From the desk to the field

Welcome to “The Better Way: A podcast by Buildertrend.” Here you’ll learn to simplify and establish processes that will make meaningful changes to your company and help you achieve your goals. Because there’s a better way. The Buildertrend way. Tune in this season as Zach Wojtowicz, Pro Services education coordinator, chats with Nick Schiffer of NS Builders about how to boost collaboration.

On today’s episode, Zach and Nick are talking about the best ways to promote collaboration between desk and field.

HOW DOES YOUR TEAM USE THE MOBILE APP IN THEIR DAY-TO-DAY?

“I’ve talked about it in an episode prior, is that all of my guys are all clocking in for the jobs with the app as well. So, it’s like, they’re clocking in, they’re using their phone to clock in, they’re using their phone to pull up documents or check on what’s going on. And I would say that most, if not everyone, is using it to do the daily log. Because it’s easier than pulling out a computer and dragging and dropping photos where you can just upload everything right off your phone.” – Nick Schiffer

ARE YOU USING THE MOBILE APP TO HELP WITH ANY FINANCIAL PROCESSES?

“If we have a receipt that we need to enter for a job, you guys have the scan receipt process. But when we make one-time purchases and when it hits that job, rather than going through this chain of command, a bunch of people touching that receipt, we’re setting up a process where you spend it, you send it. So, you spend the money, you got to send the receipt. If it’s a job cost, it’s got to be sent right to the job, and it’s got to be cost coded accordingly. So, if you go to Home Depot, and you buy framing material, then that goes right into your job. So, by the end of the day, that $200 receipt is already hitting your budget, further keeping the financials up to date.” – Nick Schiffer

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Nick Schiffer | NS Builders

Intro:

Welcome to season three of “The Better Way,” a podcast by Buildertrend. Here, you’ll learn to simplify and establish processes that will help you achieve your goals. There’s a better way to run your construction business, the Buildertrend way. Tune in this season as Zach Wojtowicz from Buildertrend’s training team chats with Nick Schiffer, owner of NS Builders in Boston, about boosting collaboration with Buildertrend. On today’s episode, Zach and Nick are talking about the best ways to promote collaboration between desk and field.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Welcome back to “The Better Way,” I’m Zach Wojtowicz here with Nick Schiffer. We’re going to get into episode three, Buildertrend on the go. Nick, how are we doing today?

Nick Schiffer:

Well, man. How are you?

Zach Wojtowicz:

Thanks for coming back. It’s been a ride so far, and I’m excited to get even more into probably something that I hope you started with pretty early, which is the phone. You’ve talked about it a little bit in some of our episodes already, where you do a lot of this on the go. So, what did that adoption look like? Did you start with the mobile app or is it something that …

Nick Schiffer:

I think I did start with the mobile app, to be honest. And it’s funny, a lot of my team is working on iPads.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Yeah.

Nick Schiffer:

And I remember when a couple of them got laptops, they came, they were like, “Hey, this is way easier on the laptop to adjust the schedule.” I’m like, “Oh yeah, the phone, I don’t think you’re supposed to be able to adjust a schedule on it.”

Zach Wojtowicz:

Oh, wait a minute.

Nick Schiffer:

Yeah. It’s a pretty powerful tool. But yeah, I mean, especially early on, I was always on the go. I spent very little time in the office, except at night. So, it was, it was something that I had to really adapt early on. I’ve talked about it in an episode prior, is that all of my guys are all clocking in for the jobs with the app as well. So, it’s like, they’re clocking in, they’re using their phone to clock in, they’re using their phone to pull up documents or check on what’s going on. And I would say that most, if not everyone, is using it to do the daily log. Because it’s easier than pulling out a computer and dragging and dropping photos where you can just upload everything right off your phone.

So yeah, I mean, that’s been really important for us to be able to access it on our phone because it just allows for more flexibility, and we’re not stopping to … I mean, we have computers going on every job, but the computer is more of a robust tool to do document management and control and RFIs and write emails and things like that. But some of the key quick functions are crucial to be able to do it right on the mobile app.

Zach Wojtowicz:

When you were introducing the mobile app to the team, is that where you started them or were they on the desktop first?

Nick Schiffer:

I think primarily the team was on the mobile app because it was either their phone or an iPad. The desktop, I was definitely operating through the desktop. Some of our clients were peeking at the homeowner portal on the desktop, most of them were doing it on the phone. And then it wasn’t really until we grew into having more project managers where they would get a laptop because they were spending more time in the office. And that’s when they started working on the desktop version.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Yeah. I think a lot of people maybe don’t see the connection. The mobile app is the desktop, they’re not different software and anything you can do on one appears in the other. So, I’ve even tried to convince some office people, there’s still value in certain things in the mobile app. Like the feed that tells you all the actions taken on the home screen. It’s not something available on desktop, and it can let you track what the guys did in a given time period of the job or whatnot.

Nick Schiffer:

Yeah. It’s important. I think the time clock is awesome, and it’s helpful. It’s got the geo tracking, so when they’re clocking in, it’s making sure that they’re within the job range. And if someone clocks in and they’re out of state, and they forgot to clock out and they clock out, we get notified. And I think that’s happened once, one of my guy called me and was like, “Hey, I forgot to clock out, I just clocked out.” I’m like, “No problem, I see that you’re already out of state.”

Zach Wojtowicz:

He’s on the run.

Nick Schiffer:

But it’s like, it’s nice being able to have that information more so where it’s, again, the guys just have the ability to clock in, clock out right off their phone, and it’s not an ordeal. It’s not writing something down and submitting it. It’s live action, I’m leaving the job site, open my phone app, hit the button, and I move on.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Just for comparison’s sake, I’m curious because I always find how people tracked their time before Buildertrend really interesting. How were you doing it?

Nick Schiffer:

We were using another time tracking …

Zach Wojtowicz:

Okay. So, you were using some technology for it.

Nick Schiffer:

We were. Man, before that, I don’t know though.

Zach Wojtowicz:

A lot of people are like, we just write it on post-it notes and stick it on the bookkeeper’s desk, and she has to read my handwriting and put it in. The workflow of it always is just …

Nick Schiffer:

I want to say it was like … Well, before we had the apps, I was in the field a lot.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Yeah.

Nick Schiffer:

So, I probably was just … it was easy. I was like, oh yeah, we worked 7:00 to 3:00.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Right.

Nick Schiffer:

I wasn’t offsite wondering what they’re doing or where they’re doing it. But, as I said before, I also wasn’t tracking job codes.

Zach Wojtowicz:

True.

Nick Schiffer:

I was just paying them. It’s like, so whatever job we were on, we were on. It wasn’t like, hey, make sure you cost code that to framing labor. It was just like, hey, make sure you pay them.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Yeah. Are you getting that level of granularity today? Are you having them clock in those certain cost codes?

Nick Schiffer:

Yeah. So, we have a number of different labor codes. So, depending on what they’re doing, they can bounce between. And it makes it super easy where they’re, again, they’re on their phone. If they switch a job, they can go in and switch which job they’re working on. That’s more so for the guys in the shop. But usually if they’re on a job site, they stay on a job site. But they might be framing the majority of the day and then the last hour of the day we want to do a general cleanup. So, they’ll bounce out of the framing labor and then go into general cleanup because we’ve put an allowance in there for general cleaning for the project.

Zach Wojtowicz:

The real question I would ask is, how much easier has it been for your bookkeeper to process the pay?

Nick Schiffer:

For?

Zach Wojtowicz:

Do you have it integrated with QuickBooks? Like, are you sending it over to the time sheet or?

Nick Schiffer:

So, we use …

Zach Wojtowicz:

Do you have a third-party provider?

Nick Schiffer:

We do.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Okay.

Nick Schiffer:

So, we’re using Gusto for payroll.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Oh, well, that’s one of our partners that we’re integrated with.

Nick Schiffer:

I didn’t want to say it, I wanted you to say it.

Zach Wojtowicz:

It’s coming, I promise it’s coming. I’m actually …

Nick Schiffer:

I know you guys are in connection with Gusto and going to make a connection, which is going to be great. Prior to that, yes, we were sending it to QuickBooks and then we were using the other digital app. We were doing the same thing where we were kicking it back to QuickBooks and doing that. But right now, I don’t know what that process is. I know we basically go through, I think we do a payroll like CSV file and dump that into Gusto and also reflect it back into QuickBooks.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Which I’ve gotten the opportunity to play with the Gusto integration as of recording today, it’s actually very close. It’s moving into beta soon. So, it’s built, it’s just we got to get through testing.

Nick Schiffer:

Nice.

Zach Wojtowicz:

For all our bookkeeper friends out there, hopefully some help is coming on that. Because I’ve just talked to so many accountants in my experience, so just I’m collecting Excel sheet, I have to manually enter it in, or I have to interpret all this person’s gibberish to make sure they’re getting paid the correct amount. And then you’re just relying on that person accurately reporting it. We have an employee here named Max, he’s on our education team. He worked in landscaping, and they had a clock that they’d have to drive back to the office, clock in, leave, come back, clock. It was like in a basement from 35 years ago. You just see all types of crazy things, and it’s like clicking a button on the app is always going to be better than whatever it is other people are doing out there.

Nick Schiffer:

I mean, I think about my dad’s company, it was, you get to the shop, you punch in on a time clock, you put it into your slot, and then it’s like you work all day. And then you clean up, and you might drive back 45 minutes to the shop and then you unload the truck, and you clean up and then you punch out. It’s like, you’re getting like five hours of work out of these guys.

Zach Wojtowicz:

You’re right.

Nick Schiffer:

And I get it, I’m not saying that they shouldn’t be paid for a full day, but with all of that additional driving to and from the shop and the hanging around, it’s inevitably just far less efficient.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Yeah. It adds up.

Nick Schiffer:

Yeah.

Zach Wojtowicz:

What other features on mobile … We’ve talked about daily log, so I know they’re doing … they’re a time clock. Are there any other things that you have found your team really gravitating towards or using heavily?

Nick Schiffer:

Yeah. I mean, we’re using it for the bills and POS a little bit.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Oh, really?

Nick Schiffer:

Yeah. If we have a receipt that we need to enter for a job, you guys have the scan receipt process. I’m hoping that you guys … I forget what the technology is called, but hopefully you guys are working on being able to just take a picture of the receipt and it does all the work for you.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Yeah. Yeah. There’s some cool stuff out there I’ve seen.

Nick Schiffer:

But …

Zach Wojtowicz:

I have no knowledge on that. I have to plead the fifth on there, I don’t want to get in trouble.

Nick Schiffer:

No problem. I know. The air quotes and everything, I get you.

Zach Wojtowicz:

The Buildertread guy is getting a little uncomfortable.

Nick Schiffer:

Yeah. But when we make one-time purchases and when it hit that job, rather than going through this chain of command, a bunch of people touching that receipt, we’re setting up a process where it’s, you … God, what did my accountant say? Oh, you spend it, you send it. So, you spend the money, you got to send the receipt.

Zach Wojtowicz:

I love that.

Nick Schiffer:

Yeah. If it’s a job cost, it’s got to be sent right to the job, and it’s got to be cost coded accordingly. So, if you go to Home Depot, and you buy framing material, then that goes right into your job. So, by the end of the day, that $200 receipt is already hitting your budget, further keeping the financials up to date.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Do you have it, so like, if they do that at Home Depot, you let it push to QuickBooks, too?

Nick Schiffer:

Yeah. So, we basically have a coding system. So, basically, if it’s already paid, like American Express charge or something like that, we’re coding it with a code in the beginning of the title. So, when it comes over to QuickBooks, the accountant can see …

Zach Wojtowicz:

This is what it matches to.

Nick Schiffer:

Yeah. That it’s, oh, this was already paid. If it comes in without anything before the title, then it’s like, this needs to be paid. So, it’s really quick and easy for the accountant to match things and just organize them. So, when the American Express charge comes in, they can match it. Now, you have all of the document and attachments for backup.

Zach Wojtowicz:

I love that. I mean, that’s the ultimate workflow that I think people are looking for. Is eliminating the handoff, the confusion, the back and forth. Did you get this receipt? You hit a button on your phone from the store, it’s now in QuickBooks, the bookkeeper can match it to the bank feed, reconciliation is happening in real time, budget is up to date, done.

Nick Schiffer:

Right.

Zach Wojtowicz:

It’s beautiful but can take time to get there for sure.

Nick Schiffer:

Right.

Zach Wojtowicz:

How long do you think it took you to get to that point to where you’re having a more streamlined process? Is this relatively a new development or is this something like … we know you started with QuickBooks and was one of the first things you started working towards.

Nick Schiffer:

I think it’s with everything. I keep going back to the fact that we’re constantly refining.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Yeah.

Nick Schiffer:

So, we tend to hone in on a process and sit down and refine it and refine and refine and refine and make it as simple as possible. So much so that we were doing a flow chart here in the office on the whiteboard, and we kept writing it over and over and realizing that there’s just too many steps here. How do we eliminate these steps? And we were doing it, we were color coding per person. And it was like four different colors for one receipt. And it’s like, how do we change this? How do we make this simpler? So, while it’s a new development, it’s also an old development in the sense that recently we’ve got to where we are today. But before that, it was another revision of that.

And in the beginning it was a very dumbed down version that probably was inaccurate and/or maybe my subs weren’t getting paid fast enough because it was getting trapped somewhere. And we were doing all this organization outside of Buildertrend like moving it into folder, after folder in Dropbox and then this person would empty that folder. And it was just, there was a lot of redundancy. And now with the process that we’ve put in place recently, we’ve eliminated a lot of that redundancy. And what it really comes down to is holding the people that are spending accountable for, “Hey, you want to be able to go out to the store and pick up material to stay moving, then you need to be responsible for that.”

Zach Wojtowicz:

Yeah. It makes a lot of sense. It’s interesting because we talked about, in a previous episode, how you redefined your roles of your company. So, you have project managers who it sounds like you give a lot of autonomy to make these decisions and let them process and basically approve the expenses. How did that evolution take? Was Buildertrend’s mobile app part of that, picked up this tool that need to be freed up in order to do their jobs effectively?

Nick Schiffer:

Yeah. I mean, end of the day, our job is into be document managers. End of the day, we want to build really cool homes and really elaborate detail-oriented homes. So, anything that peels us away from that in my eyes is just unfortunate. So, we need to streamline as much as we can. We need to consider, how do we do things the most effectively and efficiently we can? And that’s really what it comes down to. Is that looking at all of things from a digital software side and from a mobile standpoint of, all right, well, is this process easier … more efficient to do on my phone or do I need to actually break out the laptop and do it? And when it’s easy enough to do on your phone, then it’s … for me, it’s one of those things where it’s like, if I can do it on my phone, I’m doing it in between anything. If I’m eating lunch, I’m doing something. If I was going to say driving, but I’m going to refrain from saying driving. If I’m sitting in traffic, and I stop …

Zach Wojtowicz:

There you go.

Nick Schiffer:

… I’m probably going to bang something out real quick. Voice to text is a quick daily log. I feel like there’s just opportunity to get things done on the go. If I’m walking to a job site, there’s a great example, we work in the city so often I walk a little bit to the job, I’m going to pull up my phone and get a couple of things done. And I feel good about that because I’m not letting something linger. And I feel the same way about email, really, where I think response time is huge in our industry, and it’s something that people lack. And if I can be quick to respond … I’ve never once, never once responded to someone the same day and then didn’t get a follow-up email saying, “Wow, I can’t believe you responded that quick.” That’s never not happened. And it’s because people don’t expect a response, and that’s wild to me.

And we’ve literally won work over that, where it’s like, “Hey, you got back to me right away, we want to work with you.” So, the phone in just general has really been an opportunity for us to streamline and put people in positions where they can truly focus on what they’re here to do. And what they’re here to do is build cool, great homes.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Yeah. So, this question may be a little unfair, but the impact, can you measure the impact of having the mobile app available? Is it fair to say that it definitely changed the way that you guys do your construction process?

Nick Schiffer:

Yeah, I think it’s definitely fair to say that it’s changed it. But with anything nowadays, from a digital standpoint, no, there’s no measurable ROI here. It’s the same way I look at social media and the amount of video that we produce. It’s like, no, I’m not measuring saying every five videos I’m getting a million dollar client. But when I get a client that calls me and says, “Hey, I’ve been watching your videos, and we don’t want to work with anyone else. What’s it going to cost to work with you?” That’s my ROI.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Right.

Nick Schiffer:

And same thing with software where it’s like, “Hey, you walked us through the way you’re going to communicate, and communication is really important to us. And since you have these tools in place and you’re able to keep stuff updated on a daily basis, that right there is enough for us not to want to work with anyone else but you.”

Zach Wojtowicz:

Absolutely huge, I mean, from a lot of different standpoints. Reputation, cashflow, number of jobs, growth in your company, more opportunities for your employees, it’s pretty powerful stuff.

Nick Schiffer:

Right.

Zach Wojtowicz:

That’ll do it for mobile today on episode three. Nick, thanks for joining me.

Nick Schiffer:

Appreciate it, man.

Zach Wojtowicz:

As always, we’re going to move into episode four. Next time we’re going to talk about a topic I’m really excited about, which is getting your subs involved in Buildertrend. Nick, we’ll get a little preview, what are your thoughts initially about sub onboarding?

Nick Schiffer:

It wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be.

Zach Wojtowicz:

What an endorsement.

Nick Schiffer:

Yeah. But we’ll talk about it next time.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Awesome. Let’s go.

Outro:

Thanks for listening to “The Better Way.” If you’re a Buildertrend customer, schedule a training to learn more. All listeners, be sure to rate, review and subscribe to “The Better Way” wherever you get your podcasts. Also, visit buildertrend.com/podcasts to sign up for the email notifications when the next season drops and explore our other podcasts, “The Building Code.” Don’t miss our next episode, discussing staying in sync with subs.


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