Once we sent that first schedule, we continued to update that schedule every week and the people at HGTV realized that it wasn't just a showpiece - it's actually what we do. They could barely believe it. It definitely made me and UDA look good.”
Like HGTV quickly realized though, this wasn't just for the show - it's part of the everyday work they do with ConstructionSuite, and their clients love it. "One of the things we do for every job is that we have a client meeting every week, and after that meeting, I email them an updated version of the schedule. And, when clients get that schedule, they see that it's more than a pretty piece of paper - they see a visual representation of what we need from them. I think they buy into the process faster that way, and I definitely point to ConstructionSuite for giving us the ability to create those printouts for our clients."
The “Whoops” Factor
Before using UDA ConstructionSuite, Michael faced numerous problems with his projects, ranging from leaving important items out of the estimates and construction schedules that would go over by weeks and sometimes months. Plagued by these issues, he knew that his company was not as profitable as it could be.
"When I first started using computers, I used Microsoft Excel, and that was great, but it just didn't have the integration. One of the first things I was looking for in construction software was help in estimating. There's always a list of stuff that I would forget to include in my estimates - the "gotcha" that is the responsibility of the general contractor."
"Especially when I was doing spec homes, I would try to get an idea of what it would cost to do a job and be really excited about how much money I was making, and then whoops - all of a sudden, I wasn't making the money I thought because I didn't count on $20,000 - $30,000 worth of expenditures that should have been included in the job. That's a lot to lose off of expected profits."
Change for the Better
After losing money on projects because he didn't have a comprehensive estimating program, Michael knew he needed a better solution, but he didn't want to spend tens of thousands on software. "Before we originally purchased UDA software, we did a lot of homework to see what we could get. UDA was, and still is, the best bang for the buck. I had the previous version - ConstructionOffice - and upgraded to the new ConstructionSuite. Even though the price tag has gone up, it's still a much better deal than anything out there. Other software programs that are not web-based run about 4 times the amount of the money, and the ones that are web-based just have no end to the amount they cost."
By making the smart choice of UDA project management software, Michael was able to see an immediate return on his investment. "With ConstructionSuite, we've not had those "oops" factors costing us $30,000 a piece. We don't forget as much anymore and we can lay out a budget for the homeowner that's realistic."
"The estimating portion keeps me away from the "oops" factor, and the scheduling piece keeps all the ordering and procurement part on schedule so the construction can stay on schedule. If we finish the job on time, that means we're onto the next job on time, so we're making more money."
"If we're on target, and we're hitting our growth, a week can be worth $20,000 - $30,000. So, if we're off by even just two weeks at the end of the project, which used to be highly possible, we could lose anywhere from $40,000-$60,000 of gross revenue. And we're not that big. There are people who use your software who are 10 times larger than us."
"For a long time in the construction industry, it really didn't pay to have a computer. However, times have changed. In our case, we have clients who want a lot of hand holding, and for those clients, we probably have 400-600 emails by the end of the job, and it's critical to keep that stuff organized. While there are some contractors out there who don't think software is necessary, the great thing about the organization that software affords you is that if you're more organized, you know the right answer and the wrong answer when you're dealing with clients. That means that you can go back to your notes, refer to a specific meeting or email, and know exactly what transpired and what was agreed to - which is critical, especially in relation to project changes."
ConstructionSuite Premier has also given Michael the additional benefits of the Change Order Management system, which enables him to create change orders in his estimate, designate them as pending, accepted, or rejected, and automatically generate documentation, proposals, and contracts for his vendors and clients. "The Change Order system helps me know the difference between what is and is not an accepted change and I can print all the change orders out and keep track of them, Then I can turn that into a document that I can give to a homeowner. It's been so helpful - I know which ones were signed and that ultimately means that we, as contractors, can charge for the work we're doing and have proof that the client approved those changes."
Communication is Key
Beyond staying organized, Michael knows that providing the highest level of customer service is critical to his business success, and a large part of ensuring that level of service is communicating clearly with his clients. "Things are pretty expensive here, and while price tag isn't an issue, service definitely is. Customer service for clients in this area really needs to be top notch. We have a high-end clientele that's usually very educated, and there's a lot of client involvement. Our clients typically have a lot of disposable income, they have a lot of value in their houses. They want to see the great parts of their house matched by the not-so-great parts that we're working to bring up to speed. And they really have a very high level of expectations." "It's great for us to be able to track down every single dollar for our clients - where they are spending it and why. That lends a whole lot to customer satisfaction and confidence. With ConstructionSuite, we're not bumbling around with papers shoved everywhere trying to get them that information, either. We're not the contractors with endless clipboards and McDonald's wrappers shoved up in the front of their pickup truck. That's not us." "Every time we hand them something, it's coming out of UDA - from us to the client, and it instills a certain confidence in our customers. There are so many scary contractors out there, and everyone immediately realizes that we're not one of those. So, it definitely acts as a credibility piece as well."
Another way Michael stays connected with those involved clients is with ConstructionOnline, a new web service provided by UDA Technologies, which has become the industry standard in teamwork and collaboration. ConstructionOnline provides TriVista USA with that easy, and free, medium to stay connected with their clients, potential clients, subcontractors, and other team members. Michael can create projects and upload important information he needs to stare with his team. Whether it's plans, schedules, estimates, photos, or change orders, ConstructionOnline provides them with a go-to place to share and store files while keeping the entire team connected.
That connection has been made even easier with the recent release of OnSite Mobile Apps for iPhone. On his iPhone, Michael can log into OnSite Photo and instantly take photos and upload them to his project on ConstructionOnline. Once uploaded, those photos are available for his other team members to view, share, and comment on. He has the same capabilities with OnSite Video, but with OnSite Files, Michael is also able to instantly access any of his ConstructionOnline files from the convenience of his phone. Opening up that important schedule, estimate, or change order, is made incredibly simple with the OnSite Files app for his iPhone.
Peace of Mind - Every Time
While much of Michael's success stems from his commitment to superior customer service and meticulous work, he attributes part of that success to UDA project management software. "Because we don't have a big structure, we rely on UDA to help us track where everything needs to be, to know where it's going, and to stay on top of procurement. We just wouldn't be able to do what we do if it wasn't for the organization that UDA affords us."
With the different insurance and licensing documentation required for each job, Michael has also learned how much liability he assumes as a general contractor. "In this industry, there's such a difference between how much money you can make and how much liability you assume. If you're the general contractor, as I am, the liability lands squarely in your lap 9 times out of 10. And that is the chance to go from a really profitable job to a seriously profit-losing year - not just job. You can lose a lot of money in a short amount of time if it's your fault. Just by having the ability to track the insurance and licenses gives me huge peace of mind."
That peace of mind is invaluable in the hectic world of project management, and to ensure that everything runs smoothly, Michael relies on ConstructionSuite each and every time he's on the job. "If I'm working on my business, then ConstructionSuite is open. I take my laptop into the field every day, and any time I'm working on my business, I have two things open: my email and my ConstructionSuite. It is absolutely integrated into our day-to-day operations."
ConstructionSuite provides TriVista with documentation and numbers they can put their trust into. "All the specs and documents I get from UDA are based on national standards. When I look at the numbers and see where I should be, I know that's a national standard I'm comparing myself to. I can make adjustments and changes, but I know that it's coming from somewhere respectable, and I don't have to pull it out of "you know where'."
When asked what advice he would give to other construction professionals who are considering project management software for their businesses, Michael had this to say:
"If I were talking to my friends, I would say "If you don't know how to use computers, it's time to get yourself a computer and figure it out. It's very easy to spend a lot of money on a computer program and not dive into it, but if you're going to commit to using it, in a very short period of time you're going to do some stuff that you didn't know you could do."