part of that is understanding your crews and the company I came from, we had A-level crews, essentially your A-level crews, you kept busy all the time, right? If there’s no work for them, you put them down the yard cleaning stuff up because you just want to make sure they never go find a job elsewhere. Then you had your B-level crews who are pretty good and then your C-level crews. So part of that is if you don’t have good analytics, you can’t understand your true capacity. And I think contractors need to have that understanding of what’s possible and even turn work away because it can be expensive to get the wrong crew on a job that you’ve been with really tight margins. Right? So does that help? I thought that answers for me the question.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. I think that’s great. And you both spoke about just getting that predictive data or that trending, the productivity ratio. So I think some of what you spoke about also would be helpful in knowing in two months we’re going to have a major shortage. We better start getting ahead of that if you’re doing that.

 

Frank Di Lorenzo:

I’ll just add really quickly. One other thing, I think it’s one thing to find quality talent but to retain it is another thing. And I think part of that retention is the employee’s experience at that company and providing them proper tools to do their job is one. I can’t imagine, some young talent in the industry going to work at a company and saying, “Okay, your reports are paper-based.” Or, “Start writing your time on this notepad and we’ll collect it later.” That causes stress that reduces that employees, I think, job experience in total. So I think data helps you enjoy a better experience on the job because you know where you are, there’s less surprises, less angst and the proper technology tools help with that retention as well.

 

Mike Merrill:

No, that’s great. You mentioned reporting and it just makes me think, I was a contractor a couple of decades ago, used to be a general contractor. We self-performed a lot of work of our own also. And the capabilities in reporting today versus back then, or I mean, it’s just two completely different worlds. So how has BI changed reports that contractors can actually enjoy today, for the last decade or so?

 

Frank Di Lorenzo:

Ben, I think you could share with us that one.

 

Ben Harrison:

Sure. I’ll jump on that. I obviously, I think the most important thing is mobility, right? The idea that technology… I can remember our first laptops we gave to Formaway long, again, decades ago. And that adoption level changed a little bit but it was still you’re filling out a time card and an Excel sheet and sending it in. But the idea that I now have a tablet, the phone or a mobile tablet that’s always connected, not only allows me to provide that real-time data back to the main office, safety data, punchless data, just anything that’s there but also allows me to see data back consolidated from other people in the same job site, so that the biggest thing to me that has changed in the last 10 years is the expansion of what we can expect to have in the hands of a foreman or a project engineer who’s out on the job site.

 

Mike Merrill:

Okay. So I’m hearing like a loop basically. Is that what you’re saying? A data loop where that’s actually getting back to the field instead of being trapped in a file cabinet in the office?

 

Ben Harrison:

Yes.

 

Frank Di Lorenzo:

Data feedback loop. I like that, Mike, I think that’s spot on.

 

Mike Merrill:

And from there, what’s the value of having the field plugged into that information to make those decisions?

 

Ben Harrison:

Well, there’s all sorts of implications. I think one of the things I saw most of the company I worked for was improving on safety, right? So we did lots of near miss recordings and you look at compliance of not safety but even environmental compliance and not being shut down for a day for whatever reason drives all sorts of things. So I guess for me, it’d be hard to say, how could you not live that way now? Right? If you’re going to be in business and you don’t have that visibility on the job site, I don’t see how you stay in business.

 

Mike Merrill:

Certainly you have to be competitive. So one of the other words that’s been floating around in the conversation, we’ve talked about data visualization, what are some options within that term that relate to construction today?

 

Frank Di Lorenzo:

Yeah. I’ll take a first pass Ben and then certainly I know you can add some more color to it. But when you’re visualizing your data and there’s some favorite charts we have, one’s called a waterfall chart. So if you’re looking for, am I above or below the line, if you will performance over budget, under budget is an example, that’s where a waterfall visualization can really help illustrate that. Visualizations are really meant to make the data pop, stand out, show trends, show outliers and think about this, when you combine some of the AI and machine learning capabilities of Microsoft with those visualizations, I can now say, “Okay, here’s all my data, Power BI, what do you think?” And it will actually draw up some visualization. Some may be meaningless but others might become part of my dashboard package. So visualizations is just a new, and I think more complete way to see inside our data, if you will.

 

Ben Harrison:

Can I add to that then as well? We are getting more sophisticated, not we me and Frank, but we as a society are getting more sophisticated on visualizations. I can remember as a young engineer, pie charts were how people thought of visualizing data. And so then there’s bar charts, there’s stacked bar charts and all of these new capabilities. And now there’s these key indicator charts that break down components that you can drill through. That brings to question some sophistication that’s not natural, not natural does not explain what I mean, it brings the idea that I need to bring to the table some willingness to understand, right? Pie charts, people got led away. Some of these more advanced charts give you really, really good insight but you have to stop and struggle with them. And so that’s what I’m seeing is that the more sophisticated visualizations provide very powerful insights but you can’t just look at them right away always and see exactly what you need to see. You have to engage in them.

 

Frank Di Lorenzo:

It’s a good point, Ben. Part of our data journey and working with clients in this whole data experience is training around that, how do you take your data and visualize it? What does that mean? Where should you start? So there’s a bit of training I think that helps with that adoption. 

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. And I think back to something that you mentioned earlier, Ben, now that the field has this data and they have the ability to see what’s going on in a more real-time manner, like you spoke Frank, I think the decision-making capability is enhanced and the field is now more empowered than ever to make good decisions without waiting for approval and extra unnecessary steps and bottlenecks. Wouldn’t you say?

 

Ben Harrison:

I would. And I would emphasize that one of my bosses early on wanted to measure performance and posted on the room in the lunch room, right? So that every form is rated. And I said, “Isn’t that going to de-motivate people?” And he said, “No, no.” He says, “Nobody wants to be the last person. Some of them want to be the top person, but the fact that you’re measuring people, inspires them.” People want to excel. That’s what I believe is true. And so one of the beautiful things about better analytics is that lets people be proud of the work they do, it lets them be engaged in becoming better. And that visibility drives process improvements that you wouldn’t have dreamt of if you didn’t allow people to see that data.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. They say when things are measured or when performance is measured, performance improves is a phrase I like.

 

Frank Di Lorenzo:

It’s a good phrase. I like it as well.

 

Mike Merrill:

So one of the terms that I’ve used over the years too is businesses really need to try and find a way to look through a windshield to manage this information instead of the rear view mirror, see what’s coming at them, not try and figure out what the pillar of smoke is behind them, that they just pass by as the job blew up, so to speak. So in talking with that, so I know I’ve heard Frank say before that most of the data that’s used, I mean, its around 90% of the data, whatever some large number goes unused. How does data visualization help leverage and tap into more of that information that does exist within the company? It’s just siloed.

 

Frank Di Lorenzo:

It’s a great question, Mike. And I think part of it is having a better data strategy. So visualization is a part of that strategy. But if somebody out there is looking for just prettier dashboards, that means they’re thinking I need a report. If culturally they’re ready to say, “We need to be a data driven company.” The reason why so much of that data goes unused, I think is because they don’t have the bandwidth or the ability to get their arms around it in a meaningful way. So having a data strategy in place, allows us to greatly improve that, having access to much greater data, hopefully accurate data makes those visualizations much more impactful and value adds. 

 

Ben Harrison:

I’d jump on that as well. Frank, I agree with you 100% that that idea that you’ve got all this data and if it’s just unstructured and there’s no thought put to it, then it’s really hard to get insight out of it. But if you have this data and you actually put a little bit of work into creating a data model, and honestly, that’s one of the things we do as a company, that model now provides a framework so you can do the same type of things that Netflix does or Amazon does, right? So you’ve got a structured data set that now you can actually use tools that are available in something like Power BI to do some artificial intelligence, digging through it, where it’s as Frank said, and analytics is about trends, correlations and outliers. 

Machines do that really well. But they do that really well on a structured data set. So really we’re saying put 100 million records into a data set, structure it well, and then let a computer sort through that. And that other 85% of the data that you’re saying never gets used, it could be used but people probably won’t be doing that. Machines are going to be doing that. They won’t tell us the answer but they’re going to help ask new questions we didn’t think of before.

 

Mike Merrill:

So ask better questions because we got better data there. Interesting. So what I’m hearing then you gentlemen do not subscribe to the idea that Excel is BI.

 

Frank Di Lorenzo:

You know what? I would say Excel can be… Well, yes. Short answer, yes. But Excel can be a part of the BI. I mean, Excel is a great reporting tool. Where I say no, no, no is when I see Excel used as a data silo. So if I’m starting to depend on Excel spreadsheets where I’ve typed in standalone data, or it’s static downloaded from two days ago, not a great use. If I’m using Excel as a part of my data-driven strategy to work with data and visualize it and do what if scenarios, then it has its place I would say. Ben, what would you think? 

 

Ben Harrison:

Yeah, absolutely. Excel is a great slicing and dicing tool. It’s not a good database. And so use Excel one for what it does well, and it will serve you well. Otherwise you’ve got a maintenance nightmare.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. Yeah. That’s a great point. So speaking of automated processes or tools, how have you gentlemen seen AI have an impact on job sites today?

 

Ben Harrison:

I think it’s just coming online. For myself, I haven’t seen it have a major impact yet. I think we’re on the leading bleeding edge of it will soon but not so much adopted yet. Ben, how about you? What have you… The successes that I’ve seen again, I think it is early still. I think construction industry particularly has not figured out how to use these tools well, but from a safety perspective, I think that I’ve seen some AI looking at what are the trends where you’re looking at a lot of data and trying to understand what are the things that work? I’ve seen a few successes in that area. But we’re just beginning with AI and construction. 

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. And I think maybe some steps towards that, or at least some technology steps that I’ve seen a lot more active would be BIM or maybe virtual reality, VR. Those are some things that I’m starting to actually see out on projects. And we’re hearing about from our customers. Are those things more common and a part of what you service your customers with?

 

Ben Harrison:

I’ll take that. We do see the, particularly the GCs and the AEC companies doing that. Our customer base is more of the operational install and we’ve not been seeing that as much, but I do think those technologies do slowly filter out. But that’s again, I haven’t seen that.

 

Mike Merrill:

All right. Great. So one of the things, and even it’s the same for me too, with anything new, you hear about the fear of technology especially on the lower end of the labor perspective where people are afraid, this AI or these new tools are going to take my job. We even hear that with our mobile data collection systems, people think, well, my whole job is to key in reports all day and key in payroll manually all day. If you take that from me, I’m not going to have a job. Do you think it’s justified to have those kinds of fears? Or what would you tell people that might be worried about that?

 

Frank Di Lorenzo:

Mike, it’s a good question. I think it’s understandable. I wouldn’t say justifiable but certainly understandable. Since the first time someone hit post on a keyboard and things started happening automatically, people started to be concerned about their job security. And I’ve heard that multiple iterations of new technology when GPS came out, I’m being tracked in my truck. My gosh. You’d hear stories of techs trying to disable it or take it out. They were afraid of that tracking. Now that it’s become mature in the industry, people have adopted it, they know the value of it. And I think AI is just going to be another case in point of that. So with AI, I think there’s some unknowns, fear of the unknown but as it becomes more mature in the field, it will be something they don’t want to live without.

 

Mike Merrill:

Great. So what I’m hearing if I read between the lines, change is good as long as that change is improvement.

 

Frank Di Lorenzo:

Change is good. Change can be feared. It’s okay to have a certain amount healthy but work through it for a better end. 

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. I like that. So speaking of these tools automated and more digital really, if we think about our cell phones or a machine and they do certain things like a robot might do. When we talk about labor law compliance, especially, I know you gentlemen, both happened to be from the state of California which is famous for some pretty stringent labor laws and compliance laws, Department of Labor, work comp, all these other things for safety, not bad things but certainly very specific. So why do you think it’s imperative that companies find technological or automated tools or solutions for their employees to record and document this data like time and labor or activities or safety out in the field to help mitigate those risks on the job site?

 

Frank Di Lorenzo:

I would say one just the pure cost of an error can be so egregious that you just don’t want it to happen. So that would be the first one that comes to mind. And then Ben, I’m going to call on you just because of your experience in collecting that data. What would you add? 

 

Ben Harrison:

Yeah. I think that the benefits and I think you’re pointing out the cost of an error is so expensive. And I can think of the types of things that I’ve seen companies try to do of, “Did you take your rest break?” In California you got those laws to do that. Those laws are meant to protect employees. In California it can be 106 degrees outside on a hot day, and you need to know, did you go and drink some water? Are you hydrated? So I’ve seen systems that are starting to put a heat sensor in a hard hat to see, is your body temperature over temperature, a heat stroke again, terrible thing to have happen but also shuts down the job site. You can’t afford to risk noncompliance. So having your tools that help you manage the compliance is important. You just have to do it. It’s the right thing to do. 

 

Frank Di Lorenzo:

Yeah. And from my experience companies, that don’t do it, it only takes getting stung once then suddenly it’s a big priority and they do it. 

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. Both great points. And I love what you said there Ben that it’s the right thing to do. It’s a safe thing to do. And then even from just an accountability standpoint, I know I’ve said it for years and I hear others say it in construction, we’re really risk managers, we’re data managers and we happen to build things and we need that data to help drive the revenue and to make our business run. But essentially, every day you wake up and take a step out the door, you’re at risk from a liability perspective. 

 

Ben Harrison:

Yeah. 

 

Mike Merrill:

So to just wind things down a little bit, just going to maybe do some rapid fire questions and maybe we can just alternate here. So Frank if I were to ask you, what’s one skill that you’ve really mastered or that you feel like you’ve got a great handle on and made a positive impact on your business career?

 

Frank Di Lorenzo:

Mike, I love the question. It’s a good question. And I would say it’s a skill that I continue to hone and will improve for the rest of my career. And that is relationships with my clients or with my peers, building and maintaining and earning the trust and friendship I like to call it of our clients. So to me, that’s an important skill I think that they trust you and that you can be an advisor. You have some value to convey. And that’s a skill that I’d like to think I’ve brought in a positive way to this team and continue to work on because it’s important to me personally. 

 

Mike Merrill:

That’s a great one. I’ve seen you do it for years and you embody that. 

 

Frank Di Lorenzo:

Thank you, Mike.

 

Mike Merrill:

All right. So Ben, for you, what’s one activity or something that you feel is your wheelhouse or your super power that you’ve developed?

 

Ben Harrison:

Well, it’s interesting and picking one is hard. I feel like I’ve learned a lot. I feel like I still continue to learn and maybe that’s it is that I’ve realized I don’t know all I need to know. And so if there’s something that doesn’t make sense to me, I’ve learned to stop and ask why? Try to essentially have a humility that I don’t know everything that I need to know and someone else might have some insight for me. So I guess that’s super power sounds, antithesis to humility. But if humility is a super power and I’m not saying I’m that good but being willing to question yourself and your judgements, I think is a really important thing.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. That’s a great one. If we’re not growing, we’re dying, right? If we’re not learning, we’re dying. Love it. All right. Frank, how about this? What’s the most powerful thing that data has done for your business?

 

Frank Di Lorenzo:

Good question. I would say transparency because in our business, we can’t hide. We have experts with data, so everything’s in a Power BI dashboard. And what that I found has led to is no surprises, nobody thinks anything’s not being displayed or hidden. Anybody in our team has access to every piece of data that they should to stay in their lane and do their job properly. And it goes back to your superpower question. I’ll just mention this because I think the superpower I found here is the beyond the power of one, it’s the power of our team. We’re a super team, not a super individual. And having the data just makes it all the more powerful and collaborative.

 

Mike Merrill:

Fantastic. Love it. All right, Ben, one more then I can ask you each one final question. What is one mistake in business that you have made that you wish you would have been able to avoid and would like to help others avoid?

 

Ben Harrison:

I feel like Frank and I are on a similar theme here. So for me, it would be on that collaboration side, right? Of my mistakes have usually been when I thought I had a great solution, I’ve planned it carefully. I plotted it all out and I come and present it to the team and it doesn’t work. They have no buy-in to it. They didn’t understand the context. And so my biggest failures have been when I did not get adequate buy-in from the people around me so that it wasn’t a Ben solution. It was our team solution. And my biggest successes were honestly when we collaborate well, and the solution we come up with is better because more people contributed to it.

 

Mike Merrill:

Collaborated, team, solution, better, people. I heard all those words in your last sentence and that’s awesome. Well, it sounds like an incredible organization to work for and with. You guys obviously have a great team. So one final question, let’s start with you Frank and then Ben if you can finish it out. What’s one thing, Frank, that you hope that our listeners can walk away from hearing this conversation today?

 

Frank Di Lorenzo:

Sure. Yeah. I think that 2021 is the year of data for me. If you look at the investments being made by the construction industry in tools and training and procedures to manage the data that they have, it’s really exciting. So take a step back. Don’t just look at your next report but look at your data strategy from a big picture standpoint. And then the other piece of that is, it doesn’t have to be us but find a partner that’s going to treat you the way you should be that you expect, that’s going to partner with you, bring the expertise and the collaborative spirit that you need to make this work. So a multiple mic thing. Hope that helps. 

 

Mike Merrill:

Fantastic. How about you, Ben? 

 

Ben Harrison:

What I would like you guys to take away is that this is a journey. It’s not something that you’re going to buy an analytics tool and install it in a number of weeks and then be masters of it. This is something that’s going to take effort, purpose, training, budget, time, transformation. But expect that and honestly the results can be astounding but you can add to your bottom line, you can add to your job satisfaction but it’s going to take some intent.

 

Mike Merrill:

That’s great. 

 

Frank Di Lorenzo:

Put it this way, Mike. Rarely, if ever do I hear, I hear people say, geez, we’ve got to get our arms around our data and it’s going to be hard. I’ve heard that in the beginning of the journey. The clients that I’ve had the good honor to work with that have made it through that journey, I’ve never heard anybody ever yet say, “Yeah, we got to remove this stuff. This is not important. It’s not helpful to have BI and visualize our data.” Once they’re there, they don’t want to give it up for a good reason.

 

Mike Merrill:

Love it. Great stuff. Well, what a wonderful conversation. I sure appreciate you, Ben and Frank for joining us today. It’s been fantastic. And hopefully we can do it again down the road.

 

Frank Di Lorenzo:

I hope so. Thank you, Mike. We appreciate it. 

 

Ben Harrison:

Thanks for having us. It was great to be here.

 

Mike Merrill:

You bet. So thank you all for the listener for joining us today on the Mobile Workforce Podcast, sponsored by AboutTime Technologies and WorkMax. If you enjoyed the conversation today that Ben and Frank and I had, please follow us on Instagram at WorkMax_, follow us on LinkedIn or join our LinkedIn group of WorkMax, and also subscribe to the podcast on your preferred platform. If you really enjoyed the conversation today, please give us a five-star rating in review and leave a comment on what you enjoyed or learned from the podcast. And this will help us to continue to bring these types of episodes and conversations to the industry, which will hopefully improve your business and in turn your life. 

Innovation in Construction: Using Tech to Tackle Its Bad Rep

Innovation in Construction: Using Tech to Tackle Its Bad Rep

There are a lot of stereotypes about the construction business, such as all projects go over budget and delays are inevitable. Most of them are dated and untrue, but these misconceptions still weigh the industry down. How? For starters, by making it harder to attract good workers and increasing skepticism by prospective customers. The good news is there’s never been a better time to work in construction, with technology at the helm of significant changes that improve how companies budget, report progress, and track issues. Fortunately, technology and marketing are the answer to freeing the industry from outdated stereotypes once and for all.

In this special crossover episode with the Bridging the Gap Podcast, host Todd Weyandt breaks down common stereotypes about the construction industry and shares ways to reshape construction’s image in 2021 and beyond.

 

Key Takeaways:

  1. Contractors should partner with their local trade organizations on community initiatives. The industry will be able to change the general public’s perception if everyone works together for the greater good. By working together on projects that give back to the community and unify to recruit for job fairs, contractors will begin to be trusted and respected by the community and each other. Trust and respect for the construction industry and the different trades benefits the entire industry. 
  2. Promote soft skills on the job site. Construction is not a muscle-only industry. The need for soft skills and tech savvy is only increasing. On-the-job training and fast tracks for promotion give anyone willing to do the work the opportunity to succeed. As an industry, we need to show that making a career in construction is rewarding, does not require extensive college debt to get into, and has unlimited upward mobility. 
  3. Sales and marketing are a huge part of the process today. Studies show that 85% of all purchasing decisions are researched beforehand online. If you do not have an online presence with a website and social media, especially LinkedIn, you are missing the opportunity to set the expectation for new clients. But having a website and social pages isn’t enough. Show off your diverse team, the technology you use and the quality of the jobs you have already completed. 

Make sure to check out the second half of our conversation on the Bridging the Gap Podcast! We discuss actionable steps to build a new reputation for your business by promoting the processes and technology you use on the job site and online. 

 

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Episode Transcript:

Mike Merrell:

Hello and welcome to the Mobile Workforce Podcast. I am your host Mike Merrell and today we are recording part one of a specials crossover series with a host of the award-winning podcast Bridging the Gap Todd Weyandt. Thank you Todd for joining us. I’m excited to sit down with you and have this discussion today.

 

Todd Weyandt:

Absolutely. Thanks for having me on.

 

Mike Merrell:

You bet. So before we get into the conversation too deep, would you give our listeners just a little bit of an overview in your background and experience?

 

Todd Weyandt:

Yeah, absolutely. So my official title is Director of Creative Marketing at Applied Software and we are AEC and manufacturing systems integrators, so we tackle pretty much anything under the sun with AEC, whether it’s software or custom development or workflow enhancements, we probably have it covered there. And then through that, I get to host the Bridging the Gap podcast which focuses in on the innovation and the innovators out in construction and MEP. So we focus a lot on kind of what are those foundational elements to make technology adoption successful whether that’s on the culture side of things or business process side or the innovation and growth mindset that is needed to not only just survive the future of construction and the changes happening, but really thrive in that new year.

 

Mike Merrell:

Oh, that’s awesome. Yep. I applaud your efforts and enjoyed listening to your podcast episodes so far and love what you’re doing for the industry. It’s a great resource that can be really helpful to our brothers out in the field.

 

Todd Weyandt:

Thanks.

 

Mike Merrell:

You bet. So I guess kind of to get things started off, I just thought maybe we could talk about one of those quote unquote elephants in the room that sometimes happens in conversation about construction people and workers, just the stereotype that it’s grunt work and people that are less skilled in other areas end up working construction because that’s all they’re really good at. What are your thoughts on that?

 

Todd Weyandt:

Yeah, I mean it’s for sure a prevalent stereotype and I, true confessions, I have fallen guilty of that in the past myself, that it’s maybe just a job, it’s not a real career path. Some of the other stereotypes of it’s a dirty job or slow to change, stuck in the past, no tech. What I have learned though, I’ve been at Applied Software for almost seven years and doing the podcast for about a year and a half, and what I’ve learned over that time is that’s just so not true. There are so many cool new technologies coming into the construction space and there are so many people that have their arms wide open for embracing that technology, they’re just not good at sharing what they’re doing and talking about it. And that probably stems from a whole bunch of reasons. Chief among them is that the construction industry is full of a bunch of really humble people, which is great, and their head down, get the job done. That’s all they’re focused on, which is definitely, I’m not knocking that. That has its place and its advantages for sure, but they’re not great at sharing their stories.

 

Mike Merrell:

Yeah. I think I would agree with that completely. I mean I grew up in construction company industry and, did some pretty cool projects, but when I go out and about and travel throughout the country and even the world sometimes internationally, I am just amazed at some of the structures that I see and some of the architecture that’s happening in this day and age. And I really tip my hat to the trades that are able to create these beautiful structures and incredibly, just almost inspiring buildings that are also structurally sound and built with quality.

 

Todd Weyandt:

Oh for sure. Yeah. I mean some of those are pretty just mind blowing, especially when you add in how modulars coming into the industry and that the offsite bringing in manufacturing principles. I mean there’s some just really cool mindblowing stuff out there.

 

Mike Merrell:

Yeah. You mentioned a minute ago just kind of the stereotype that construction doesn’t necessarily adopt technology. What are some examples of some things that amaze you from the guests you’ve had?

 

Todd Weyandt:

On the technology side of things?

 

Mike Merrell:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

 

Todd Weyandt:

Well I think what I just mentioned there with modular construction coming in and the industrialized construction that’s starting to overtake the industry, I think that there’s just really cool processes that they are able to get a lot more efficient, move projects a lot faster, and then really increase safety just by shifting into a different workflow with offsite and kind of pulling in those manufacturing principles and turning a construction site into a factory for all intensive purposes. Yeah. I think that’s some really cool things going on there that, it’s not a majority of jobs doing that right now, but I think that it’s going to be growing in popularity for sure.

I think another big thing is the construction industry proved over the last year especially that they can adopt technology at a rapid clip when they have to and start to put in place all those digital workflows, whether it’s as simple as getting on a Microsoft Teams application or something and having that chat functionality and collaboration within that platform. I think the construction industry has really proven that they had the chops to adopt the technology. It’s not as foreign as some might have you believe.

 

Mike Merrell:

Yeah. And these younger generations that are coming into the trades and advancing in management roles as some of the baby boomers retire, we’re seeing waves of new technologies being adopted in all types of industries and companies that I’m seeing.

 

Todd Weyandt:

Oh for sure. Well they’re demanding it. The younger generations, it’s not a nice to have, it’s an expectation here. The company would be very strange and weird if they didn’t have the technology for millennials and gen Z as they’re coming into the industry now as well.

 

Mike Merrell:

Yeah, I like that. And you mentioned something a minute ago about safety and I think that’s another area that I’m very, again coming from the trades, I’m just very impressed with not only how incredible these structures are becoming and the methodologies that companies are building these buildings and that the engineers are putting them together, but these things are being done very safely at record rates and safety percentages that we haven’t seen in the past. So amazing.

 

Todd Weyandt:

Yeah, for sure. Especially all the COVID curveballs that have been thrown the way of the construction, for them to keep the jobs going this last year I think really speaks volumes to the grit and determination of the industry, but also the can do, get her done mentality of the industry.

 

Mike Merrell:

Yeah. I think, like you mentioned a minute ago, that just generally the attitude and even the humility, the quietly just get to work, get their elbows dirty and just dig in and figure it out. I mean that’s definitely something that construction companies are good at doing.

 

Todd Weyandt:

Oh for sure.

 

Mike Merrell:

So what about when you hear things like when people talk about oh the projects are always late, they’re always over budget, you can’t trust a contractor as far as you can throw them. I mean what do you say to those types of stereotypes that also get thrown around on occasion? Or maybe shown on a TV show or something?

 

Todd Weyandt:

Yeah. I think that there’s such a broken cultural and communication aspect in the construction industry right now. One of the things that we talk about on Bridging the Gap is how to embrace those soft skills and what does that really mean. And I think, going back to the generational aspect of it, this is not a knock on older generations by any stretch, but millennials and the gen Zs are coming in expecting a little softer edge than what the industry has typically been accustomed to, which I don’t necessarily think is a bad thing. If you take it to any extreme it’s not great, but…

Now I’m not saying everybody sits around all day and just sings Kumbaya by any stretch, but I think focusing in on the trust factor and having that as an undercurrent between those different teams is a really big opportunity for the construction industry because there is bad blood, whether you’re talking about between the architect and the GC to the subs to the owner, there’s so much people talking past each other and not really sitting down and saying, alright, where are you coming from, what are you trying to get out of this project. I don’t necessarily have to agree with where you’re coming or your process, but I have to know where you are at so that then I know what I need to bring to the table and how to communicate back with you. There’s so much of the industry of it’s just easier to push it down to somebody else, blame somebody else and really contracts are set up that way as well, too. You look at contracts and it’s if something is going to fail, it’s when it fails this is what happens.

And so that is just an environment that sets it up for that mistrust and all of that has a huge impact on delaying projects and slowing projects down because everybody’s now in this super cautious cover yourself mode instead of offering and really embracing that true collaboration. So I know that’s a big buzz word that means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, but that’s because people have that mistrust and aren’t really taking the time to sit down and hear the other person’s point of view.

 

Mike Merrell:

Yeah. You mentioned a lot of really powerful things there. And I recently just came from an AGC event, Associated General Contractors, for the state of Utah and it was their 99th annual conference. So really cool, big year, a hundred years next year. And it was an in-person event so with everything going on that was a lot of fun. And we spent a couple of days up there with a lot of our team members. And one of the things that was so inspiring, in our local chapter there’s a building, I think it was between $7 and $8 million cost for an AGC training center, and the vast majority of the labor, the materials, and the money to build that facility were donated by the contractors in the state of Utah.

And so there were a lot of what I call frenemies or competitive companies working side by side in tandem donating time, labor, money, resources for the greater good. And it’s all in the name of safety. It’s a safety training center for members of the AGC. So it was so inspiring and I was truly proud to be a member of AGC and to be a technology partner for companies that are members and just to see that incredible brotherhood that existed in that environment. I think that’s kind of what you’re talking about. We need to broadly do a better job of those types of things working together for the greater good.

 

Todd Weyandt:

Oh for sure. Yeah. I’m a big proponent of just having those conversations and humanizing the other person. I think that goes a long way. And that can sound super corny, but it’s effective.

 

Mike Merrell:

Yeah. Yeah. And then one of the things too that was a big push, they have a hashtag, we build Utah was the hashtag. They had a really inspiring video clip of probably a dozen of these construction projects, highways, bridges, buildings of all the different contractors and little outsert quotes from different team members that were out there working in the trenches. And it was just incredible to realize the impact that the construction industry has on society in general. And I think sometimes we in construction even take that for granted and need to be reminded of this new term of being an essential worker. We’re all essential for sure. We all equal our part of society, but construction is just a critical component, especially the services trades and people that keep things going. And so it’s inspiring to be a part of it and we need to do a better job of reminding ourselves and others of that at times I think.

 

Todd Weyandt:

Yeah. More than agree with that.

 

Mike Merrell:

So tell me, within the industry, do you think sometimes we’re our own enemy a little bit or kind of need to be better proponents of this as we have dialogue within our organizations?

 

Todd Weyandt:

I think within the industry we are most definitely our own worst enemies there. And really the blame starts and pretty much ends within the construction industry on this marketing problem. Because if you’re not telling your story, who is? And you’re leaving that up to somebody else that does not know what is really going on. And that’s just silly.

 

Mike Merrell:

Almost like the TV sitcom persona of a construction worker?

 

Todd Weyandt:

Yeah. And they have no idea what actually goes on in construction. Most people within the industry doesn’t really fully understand the scope of what all is going on. Like what you were saying there about construction and the essential worker, maybe it stems back to that humility again, that construction is so just head down, let’s get this project where we’re all in on the specs and the criteria for this one thing that it’s hard to stop and kind of lift your head up and see that bigger picture of the impact that construction really has on society at large. With the, I’m going to get these stats wrong, but with the population booming as what it is worldwide, it’s something by like 2050 there’s going to be like a couple of hundred more New Yorks in scale and size that are being built within the world. That’s insane. And that doesn’t get done without construction. So I think being able to see that bigger picture in mind is huge for the construction industry and it’s something that, as a whole, we’re not very good at.

 

Mike Merrell:

Yeah, we’re building the homes that Google’s employees live in. We’re building buildings that Google operates or Facebook or Microsoft or Apple. We have a customer that has worked on all of those large projects in the electrical trades and it’s amazing how busy they stay in expansion of some of the world’s largest and most successful businesses that depend on them in construction to allow them to grow their business and advanced technology that we’re all enjoying today. Even that we’re recording this episode with.

 

Todd Weyandt:

Yeah, absolutely. I mean who would have thought that data centers would be the end all be all this past year, but that became an essential building because with everybody going digital and remote, it’s all about the data center now instead of office buildings.

 

Mike Merrell:

Yeah. And all the buzz with green energy and solar. We have lots of customers that do solar or cellular towers or all these other things that we’re using to power our homes and our offices, our communication systems. I mean just, there’s no end to construction’s impact on every facet of our lives.

 

Todd Weyandt:

For sure.

 

Mike Merrell:

So with what’s been going on in 2020, do you think the notion has been shattered of technology isn’t really needed on the job sites or maybe some of the old school mentality that maybe existed a decade or so ago?

 

Todd Weyandt:

Man, I’d like to hope so. But I’m really curious about it because I think in large part, yes, it has. But I’m curious if when things fully open back up, do you start to see a slow creep back to that mentality and, oh, well that was good as a band-aid for what we needed during that time, but now we can get back to the way it used to be. I think that the longer everything is happening, that probably diminishes and people get used to it. And once you’ve had that taste of tech and efficiency and you’ve learned that it’s not super scary, I would think that that’s a hard thing to give back up. But I think it’s a really intriguing open question for sure.

 

Mike Merrell:

Yeah. I know we had another episode, in fact one of our first episodes of, the very first guests that we had on our show was Brian Kaskavalciyan from a company called gFour marketing and he was sharing a sentiment that I’ve said for a long time too that we are not contractors, we are businessmen and women in the construction business essentially. And one of the most important things that can happen to advance that business is marketing our ourselves properly and appropriately. And that’s definitely one of the big gaps that I see even still in construction companies.

 

Todd Weyandt:

Yeah, absolutely. And admittedly I’m very biased in the role of marketing has that it can play, but in my mind it really goes back to what I was saying about if you’re not telling your story then you’re leaving it up to somebody else. And at the end of the day, marketing is all about storytelling. People are visual. They want videos, they want pictures, they want to be able to relate to the human success stories that are in the industry.

And in my mind, at the end of the day construction is a people-driven industry and we just have to do a better job communicating what does that really mean, what’s the impact of that? You hear all these stories of the guy going into the trades, not going to college, he’s not getting $100,000 in debt and he buys his first house by the time he’s 24, 25 and he’s doing awesome and making a killing compared to the college grad that comes out a $100,000 in debt and gets a remedial entry-level job right out of school and it takes him years to catch up to where the guy who started in the trades is. So I think being able to tell that in a more compelling way is crucial to the industry moving forward. And really with the skilled labor shortage and all that stuff, I think this is a key component to that.

 

Mike Merrell:

Yeah. There’s some very, very well paid employees in the construction industry in this day and age. No question about it. I think that’s a fallacy that a lot of people maybe don’t understand. What do you think about the younger generation coming through college and maybe coming out of high school now. What can we do to do a better job of recruiting and getting some of them involved?

 

Todd Weyandt:

Yeah. Great question. So I think being able, going back to those stories, I think that that’s huge. Find the people that have done it and help make them the spokesperson for it. Because it’s one thing to say that it’s possible, it’s another thing to show somebody that it was possible with, this is maybe controversial. I’m a Tom Brady fan. So if you would tell somebody that it’s possible to win seven Super Bowl titles and go to the Super Bowl 10 times in your career, you probably wouldn’t really believe that that’s true until you hold up Tom Brady and say, this dude’s done it. It is possible. That’s way more impactful than just necessarily saying the stats of what could be. So I think finding the poster boy, poster girls for lack of a better phrase is crucial. It humanizes that story.

 

Mike Merrell:

Yeah. And if you pick Tom Brady out of a line of football players, he’s probably not the first or even the 10th through the 20th guy you’re going to pick by stature or his chiseled physique, yet any team in the NFL would absolutely love to have him, right?

 

Todd Weyandt:

Yeah, absolutely.

 

Mike Merrell:

No. So there are, again, so we’ve talked about some of these things. There are a lot of things to be excited about that are happening in the construction world and in the industry. What are some things that you wish people were more aware of? Or if you could shine a light on something, what would some of those highlights be?

 

Todd Weyandt:

Yeah, great question. I think what excites me about the construction industry right now specifically is it’s at the start of its own industrial revolution for sure, which is really exciting. It’s already starting to take place and we’ve seen that, but there’s still a whole lot more of that curve left to go. And I think the technology leaders over the next decade, meaning what you have thought in the past of as the technology leader of the Apples or the Googles of the world, I think over the next decade or two you’re going to see construction being thrown in the mix. There’s going to be a construction company that rises up and kind of takes that mantle from one of those companies. And in my mind, construction is really the tip of the spear with all the innovation coming, all the tech that’s happening and that growth mindset and the hunger for getting better, getting more efficient, getting faster, getting safer. All of that is just an incredible soup that is being mixed in, is boiling up, and it’s just going to explode here in a little bit, which is, the potential there is what I people would latch onto more, that it’s an exciting time to be in construction.

 

Mike Merrell:

Yeah. Do you think social media has a big role to play in raising that awareness?

 

Todd Weyandt:

Absolutely. Yeah. I think. So LinkedIn is my drug of choice. I like to tease. Yeah. I think LinkedIn is huge because back to the story element and kind of raising up those poster childs of it’s possible, I mean that’s where people are going to find those stories right now, is on social media. So whether it is LinkedIn or Instagram or Facebook, whatever, telling those stories and relating to the personal aspect of it, that’s huge. And that happens on social now. Love it or hate it.

 

Mike Merrell:

Yeah. We have a local, it’s a welder actually, that did some work for my partner that’s our CEO called Yeti Welding here in Utah and he invested a while back in a drone and posts stuff every day and it’s fresh and it’s fun and it’s him rising his guys or him doing aerial shots of a really cool project they just did or some huge plasma cutting table just doing something intricate. And it’s very fascinating and entertaining. And they’ve, I don’t know how they have 14, 15,000 followers at this point and it’s just a small welding shop. They do some incredible work, but if you look at just even their Instagram page, it’s very impressive and you wouldn’t think they’re small at all by the projects that they’re doing. And so that’s an example to me of where he’s doing a fantastic job of marketing a great product that’s still maybe a little bit of a secret just because of their size and scope currently.

 

Todd Weyandt:

Yeah. And the great thing about social media is it allows you, what may have been a regional player can now spread their message anywhere. There’s no limits. And that I think is a really cool, exciting thing. Opens up a lot more competition, but it also opens you up to a whole lot more customers and clients as well.

 

Mike Merrell:

Well everybody says they have the best quality or they have some tagline that’s the same as a thousand other business cards say, but it is another opportunity to differentiate yourself. And if you believe in what you’re doing and you’re passionate about it, I think that shines through and that will resonate with them more than just another marketing slogan.

 

Todd Weyandt:

Yeah. I totally agree. And then you get to compete against the best and that’s something in and of itself there.

 

Mike Merrell:

There you go. Yeah. We actually have him scheduled to be on the podcast here in the next couple of weeks. So pretty excited for him to tell that story and share his vision of what they’re trying to accomplish and how it’s helped them win more jobs.

So we’ve talked about social media, LinkedIn, different mediums that companies can utilize as tools. I mean it used to be just, oh, we’ve got a website and you immediately were in the upper echelon of a construction company. And so I think we’re well past that, but are there some other things, I mean commercials, radio stuff. I mean, what other kinds of things do you see companies doing that you think are helpful?

 

Todd Weyandt:

Yeah. I’m a big proponent of videos. Whether you can release them on the website, you can do in email campaigns or social or a ton of variety and people are growing more and more and more to be visual creatures. And we always have been, but the video allows people to see it in real life and put themselves into that story and kind of latch onto it in a different way. So any chance that you can do a video, and right now everybody has the power to do really good videos just on their cell phones. The quality there is, that’s all you really need so don’t overthink that. Everybody can be a videographer now.

 

Mike Merrell:

Well that’s a great point. And even as a learning tool for within the trades. I built a fire pit in my backyard of my home a few months back and I just looked it up on YouTube. I had a friend that had done it and I was laying cinder blocks and running gas piping and cutting out sheet metal, every step. Grouting, laying stone. And I come from construction so I’m pretty candy with some of those things, but I’d never physically done that. And it looks like I paid somebody three or $4,000 to do something that cost me about 800 bucks in materials and some labor.

 

Todd Weyandt:

Yeah. Nice.

 

Mike Merrell:

And it’s YouTube, right? So video can be a powerful tool to get the message out whatever it is you’re trying to do.

 

Todd Weyandt:

Oh for sure. YouTube is, if not the biggest, it’s second as far as more people are searching for anything on YouTube even than Google too. I mean YouTube dominates search results.

 

Mike Merrell:

Yeah. How important do you think sales people are in construction companies? I know a lot of companies adopt that and have them and then a lot of smaller companies it’s the owner or really the upper management are the only ones really actually selling directly. But what are your thoughts?

 

Todd Weyandt:

I think that there’s obviously a place for sales reps hands down. It’s a personal business in construction and that handshake or fist bump in today’s world, virtual fist bump, that goes a long way for sure. But you see the stats of most people, like 70%, 80% of people have done 90% of their research online before they ever want to talk to a sales rep now. So if that’s the only thing that you are doing is just investing in sales reps, well you’re missing the vast majority of your people and your potential customers. So you have to, whether you like it or not, you have to have a digital presence in this world. You have to have the website, you have to have social because that’s where people are going to look for you. And if you’re not there, you might as well have your closed sign hanging out because nobody’s finding you.

 

Mike Merrell:

Right. Yeah that can only reach as far as their vehicle or an airplane can take them, right?

 

Todd Weyandt:

Right.

 

Mike Merrell:

So one of the other things, and this just popped into my head, I mean a lot of the messaging that you’re sharing and the ideology is also that everyone’s in sales, even in the field, right?

 

Todd Weyandt:

Sure.

 

Mike Merrell:

They’re all a part of that sales arm and marketing arm whether they realize it or not. How do we help the field recognize their role in establishing that reputation and helping the company look as good as possible?

 

Todd Weyandt:

Yeah. I think it’s a great, important question. And it starts with telling them that they are and having that conversation. Because a lot of times, I don’t think that it stems from the people out in the field don’t care about it or they don’t want to embrace that, but they don’t think about it. They don’t, back to the head-down mentality, they’re like that’s somebody else’s job. This is my job that I’m getting paid to do.

And so to communicate that out, that goes a long way. And then follow that up. It’s not a one and done communication, it’s a consistency effort there. And then it’s a live by and set some examples. Have people throughout the company showing what that means. And maybe going back to the culture aspect as well too as I’m thinking through it is, in order to really market it well and to represent that well, you have to take pride in the company and the brand and what it all represents, which is the culture aspect of the company and making sure people are feeling heard and feeling included and feeling like they are valued in what they are doing and know the why behind what they are doing. And when they know all that and all those boxes are checked, a lot of that’s going to happen on its own. People are going to naturally start sharing what they’re doing and naturally start posting it out and talking about it more.

 

Mike Merrell:

So what I’m hearing is start the conversation and allow that message to bounce around in people’s minds so it’s top of mind and then you sort of go from there.

 

Todd Weyandt:

Yeah. Start with something and then share it consistently.

 

Mike Merrell:

So for a company that isn’t doing a good job of this or maybe for one that is, what are some things that they can do to start really marketing themselves better? After they have the conversation, what are some steps or things that you would recommend?

 

Todd Weyandt:

Yeah. Pick a platform that you want to do. Don’t try to eat it all at once. If you’ve got a website, great. What social can you add in next? Then start sharing something. I know that there’s some people that are uncomfortable talking about themselves and putting themselves out there and that’s okay. You don’t have to. Brag on an employee, brag on a client, take a picture on a job site and share what you appreciated. It doesn’t have to be anything super complex or super intense. It takes you 60 seconds to do a post and just tag somebody and let it go from there and you’ll be amazed at how it takes off.

 

Mike Merrell:

Yeah. And I think, I mean one bit of advice I would share with the listeners, just last week for the first time I posted something on LinkedIn that I like to trail run, get up in the mountains, and I was on a trail run and I thought, you know what? I’m just going to introduce myself as Mike Merrell the trail runner today that works with WorkMax and is a part of the team here. And I actually had substantially more engagement and interaction and comments and different dialogue from all kinds of people that I’d never heard from when I just posted a normal thing about our product or what we’re doing or an event where at. It was clearly more interesting and also stood out to them to just share a little bit of me even though it was on the personal side. So there there’s maybe another tidbit that the companies could try.

 

Todd Weyandt:

Yeah, for sure. Love it. I think one of the things to think about and have in the back of your mind is what makes you stop and catches your attention when you’re on social. Chances are if it’s making you stop there’s probably something there to it to use that as inspiration and an example.

 

Mike Merrell:

I love that. That’s a great point. So take note of the things that catch your eye is what you’re saying.

 

Todd Weyandt:

Yeah, absolutely.

 

Mike Merrell:

Love it. Well great. Well so to kind of wind things up a little bit, just like ask kind of a few questions here at the end and get your feedback on. So what’s one skill that you’ve mastered or that you feel like you’ve been able to really take advantage of that’s made a positive impact on your business life?

 

Todd Weyandt:

I don’t know if I’m a master at anything. But I’d like to think of telling those stories and championing the innovation in the industry and maybe tie that with because I think they all play hand in hand with the healthy team culture.

 

Mike Merrell:

I love it. Good. What about something that you do regularly that’s become your go-to kind of your superpower, something you’re really good at? What’s your one habit that you lean on to help you be productive?

 

Todd Weyandt:

I lean into conversations. So I will sit down and talk with pretty much anybody and really seeking to learn insights there. I am not the smartest person in the room, I will fully admit that, and I want to learn from smart people.

 

Mike Merrell:

I love that. Yeah. Always be learning, right?

 

Todd Weyandt:

Yeah.

 

Mike Merrell:

Is there a mistake you’ve ever made or something that you wish you would’ve done a little bit differently that you could help steer others away from and maybe avoid?

 

Todd Weyandt:

Just one mistake?

 

Mike Merrell:

Yeah

 

Todd Weyandt:

Lots of mistakes. I think my biggest one is fighting the desire to control every aspect and details. I can be a bit of a control freak and perfectionist that I have to reign that in and learn that there’s beauty in relying on the team and trusting them to handle things even if it’s different than how I would go about it.

 

Mike Merrell:

Valuable advice. I think I could surely take a lesson from that. So the last thing. So if the listeners are to walk away from this conversation with one thing in mind, what would you remind them of here at the end today?

 

Todd Weyandt:

Perception is reality and don’t underestimate the power and potential that that holds. One of my mentors always says, “I’m not what I think I am. I’m not what you think I am. I’m what I think you think I am.” Meaning it’s all about perception. So it’s how I’m seeing the world through your eyes, which there’s a lot of gray in there, but keep that in mind. Perception is important to tell your stories. Don’t leave it up to other people’s perception. Paint that picture of what you want them to do and look for those ways to innovate even small things. And there’s always ways that you can improve and up your game there.

 

Mike Merrell:

That’s awesome. Love it. Well thank you so much for joining us today. I really appreciate the conversation Todd. Looking forward to the second half of this.

 

Todd Weyandt:

Absolutely. Thank you.

 

Mike Merrell:

And thank you guests for joining on the Mobile Workforce podcast today, sponsored by about Ten Technologies and WorkMax. If you enjoyed the conversation that Todd and I had today, please give us a rating and review on your favorite podcast platform and a five stars works great for us. Also you can follow us on LinkedIn or Instagram at WorkMax_. And also please make sure that you listen to the conclusion of this two part series with Todd on the Bridging the Gap podcast which Todd hosts also. And he’s got a lot of other wonderful episodes to share there so encourage you to check those out as well. Thanks again and we look forward to continuing to bring you these valuable episodes. Again, those ratings and reviews really help us to bring these valuable conversations to help you improve your business and your life.

 

Construction Technology: Pivotal Differentiator for Clients

Construction Technology: Pivotal Differentiator for Clients

As the use of construction technology surges across the industry, an unexpected group is expressing interest in how it works: prospective clients. Current customers and prospective clients understand that technology is valuable for businesses in general. But lately, more and more are beginning to understand how a business’ technology (or lack of) can benefit (or hinder) their projects. Whether it’s gaining visibility into budgets or timelines, or receiving updates from the field in real-time, prospective clients are asking construction firms what kinds of technology they utilize and are increasingly choosing contractors based on their answers.

In this episode, Mike Gillum, a product specialist at Acumatica, reveals which technologies are attracting clients today and explains why every contractor should be implementing these solutions in 2021 and beyond. 

 

Key Takeaways:

  1. Contractors should select technology that enhances their productivity. The right tech solutions can boost your team’s productivity by eliminating unnecessary work, increasing communication and reporting. Clients want work that’s completed on time and within budget and are increasingly selecting contractors who leverage tech to do so, even if their proposal is not the lowest quoted cost. 
  2. Prioritize technology that keeps clients in the loop. In 2020 and into 2021, it hasn’t been feasible for most clients to visit job sites to track progress and share feedback. That’s why real-time tracking solutions are so valuable –– they allow contractors to report on a project’s progress with videos, pictures and data. Clients can receive these details quickly from wherever they are, so they always stay in the know.  
  3. Tech that increases safety, reliability and accuracy gives clients the security they need. The best construction managers are risk managers. Technology solutions like safety forms and labor tracking allows project managers to instantly respond to situations that arise on the job site, minimizing any loss of time, money or injury. By effectively managing risk, the contractor can eliminate issues before they take place.

 

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Click Play to Listen to the Podcast Now:

Episode Transcript:

Mike Merrill:

Hello and welcome to the mobile workforce podcast. I’m your host, Mike Merrill, and today we are sitting down with Mike Gillum, the product specialist at Acumatica. Sorry, let me start that over again. All right. Hello and welcome to the mobile workforce podcast. I am your host, Mike Merrill, and today we are sitting down with Mike Gillum, the product specialist at Acumatica Construction. With Mike’s experience working with contractors for over 20 years, we just wanted to have a nice conversation and talk about and learn some of the unique insights that he’s had from his various positions. So, Mike, welcome and thank you. We’re glad you were able to join us today.

 

Mike Gillum:

Yeah, absolutely, Mike. Thanks for having me. I’ve been looking forward to this. I know we had to reschedule once, but due to opportunities, but happy to be here absolutely.

 

Mike Merrill:

Never a better reason to postpone then bringing in the bacon.

 

Mike Gillum:

That’s it. Exactly.

 

Mike Merrill:

So before we jump into the conversations today, why don’t you share with the listeners just a little bit about your background on your experience?

 

Mike Gillum:

Yeah, definitely. So I have about 25 years of experience in the automated construction software space. My father was a contractor growing up, so I’ve been in construction my entire life. He was a sheet metal contractor. So I spent a lot of time climbing up ladders and commercial buildings, hauling buckets of whatever I needed to haul as long as I was strong enough, or when I was strong enough to do that, and then spent some time estimating and doing some PM-ing for him as well.

So once I got through college, ended up coming down to Florida where I’m based now and got hired by the Construction Estimating Institute of America, which is still around today, still exists. They were putting together programs for licensing for general contractors. They did programs around estimating and project management from an education perspective for contract, something that was missing in the Florida market.

So they hired me on and had some time doing some technical support for them and some consulting. Then they ended up purchasing a software company called Tech Sonics, which is a old DOS-based product out of San Diego, California. They ended up converting that into two other DOS-based products, which eventually became Quest Solutions. Quest Solutions was a takeoff an estimating product. I was a partner in that company and we ended up selling that to Maxwell Systems in 2008.

So I converted from Quest over to Maxwell, worked there for a number of years, and then Maxwell was acquired by Viewpoint. So I worked for Viewpoint for a couple of years and then did some consulting on my own and ended up here at Acumatica. We’re quite excited to be here, and it’s been a fun couple of years disrupting the construction space for sure.

 

Mike Merrill:

Wow. Quite a background.

 

Mike Gillum:

Quite a background. Yeah. You could say I’ve been through the acquisition pipeline once or twice for sure. Learned a lot there. No doubt about it.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. One act short of a circus it sounds like so far.

 

Mike Gillum:

That’s about right. Yeah. Yeah. It seems to be the state of affairs for technology. Right? There’s always movers and shakers, and things happening and merging and acquiring, et cetera.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. Lots of shakeups, but it’s good. I think that unique perspective that you gained through those different experiences you’ve had certainly add value to the things that you can bring to the table for your customers.

 

Mike Gillum:

Definitely. Yeah, absolutely.

 

Mike Merrill:

Well, so one of the most important tools as we’ve talked previous to this podcast, is software in construction. So when you hear a statement like that, that the software is the most important tool or one of the most important tools, what comes to mind for you?

 

Mike Gillum:

Yeah, that’s a great question. In reality, it’s contractors today typically utilize too much software. I don’t know if you’ve heard that before or not, but in your experience, in my experience certainly, when I’m talking to contractors to run their business today they may be using upwards of six or seven different products. Oftentimes those products are disparate. Meaning they’re not talking to one another, right? There’s no integration, or if there is, it’s a manual import and an export, and they’re throwing things over the fence. The folks out in the field they’re doing their work in the field and they throw it over the wall or the fence to the accounting people, then they do their thing, and maybe a week later the data comes back together.

So that’s one of the things that definitely comes to mind as an issue today with contractors that we’re trying to help solve for. I know you’re trying to help solve for as well is bringing that all together and having data speaking to each other. So it’s all about real-time information. If contractors are able to access real-time information, they can make those important decisions around profitability on a project, or change orders, or any aspect of the project that’s out there.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. That’s very interesting. I’ve heard that comment on occasion. I don’t hear it a whole lot, but I have heard it for sure. So when you say too much software, do you mean they got 15 different Phillips screwdrivers that are all about the same size? Expand on that, could you?

 

Mike Gillum:

Yeah, so they could be using… Let’s say they’re using product A to do their takeoff, and then they’re using perhaps an Excel spreadsheet or an automated system to do their estimating and bidding, or even they’re using a separate bidding tool. Then they may have two or three different apps that they’re using for project management or time capturing. Then you’ve got your accounting software. If they’re using an older accounting software that is perhaps legacy based or server based, that’s not speaking to the latest and greatest technology that’s out there from a cloud perspective, or a mobile application perspective.

So when I say too much software it’s, they’ve gone out and perhaps fixed a problem for a group of people in their organization, whether that’s the superintendents or project managers, or the estimators, or the accounting people, the AP or AR people, but they haven’t thought about the big picture of bringing all those people together. They’re one team and with the same set of information that they’re all working with, that would help make decision-making a lot easier and understanding exactly where they are with their projects, but also the company as a whole.

 

Mike Merrill:

So I’m hearing integration in any system they have as the key to utilizing and leveraging.

 

Mike Gillum:

Yeah. And integration is a term that’s often overused or misspoke about, right? It’s really the ability to gather data in one central location and have players in your company and outside of your company, both internal and external, accessing that information. So everybody’s working with the same set of data, not having to wait a week or two weeks for the PM to come in from the field, or the accounting team to go through their approval processes, or a bill to get paid. With real time information in one central location, that’s going to allow everyone to have that timely information to make those important decisions.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. You stated something there. You talked about people outside of the organization. So that’s kind of an interesting point. What types of data might be shared with external people from the company?

 

Mike Gillum:

Yeah. So if you think about a construction project from a pre-construction side, all the way through the installation or implementation of the project, and then after the project once it’s completed, there’s a whole lot of players involved there. If we start on the front side, you’ve got the architects and engineers that need to be speaking to the contractor or the owner, depending on what type of project it is. You’ve got the owner of the client, you’ve got the architects and engineers, then you have the general contractor, and then you have a whole slew of subcontractors. Again, depending on the size and scope of the project.

All at the same time, you have the vendors. People that are supplying materials or supplying services to the project or to the sub or to the general contractor. So those are the kinds of folks I mean when I say external, and they’re just as important to the whole project as somebody within your own organization. So again, having them, or providing them the ability to have access to the right information, whether it’s a change in scope, or blueprints, or specs, something has changed, there’s been a revision, getting that out to the subcontractor in a timely manner impacts the whole project. From a scheduling perspective or a job costing perspective.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. So that’s a great point. So you brought up something there too. We talked previously about the challenges with data lags on the job site. Is that where some of those things break down and occur?

 

Mike Gillum:

That’s definitely where some of those things break down and occur. If something happens with a subcontractor, perhaps it’s the MEP contractor, and something changed in the plans with the architect or engineer made a change, and the revision came in. If the general contractor doesn’t get that out to the subcontractor, perhaps the subcontractor’s already done the work and it was the wrong work, or they didn’t realize there was some kind of collision there where this wall wasn’t supposed to be there, or that pipes running through where my wiring is supposed to go type of thing. So having that information all in one place for everybody to access is extremely important.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. When you’ve got those collisions, you’ve got lost opportunity of time, wasted materials, other delays that are impacted. So-

 

Mike Gillum:

Yeah. And it all impacts the schedule, right? As you’re well aware, contractors are on a tight schedule to get their projects finished in a timely manner. Oftentimes we’ll get paid upfront, or if they finish early, they’ll make a little bonus on that project from a profitability perspective. So scheduling is extremely important. And if you’ve got a sub contractor that’s supposed to be out there on Monday and they come out and realize, well, they can’t do the work until Wednesday or Friday. Well, that subcontractor is going to go to their next project, and you might not be able to get them back for two weeks.

Where I am in Florida right now, and I think other places as well, construction is booming. Whether it’s infrastructure work or residential, multifamily. I mean, it’s everywhere. Trying to find a contractor to come paint a house or a building, or put flooring down is weeks or months in advance right now. So scheduling is extremely important.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, that’s a great point. So I guess one of the ways to combat that, and technology is kind of provided some answers in this area, but there’s things like machine learning and robotics, sensors, other things that are part of the conversation with technology and innovation these days and construction. What would you say to companies that feel like maybe those things are a threat to their job or their position? Do you hear that?

 

Mike Gillum:

It’s a great segue Mike. I think they should look at it in the opposite way. I think they should look at machine learning, AI, ML, robotics, all of that as a benefit to their organizations, because it’s only going to increase profitability on a project, increase awareness on a project and provide more timely insights. When you’re talking about those sensors, whether it’s a plumbing contractor, mechanical electrical contractor, where they’ve got sensors out on their job sites or projects where something goes wrong and someone can be instantly notified that something went wrong. So not only are you saving the client money, but you’re utilizing technology to fix the problem, to get your team out there a lot faster, whether it’s a service tech or even on a piece of heavy equipment.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. So this makes me think of another thing you mentioned. Some companies have too many different software systems, too much data maybe, or in too many different places. How does machine learning help combat that and what are some of the benefits over just a standard process that somebody used manually?

 

Mike Gillum:

Yeah. So machine learning is a really, really interesting concept as is artificial intelligence. It’s really all about understanding processes. Machine learning is going to… And there’s so many different ways where machine learning comes into play. I can give you a couple of different examples there, but if you’re from an accounting perspective, a financial perspective, if your invoices are always coming in a certain way, or perhaps they’re coming in different ways with different vendors, and you’ve got to, as an AP or AR clerk, manage that from a paper process, it can be a timely thing to have happen. You’ve got hours or days of every single day where you’re having to learn what those processes look like.

Where machine learning comes into play is, it’s going to automatically read those invoices or read that expense claim and understand from this particular vendor, every time they send it in, the date is here, the dollar amount is here, the tax and total is here and it’s going to go grab that information, and then plug that into the appropriate place within the software. So what it’s doing is, is learning your habits or it’s learning your vendor’s habits or your supplier’s habits, and understanding where that information is coming from, and then what to do with it.

To automatically create an expense claim, automatically capture that expense receipt with the name of the shop. Whether it was you went out and bought your crew lunch, or you had to run to the hardware store and buy a piece of something that you needed on the job site, it’s going to learn all of those things and automatically take that information for you and then create or automate that process.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, it is interesting, very fascinating to me. I mean, as a former contractor myself, when I think back, I can think of so many processes that would have been really nice to have those tools in place so you weren’t counting on someone to remember something, or manually fix or address an issue.

 

Mike Gillum:

Yeah. Then to take it further, if we start talking about machine learning or artificial intelligence on yellow iron, on big pieces of equipment. I’ve been on some job sites in the last year where there are no operators, where the equipment is running automatically. The blade on that dozer is going up and down based on information that came from the engineer, or came from the estimate, or the blueprints where it knows the grade for that particular area of the site. It’s just amazing technology. It’s coming along way. So back to your original question, I would suggest that people look at that with open eyes, with a perspective saying, “how can this help my business?” Not being afraid of it or not thinking that it’s going to take somebody’s job away. It’s actually going to increase the profit of your projects and overall for your company.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. I mean, for some contractors, those terms can be scary, but I think of in a personal application at home I have the Nest thermostats on my furnace and a Nest doorbell and it notifies me on my phone when a package has been delivered or picked up or when a visitor’s there that I already know or I’m familiar with. So these tools are available in construction from what you’re saying, and there’s processes that can actually lead to greater profitability if we can-

 

Mike Gillum:

Yeah, that’s exactly right. I’m glad you made that comparison there to your home life. If we all look at our cell phones today and they’re more than just a cell phone. They’re a mini computer in our pocket and we rely on them so much from an application perspective, and an information perspective. If you’re used to using your cell phone and having ask Siri or ask whomever you’re asking Alexa or whatever device you’re using, to provide you information. That’s what these companies from a construction software perspective are offering. They’re providing that for your business in addition to what you are already are using at home, Alexa or Siri or whatever the device is, but having that in your business is only going to improve that.

Also another benefit of machine learning and artificial intelligence is that it’s going to attract more people to want to work for your organization. Some of the younger generation, they grew up with this technology. They grew up with iPads and iPhones and Android devices, where they had them when they were two years old and were whipping around on their computers. Now when they come out into the workforce, they’re expecting that technology to be where they want to go to work, and if it’s not, I think you’ll have a harder time hiring someone that has that background.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. That’s a great point. I know I’ve had other guests on the podcast share similar sentiments that these kids coming out of school… They won’t know how to navigate these manual processes that some people are really addicted to today.

 

Mike Gillum:

No, they’ll look at us like we have three heads. It’s like, “What do you mean you’re not using machine learning?” Or, “What do you mean you’re not using a computer to do that or software to do that?” Yeah.

 

Mike Merrill:

Well-

 

Mike Gillum:

It’s kind of… Yeah. Sorry. It’s kind of the same concept of legacy based software, which did its job for decades, but now we’re moving out of that and into cloud-based software, and it’s the same concept when we’re talking about machine learning and AI. It’s new technology and what can it do to help my business?

 

Mike Merrill:

Well, yeah, like satellite technology and drone technology, and actually having an overview of the roof where the issue is, as opposed to getting up on a ladder, three stories up and risking safety possibly when maybe it’s not necessary to see what’s going on.

 

Mike Gillum:

That’s exactly right. Yeah. I’m sure you were part of the Procor ground break event and the ENR future tech event that happened in the last couple of months, and where they had robotic dogs on job sites walking around and making marcations on this concrete, and doing safety tours and issues through the project. What that’s doing is it’s taking that information, learning what that information, who needs that information, and then feeding that back to, whether it’s an ERP package or an estimating package or building information, BIM modeling design tool that it’s feeding that information. It’s just, it’s amazing what’s happening out there today. It’s pretty exciting.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. It is fascinating. So I guess on the other side of that, so there’s that side where there’s a lot of opportunities to take advantage of, but in the same bucket of the discussion you already mentioned with companies have too much software, too many tools, how does a company avoid getting in over their head on investing in these shiny new toys that seem cool, but then they don’t necessarily change if you don’t implement them properly?

 

Mike Gillum:

Right. Great question. So again, it’s like a kid walking into a candy store, into a toy store. What do I want versus what do I need? So I would suggest that you sit down with your executive team, the owners of the organization, understand what are we doing today for our processes? Count how many different software packages you’re utilizing today to perform your tasks. Each one of your teams, whether it’s the field and the office, or you’ll break that down even further with engineering, versus estimating, versus PM’s and superintendents. Understand exactly what you’re doing today, and have a game plan going into the future with what do we need today? How can we purchase something today that’s going to grow with us? There’s lots of opportunities out there where you may not need the big engine today, and you only need a small chunk of that, and that’s available to you.

The other pieces can come online once you start growing into that process. So I would suggest that everyone does their homework, understand what the needs are, understand what’s available out there. With the internet today, we’ve got all that information right at our fingertips. We can look up and understand and read reviews, and see what’s happening out there in the market today. They can even watch this, like a video blog like we’re doing here today and understand and learn from it what their needs are. So I would suggest doing your homework and understanding what the opportunities are.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. Those are great points. So with, again, the technologies are out there, there’s tools that we’ve never had before, there’s opportunities for improvement. What do you think a company today, in this environment, this climate, with everything going on in this crazy town USA, 2020, that we’re all kind of victims of, for lack of a better term, what does a company focus on to continue to growing? It sounds like everybody’s pretty darn busy. There’s a lot of work to do. How do they turn that work into productive growth?

 

Mike Gillum:

So again, I think technology is a big part of the answer. I think that understanding what the needs are for your organization today. You’ve got X amount of jobs that you’re currently working, you’ve got X amount of jobs that you’re currently bidding, or are coming up for bid over the next six to nine months or 12 to 18 months, depending on the size of your company and how far out you’re looking, but you need to have an understanding of where you’re headed. Where are we today? Are we comfortable where we are today? Are we a lifestyle business?

We’re always going to be a $25 million contractor. Do we have aspirations to be a $50, $75, $100 million contractor? That’s going to help answer a lot of those questions. If growth is in your future, then I highly suggest technology is a big part of your research and what you’re looking for to grow.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. That’s great advice also. I think just reading between the lines with what you’ve been sharing, it sounds like cloud-based technology is another real key differentiator between just plugging another software tool and that’s standalone.

 

Mike Gillum:

100% agreed. Yeah. I think cloud is the future, but it’s also the here and now. Cloud technology is available today in the marketplace for almost every single aspect of your business. Whether it’s the takeoff and estimating side, the bidding side, the project management side, the scheduling side, the accounting, the ERP space, all available in the cloud today. What the cloud really means is, as you’re well aware, Mike, is anywhere, anytime access. I can be sitting here where I am in Sarasota, Florida, you’re in Utah, other people are all around the world and within minutes, you and I can go on a piece of software, enter information, and it’s instantly available to them.

They don’t have to utilize any technology like VPN or Citrix, and those can get expensive where you’re having to hardwire things in. Cloud is there. Cloud is anywhere, anytime, any device. Doesn’t matter if you’re on a Mac or a PC, you have access to that information. So I think if you’re looking today at replacing one of your big pieces of software in your organization, then you should 100% be looking towards the cloud.

 

Mike Merrill:

Great point. So what’s the difference between server-based, or I should say cloud computing or true web based systems? Is there a difference and what does that mean to you?

 

Mike Gillum:

Yeah, there is a difference. So there’s companies out there that are calling themselves hosted cloud products or hosted cloud services. What that really means is they’ve taken a server-based product that’s built to run on a company server, and they’re just plugging that up in the cloud, whatever type of cloud service, private cloud, or one of the public clouds that are out there, and they’re calling it a cloud software, but it’s not really true cloud.

It’s not built in the web, for the web, with the latest and greatest technologies. That’s the biggest differences is taking an older technology, perhaps something that was developed 20 or 30 years ago, depending on what we’re talking about, and plugging it in the cloud. You’re not going to get the speed. You’re not going to get the benefits of a true cloud solution that’s built in the web for the web by going with a hosted cloud solution.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, that’s a great clarification. So I think as I think of the things that you’ve mentioned here, for companies to grow in 2021 and to plan for the future, it sounds like investing in cloud based systems that are integrated on a cloud platform, is that your best recommendation?

 

Mike Gillum:

It is. I mean, you need to look… Again, you need to look at your organization, what’s your plans for the future are, where are we today, what’s our budget? Budget’s always a big part of anything, whether it’s personal or professional, and then understand what the needs are, but again, having access to real time information and having all of the players involved on a project able to access that information, I don’t think anything other than the cloud based software is going to provide that to anyone.

 

Mike Merrill:

Well stated. So one other thing I’ve just got to say, and this is more of a compliment. Hate to put you on the spot, but you and I co-presented on a software webinar a few months back. I’ve done literally hundreds of these over the years, and I really came away thinking, “Wow, Mike is a master presenter.” You really-

 

Mike Gillum:

I appreciate that.

 

Mike Merrill:

I wonder, what do you think has helped you have that confidence and the competence in presenting to large groups on something like that with software?

 

Mike Gillum:

Yeah. I appreciate those kind words, Mike. Thank you very much. And coming from you, an industry veteran that’s probably done as many, if not more than I have done, from a public speaking engagement perspective, I really appreciate that. I think it’s understanding your space. Having done the homework on what you’re talking about, and having lived and breathed automated construction software for the past, almost, three decades has certainly helped me get to the place where I am today.

So it’s knowing what I’m talking about, it’s having the ability to speak publicly, and not be afraid to get up there and put your face out there, and just go for it. But really it’s understanding your topic. You don’t have to be an expert, but you’ve got to know what you’re talking about and you’ve got to have the right answers. When you don’t, it’s okay to say, “You know what? I don’t know the answer to that, but I can find somebody who can. I can get you to an expert.” And you’re aware, we have dozens of people we can turn to in this industry that we’ve known for a long time to help get answers and drive people in the right direction.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. That’s great advice. I think even for any business owner, each of us have the opportunity to be a leader in a various capacity. So plugging into whatever it is really investing of yourself in those important details, I think is critical.

 

Mike Gillum:

Yeah. Well, that’s a great point, Mike. I’m glad you said that. So I’ve always been a fan of education, furthering your education. I don’t mean through college or going out and getting your master’s or doctorate degrees or things like that. I’m talking about educating yourself from a business perspective. Whether that’s through reading a book from a leader that you like to follow, or somebody that writes something about a certain organization.

There’s lots of opportunity out there to better yourselves from a public speaking perspective, there’s a product out there called Demo to Win. I’m sure you’re familiar with that. I’ve taken numerous sessions with the Demo to Win folks and learned so much from them. So that’s definitely been helpful to me being able to understand tell, show, tell. Tell what you’re going to talk about, show it, and then tell it. Don’t just show, show, show, show, show. You’ve got to tell the story and then come back to the tell again.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. That’s great advice, again, for anyone in business, because we’re all in sales, regardless of whether we think are-

 

Mike Gillum:

No matter what position you’re in, that’s right.

 

Mike Merrill:

Again, we’re selling a vision, we’re selling our commitment, our integrity whatever business we’re in. In construction, we’re selling the experience. It’s not just the sticks of bricks, but I’m your contractor of choice because I’m going to land you safely with a completed project on time, on budget, and it’s meeting the expectation that you have envisioned in your mind. If you do a better job of selling that vision, you’re going to be more successful.

 

Mike Gillum:

That’s exactly right. Ultimately that’s going to drive you happy customers, referenceable customers, and that just keeps on snowballing for sure. Great point.

 

Mike Merrill:

Better stories to share for the next one. Right?

 

Mike Gillum:

That’s exactly right. Yep.

 

Mike Merrill:

Great. Well, this has been so much fun today, Mike. I guess one thing just in wrapping up that I’d like to ask each of the guests. What is one process or hack for lack of a better term that you’ve plugged into over your career that you feel like is your strength or the super power that you have to share? And maybe how can somebody else learn to do something similar?

 

Mike Gillum:

Yeah, sure. Great question. So I’m a hands-on guy. I like to get my hands dirty. Whether that’s on the computer, inside of a piece of software, learning how that software works and understanding it so I can better understand how it may interact with whatever software I’m working with, or how it might help a company or a business. So I like to get my hands dirty. I like to know as much as I can about it.

I’ve also got an old 1994 Jeep Wrangler that I get my hands dirty on quite often in order to keep it running. So again, I like to get into the weeds and understand how things work, and then obviously being able to share that information and help educate others. But I think that being helpful to people, whether it’s in your personal life or professional life, and being kind to others… I know that’s a term that perhaps is sometimes overused, but maybe not enough in this day and age is also very important. Treat others how you would want to be treated with respect no matter someone’s standing or anything else, I think is extremely important. So I definitely live by those credos.

 

Mike Merrill:

Great. Well, thank you. That sounds fantastic and great advice. I appreciate you joining us today. I’ve had a great time. We’ll have to do this again down the road.

 

Mike Gillum:

Sounds great. Thanks for having me, Mike. Have a great day.

 

Mike Merrill:

Absolutely. And to the guests, thank you so much for joining us today on the Mobile Workforce Podcast. Sponsored by About Time Technologies and Work Max. If you enjoyed the conversation that Mike and I had today, or able to learn anything new or valuable, please give us a follow on Instagram @WorkMax_, and also subscribe to the show on iTunes, Spotify, Google podcasts, or whatever your preferred podcast platform is, so you’ll never miss another insightful episode. Also, if you enjoyed the podcast, please leave us a five-star rating and review. That helps support, helps us to provide this valuable content and information with other businesses and individuals like yourselves so they can improve, number one in business, and also in turn in life. 

 

Construction Field Operations and Finance: Bridging the Gap

Construction Field Operations and Finance: Bridging the Gap

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

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

 

Key Takeaways:

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

 

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Episode Transcript:

Mike Merrill:

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

James Coyle:

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

Mike Merrill:

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

James Coyle:

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

Mike Merrill:

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

James Coyle:

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

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

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

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

Mike Merrill:

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

James Coyle:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mike Merrill:

Figure out how to duplicate it.

James Coyle:

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

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

Mike Merrill:

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

James Coyle:

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

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

Mike Merrill:

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

James Coyle:

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

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

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

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

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. Yes, you are.

James Coyle:

I’m passionate about everything.

Mike Merrill:

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

James Coyle:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

James Coyle:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

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

 

James Coyle:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

James Coyle:

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

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

 

Mike Merrill:

Yep, I can hear you.

 

James Coyle:

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

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

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

James Coyle:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

James Coyle:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

James Coyle:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

James Coyle:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

James Coyle:

The worst of vendors are technology companies, right?

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah.

 

James Coyle:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

Right.

 

James Coyle:

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

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

James Coyle:

Absolutely.

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

James Coyle:

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

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

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

James Coyle:

We’re places.

 

Mike Merrill:

We’re slave to the technology.

 

James Coyle:

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

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

James Coyle:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

James Coyle:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

James Coyle:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

James Coyle:

Absolutely.

 

Mike Merrill:

All right. Thank you, James.

 

James Coyle:

You’re welcome. Take care of them.

 

Mike Merrill:

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

Subcontractor Technology to Future-Proof Your Business

Subcontractor Technology to Future-Proof Your Business

Cutting edge technology is no longer just for large construction companies. An increasing number of smaller firms and sub-contractors are implementing tech solutions to improve communications, increase their productivity and protect their businesses. 

In this episode, Steve Antill, Chief Revenue Officer of Foundation Software, joins the podcast to discuss technologies subcontractors and small firms can implement to streamline their efforts with general contractors. He explains the different benefits of communication, labor scheduling and documentation tools, and shares why companies – no matter their size – need to have an IT strategy. Steve also talks about how investing in technology and eliminating data silos pays off for construction businesses in the long term, and why the time to get started is now.

 

Key Takeaways:

  1. Leverage technology to build and strengthen key relationships. Whether it’s vendors, partners, suppliers, workers or subcontractors, technology can be used to allow everyone to collaborate and communicate. Having open lines of communication is especially important to proactively send notifications or get in touch when delays or absences are on the horizon.
  2. Digital documentation is a must. Even when all parties have the best of intentions, misunderstandings are bound to happen. By investing in digital documentation, contractors can store their records, search for change orders and pictures, and protect themselves from litigation and pay disputes. 
  3. Integration is the key to ensuring different systems speak the same language.  Being able to connect with the systems and data that the general contractor is using gives subcontractors insight into the current status of the projects they are engaged with as well as data on the tasks they are directly connected to. 

 

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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 Steve Antill, the CRO at Foundation Software. Steve invests most of his time in building relationships across the construction industry. One of the things he really focuses on is building those relationships and bridges with companies, sales, marketing, and product development teams. Currently, Steve has over 20 years of experience and has led to more than 1,000 software selections and implementations for contractors of every side and in all different trades.

So Steve, before we jump into the conversation today, I wanted to just give you a chance to give us a little bit about your background and maybe share with the listeners what you have learned through your experience in the industry and maybe some of the places you’ve been.

 

Steve Antill:

Thanks, Mike. So I’ve been with Foundation for 21 years. Had started in inside sales, basically talking to contractors to get them lined up to look at our software. I really worked my way up the food chain, it’s one of the things we do real well here is we like to develop people over time. So I did inside sales for a while. 

Then one of the really cool things I did is, I’m out of Cleveland, Ohio, but I moved to California back in 2003 and started a West Coast office for us. We were very regional at the time so it helped put us on the map on the West Coast, so I gained a ton of experience because I was working with contractors on the West Coast, and had some experience with people in the Midwest. So as our company grew from regional to national, I was very much engaged with that. 

Then in 2011, I came back to Ohio to run sales, Director of Sales at the company. As our company’s grown and evolved, I also morphed into business development, maintaining a lot of relationships with industry professionals, accounting firms, CPAs, other vendors in the software space. We’ve continued to grow over the years and now my title is CRO and sales is underneath me, marketing’s underneath me, business development’s underneath me, but very much I’m still out there talking to contractors on a daily basis, working hand-in-hand with them on the sales side, and building relationships with various industry professionals. 

 

Mike Merrill:

Wow, that’s awesome. Great laundry list of experience and appreciate you sharing that. 

 

Steve Antill:

Thanks Mike, good to catch up with you guys. We’ve got back many years, it’s going to be a fun conversation here, so. 

 

Mike Merrill:

Awesome, well thank you again for joining us. So I guess just to start out here, one thing I’m curious about and I know you have a lot of experience in this, but what is it that drives the relationship between construction companies and their suppliers, subcontractors? What are some of those key things that you see as important?

 

Steve Antill:

Yeah, so thanks for the question, that’s a good one. From our lens, just for full disclosure, 70% of our 5,200 clients are subcontractors. They’re very labor intensive, so I tend to approach the world and view things more from the subcontractor lens. However, we do have some general contractors but most of them have labor. So a lot of our clients here at Foundation tend to be labor intensive trades like electrical, mechanical, and heavy machinery where payroll tends to be a real driving factor in their company. The labor cost, the burden cost. 

So some of the things that we see on a daily basis that drives the relationships and their dealings with other folks would be, if they’re doing a government job working with a general contractor, making sure they’re getting their certified payrolls submitted on time, all the contractors on the job are getting the right paperwork in. As you know over the years, everything’s become so litigious, paperwork has such a big trail. Being collaborative with the generals and the other contractors on the job are real driving factors. Making sure they’re dotting their I’s and crossing their T’s, so to speak, as far as getting everything submitted. Then the general is aware of that and they’re even communicating those items back up to the owners, the agencies, making sure everybody’s working in unison on the project. So that’s one thing.

Then obviously on the material side, a lot of these folks, especially the ones doing the install work, they’re staying on top of their purchase orders. Making sure their requisitions are getting to the suppliers, making sure those materials are getting delivered to the job in a timely fashion so they’re staying on schedule. Again, this is all collaborative. These guys are moving around job to job, and especially now in the last nine to 12 months, it’s going to be coming up over time. Making sure they’re getting these materials at the job site because a lot of the stuff tends to come from overseas often. Staying on schedule, communicating that up with the GC, making sure they’re getting their piece done before the next contract, especially the next trade contractor comes in to do their piece. So this stuff is becoming more and more critical, especially due to COVID. I mean you’re dealing with suppliers, issues there. You’re communicating this back to the generals and dealing with all the other trade contractors in between. 

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, so there’s yeah, lots of different areas and you mentioned the suppliers, materials, the sticks and bricks, if you will. That’s one side, but there is another side too. I think I’d be interested in hearing what your thoughts are on how important those relationships are between vendor, partner, suppliers, workers, subcontractors, essentially the rest of the people that actually have to put those materials in on a project, install those, deliver them, whatever their role is. I mean, how important do you think it is to have those communications properly set up with the people?

 

Steve Antill:

Yeah, right. So essential, I mean as you’re throwing the question my way I’m thinking, essential is how I’d answer the question. Getting into our world and probably your world, these technology pieces have come into the market now that allow everybody to be collaborative and communicate. I think about capturing payroll in the field, getting it submitted, just selfishly within the contractor themselves, but collaborating up with the GC’s for some of these communication tools through project management systems that they’re collaborating with their generals and other contractors on and even the suppliers, it’s critical, it’s essential. I mean, one delay, one person being off a few hours a day can throw a whole wrench into the process and to the job. Supplier getting stuff to a job site late can throw a monkey wrench into everything. 

So I mean, think about this. I mean, we’ve been doing this for a while. So many of probably your clients and our clients, if we walked in their offices a few years ago, they were doing all their scheduling for labor and materials on whiteboards. 

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, yep. 

 

Steve Antill:

I mean, and now there’s products out there that they use. For example, we get these great labor scheduling tools that their guys no longer have to manually call the office and find out where they’re going tomorrow or what time they need to be there, what they’re working on. They’re actually getting a text notification telling them where to be, the supervisor to check in with. Same project managers are getting notifications of, make sure you’re talking to the general contractor tomorrow, do your safety inspection, make sure all the teams are working in unison. We’re moving this direction fast where there are unsophisticated contractors that were doing all these things manually from a communication standpoint that even three years ago were essential. Now we’re getting to the point where everybody’s actually being collaborative and working together and taking advantage of these better technologies now. So all that stuff is essential and you just see a big movement of contractors taking advantage of tools to connect them up with everybody on the job. 

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, your words are resonating with me and it’s making me think of a guest we had recently on another episode, Damien Brothers. He was talking about how critical it is to have good documentation and how a lot of times he just learned that if he wasn’t able to document things properly, that it wasn’t even necessarily worth bringing up the argument or the contention point. So how important is having that documentation in place and where you can use it in this process?

 

Steve Antill:

I love what you just said. You don’t have it, it’s probably not worth fighting the battle. We hear from our customers, the generals a lot of them, their hearts are in the right place. The subs, their hearts are in the right place, but things go sideways. So often these jobs have issues with litigation, payments held. The traditional story you hear in construction, but there’s so many great ways to document things. 

Here’s a story that I’ve heard that I really like. Something that didn’t exist 10 years ago, there’s a software called On Earth, it’s designed for heavy contractors that can document what they’re basically moving in and out of the jobs, as far as dirt loads and things like that. So completely unrelated to what we do or what you guys would do. I really like the story. So there was a water system that needed work and a city didn’t have time to do a survey. They wanted to get them moving so their drawings and everything and survey went back to the 1980s. They said, “We got to get someone out there to fix it,” so this contractor won the job. Of course as the job started, the amount of dirt they had to move to fix this dam and water system went up through the roof. Of course, halfway through the job they were talking to the city saying, “We got a whole bunch of change orders coming your way because this is out of scope from what we signed up for.” The city said, “That’s fine, just we’re documenting, we’re being aware of it.” Of course at the end of the job they started submitted these overages and basically the city said, “There’s no way you guys moved that much dirt. We’re not paying you for these change orders.”

 

Mike Merrill:

Wow.

 

Steve Antill:

So typical story 10 years ago, these guys ended up in litigation or ended up settling and all that, however, this company subscribed to this product called On Earth, which takes satellite photos of a job site.

 

Mike Merrill:

Wow.

 

Steve Antill:

They actually went back, you’re talking about documentation, they had photos every day of all their trucks coming and going from the jobs because the city’s argument was the trucks are only half loaded. You’re basically moving half the dirt you’re billing us for and all that. They basically thew it in front of the city’s face and said, “Here’s proof, here’s documentation. This is what we truly did.” The city said, “You know what? You’re right, we’re going to pay you.” 

 

Mike Merrill:

Wow.

 

Steve Antill:

So that contractor, by subscribing to a system that was documenting things very specific to them and their needs, it probably paid for itself multiple times just in that one situation. 

So I mean, we talk of 20 years ago when me and you got into this. You never heard contractors using tools like that. Now, there’s tools like that available to all the different trades, very specific to them available to the generals. A lot of these are collaborative tools that GCs and the owners and the subs all use together. It helps the process off keeping jobs moving and it helps avoid litigation between the subs and the GCs a lot of times. 

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, and the market right now is so busy, everybody’s behind. There’s a lot going with some of the other challenges, the social distancing, the spacing, you can’t throw as much labor at things as maybe you used to. So the last thing you need now is litigation or delays that are external to actually getting something done. 

 

Steve Antill:

Yeah, I mean there’s so much uncertainty right now. These guys are worried about their backlog. We have clients that from March through May, June, July, a lot of their jobs stopped, started, stopped, started. Trying to coordinate all of that and getting all the parties back on the job site at the same time. Then like you said, appeasing all of these safety requirements that have come into play now. Their world’s changed and it’s going to be different moving forward in ’21. So all these technologies that capture data in the field, documenting the safety conditions at the job site incidents and all that, in my mind they easily pay for themselves because so many of them are so fairly priced and reasonable and easy and accessible for even contractors that always thought that stuff was out of their range a few years ago.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, that’s very interesting. I think like yourself and me too, we have exposure to so many different contractors and so many different industries and different sizes, from little guys to huge guys, publicly traded companies. With that background that you have and that perspective, what do you think some of the biggest challenges are that contractors are facing or trying to solve today?

 

Steve Antill:

Yeah, I come back to the word uncertainty right now. I mean, we’re living in a moment right now. We talk to our customers daily over here and say people aren’t nervous would be lying. It’s November 17th when we’re recording this, I mean yesterday Michigan started shutting things down. Our company, we have over 150 customers that are active there and I guarantee in the next couple days we’ll be talking to some and they’ll say certain jobs they are doing are just shutting down. So there’s a lot of uncertainty on these jobs. A lot of uncertainty about backlog beyond the first half of next year for both small and large contractors. That’s going to be changing week in and week out. 

I mean one of the things we were just talking about today over here is, if there’s another stimulus package, we’re very hopeful there’ll be an infrastructure piece in that because that can feed a large amount of labor and labor and equipment subcontractors for a long time, which would be good for our country and be good for our industry as a whole. But again, until some of the stuff gets done, there’s a lot of uncertainty in these contractor’s minds. They’re very worried for the first time in probably seven, eight years, because the economy’s booming and just because they’re going fast still and haven’t had shut downs in certain areas, a lot of them are worried what’s going to happen late next year and into 2022. So that’s a recurring theme we’ve been hearing from our clients for a few months is, it’s almost like they just want a clear answer of what’s next year going to look like and the year after going to look like? Unfortunately, I don’t think with everything going on right now, people have any clue what the next couple months are going to bring. 

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, who knows, right?

 

Steve Antill:

Who know, right, so.

 

Mike Merrill:

So the jobs you’ve got in place and that you’re on, all the more reason to make sure that those run well and are as profitable as possible so that you can control those variables that you do have some control over. 

 

Steve Antill:

Yeah, yeah, yeah. So it’s just it’s a different time right now than anything we’ve experienced in probably the last decade in our industry where things have just been booming nonstop, and even though things look good right now there’s a lot of questions about what’s going to happen into the future here. 

So I think from both our GC clients and sub clients and just folks I talk to, if they know they’ve got a strong backlog, they’re comfortable, they’ll be more aggressive in what they do. They’ll focus on building their business and taking advantage of tools that’ll help their company got to that next level but when they get uncertain, it just makes them decide often not to do anything. They might be missing the boat on things that can help their company because they’re fearful of spending money on what they might deem as extras, but there are a lot of tools that could help them on the back end of all this.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, and we both know of course that in construction, we’re known as laggards of adoption of technology. 

 

Steve Antill:

Yeah, completely agree, but the one thing I tell people is, I’ve been doing this 21 years, and I don’t have any hard facts on this but I think our industry, the technology’s evolved more in the last probably 36 months than the prior 17 years. 

I mean it feels like for the first time I’ve been doing this, that these contractors are embracing technology more so than they ever have and they’re more aware of it. I don’t want to stereotype things but we deal with a lot of small to mid-sized contractors that I think there’s been a little bit of a change in the generations of companies. So mom and dad started the company and ran it to the last few years and now a lot of times now this newer generation, whether it’s the kids or younger leadership, the management team, a generation like Gen X and the millennials are starting to move into these leadership roles. We’ve grown up with technology and computer. So when we come into these spots and we’re looking at the business and saying, “Why are we not taking advantage of it?” Where before, it was such a hard sell to get that generation to, why do we need this, why do we need computers, why do we need technology, why do we need a mobile solution, we can do it by hand. Now this new generation tends to be hungrier for it where they’re like, why aren’t we taking advantage of these tools?

 

Mike Merrill:

Right, yeah I remember not so long ago, I mean even a decade ago, companies were saying, “I’ve got all the technology I need in this spreadsheet.”

 

Steve Antill:

Yeah, yeah, yeah. That spreadsheet might’ve been a Lotus spreadsheet, right?

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, true. Good point. Green screen software. 

 

Steve Antill:

Yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s moving quick, yeah. I mean how many folks, the first thing they call into us and say is, “What cloud solutions do you have?” 36 months ago, even though many other industries, are already using the cloud,  other industries, five, six, seven years ago. Construction had just got on their radar. So when you talk about construction being known as laggers, it’s taken a lot to get there but it just seems like things are moving much quicker right now.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, it’s funny you mention that. I was going to ask you how the cloud has impacted what you guys do every day and how often is it now coming up?

 

Steve Antill:

Yeah, all the time, all the time. One of the thing we even talk about is, we have multiple products over here. We have a mobile system, we have payroll for construction, we have Foundation software, the big accounting package. We have thousands of on-premise clients that over time will move over to our hosted environment, whatnot, but I think a lot of times too, a lot of times when people call in just they assume now that what you offer is cloud based. They just assume what you offer is that option and they won’t even consider anything else but a SaaS or a cloud option even if you were still selling on-premise. So it’s just interesting where once you start talking to them they do start talking about cloud and all that. 

The one thing that I always talk about with our customers and things and you guys may see it too is, I think we’re going to through this transition right now too, where I’ll flat out ask if I’m the CEO of a company, “Does your company have an IT strategy?” A lot of times they’re like, “What are you talking about?” I think we’re in that phase now, especially with these small to mid sized contractors that may be a little bit behind the big $500 million contractor. They may use a program like yours like WorkMax cloud based, but then they use Foundation on-premise version, and then they had an estimating system in for 20 years that is also on-premise. You say, “Well do you guys have a goal? Are you trying to all your key programs you need to operate your business to a hosted environment?” A lot of times they’re like, “No, we haven’t had the conversation.” I’ll say, “Well maybe it’s time you guys put a roadmap in place where maybe three years from now you want your WorkMax, you want Foundation, you want your estimating system all to be hosted in a cloud environment so you’re no longer maintaining that infrastructure in your office.” 

So I think we’re seeing a little bit of a mismatch now with a lot of these contractors where one or two of their key three or four programs are on-premise, and then the other couple are cloud and all that. They’re a little bit back and forth. So it’s just trying to educate these guys to sit down and say, “Do you have a true IT strategy of what you’re looking to do with your key systems you use to run your business on a day-to-day basis over time?”

 

Mike Merrill:

Well, so and you mentioned various systems, various products. How important is integration of those different systems if they’ve chosen some best of breed options?

 

Steve Antill:

Yeah, yeah, so we’ve gone from import export, to API. So a lot of times our customers and our prospects we talk to, tell me about your APIs. Right out of the gate, that’s the first thing. We say, “Well, what are you looking for?” “I don’t know, I was just told to ask about your APIs.” So-

 

Mike Merrill:

I was going to say, they didn’t used to even know what the word is or what the acronym was referring to, but sounds like some still don’t but they know they need it. 

 

Steve Antill:

Yeah, right. So we’re getting a lot of push from customers because they no longer want to export from one system and then manually import it in, which to tell you the truth, I mean that works fine for a lot of folks with certain systems. It works fine, but as time goes by that’ll become less and less as more API tools get written. So we do have much more of a demand for APIs now than we did probably 18 months ago, 24 months ago. 

I’ll give you an example. We have a really good relationship with Procore, and obviously they’re the big, big player in the industry right now. So we’ve developed API tools with them. They have a great system but our average customer’s always looking to add it from our lens, the accounting world. Their user’s doing it from their side, from Procore or the operational standpoint, which they do things different than us. 

We get the call all the time is, “Hey, we want to use these API tools. Make Procore and Foundation talk.” We’re like, “Okay, we have these available.” So I tell our average customer, I’m like, “Understand the technology part of that is the easy part. It’s still unifying your team and creating the collaboration between office and operations so you guys are on the same page of what you want to bring back and forth between the two systems.” 

Because for example, our accounting folks are so embedded in setting up vendors and accounts payable because that’s a traditional accounting function. Where a typical Procore user maintains their vendor listen in Pro Core because they’re writing POs and subs out of their and all that. So sitting these teams down and say, “Okay, you can send vendors from Procore into Foundation. How do you feel about that?” The operations team says, “That’s what we want to do.” Then the accounting folk says, “No, no, no, no, no, no, no. We want to maintain complete control. We want to set the vendors up in Foundation and send it to Procore.” So our API with them works both says. Their preference and the technology part’s the easy part. Getting their teams to agree of how they want these workflows to go between the two system, tends to be the struggle because they just don’t see the world from the same lens. 

But as we get more clients using those API tools and we continue to have conversations and dialog with Procore as we share more customers for example, we’re putting better processes and to say, “Hey, these are best practices other companies have done, and this is how these things have worked for you,” so.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, yeah, that’s interesting how again I like how you said they’re looking at it from their perspective. Again, a power user in Procore may not be the power user in Foundation Software

 

Steve Antill:

Yeah, right. The power user in Procore may not fundamentally understand the flow of accounts payable posting in the general ledger and in the job costing. It’s completely foreign to them and all that. A typical accounting manager may not know the complete workflow of how the PM’s going through and developing change orders in Procore. They just, we want the change order in Procore to talk to Foundation. Well, what type of change orders do you wan to come back to Foundation to update your job costing in Foundation? A lot of times they’re like, “I don’t know.” Well, we have to sit these two teams down together and explain what we can do in that. So the technology again is the easier part, it’s getting those two teams to agree and understand how those systems work and can talk, that tends to be more the challenge. 

I think just as a whole in our industry, as more API tools get developed out, we’re going to continue to deal with that system by system, cross each bridge one at a time, especially we have an API tool with ProEst estimating software. We just had a client last week, really good longtime client that started asking for more things than the API offers. ProEst is like, “It’d be nice if you guys did this,” but we started looking at it and we’re like, “I don’t even know if this logically makes sense.” What the estimator wanted to do doesn’t really make sense in our system. So we got them together on the phone, all three of us and talked through it and they were like, “Oh, you’re right. There would be no point in doing that.” Even though he thought that could be something that would benefit their client, it’s just not something that happens in the accounting side. So again, another example where different departments see the world from different lenses. 

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, and I think you’re… I mean I’m having flashbacks of so many conversations that I’ve had. In fact, even just a couple of weeks ago we had a new client and they’re in the mining and energy space. In a big room with eight or 10 people, and depending on what feature or function we were talking about, different people around that table said, “Oh no, no, no, no, no, I don’t even care about that. What I need is…” then yet somebody else would say, “Well no, no, no, that’s critical, we have to have that.” So to your point, we’ve got different focuses for different people depending on what their role is. I think APIs and having a workflow process that lets these systems work together to maximize the options of possible touchpoints is something we can do as technology vendors but at the end of the day, software is only good if it’s used by its user. So that’s a gap that I think we have to do a better job leading people to try and fill.

 

Steve Antill:

Yeah, I like what you said there in that example. You said, “I do not need that or I do not want that.” So again, a lot of times one of the things that I’ve seen exist in our industry for so many years, at least since I’ve been in it is, these teams work in silos. Accounting, field, estimating, they work in silos. As good companies like you’re doing, developing APIs and we’re doing developing APIs, like the one we have with Procore, at the end of the day we’re still a people business.

I always reflect back at to Fred Ode, our founder. I remember probably in the year 2000 he said, “If you can connect the field and office and get them talking together, you’ll be a millionaire overnight.” Looking back on this, the truth is you would’ve been a multimillionaire overnight because they work different from each other and there’s been a traditional disconnect between those business units for so many years. These API tools are great that we can bring them together but at the end of the day we’re still a people business. Getting people to sit around that table and agree on certain things and making sure organizationally as a whole, they’re all in alignment of what they’re trying to achieve.

I think once you cross that bridge, which I think for the first time in our industry we’re doing more of now than we ever have, that means companies are effectively utilizing all these tools together the correct way. But at the end of the day we’re in a people business, if you can’t get the different departments to change their behaviors, as great as these tools are, chances are they’re not going to work for them, so.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, yeah, great point. So you’re with Foundation Soft, which is essentially a construction job cost accounting solution. Is that defined properly?

 

Steve Antill:

Yeah, that’s a great way to define it. You nailed it. 

 

Mike Merrill:

So tell me, with that definition, what is that? What does that even mean? Say I’m on QuickBooks or something more simple, not as specialized. What does that mean? True job cost accounting, what are the different-

 

Steve Antill:

So I’ll give you the salesman answer and then we can drill down a little bit. So an easy way to approach this is, we’ve made our living as a company at Foundation Software, we love QuickBooks. Without QuickBooks, we probably wouldn’t exist because QuickBooks is such a great starter software for general businesses. Right, just like anyone else, a construction company starting off finds their way to it more often than not. So in the companies we market to, we believe there’s probably over 100,000 construction companies that could use our product that use QuickBooks around the United States. So there’s just a tremendous amount of businesses that use QuickBooks. 

 

Mike Merrill:

Millions, yeah.

 

Steve Antill:

Yeah, millions, and probably 100,000 between three million to 25 million commercial construction companies that we’re chasing. 

So what happens a lot is they often run their business like a check register that’s all cash based, paying their bills, all that type of stuff. Then they grow up a little bit and get a job that’s bigger than anything they’ve had, and they tend to start with tracking things by labor, material, subs, equipment cost, other. Then they start growing and doing well and then they may say, “Hey, we want to put a coding structure in place,” and if you’re an electrical contractor it might be conduit fixtures, lighting within that, then you look at labor material sub cost, but what happens is you’re building these layers of job cost. It’s just organically happening as your company’s growing and maybe you’re taking on bigger commercial jobs or bigger government jobs. 

Then couple things start happening. You start becoming inefficient where you’re doing your reporting in Excel. We were talking about spreadsheets a few minutes ago. You’re doing all what you deem as job cost reports in Excel, but there’s no real source of truth of that, it’s just numbers that are gathered and plugged into a spreadsheet where maybe you’re saying, “Hey, we think the estimated cost is 100,000 and our reports in QuickBooks says actual cost right now is 80,000.” So you’re manually plugging the stuff so things do not reconcile back to accounting. 

So a couple things that happen on the tipping point. We start seeing these contractors maybe hit $3 million, $4 million, $5 million, where the burden of doing that manually, the behavior of it, it’s a tipping point where they’re like, wow, we’re not being efficient. Maybe we should start looking at something industry specific, a construction accounting package. One of the other indicators are the CPA comes in there, they have a good CPA and says, “Guys, you’re spending way more in labor doing this stuff manually versus if you were to get a construction specific job cost accounting system that would automatically build these reports for you.” So that’s another one.

Then the one that’s really interesting is the bonding company. The company hits $3 million, $5 million, they go to bid on a larger job and they want to increase their bonding capacity and the bonding agent says, “This data you’re sending me is in spreadsheets, it reconciles back to nothing. We’re having a hard time accepting this data as a source of truth from you.” So there’s a lot of moving pieces that can happen. 

But the natural evolution is at some point probably between $3 million on up is these companies find their way into starting to think about getting into what you’re calling a job cost accounting system. I call it a fully integrated job cost system where if conceptually they’re using us or other products we compete with correctly, they’re entering data into accounts payable, they’re entering into another payroll module or they’re using your system and capturing payroll in the field and it pushes into our payroll module. They’re doing their billing functions automatically, and the beauty of the seamless, fully integrated job cost accounting system is is they’re putting those transactions into the daily modules. They’re capturing the job and the job cost structure that they’re wanting to. Then when they post those transactions, it’s fully integrated. It updates the root accounting module, just like it would in QuickBooks. It also hits your ledger, but it also automatically takes that and pushed it into the job cost system. 

So again, they are no longer manually plugging numbers into a spreadsheet. They’re in a fully integrated job cost construction accounting package. In two reports right out of the gate, they should be getting with us or any of the other systems out there would be estimated versus actual cost, to see within a job, estimated versus actual cost. So if they’re doing that and getting that automated, that’s a huge step up from manually doing it in spreadsheets. 

Then the other big one is the one that relates to the bonding company. They’re started to formulate an over under billing report where they can see a percentage of completion on the job or even broken down by the cost code within the job. Then these companies hopefully will do more with that. They’ll start forecasting off of it and using it to their advantage to start growing their business, so.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, it sounds like you’ve got a lot to offer smaller to mid sized organizations that are really trying to get a handle on those true costs on a regular daily basis and head into growth.

 

Steve Antill:

Yeah, I mean we want to help these folks and if they go through training and they set the system up to be used at a basic to mid level, it’s a huge improvement from QuickBooks. It should give them information to help them make better business decisions. Adjust during the light cycle of a job. You were talking about those spreadsheets, so often these numbers are not getting up in the spreadsheet until the job’s done and it’s over, you can’t react. Where if you’re on a daily, weekly basis looking at real time job costing, you can make adjustments on the job on the fly and increase the profitability. 

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, that’s great, great advice. So winding up here a little bit. Just curious, what would you advise companies, whether they’re large or small, that they should be doing here as we wrap up 2020 to give themselves an advantage and be a better position for 2021?

 

Steve Antill:

Yeah, so we were talking about the emergence of technology a little bit and maybe how it also trickles down from larger contractors to smaller. I think these guys are going to have to be nimble, willing to adjust, be flexible more probably in 2021 than they’ve had to be in the last decade, just because of everything going on in the world. 

The one thing that’s really starting to emerge quickly, that I think it’s a great topic is these business analytical tools, like using the power of the eyes of the world. Four years ago, a typical $30 million Foundation client or About Time or WorkMax client wasn’t even… these weren’t on the radar. Now we’re starting to see clients use these tools and I think this could be a separator with the small to mid sized contractors. The big guys are using these now, but on top of getting good reporting out of them, they’re allowing contractors to do predictive analysis on jobs, which I think moving into 2021 can be big and it can be important. Helping to predict things like cashflow, cashflow is going to be an issue that comes up more probably, more in 2021 than it has the last few years because a lot of these guys have been doing very well and all that. Now the margins might be down, the schedules might be off. Starting to look at some past history to help make predictive analysis and decisions on jobs and being able to adjust on the fly. So it’s one of the things that it’s just real interesting. 

A year or two ago, very few of our clients were using these tools, even asking us about them. Now we’re on a daily basis, you got companies that are just, “Hey, we use Power BI, we want to pull data from your system into Power BI and build some reports off of it that’s going to help predict paper jobs we should be bidding on, cashflow cycles within different types of jobs we do.” Cashflow might be tight, there might be certain types of jobs it takes a long time to get paid on. They can do some predictive analysis on that and then even though the job could be profitable, it might hurt them next year or during the lifecycle of the job because those types of jobs may take longer to get paid on. So those are all things I think contractors should be thinking about. 

Again, these tools are readily available and they’re very affordable. I mean, you can use Google Data Studio, I mean you got clients, big companies that use Tableau, that’s become very popular as well, but again it’s just fascinating to me because contractors, we didn’t have this on the radar in any way, shape or form, a year or two ago. It’s cool to call and say, “Hey, Steve, we’re starting to use Power BI. We want to talk to you guys about doing some consulting to give Foundation married into it.” Then they’re bringing data in from other systems as well, bringing multiple systems’ data together, so.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah, it’s nice to see the advance in our technology in our industry and people embracing it as opposed to running away from it like they’ve done in the past.

 

Steve Antill:

Yeah, it’s a different game, isn’t it? It’s cool, it’s really cool. 

 

Mike Merrill:

Awesome, well so just to wrap up. One question I like to ask all of the guests of the podcast. What’s one hack or process or a secret sauce that Steve Antill has learned over your illustrious multi-decade career?

 

Steve Antill:

All right, so I may be living in the moment right now, but I mean I run a team of about 15 sales people and we have a marketing department over here. I think sometimes I need to step back and a good thing with secret sauce is it’s a marathon, it’s not a sprint as you go through things. I think this year is a good example of it where it’s probably not a wise decision to make business decisions on what’s happening this week or on the election until we know what the fallout is to overanalyze sales. Even this month versus over a longer period of a time. So sometime when we were looking at the business as a whole and we’ve been talking about our customers and how they do things. It’s a marathon, if you’re committed to your business and you want to be in this for the long haul, it’s a marathon, it’s not a sprint. Take your time, be patient. 

I was telling my 11-year old son the other day, sometimes the best decision you can make in life is no decision. If you’re unsure of what you’re going to do, maybe doing nothing is better than doing something that you’re unsure of, because he’s 11 and there’s something he wants. He’s not sure he has enough money and he wants to… so I was like, “Listen, if you’re not sure that’s what you want, save your money, do nothing. Then maybe in another month if you still want it, spend your money on it. There’s no rush.” So yeah, I think it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. We’re in this for the long haul, I’m in this for the long haul. I think a lot of our clients are as well, and let’s just take a step back and think 3D press and just see what the next level it brings to us. 

From a leadership level, passing that down to our team so everybody’s not reacting to things so quickly right now, is only a good, good thing. 

 

Mike Merrill:

No, that’s great. I think it’s great for not only business but personally. Good advice and wisdom there. 

 

Steve Antill:

Cool, thank you, so.

 

Mike Merrill:

Thank you. Well, again, thank you for joining us today. We’re always, always excited to have these great conversations and this has been certainly no exception to that today.

 

Steve Antill:

Thank you, Mike. I really appreciate being on the podcast. Thank you.

 

Mike Merrill:

You bet, so thank you for joining us today on the mobile workforce podcast, sponsored by About Time Technologies and WorkMax.

If you like the conversation Steve and I had today and were able to get some tidbits or helpful information that you enjoyed and could implement, please give us a rating and a review on your favorite podcast platform. Remember to follow us on Instagram at WorkMax_. We’ll catch you on the next one.