Tag Archives: workforce management software

Maintaining Construction Management Mobility in All Situations

Maintaining Construction Management Mobility in All Situations

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

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

Key Takeaways:

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

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Episode Transcript:

Mike Merrill:

Hello and welcome to The Mobile Workforce podcast. I am your host, Mike Merrill. And today we are sitting down with the president and CEO of ProEst, Jeff Gerardi. Jeff has been running ProEst since 1992. And today, we’ve asked him to join us, to talk about growing your business while keeping quality that you are known for. Welcome Jeff, we are so happy to have you on the podcast today.

 

Jeff Gerardi:

Thanks Mike. Glad to be here with you.

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeff Gerardi:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeff Gerardi:

Just got to be open for the opportunity.

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeff Gerardi:

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

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeff Gerardi:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeff Gerardi:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeff Gerardi:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeff Gerardi:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeff Gerardi:

Communication within our business ourselves?

 

Mike Merrill:

Within ProEst yourselves. Yeah.

 

Jeff Gerardi:

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

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

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

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeff Gerardi:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeff Gerardi:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeff Gerardi:

Good.

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeff Gerardi:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeff Gerardi:

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

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeff Gerardi:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeff Gerardi:

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

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

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeff Gerardi:

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

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeff Gerardi:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

Wow, amazing.

 

Jeff Gerardi:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeff Gerardi:

Yep.

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeff Gerardi:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

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

 

Jeff Gerardi:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeff Gerardi:

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

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeff Gerardi:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah. So then… Oh, go ahead.

 

Jeff Gerardi:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeff Gerardi:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeff Gerardi:

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

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeff Gerardi:

Yeah.

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeff Gerardi:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeff Gerardi:

Now what?

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeff Gerardi:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeff Gerardi:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeff Gerardi:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

That’s it.

 

Jeff Gerardi:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeff Gerardi:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeff Gerardi:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeff Gerardi:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

Love it.

 

Jeff Gerardi:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeff Gerardi:

My superpower?

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah.

 

Jeff Gerardi:

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

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeff Gerardi:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeff Gerardi:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

The Unseen Cost of Your Construction Process Problem

The Unseen Cost of Your Construction Process Problem

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

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

Key Takeaways:

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

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Click Play to Listen to the Podcast Now:

Episode Transcript:

Mike Merrill:

Hello and welcome to the Mobile Workforce podcast. I am your host, Mike Merrill. And today we are sitting down with Jeffrey Nesbitt, the National Director of Consulting Services at CLA. We asked him on the show today to talk about the cost of not fixing your business communication problems. Welcome Jeffrey. We are grateful to have you on the podcast today.

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

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

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

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

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

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

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

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

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

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

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

Yeah.

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

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

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

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

No, just don’t trademark it.

 

Mike Merrill:

Okay.

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

Yeah.

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

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

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

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

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

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

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

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

Right.

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

Yeah.

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

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

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

 

Mike Merrill:

In those cases, were those companies surprised?

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

Wow. It could even be a month.

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

Yeah.

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

They’re coming in, in an ambulance.

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

Yeah. Exactly.

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

Like planting a tree, they say.

 

Mike Merrill:

Yeah.

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

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

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

We all have spell check.

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

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

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jeffrey Nesbitt:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

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

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How Culture Influences Construction Productivity

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

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

Key Takeaways:

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

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Episode Transcript: 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Keith Post:

Thank you.

 

Jayne Williams:

Thanks.

 

Steve Little:

Hey.

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Steve Little:

You should start.

 

Keith Post:

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

 

Steve Little:

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

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

 

Jayne Williams:

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

 

Steve Little:

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

 

Keith Post:

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

 

Jayne Williams:

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

 

Steve Little:

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

 

Keith Post:

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

 

Jayne Williams:

That’s it. That’s the biggie.

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jayne Williams:

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

 

Keith Post:

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

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

 

Steve Little:

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

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Keith Post:

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

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

 

Steve Little:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Steve Little:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jayne Williams:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jayne Williams:

Yeah, exactly.

 

Keith Post:

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

 

Steve Little:

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

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

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

 

Keith Post:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Keith Post:

I’ve been there

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Steve Little:

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

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

 

Mike Merrill:

Wow.

 

Steve Little:

18th and they said keep the contract.

 

Mike Merrill:

Wow.

 

Steve Little:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Keith Post:

You know it’s a blur.

 

Steve Little:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

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

 

Steve Little:

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

 

Keith Post:

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

 

Steve Little:

Did you just say growing gradually?

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

 

Jayne Williams:

I can’t talk.

 

Steve Little:

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

 

Jayne Williams:

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

 

Steve Little:

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

 

Jayne Williams:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jayne Williams:

That’s exactly right.

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Steve Little:

Divided by what?

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Keith Post:

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

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

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

 

Mike Merrill:

That’s great. Steve, how about you?

 

Steve Little:

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

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

 

Mike Merrill:

Sage advice. Jayne, how about you?

 

Jayne Williams:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Keith Post:

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

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Keith Post:

Thanks, Mike.

 

Steve Little:

Okay, Mike. Take care.

 

Mike Merrill:

Thanks Jayne.

 

Keith Post:

That’ll be good.

 

Mike Merrill:

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

How Culture Influences Construction Productivity

How Culture Influences Construction Productivity

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

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

Key Takeaways:

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

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Episode Transcript: 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Keith Post:

Thank you.

 

Jayne Williams:

Thanks.

 

Steve Little:

Hey.

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Steve Little:

You should start.

 

Keith Post:

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

 

Steve Little:

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

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

 

Jayne Williams:

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

 

Steve Little:

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

 

Keith Post:

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

 

Jayne Williams:

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

 

Steve Little:

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

 

Keith Post:

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

 

Jayne Williams:

That’s it. That’s the biggie.

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jayne Williams:

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

 

Keith Post:

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

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

 

Steve Little:

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

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Keith Post:

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

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

 

Steve Little:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Steve Little:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jayne Williams:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jayne Williams:

Yeah, exactly.

 

Keith Post:

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

 

Steve Little:

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

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

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

 

Keith Post:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Keith Post:

I’ve been there

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Steve Little:

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

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

 

Mike Merrill:

Wow.

 

Steve Little:

18th and they said keep the contract.

 

Mike Merrill:

Wow.

 

Steve Little:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Keith Post:

You know it’s a blur.

 

Steve Little:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

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

 

Steve Little:

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

 

Keith Post:

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

 

Steve Little:

Did you just say growing gradually?

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

 

Jayne Williams:

I can’t talk.

 

Steve Little:

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

 

Jayne Williams:

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

 

Steve Little:

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

 

Jayne Williams:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Jayne Williams:

That’s exactly right.

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Steve Little:

Divided by what?

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Keith Post:

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

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

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

 

Mike Merrill:

That’s great. Steve, how about you?

 

Steve Little:

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

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

 

Mike Merrill:

Sage advice. Jayne, how about you?

 

Jayne Williams:

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Keith Post:

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

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

 

Mike Merrill:

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

 

Keith Post:

Thanks, Mike.

 

Steve Little:

Okay, Mike. Take care.

 

Mike Merrill:

Thanks Jayne.

 

Keith Post:

That’ll be good.

 

Mike Merrill:

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

World of Concrete Rocked by WorkMax

World of Concrete Rocked by WorkMax

World of Concrete Rocked by WorkMax

WorkMax Rocks It with Mobile Forms and Employee Time Tracking

By: Shannon Corgan, Director of Marketing

Wow! What a great World of Concrete. We met so many people and it was so much fun talking with customers and new folks in the industry we hadn’t met previously. At big tradeshows like these, we also get a chance to meet up with our technology partners like Sage, Viewpoint, Dexter + Chaney and Foundation Software to see all the new features that are helping contractors improve their accounting. It just keeps getting better year after year. My favorite part is learning more about the business challenges related to managing forms (paper and digital forms), time and attendance, asset management and service scheduling and dispatch. My mind becomes a sponge.

This year it was such a stark contrast to our first time at World of Concrete back in 2006 when we would get people coming up to the booth saying that there is NO way they would ever get one of their employees to use a mobile device to do anything. We now have more people coming up to us and asking can you do this or that with my iPhone, iPad, Android phone or tablet. The answer is yes! I thought I’d share some trends we are seeing and how different companies are embracing more mobile technology. 

I was speaking with a CEO from a scaffolding company at World of Concrete 2016 and he was excited to see how he could use the mobile forms to capture rich media to solve a couple of different challenges he faces currently in his business. He was excited about the opportunity to use the video and photos on the mobile forms to help in the sales process to build accurate estimates or scopes of work for his scaffolding projects. He also liked the idea that his guys in the field could sketch something up or markup a photo within the mobile forms and email it to all of the company experts. He definitely saw this as a way to help leverage the collective knowledge of his entire team to help them solve problems faster while his crews were out on different job sites. He was also interested in combining the mobile forms and timekeeping functionalities to help ensure that employees completed their important daily reports as a part of the clock in and clock out process.

This year at World of Concrete, we had a lot of payroll folks asking us how WorkMax could help them make sure that the actual employee was the one doing the clocking in and out and there was no buddy punching. To keep the costs low for mobile time tracking, they needed to have multiple employees clock in on a supervisor’s iPad, tablet, or smartphone. They were getting pressure from their HR departments to make sure that they weren’t paying people for work they didn’t perform and for proof that they had indeed paid all the right employees for the work that they did perform. They told us they were working much more closely with HR to make sure they had controls in place to avoid exposing their company to risks for lawsuits or Department of Labor audits. I asked if it was due to the increase in lawsuits related to wage theft or any wage and hour claims and they affirmed that this was definitely a big part of it. It was great to be able to show them features that WorkMax offers to absolutely verify that each employee was the right employee recorded in the system with real demonstrations right there in the booth. We had so much interest in what was being shown that we ultimately had to set up a bunch of chairs to allow everyone to see the WorkMax solutions.  During many periods, it was standing room only!

Check out the fun we had at World of Concrete with the pictures we posted on Facebook and Twitter.

To learn more about WorkMax:

WorkMax Video10 Ways Forms Boost ProductivityMobile FormsMobile Forms