Construction software - buyer beware - what to watch out for...

BuildIT started just over 10 years ago. Not only have we survived a brutal economic downturn in the construction industry, but we've grown through it. And we've been around long enough to see other software companies come and go.

Anybody can get started in software development, and have a shot at success. But many of those "flash in the pan" companies fold, for reasons we'll outline later, and their customers are left stranded, having to change vendors in mid stream, disrupting their business, and understandably souring their opinion of similar software products and companies.

If you're in "research mode", here are the top 10 red flags to watch out for:

1. Who really is behind the company? Is there adequate and verifiable information on their "contact us" page? Check their domain (www[dot]companyname[dot]com) - if they have an anonymous domain registration, they probably don't want you to know too much about them. They could be an overseas business - without proper support. Think: who are you going to deal with when their servers go offline?

2. Restricted access to an online demo. They probably want to have someone run you through the demo, and follow a script designed to close you, even if the product is not the best fit with your needs. Have you ever sat through a "time share" sales presentation? There's a reason they do it that way, and they do sell !

3. Hidden or no posted pricing on their corporate website. The company wants to get you hooked on the system before they ease you into their pricing scheme. And it could also mean different pricing for different customers.

4. Guarantees - do they offer refunds and a cooling off period?

5. Per job pricing - most consumers understand that this is a bad deal. This model essentally dips into your pocket should you be more successful and get more jobs... the company is charging you more for the same software! Look for pricing models that are more commensurate with usage.

6. Charging for client access or "sub contractor portals" - find systems that have this included in the subscription rate.

7. Does their website smack of platitudes like "#1 construction software", or "best in breed", or "over x thousand customers" - these claims are baseless and cannot be proven.

8. Does their website contain stock photos you see on other websites, pretty girls with headsets, or gentlemen wearing suits and the occasional hard hat, smiling away? That's a dead giveaway to overseas developers trying to make inroads into the North American Market. Are you subscribing to a proven system, or some beta type software being developed offshore on your dollar?

9. Agressive salesmen - they are paid to sell. Not that that's bad, but the old addage remains true - "nobody likes to be sold, but everyone likes to buy". Are you speaking with one of the owners of the company who is ensuring there is a fit with your needs, and their solution? Do you feel pressure to buy even though their solution is not directly in the center of the bulls-eye.  If the system is not a perfect fit with what you're looking for, is the software representative willing to recommend alternative (and competitive) options?

10. Do a quick Google search - does the company show up near or at the top of the organic listings? This is a good indicator that the company is a serious player in the market. If you can't find them, how are they finding you... and will they be around long enough to service you?

For a software company to be successful, you need a few things to survive... and thrive. A real product that provides real value to real people. A system that has been refined, that is coherent, that has simple navigation so new people can get on board quickly and become productive in short order. You need to be found... online, period! And you need to have an organization structure that is supported by solely by sales of your product, not by rounds of investment.

Few software companies make it this far.

When you vote with your dollars, ask the tough questions before signing on the line.

 Scott Hutchinson
 scott@builditsystems.com
 1 866 585 5050 ext 1

BuildIT - Return on investment is a "no-brainer"

When was the last time you "wasted" money on something?

You took some hard earning money, bought a widget that ultimately gave you nothing in return, other than the initial feeling that you may get something out of it at some point.

  • the exercise machine that is collecting dust (and clothes)
  • that food mixer appliance that looked so easy on the infomercial but when you use it - not so easy, so you go back to the knife and cutting board
  • that stock you bought, thanks to a tip from your buddy - you're still waiting that puppy to climb back up to the purchase price
  • that box of software you bought a few years ago that promised the world, and now it's a bookend on your shelf

OK, now that I've re-opened a wound, let's cut to the chase.

Everyone comes to BuildIT looking for one thing - a solution to a problem. Finding the right solution will put money back into your jeans, or time back into your life, or will reduce the stresses of running your business... or if you're lucky, ALL 3 at the same time.

You part with your hard earned dollar to subscribe to BuildIT; mentally you are doing the math - the "what's in it for me" equation. You need to see a major return on investment, and you need to experience that return (make it yours) right out of the gate.

It's the story of many of our customers... and it can be your story too !!

Let's look at ways you can win with BuildIT.

1. Saving money - miscommunication

Every job you do requires a number of tasks, and responsibilities from other parties. The more tasks required, and the more people involved, the more mistakes will occur. Those mistakes generally are caused by miscommunication of some sort. Communication issues are the main cause of grief, and profit loss. This is an undeniable fact. Ask yourself, where do problems occur that cost you $$ or time, and chances are, you'll attribute that to a breakdown in communication.

BuildIT is the perfect solution for keeping you and others "on track". Any and all issues are documented in one place, tied to the job. There is no mistaking who is responsible for what, who said what, what was to be built and when - all that information IF YOU TAKE THE TIME TO ENTER IT, is in one place, and there to serve your interests down the road.

Scott Sedam of True North Consulting, an advisor to high volume homebuilders, claims from his organization's research that for every residential construction job, there are about 30 - 35 subcontractors and vendors. There is typically one mistake that takes place for every 5 outside people involved in the project, so you can expect 6 - 7 mistakes per job. These mistakes, thanks in large part to miscommunication (not getting the information in time, red lined drawings that are unclear, building off outdated specs or schedules, etc.) WILL COST YOU time, money and aggravation. And the dollar cost will be well in excess of what our typical customer would pay for subscribing to BuildIT for a year.

Use BuildIT properly (even minimally), and you will reduce errors, and have a back up that protects your interests should errors occur, and passes the onus of responsibility on to the other party.

2. Saving money - labor

Think about what it costs you for a part time or full time "warm body" to help with the "administrivia" of running your business. Now imagine a full time office assistant that never calls in sick, is available 24/7, does not give you "attitude", does not spend hours you pay this person each month checking Facebook, Twitter, playing Solitaire, checking CNN's latest headlines, etc., does not contribute to shrinkage, does not increase your risk of embezzlement - and you get this for a whole month, at a fraction of the cost of that "warm body" (perhaps, 1 to 2 hours' wages of that person's time and loading) !! Our customers make this claim that BuildIT saves them $1000's per month in wages. I calculated with one customer in Texas that his return on investment with BuildIT was 47 to 1 - think about it - for every $1 he spends on BuildIT, he saves $47. Do the math.

Having said this, we recognize that you do need adequate levels of staffing to run your business effectively, and office administrators do play a vital role in the operations of many small to mid sized contracting businesses. BuildIT can augment your business, assist your team with becoming more organized for success, and even give your office administrators a tool to help them accomplish their tasks quicker and with less error. Each person knows where to go for the information, where to post the information, and this will free up your staff to do more valuable functions that drive your business forward in terms of professionalism and profitability.

3. Making money - new revenue

We have customers who use BuildIT to their advantage - to get new business.

How?

Simple. You're competing with other companies offering a similar product. Your price may be in line with theirs. What distinguishes you from the other guy? If you use the worn out platitudes like "we're honest", "integrity in everything we do", "unsurpassed customer service", your customers will blow right by. You need something that truly sets you apart.

Professionalism - customers want to do business with someone that looks good, and gives them the "feeling" that they're dealing with the pros. You use the many construction document templates in BuildIT, which can be printed off, or emailed, showing your letterhead and all the details. AND, you let them know about a system that will keep them informed 24/7 about their project, where you are at any point in the schedule, and a place where they can view any files pertaining to the job.

You offer them the following:

"Mr. Future Customer, if you choose us, we have a web based service that will allow you to view your project schedule at any time of the day. Through this system, you can see how your job is progressing, and you can even communicate with us on any particular task on the schedule. I will also post files for you to review - contracts, specifications, progress reporting, pictures - anything that you need to see along the way will be available through this service. There is no website to remember, no username and password to maintain - just check your email and I'll send you a link."

All things being equal, by you offering this service, you are now set apart from 95% + of your competitors who haven't yet graduated to web based construction tools like BuildIT.

4. Saving Time

Have you ever calculated what your time is worth, per hour?

Have you ever calculated how much time you would save on each project if you carved off, say, 5% of the time?

Time is money - do the math. And start saving time today by using BuildIT. Take the time saved and invest it in new business. New business = new revenue = increased profits for the year.

Do this, and then call us with your answer so we can brag even more about how BuildIT contributes to our customers' bottom line.

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In short, you're not here to buy technology because it's cool (although, we admit, it is a cool tool). It HAS to either save you time, make you $$, help you avoid embarrassment or costly call backs, or help you get the next job and have a leg up on your competition.

Put it to the test today - we'll partner with you, and help you get some success under your belt.

 Scott Hutchinson
 scott@builditsystems.com
 1 866 585 5050 ext 1

Truth in Advertising!?

Oxymoron is defined as a figure of speech that combines two normally contradictory terms.

Truth. Advertising.

Contradictory?!

Can't say that I'm finding much truth in the advertising I'm coming across lately, maybe I'm just skeptical.

Or, it could be that we talk to 1000's of contractors across the planet, and we hear "the other side".

Flipping through the pages of the most recent Construction Executive magazine (March 2009 Issue), I was drawn, obviously, to the construction software ads. I'm always amused by the claims, and the cut throat competition out there is getting nasty.

I wouldn't say any of these are our competitors. We are a niche software product, for small to mid sized contractors, with a particular focus on construction scheduling, file management (organization) and communications.

But the "big guys" are out for blood.

For instance...

Software A

  • states they're so far ahead of their competition, it's not even fair
  • claims they are the leader in construction management software since the early 80's (was there even software back then?! can't remember, perhaps the VIC-20 or Commodore 64)

Software B

  • warns you to "beware of imposters" - those that offer integrated construction solutions... but apparently don't in B's humble opinion 
  • claims if you use other software besides theirs, you'll be left dead in the water (ouch, this is serious business)

Software C

  • claims to be America's #1 construction accounting software (sorry Canada, and the rest of the world, we're only talking America here)
  • has a pretty picture of the CEO on practically every ad (still trying to figure that one out - I guess he's the guy that's writing huge checks for ad space... with your money!!)

So which of these software companies are telling the truth? And how on earth are you and I going to test any of their claims?

Personally, I have never knowingly spoken to any contractor that has used, or is using any of the aforementioned programs, so I'm not here throwing mud. But I do want to raise the issue of whether you and I are getting the truth in any of these ads (or any others we come across). Because, if we buy something based on a claim that ends up being untrue, well, how would you feel?!

A wise colleage said to me years ago... "The truth is good enough." He followed up with another maxim that "it's only true when it's true for you."

So now for the "truth" about BuildIT.

  • We're web based - nothing to install, nothing to maintain, no software headaches - period.
  • We're small - you call us, you'll speak to one of the owners of the company
  • We have extremely low overhead - your subscription goes to pay us - to build a better product - for you
  • We've been around since 2000, so in "Internet" years, we're old
  • We have never advertised in Construction Executive magazine
  • We generally don't do print advertising - most of our leads (including you most likely) come through the Internet from search
  • We're inexpensive, so you should see a return on investment within the first 30 - 60 days if you get lift off with the program

BuildIT has a great system that has helped many contractors over the years get control of their scheduling. It has helped them get more organized, and thus has been responsible for gaining efficiencies, building profits and avoiding costly mistakes, that if all added up... who knows what that number is. But I'll bet it's a big number collectively.

Recall the sage advice - if you think BuildIT is the best fit, test your claim, and see if it's true for you. Try BuildIT on a monthly basis, and if you don't see massive ROI in the short term, cut it loose... and you haven't sunk $1000's into some bloated software product that promised the world, and made some rather clever, if not misleading, claims.

Keep in mind, according to a recent article in Construction Executive, it's highly unlikely you'll use even 50% of a software product's capabilities... so why pay for the excess!? Determine what you need, what you're highest priorities (must-have's) are, and if they have anything to do with scheduling, file management, or improving communications within your team (and with those outside your organization), then there may be a good fit here with us.

(By the way, notice anything wrong with the compass graphic above!? - remember, "truth in advertising").

See you on the inside!

 Scott Hutchinson
 scott@builditsystems.com
 1 866 585 5050 ext 1