Getting started with Selections

Selections help make a house and home. Intentional planning and organization by builders can make that daunting, decision-heavy process more enjoyable for both client and contractor.

Welcome to “The Better Way: A podcast by Buildertrend.” Here you’ll learn to simplify and organize the way you run your construction business and make meaningful changes to achieve your goals. Because there’s a better way. The Buildertrend way. Tune in this season as hosts Zach Wojtowicz, a corporate development strategist at Buildertrend, and Brett Jones, a Buildertrend onsite consultant, teach strategies to start projects the right way.

On this episode, Brett and Zach explore ways builders of all types can use Selections to their advantage and enhance the build experience for their clients.

WHY IS ORGANIZING SELECTIONS IN BUILDERTREND SO IMPORTANT FOR BUILDERS DURING THE PLANNING PHASE?

Zach: “It’s probably the most exciting part of building a house, being able to see your finishes, your hardware, your cabinet color, your tile. And you can really get ahead of that with your customer by having these things proactively put into the program through a template to create consistency and really to take off a lot of the load that comes with selections. I mean, I’ve worked with selection coordinators. It’s a laborious process managing selections, and you can channel a lot of that energy and that communication into the Selections tab. There’s a lot of moving parts to it.”

Brett: “Clients sometimes aren’t familiar with the construction process, and selections can be a good way for them to hinder the total production piece.”

HOW CAN BUILDERTREND’S SELECTIONS IMPROVE THE BUILD PROCESS FOR MORE THAN JUST THE CLIENT?

Brett: “Basically what you can do is you can associate your vendors and your installers on each selection. That way when something is chosen, they get a notification in real time that this has been chosen, and they can go ahead and order it or get a purchase order to install it at a particular point in time. You can comment directly on that particular selection and notify that specific sub, vendor, installer. And that information will go directly to their phone, tablet, whatever it might be. And it’s just very specific to that particular job, that particular selection, without them having to chase people around and find exactly what we’re referring to when you send them a text or give them a phone call.”

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Brett Jones and Zach Wojtowicz | Buildertrend

Zach Wojtowicz:

Selections help make a house and home, but how can you efficiently navigate your clients through a daunting decision-making phase?

Zach Wojtowicz:

Welcome to “The Better Way, a podcast by Buildertrend.” I’m your co-host, Zach Wojtowicz, and here you’ll learn to simplify and organize the way you run your construction business and make meaningful changes to achieve your goals. There’s a better way to plan your projects, the Buildertrend way. This season, my co-host Brett Jones and I dive deep into strategies to start projects the right way. In this episode here, ways to minimize headaches, and prime your process for success.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Welcome back to “The Better Way,” Zach Wojtowicz here with Brett Jones, who joined me last time. Just a reminder, he’s with me all season. So Brett, welcome back.

Brett Jones:

Hey, thanks for having me, Zach. Really appreciate it.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Yeah, man. Thanks for getting on with us today to talk about getting started with Selections, a piece of Buildertrend that takes a little time to get up and running, but once you do, there’s a ton of potential to unlock. So let’s get into it a little bit.

Brett Jones:

Sounds great.

Zach Wojtowicz:

First off, what’s your impression of Selections? What do you like about it? What are some of the things we want to be aware of for our customers?

Brett Jones:

Yeah, I think you need to be patient. Selections is probably the most robust tool in Buildertrend, meaning you can customize it however you’d like to, depending on what type of contractor, builder, specialty contractor you might be. So be patient and work with your coach to understand the best way to structure that. Because again, like Zach, like you said, man, it’s going to take a lot of leg work in the beginning, but once it’s set up, it’s set up.

Zach Wojtowicz:

And it touches on what we talked about last time, which is templating is going to be a huge piece of that, so we’re going to get there in a second. And if you get one thing out of season five, it’s use templates. And it’s no different for Selections, but you’re going to do the work to get it up to speed. What are the benefits, Brett, of using the Selections? What are you going to get for the sweat that you put into it?

Brett Jones:

Yeah, absolutely. I think Selections, as you guys know, lots of hands that are involved, right? This leads to a lot of inaccuracy and miscommunications and more accurate expectations in the long haul for you, your clients, and your internal team.

Zach Wojtowicz:

I think when we sell selections to our customers, we sell this vision of an online experience for your customers. Be able to log in and check out, what did you pick? I mean, it’s probably the most exciting part of building a house-

Brett Jones:

Absolutely.

Zach Wojtowicz:

… being able to see your finishes, your hardware, your cabinet color, your tile. And you can really get ahead of that with your customer by having these things proactively put into the program through a template to create consistency and really to take off a lot of the load that comes with selections. I mean, I’ve worked with selection coordinators. I know you have Brett, it’s a laborious process managing selections, and you can channel a lot of that energy and that communication into the Selections tab. There’s a lot of moving parts to it. There’s some preferences that you need to be aware of.

Zach Wojtowicz:

For example, if you set up allowances, if you set up categorizations, if you think of how you go through and look at a house, how do you think about building? Do you think about it room by room? Do you think about it by category of material that you’re purchasing? If you can wrap your head around it, you’re going to get a ton of value on what Brett touched on, which is accuracy. That’s a huge problem. When a miscommunication happens, people say, “Oh no, this was the tile I picked.” Like, no, it’s not. And now you’ve earned a discrepancy, and you’ve already ordered the tile and things start to break down very quickly. You can avoid all that by having them choose it in Buildertrend, or at least acknowledging that it has been chosen by finalizing the approval of it on Buildertrend.

Brett Jones:

Absolutely, fantastic client-facing tool. And to your point, you can structure it however you guys like to; tons of organizational tools in there. And it really is completely customizable to whatever type of company you are. So definitely explore that option.

Zach Wojtowicz:

How many templates have you set up for selections on your visits?

Brett Jones:

Oh man, I’ve done about 130 visits at this point. I’d say selections are encompassing of probably 85-90% of my visits.

Zach Wojtowicz:

So they come up a lot.

Brett Jones:

Absolutely.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Yeah. I’ve had my fair share of creating selection templates for people. And it goes back to some of the things we talked about in episode one, where you want to think about what do you actually do from a company standpoint. So you need to look at how do you operate today and how do we take that and translate it into the Buildertrend language? So I’d always recommend to people on the templates to set up. If you’re a remodeler, you have a remodeler selections template with your most commonly purchased items that people pick. If you’re a production builder, it becomes a little more standard for you. And you think about, we have packages, so good, better, best you can set it up that way. And then the trickiest one, because, like what we talked about previously custom home builders, they’ll tell us, “Well, I can’t use selections because I’m custom.”

Brett Jones:

False.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Everything is different. But as Brett, so eloquently said, it’s not really true. I always like to explain to clients that Selections are like a collaboration folder system that lets you get ahead of those communication and visual acknowledgments. There’s a lot of other things within it, too. You can upload the photos. You can upload any sort of documentation from the vendor. You can upload their links to their websites. You can do all types of things to show what’s out there on the market and what you recommend even. So even if you are a custom home builder, getting it into the system as the final step to say, “We’ve made a final decision,” is still really powerful in terms of planning and getting ahead of where you want to go. And I think another piece to the selection side of things is deadlines. How many people, in your experience, don’t set dates on when they need their finishes by?

Brett Jones:

A lot of them. I think it’s really critical. I think clients, sometimes aren’t familiar with the construction process and a good way for them to hinder the total production piece and make sure that they get into their house on time is selections and make sure they’re getting done on time and they’re accurate. And yeah, selection deadlines are huge.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Yeah. One of the other cool things, too, as something we’ll get to it down in the future, but is an important piece is scheduling itself can tie to your selections. So if you think about it from just an administration piece, when you are using Buildertrend, you should be your schedule, and that schedule should influence those deadlines on the selections themselves. So if something changes down on the project, it doesn’t mean that your selections are completely delayed because “Hey, we’ve moved the date back on when those things need to be decided by.”

Brett Jones:

Absolutely. I think it’s just a part of setting expectations with your client. If it’s constantly in front of their face and giving them reminders of that particular deadline, they’re going to be on top of it. It’s where that miscommunication comes in is where you’re not contextualizing it and you’re not documenting it somewhere. So how can they possibly keep track of all those deadlines?

Zach Wojtowicz:

Yeah. If you look at your selection process, and it is a Excel spreadsheet that you record the information on separate tabs, we would really encourage you to try and move that out of a saved document that could ultimately be wrong because if something changed and it wasn’t communicated. And then the supply of information is required to be sent via email, really can evolve into a more dynamic process by using Buildertrend Selections to go through and really build something that is repeatable and able to be continuously updated. But then everybody’s using the most up-to-date file or area of the program that reflects that. So let’s go back a little bit to if I’m a custom home builder or remodeler, how do I use it? Am I still able to use selections? What are the strategies that you give builders when it comes to implementing selections?

Brett Jones:

Definitely. Well, to your point too, Zach, you talk a lot about systematizing and processes. So really it starts with that particular builder’s process. I don’t really group people into, oh, you’re a custom home builder, you should use it this way, or you’re a remodeler, or you’re a spec builder; you should use it this way. Every company’s completely different. So I think it’s fair to say that we need to have that conversation about your process and what that looks like. First and foremost, I always ask people, is, what is your current selections process? And by doing that, typically it’s an Excel spreadsheet of some sort where they have some sort of boilerplate template. I can easily manipulate and mold that to fit within Buildertrend. So that’s the first step, but then the second one is just again, talking about that process and just figuring out the pieces around how you would like to structure that. What organization would you like to see working with that selections’ coordinator to make sure that it’s easy to efficiently and effectively find those items and add them in?

Zach Wojtowicz:

Yeah, I think, and there’s definitely a learning curve to it too, because you’re going to have to teach yourself the processes that go into setting up these things. And then when you get a new client, they’ve never logged into Buildertrend more than likely. And so and making sure that you actively have a plan in place to make sure that your customers know what the selection system is, is another piece that is worth exploring.

Zach Wojtowicz:

I’ve had clients who will literally create their own Word document of, here’s how you use Buildertrend, or you can have your customers calling to Buildertrend support, watch our videos. We’ve got a lot of resources to help buttress what you’re trying to accomplish with your clients. You don’t have to do it alone, but having protocols to be able to say, “Here’s what we do. Here’s where it lives. Here’s what your options are going to be.” If you give them the option to go pick things out on their own, how do you hand off that information? How do they get it back into Buildertrend so that your subs and other groups are actually able to view it and do what they need to do? Speaking of that, do we see many people doing that with their subs and designers, like when you’re on the road training people, what’s the collaborative aspects of the selection systems within Buildertrend that people can benefit from?

Brett Jones:

Yeah. You’re just talking from a macro level as far as communicating as a whole, whether it is subs on selections?

Zach Wojtowicz:

Yeah. Like what can you do within the program with your subs on selections, or if you’re a client, what’s that experience like for them?

Brett Jones:

Yeah, it’s fantastic. I mean, at the end of the day, a lot of the functionality does surround getting your subs and vendors on board because in a perfect world, not only is the internal users on Buildertrend from your company standpoint, but the homeowners as well. But then also those subs and vendors, it’s a perfect cohesive and collaborative environment at that point. But basically what you can do is you can associate your vendors and your installers on each selection; that way when something is chosen, they get a notification in real time that this has been chosen and they can go ahead and order it or get a purchase order to install it at a particular point in time.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Yeah, that’s a great point. So you’re able to assign them to these areas. If you have a sub who doesn’t need to know what the appliance package is because he’s the electrician or whatever, they’re not going to be bothered with that information. So they’re getting pertinent information to make it so that they’re filled in on what they need. Obviously, your project manager is going to be able to see everything and your client, your designer, whomever is the driver of the project. But those end people who just need to know what am I buying or what is being bought, what needs to be installed, when does it need to be installed by? And I think one of the pieces that I really think is cool about our selections that I see used quite a bit is the ability to message it within the selection.

Brett Jones:

Yeah, absolutely. You’re referring to comments?

Zach Wojtowicz:

Yeah.

Brett Jones:

Comments are amazing. They’re just not limited to selections. They’re applicable to all facets of Buildertrend, great internal communication tool in making sure that instead of sending somebody a text message and saying, “Hey, did you order this material?” Or, “Hey, are you installing this material?” You can comment directly on that particular selection and notify that specific sub, vendor, installer. And that information will go directly to their phone, tablet, whatever it might be. And it’s just very specific to that particular job, that particular selection, without them having to chase people around and find exactly what we’re referring to when you send them a text or give them a phone call.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Yeah, I always made that case to the clients that, hey, if someone has a question about a specific piece of a project, and they’re just, there’s a stream of text messages asking questions, it’s really hard to go back into your text thread with that person to be like, oh, when did you ask about this or what’s the information about this? By using the comment system within the selection, there’s no miscommunication. There’s no confusion about what they’re asking about. It’s like, oh, he’s asking this question about this particular piece. From a planning standpoint, it makes it a lot easier to have these things pre-built out, to be able to make sure that there’s options available and putting it in front of the sub and saying, “Here’s what I need you to be able to do and see, and where everything ties together.”

Zach Wojtowicz:

But once you do that now, instead of them reaching for their cell phone, calling you, which we acknowledge, it’s still going to happen occasionally. But over time you build this into your culture, your practice, this is what the expectations are, and those things become less frequent because they just know I’ll go to Buildertrend.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Clients, it’s a little bit different. They’re new every time. And there’s different levels of people who will ultimately be able to use this technology. But that comes back on having a system for yourself to say, “We’re going to walk our clients through this at every sales pitch.” This is what you’ll do or at the contract signing, we’re going to give you a 10-minute demo on how to use Selections or how to favorite things through Selections. There’s a lot to learn and you got to understand too, you’ll need some time to be able to go through and get through the feature and learn what the pieces of it are. But once you do that, I think the benefits are pretty clear, Brett. What do you get for being proactive in your selections process, from your perspective? What do customers ultimately achieve by doing this?

Brett Jones:

Yeah, plain and simple. It’s worth the work to set these things up, set those expectations with the client that, “Hey, this is what we run our whole customer lifecycle through.” And at the end of the day, they can log in. They can see those selections in real time. They can see what they chose, what the cost is, the difference between their allowances. It’s a fantastic tool. I’m going through the home-building process right now. And just because I’m really familiar with it, it’s going great. But I think there are some things that could be done better. And I think selections is one of them. I’m always asking my fiancee, “Hey, what did we choose exactly? What did we choose for that tile? What was the backsplash? What was the color?” All that can be documented in real time if I just log into Buildertrend and see it right there.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Are you saying your builders are not on Buildertrend right now?

Brett Jones:

They’re not.

Zach Wojtowicz:

We’re going to be sending this episode to them like, “Hey, Brett just put you guys on blast.”

Brett Jones:

I tried to talk to them, man. I mean, they have their own third-party software, and actually, it’s their own proprietary software. I’d be curious to see what it costs them to maintain that. But I let them know that if they ever want to graduate to the next level, I’m the guy.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Maybe offer them a little deal. Maybe a little free consulting on the side. What do you think?

Brett Jones:

I’m not opposed to that. I don’t want to incriminate myself here or anything, but…

Zach Wojtowicz:

We’ll make sure we get it up. No need to be worried there on things you shouldn’t be saying. We’re good.

Zach Wojtowicz:

All right, everybody, that’s it for our selections process. Thank you so much for joining us. Check us out on the next episode where we’re going to dive a little deeper onto building accurate project timelines. Thanks for joining us.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Thanks for listening to “The Better Way.” If you’re a Buildertrend customer, schedule training to learn more. All listeners, be sure to rate, review, and subscribe to “The Better Way,” wherever you get your podcast and visit buildertrend.com/podcast to sign up for the email notifications when the next season drops and explore our other podcast, “The Building Code.” Up next on “The Better Way,” we’ll explore the must-haves of accurate project timelines.


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