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.
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