Delivering a new design experience with Piper Stromatt

Today on “The Building Code,” Zach and Charley are joined by Piper Stromatt, director of interior design and partner at Boutique Living by Curate in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Piper was born into the construction industry and decided to take the route of design working for a residential construction company right out of school.

Listen to the full episode to hear about what it takes to start a career in the construction industry, some of the latest evolving design trends and how Buildertrend helps curate the design process for clients.

How has Buildertrend helped with your design process?

“We can go as deep as somebody wants to or as minimal as somebody wants to. And that’s also something that Buildertrend has allowed us to do – build our template to be able to do that. We’ve put almost nine years into our template. We’re very strategic of what goes in there, all of our vendors can’t live without it now, and our subs can’t live without it. We can’t live without it either. Even though we have a catalog that anybody can bring in, we’re able to streamline that process for our homeowners to not get so overwhelmed when they do start getting down to the nitty gritty.”

What are some of the design trends you’re seeing right now?

“I think you’re going to start seeing a lot of the Scandinavian, which is like very simple, very eclectic, just very easy, very natural. Then you’re going to start seeing a lot of the natural designs really start to trump the farmhouse. But what you’ll start seeing, shiplap was always horizontal, now it’s pulling vertical. You’re starting to see a lot more sleek lines, colors, a lot of light and bright. You’re not seeing the grays anymore or the gray tones, or anything like that. You’re starting to see the simple whites, a lot of Ben Moore and Sherwin-Williams’ light and bright, but also with the natural color tone.”

LINKS AND MORE

Related content:

Check out Piper’s podcast, “The Building Blonde” on Spotify.

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Podcast episode 155 with Piper Stromatt

Piper Stromatt | Boutique Living by Curate

Zach Wojtowicz:

What’s up everybody? It’s “The Building Code,” Zach Wojtowicz.

Charley Burtwistle:

I’m Charley Burtwistle.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Good to see you, buddy.

Charley Burtwistle:

Yeah. Good to see you, too. It’s been a while.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Has it?

Charley Burtwistle:

No, it’s been 24 hours.

Zach Wojtowicz:

I literally saw you just yesterday.

Charley Burtwistle:

Yeah. So, people that watch our podcast on YouTube, which you should be doing, will be excited to know that we recorded some little promo videos for it. So, if you’re watching other Buildertrend videos, you’ll see Zach and I pop up at the end and ask you to subscribe to the YouTube channel.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Well, they should subscribe.

Charley Burtwistle:

They should. Absolutely.

Zach Wojtowicz:

To the YouTube channel. We’ve got more than just the podcast on there.

Charley Burtwistle:

And we recorded maybe 20 takes yesterday.

Zach Wojtowicz:

There’s a lot of content coming your way.

Charley Burtwistle:

You should probably check out the YouTube …

Zach Wojtowicz:

Buckle up.

Charley Burtwistle:

Just to see all that coming down the pipeline. And now that I’ve said it, it puts a lot of pressure on our producer to get that across the finish line.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Yeah. Clock’s ticking. We’re expecting to see that.

Charley Burtwistle:

But we are back in the studio today. We have a fantastic guest. I’m very excited. Zach, tell the listeners who we have today.

Zach Wojtowicz:

That’s right. We have Piper Stromatt from Chattanooga, Tennessee. She’s the director of interior design and partner at Boutique Living by Curate. And I love having different types of builders on, and we haven’t had a ton of designers come in for our podcasts. They always have a little bit different perspective because they usually do a little bit more in the construction process. Sometimes they even build their own plans, they do it in house and then they go through in the design. And it’s usually a very hand-holding experience for that customer. So, we’ll be able to get into some, a little different angle of the building process.

Charley Burtwistle:

Yeah. And Piper has her own podcast called “The Building Blonde,” which I actually listened to yesterday.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Love that name. That’s a great name.

Charley Burtwistle:

Yeah. Absolutely.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Whoever named that. Piper, if that was you.

Charley Burtwistle:

I’m sure it was.

Zach Wojtowicz:

You’re just crushing it.

Charley Burtwistle:

Absolutely crushing it. It’s a great podcast. We’ll link it in the show notes.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Yeah. Check it out.

Charley Burtwistle:

But yeah, the way they set things up the way they think about design and that entire process, I think is unique. So, really excited to get into it.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Well, let’s get her on here. Piper, welcome to “The Building Code.”

Piper Stromatt:

Hey. Thank you so much for letting me be a part of this. This is awesome.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Yeah. We’re excited to have you. For the folks listening out there, can you tell us just a little bit about yourself and your background?

Piper Stromatt:

Yeah. So, I like to joke that dirt runs in my blood. I’ve been on a job site since I was … Oh gosh. Born? My family is from civil construction background, massive civil construction company, disaster relief. And I decided, “Well, I don’t want to do any of that. I want to be interior design. But I want to play in dirt, too.” So, I decided right out of school that I was going to go to work for a residential building company called GreenTech Homes here in Chattanooga, Tennessee. And started right off the bat at 22 years old and started on my first house, closed my first house that year. Now, I’ll be with the company seven years and started the sister company, Boutique Living by Curate. It’s been a really fun adventure and over 400 homes now. So, I’ve gotten to meet a lot of families.

Charley Burtwistle:

Wow. That’s really incredible. You’re a woman of many talents. You actually also host your own podcast called “The Building Blonde,” which you’re dipping your toes into the social media world and all that. Talk a little bit about the podcast.

Piper Stromatt:

Yeah. So, okay. I had a pipeline dream, and I told my husband, I was like, “Eh. I really like social media, but I want to do something different.” And just looked at him one day and I was like, “What about a podcast?” And he was like, “Are you sure about that? Do you know how to do ads and stuff?” I was like, “I mean, no, but I’ll try.” I really wanted to engage all of my students in school, other fellow women in construction. Because there’s not many of us, but there’s starting to become more and more that I was like, “Okay. What’s something I could play on words. I’m blonde. I think I’m pretty fun.” But I want to just spread my wealth of knowledge that I’ve gained over the years. The stories that I’ve always wanted to tell people or the one-liners everybody ask about like, “What would you do here? Well, I’d do this. Okay. Sounds great.” I just wanted to create a platform that everybody could really come to and that’s how “The Building Blond” was born. And yeah, basically it.

Zach Wojtowicz:

So, this is something that with the interior design. I was looking at your bio on your website the other day and something you’ve known you’ve wanted to do for a very a long time, right? Got started pretty early.

Piper Stromatt:

Oh my gosh. Yes. Actually, really early. Much earlier than normal for a lot of people.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Well, there you go. And you’re a partner at Boutique Living by Curate. Tell us a little bit more about that company specifically.

Piper Stromatt:

Yes. Our dream basically started off as, “Okay. We have this process, we choose everything before the build starts.” I wanted to take that from GreenTech homes who I started out with, who is still a company here in town. It’s production. You get this many choices that this many times, and you’re going within your same box all the time. You have to be really creative to go outside the box and to move forward. I wanted to take that concept and do custom homes. I said, “There’s no sense to where a custom home builder doesn’t want a unique experience that you have your handheld the whole time. But you also pick out everything up front.” So, our showrooms is simply like a boutique. Our team brings in everything that is trending, that is classic, that we know we can execute really nicely, and that will continue to have longevity over the next 10 to 15 years. We keep everything on-site, and our homeowners don’t have to leave our studio for any reason at all, unless they want to.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Wow. That’s super interesting.

Piper Stromatt:

That’s a little bit about us. We have about 38-ish homes in production right now and about five in design. So, it really is an ebb and flow all the time through everything.

Zach Wojtowicz:

And you just build out in Chattanooga or at the surrounding areas at all? What’s your space look like?

Piper Stromatt:

Yeah. That’s a really good question. We specialize in downtown Chattanooga. We laugh because we say we specialize in steep slope, which is comical, because everything in Chattanooga is literally downhill, we’re uphill. Our team has started to … Honestly, that’s basically all we build. We specialize in it. We build mostly those, and we also build within a 15-mile radius, 30-mile radius, depending on what parts of town it is. If you have your own lot, we do design-builds on your own lot if it fits into our parameters and it fits into what our processes are.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Wow. How many people are on your team? It sounds like there’s quite a bit of work to make sure that everything’s all curated, everything’s up to date. You’re keeping track of the latest trends, and you’re able to create that curated experience for the homeowner.

Piper Stromatt:

Oh my gosh. So, we have 17, we’ll be adding 18 officially on Monday. I love to say this because women in construction, that’s something that’s really big to us. We actually have nine women that work for us out of the 17 and soon to be 18. We really like that aspect, and we think our level of detail with Buildertrend to construction to the end of production is …

Zach Wojtowicz:

That’s super interesting. Do they all have pretty similar backs stories too? Where they raised in construction or are they coming from other industries? You have personal relationships. I’m just interested. Because you’re right, we’ve had people on the podcast talk about the analytics of construction and 90% of the workforce in construction is white males. Where are you finding them? I mean, have you found the secret?

Piper Stromatt:

I think we did find a secret. Paul, who is owner of both GreenTech and Boutique Living by Curate, we laugh because he will just say, “All right, you’re a banker. You have those talents, I think you can be a project manager. And you’re a dental hygienist. We got the qualities, I think you can be a project manager.” They’ve turned out to be our best project managers, literally, of all time.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Got chip on your shoulder.

Piper Stromatt:

I love our guys. Hey, I love our guys. I love our guys. They’re wonderful, but …

Zach Wojtowicz:

Shoutouts of the dudes. Aren’t I hating on that the 90%?

Piper Stromatt:

Not hating on the 90%, but the women … I was on a job site today, the electrician comes over, and he is like, “I need some questions answered.” I’m like, “Okay. Let’s pull up the plan.” He goes, “Ooh, I like you.” I’m like, “Because we’re pulling up plans. Come on now.”

It’s just funny. But to answer your question, we find everybody all over the place. If you present the qualities of you’re detail-oriented, you’re very customer service oriented, you’re detail oriented and you can run software really well – and have a lot of juggling balls up in the air. We look for those qualities, we use the disc assessments for those. So, yes and no. Some people have had backgrounds but most haven’t.

Zach Wojtowicz:

That is a common theme that we’re having on the podcast. There’s such a misconception in the construction space that if you didn’t grow up swinging a hammer, there’s no role for you out there. You just mentioned, “A dentist and a banker.” There’s actually a ton of very, very applicable skills and a ton of unique roles that I’m sure people have no idea even exist out there.

Piper Stromatt:

Exactly. Because builders these days are even busier than they’ve ever been before. If you just have a detailed eye and you can tell that there’s scuffs on a wall. Builders need you to blue tape, builders need you to go look at detailed … They’ll handle the other part. You don’t have to know what a footer is or what inch rebar needs to go on the foot, but you should have that detailed eye. A lot of people don’t know that, and I’m trying to spread that word with “The Building Blonde,” too.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Backup plan for you, buddy.

Charley Burtwistle:

Yeah, for sure. I was just thinking that sounds like it might be a spot.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Just in case this doesn’t work out for either of us, take me with you.

Charley Burtwistle:

If the podcast doesn’t work out and subsequentially, my real job, doesn’t work out.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Yeah. We’re trying to build some insulation in our career advancement. We’ve got a variety of opportunities for ourselves, we’ve heard that a lot from our customers. And in my experience, working with customers, it always just makes me so happy. Buildertrend … actually funny, a lot of our support team or sales team … And even in like other areas of the business now marketing, corp dev and whatever, they have such different backgrounds. I’ve always of connected on that level from … People have skills. It’s not just about the degrees that you have. You can find ways to make your own opportunities in a lot of different spaces. It’s really cool.

Piper Stromatt:

Absolutely. And I think that’s the really unique part about everybody working in our trade these days. My favorite thing is, “Hey, what do you do best?” That’s something my grandfather always asked, “What do you do best?” It doesn’t matter what your degree was in, but what do you do? And I think that’s something that’s very unique because you all are doing the podcast, but you also have day jobs with Buildertrend. I think that’s something that’s super unique and fun, too, because what the internet’s given us now is opportunity to be able to grow and have variety and to do things differently. So, I think that’s really unique.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Just to clear one thing up to manage expectations. They didn’t pick Zach and I because we’re good at this, we were just the only people that applied for it. I get what you’re saying and it sounds like a very nice compliment, but sometimes you just stumble into things, too. But getting back to the sheet here, I’m actually really curious about the design process specifically.

This is probably a misconception, but in my mind, I just imagine you dealing with really, really picky homeowners all the time that go back and forth between selections and nothing’s ever perfect. I’m sure that’s wrong, but what does that process look like? You’ve mentioned, the boutique is a cool experience for them to walk in and pick stuff out. But how does the actual … “Okay. I’ve decided on this, now let’s implement it. Oh, I changed my mind.” Are you helping them pick things or are you just turning it over to them? Walk me through that process.

Charley Burtwistle:

Do you want her to put her customers on blast on the pod?

Zach Wojtowicz:

No. I said it was a missing session to start with. Absolutely.

Piper Stromatt:

I’ll probably have some that would be like, “Oh yeah. That’s me.”

Zach Wojtowicz:

“Oh, they’re talking about me.”

Piper Stromatt:

And that’s something that’s super funny. We have a very strategic process, and it’s all been based on my … Almost seven years and going through this process and seeing what works and doesn’t. Trial and error all the time. We actually start out with our contract fighting. We have a base-level of all of our included amenities. Then from there we start doing the building blocks. “Okay. Do you want to stay in this bubble of everything is included at base for you or do you want to really dive in deep?” Even down to the switch plate covers? And what shade of color are they? What shape are they? All of that. We can go as deep as somebody wants to or as minimal as somebody wants to. I think that’s something that’s very unique and flexible about us.

And that’s also something that Buildertrend has allowed us to do, build our template to be able to do that. We’ve put almost nine years into our template. We’re very strategic of what goes in there, all of our vendors can’t live without it now, and our subs can’t live without it. We can’t live without it either. Even though we have a catalog that anybody can bring in, we’re able to streamline that process for our homeowners to not get so overwhelmed when they do start getting down to the nitty gritty. The house that we were closing today that I was working on, I was actually installing the switch plate covers, which is pretty funny, but it’s just something that needs to be done sometimes.

I was going back to it and some of them have to be wrapped by wallpaper. Some of them have this certain sheen to them for the room color. Some are black, some are white, some are ivory. It goes back to how deep do you want to take this? And how much do you want to drive yourself crazy? Plus, how do you want your home to really look? And is anybody ever going to notice any of that? So, I start off with those questions and then jump from there, based on how they want to go. I hope that answers your question well enough.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Yeah, absolutely. I would be very much … Please just do it all for me. I feel like that would be the approach I would take if I ever build a house.

Piper Stromatt:

And we do have that. We have people, which the allowances have actually come into great help. Whoever thought of that and put that implementation in, thank you.

Charley Burtwistle:

That was Zach.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Yeah. That was me.

Piper Stromatt:

Was it really?

Zach Wojtowicz:

No, no.

Piper Stromatt:

I was like, “What?”

Zach Wojtowicz:

Yeah. We got to keep under control.

Charley Burtwistle:

I got a little bit of a Friday …

Zach Wojtowicz:

Yeah, yeah.

Piper Stromatt:

I was about to say, “That was completely awesome.” But yes, a lot of people come in, they say, “I have $150,000 that I want you to spend. Tell me where to spend it and lay it all out for me. I’ll be there in six weeks.” Great. So, we’ve done that. Some of our homeowners actually did that, all the way from Nebraska, and we did that all over Zoom presentation.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Do you know we’re from Nebraska?

Piper Stromatt:

Oh. It’s a very small town but I do know that.

Zach Wojtowicz:

I was going to say, “We’re at Nebraska.”

Piper Stromatt:

I don’t think it’s next to you all because I would’ve recognized where y’all are with them. But we’ve had four from Nebraska moving into one neighborhood, which was really interesting.

Zach Wojtowicz:

That’s super interesting.

Piper Stromatt:

Yeah. I was like, “What’s happened to Nebraska and Chattanooga?”

Zach Wojtowicz:

Got a pipeline moving to Chattanooga.

Piper Stromatt:

What’s going on?

Zach Wojtowicz:

Maybe it’s so flat here that they’re like, “We need some verticality. We’re going to Chattanooga where it’s all up or down.”

Piper Stromatt:

In Wisconsin. We’ve had a couple from California, but I was like, “Okay. Wisconsin. At least we’ve got a lot of cheese curds now, which is cool, I guess.”

Zach Wojtowicz:

Oh, man. Wow. Good for you. Sorry to interrupt. I was just like, “It’s interesting, the Nebraska thing. Huh.”

Piper Stromatt:

Yeah. I feel like we do everything possibly known to man on the shape or scale of design.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Have you guys been using Buildertrend for nine years?

Piper Stromatt:

My day one, I was taught …

Zach Wojtowicz:

You had it? Wow.

Piper Stromatt:

I had it with my day one. GreenTech at the time had been using it for a year and a half.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Gotcha.

Piper Stromatt:

Almost two years. So, almost 10 years everybody’s been around it, who are like the OGs.

Zach Wojtowicz:

You guys are some of our OG accounts then, you’re in the client list pretty deep. That’s awesome.

Piper Stromatt:

I think so. I think our subscription has gone pretty deep at this point.

Zach Wojtowicz:

You’re getting your values worth. It sounds like you’re in Selections, you’re using Allowances. These are features that Charley and I know are really impactful, but not everybody gets there. I’m sure you didn’t get there on day one. It’s taken a little bit of time to go into it.

Charley Burtwistle:

I’m impressed with the template, too. You said you’d been building that out for like nine years now.

Piper Stromatt:

I know. I totally geek out and show it to you all if you had some time. But yeah, I told you we use Allowances, we do Selections all through it. We also do all of our PO invoicing, time. Every single aspect of builder trim we use or that is there, we typically use on a day-to-day basis. But one of our project managers just got on and discovered a few new things that we’re going to be testing out that I didn’t even know about. That’s been pretty cool.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Wow. That’s amazing. We’ll come back to this as far as how you guys use technology. I’m super interested in how you leverage it. But one thing that I think it’s really unique about having you on is, you are doing design. A lot of our home builders, it’s not their focus like design-builds are. We’ve had Jkath on, and they’re big in that space. I just want to know, what are the design trends that you’re seeing right now? I’m sure this is an area that’s the fun part. The finishing touches, how does it all come together?

Piper Stromatt:

I love that you asked that because honestly, I know we all don’t know what happened in 2020. A lot of things happened, and it went everywhere. Design went everywhere, too. Everybody was getting online, everybody was researching. You started to see farmhouse start to make its way out. I know everybody loves Joanna Gaines. The south is the south, everybody’s going to love that farmhouse cottage look. Now, you’re starting to see Kelly Wearstler. A lot of these influencers took that time during 2020 to really push themselves in the organic design. You’re seeing a lot of the Scandinavian is starting to turn organic. You’re starting to see all the woods come back. What? Stained cabinets? Everybody’s like, “’90s? Ugh.” It’s the new wood.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Yeah. It’s like, “Oh. My kitchen’s coming back in style. All right.”

Piper Stromatt:

Yeah. I’ll whip it on back …

Zach Wojtowicz:

Just wait long enough.

Piper Stromatt:

Right. It’s going to come back. But I think you’re going to start seeing a lot of the Scandinavian, which is like very simple, very eclectic, just very easy, very natural. Then you’re going to start seeing a lot of the natural designs really start to trump the farmhouse. But what you’ll start seeing, shiplap was always horizontal, now it’s pulling vertical. You’re starting to see a lot more sleek lines, colors, a lot of light and bright. You’re not seeing the grays anymore or the gracious, or anything like that. You’re starting to see the simple whites, a lot of Ben Moore and Sherwin-Williams’ light and bright, but also with the natural color tone.

Zach Wojtowicz:

That’s super interesting. This is like a total shot in the dark. But how do those trends evolve in your seven years? Can you feel a design trend coming on? What does that evolution look like? And how do you stay on top of it?

Piper Stromatt:

Yeah. Totally. That’s an amazing question, I get that a lot, actually. You can start seeing things inch along and where you start seeing it is in fashion. Believe it or not. And you start to see it in Europe. You start to see it in a lot of the other countries that have a lot of influence on American design. So, once you start seeing that, you’ll see … It was about three years ago, a lot of the off-whites, the beiges, the blacks started hitting the runway. Then it started with everybody pushing social media in California with all of this Scandinavian design. That’s been around for thousands of years in other countries, it just started to make its way into ours. It usually goes left coast, right coast. It usually goes both sides.

And it does a squiggle effect if you think about it overall. Because south, like Magnolia homes, pushed the farmhouse. That reached all the way to the West Coast. Then you had the Scandinavian and the modern, which started in the West Coast and went to the East Coast. It starts in fashion and starts inching its way over. But I start seeing it whenever homeowners are bringing pictures of celebrities homes a lot of times, where a lot of these celebrity designers … Like I said, Kelly Wearstler did a massive push in 2020. She is huge in art deco design as well as natural design and a lot of eclectic things. But her coloring is all natural with a few pops of color. So, you start to see a lot of people just grabbing those social media outlets a lot. Then that’s what starts trending in your area. And then you pick that up and start making it trend in that area.

Zach Wojtowicz:

That’s super cool. What would you say the split between clients coming to you and being like, “This is the celebrity home I saw, I want it to look like this.” Versus you are the one that’s like, “Well, here are some of your options.” What’s that ratio like?

Piper Stromatt:

Yeah. I would say now that we’ve established ourselves in … Luckily, I’ve gotten to establish my reputation as a designer in Chattanooga, a lot of people come for my design. I always tell my homeowners, “It’s my design plus your design. I base myself off of you.” A lot of our homeowners come in, and they’ll say, “I love what you’ve done in the past. Can you please just take what I want and make it into what I need?” And that’s where I go from. When it comes into people bringing pictures, I think it’s about 30%. Those are commonly people who are engineers, they are very picture driven and picture-oriented. And people who aren’t great visually, who just need it to look exactly like what they like. Because once you’re painting this picture, it’s really hard for people to understand. “Yeah. Just sign off on that one selection. It’s just like you saw it.” Everybody’s like, “No, it’s not.” I think it’s about 30%, honestly.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Gotcha.

Charley Burtwistle:

Interesting. That’s amazing. Speaking of your clients, what would your advice be to someone who really wants to give that boutique feel or that experience? Maybe someone who isn’t quite to that level, but they still care about the customer experience. What do you do with your customers to give them that extra layer of quality that isn’t necessarily about the materials you’re using, but just how you’re treating them.

Piper Stromatt:

Transparency is key. Honesty is key. Those are the two foundation blocks that our company strives for every single day. Telling somebody, “Hey, it’s not going to look good if you go this route. And not because I don’t like it. It’s because these two color tones don’t match.” It’s giving them a foundation of knowledge, honesty, and transparency. I think those are the three biggest things. Then you can start doing the building blocks of, “All right. We’re doing a celebration because you signed off on all of your Buildertrend items. We’re going to do a little champagne toast and now your final plans can get started.” Then you can start doing those building blocks at that point where I’ve seen people struggle in it.

I’ve helped a few of my friends that are building their accounts and building their builders, and they’re building their showroom. They don’t offer enough. Then they get defensive with estimating because they don’t want to offer too much. The building package needs to be the building package. We have three options and there you go. But you can make it fun for people that way. You can say, “Well, great. We can spend another dollar and you can get this.” Just playing into … Not emotions, but imagine yourself in their shoes. That’s the only way you can start building that foundation or those couple items.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Yeah. I feel like that’s another very common theme that we’ve heard. Client relationships, building the trust. Very, very important in any business or any personal avenue, but especially in this construction world. Another one that I wanted to touch on where I’m sure that’s very important, just working with your subcontractors and your vendors as well. You’ve mentioned them a couple times. Obviously, without them, the vision and the design isn’t possible. What is that back and forth with that?

Piper Stromatt:

Yes. I don’t have to talk to the subs all the time. Our project managers and superintendents actually talk to the subs every day, almost. What I really do is, I lean on them. Perspective, my father-in-law has actually been laying hardwood floors for 30 years, and he was never used to using software. I then got to teach him the software and say, “Hey, if you see something that’s wrong in here, and you don’t agree with it, please let us know. We’re happy to change it. But I needed to learn and grow as you teach me basically.” I talked to the subs, if something is … We talked to them on the front end for design and saying, “Hey. Help me, help you. How do we make this happen?”

That’s something where we start with and then we get to talk to them when they do execution. “Was this trim drawing that our clients signed off on? What you saw in the field, and is it going to work?” That’s a lot of times where we wrap back around, almost in a full circle, to get the end result. We’re very close with our subs. Very, very close with our subs. They’re like our family, and we treat them how we want to be treated.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Yeah. In a way there are a form of your clients, they do a lot of the work. You’re dependent on them being happy and feeling like they’re a part of the project. I love that approach. On a given project, are you using the same subs on every one? 38 homes, you said, that are currently in production, are they hitting all of those projects or do you have a few that you work with on different areas of the trades?

Piper Stromatt:

That’s a really good question. We actually, design, works with the main ones. You’ll have your main framer, you’ll have your main brick masonry. You’ll have your own vendors, like General Shale, being your brick. You’ll have a Horizon Stone. You have your reps that we use with them, we have our subs that are our installers that we direct line to if there’s a true question. That’s a good question because we have five project managers at this point, we’re about to be on six and seven. And they all have their preferred subs that they use.

Zach Wojtowicz:

It’s funny. Right? Personalities are a big part of it.

Piper Stromatt:

It’s hilarious. And this is just so cute, but we were interviewing somebody and a big thing to me is how do your subs view you. Do you want to go out at five o’clock on a Friday? They just want to ask about how your kids are, or you want to ask them how their kids are, how’s their life. Or are they just slamming the door in your face saying, “I’m done with work.” We were driving a new hire around, and I swear, seven brick masons came flying off of a house to the truck. And they were like, “John.” And I was like, “Okay. You’re hired because …”

Zach Wojtowicz:

They know him.

Piper Stromatt:

Oh. He was like, “Where have you been? What are you doing?” And he is like, “Well, I’m interviewing.” So, it’s all about relationships because those are the people’s hands that you are relying on to build your house, that you’re trying to communicate and deliver to your clients. Subs are a huge part. Like I said, my father-in-law is one of our subs, and it’s just how you treat them. I think that is just super unique. Yes, everybody has their favorite ones, everybody has who they get along with. The personality types and the job types. Some people don’t want to do steep slope. Painters don’t want to paint 50 feet up.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Never thought about that. Honestly. Really interesting. Be an awkward Thanksgiving if you treated your father-in-law bad on the job site.

Piper Stromatt:

Like I didn’t pay him because …

Zach Wojtowicz:

Yeah. It’s just like, “Could you pass me the Turkey?” You’re like, “You’re going to need your paycheck for the work.”

Piper Stromatt:

You’re going to scratch my floors and making it come back?

Zach Wojtowicz:

Yeah.

Piper Stromatt:

It’s so funny. But we treat everybody extremely fair, and that’s the first and foremost thing that we can do.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Charley, you’re my favorite subcontractor.

Charley Burtwistle:

Thank you.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Customer success.

Charley Burtwistle:

It is? In a sense I’m a subcontractor for you guys. Yeah.

Zach Wojtowicz:

That’s how it is. Yeah.

Piper Stromatt:

Really?

Zach Wojtowicz:

Yeah. Because what I need to work on, I need his insight on data. I have a project or I have an idea, I’ll send it to him and his team and be like, “Tell me what you find. What are your insights?” And then we’ll come together and say, “This is what we found.” And they’re like, “Oh. This situation for the builder is probably why it’s showing this.” And we can actually make decisions about the product or how we attack problems in our customer experience, or all the above. So, yeah. That’s how our relationship is within the walls of Buildertrend.

Piper Stromatt:

I love it. You probably got all the messages from whenever you all just redid all the filters of the app?

Zach Wojtowicz:

Oh yeah. My team, we take all that intake. And their team looks at, “Well. Did the engagement go up? Did it lead to more people or less people using it?” Also, the health of the business, what’s happening with our KPIs and “technical software as a service company” stuff. He’s involved in all that, but we’re relying on being able to get that information to do what we do.

Piper Stromatt:

I love it. I’m sorry for giving feedback.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Never apologize.

Charley Burtwistle:

Love the feedback. Yeah. We’ve had a couple people from our Customer Experience team. We had episode of Scott Hale, just dropped not that long ago, and that’s a big part of our company. We just give voice to the customer. We just got an email about it the other day. That’s how our Product team makes all of their decisions, and how our customer success team makes all of their decisions on how to train people is from feedback. So, if you want something to be a certain way, just ask for it.

Piper Stromatt:

Good deal. Good to know that.

Charley Burtwistle:

Last thing on the subcontractor note, are they in Buildertrend, too? Are you guys using the homeowner portal as well? Is it end-to-end?

Piper Stromatt:

I love that you asked that question. It’s a requirement for all of our subs and vendors to be on Buildertrend. We do not cut POS unless they accept it. We do BPOs through it, it’s a requirement. The first meeting, we have our contract signing, and we do a Buildertrend tutorial at that time. So, we give the customer their login and passwords. And at that time, they’ll get their contract loaded in to Buildertrend, we teach them how to find it under docs. After that, we start having our structural meeting with our… Because we draw all of our plans in house as well, so we’re a full design-build company.

We actually take that. They start making their structural upgrades, they sign off on their plans. We actually do all accounting through it. So, whatever cost is associated with that build goes into that selection, it’s signed off. Prior to doing anything and moving out of design, they accept it. They sign off in Buildertrend. So, we always have a pictured description and a cost association as well as a cost code. That is all requirements that are part of design estimating and sales through Buildertrend.

Charley Burtwistle:

Wow. That’s …

Zach Wojtowicz:

Super user.

Charley Burtwistle:

Yeah. Zach and I were just making eye contact as you were talking, you need to come teach a class at BTU or something. Sub engagement and Buildertrend.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Yeah. All of that. You do all the right things. That’s what I did, I traveled in a lot of these tips I picked up from people like you. And I was just stealing and be like, “This is how other companies do it, but we need to clip it.” So, our social media team, “Clip that, put it on. Get it out there.”

Piper Stromatt:

Something that’s super unique, and I love that you all are on the backside of it because you all came out with a favorite feature. And that’s something that plays into our process every single day. It has made it so client-friendly. Because our homeowners, we favored everything. Like I said, everything’s in our template. Cost, description, picture, everybody’s on the same page. We’ve favored that. The homeowner then goes in on that side, they can see their job running total with favorites.

If I need to reset something, we have to have a 100% completion for all 400 items that go into your house, that are on a typical selection, basically. We have to have 100% of completion. If I need to go back and say, “Hey, we met on Zoom. I’ve got to reset your trim. It’s a different color now, I need you to go back and approve it.” They can go into favorites, and that has been a game changer. Because six years ago, I was pulling out my hair, trying to teach them where to find this on Buildertrend.

Charley Burtwistle:

We don’t like hearing, “Pulling out hair.” Unclip that, we don’t want to hear that.

Zach Wojtowicz:

That was, that was six years ago.

Charley Burtwistle:

That was before Zach joined.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Yeah, exactly.

Piper Stromatt:

Like I said, six years ago. We’ve come a long way. And I forgot to say, we actually use it all the way until end of warranty. Then we archive our jobs. I can pull up my job from nine years ago, that I lived in this house for.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Charley’s resisting the urge to look up your account right now and run his data, and be like, “Ooh, there’s so much in there.”

Charley Burtwistle:

Yeah. One of the big initiatives on our team right now … And we don’t need to go down this rabbit hole. But is, as a service providing data science to our customers. Building out metrics and reports and stuff. And unfortunately, some of the really cool ideas that we have requires that people are using the platform to the full extent, so you have the data. So, we may use you as our guinea pigs in the background.

Piper Stromatt:

Hey, I told Shaw this. We started working with Shaw on a lot of their back end marketing, came to meet with us and procurement, and all their sides for buyout, because we were using it in depth. If y’all do need it, please let us know, we’re happy… Please pull up our account because there’s 700 jobs probably archived now. 800, 900.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Wow. We love it. We are up against time here, Piper. We really appreciate you spending time with us and chatting, and letting us go off-script and getting into some fun areas. Did you have a good time?

Piper Stromatt:

Oh my gosh. Always. And I’m always happy to do it again if we ever get the opportunity to.

Charley Burtwistle:

Absolutely. Zach and I can dye our hair blonde, and we can come on “The Building Blonde.”

Piper Stromatt:

Hey. I would love to have you on “The Building Blonde.” We’ll get some margaritas …

Charley Burtwistle:

Sounds fantastic. Thanks again, Piper.

Piper Stromatt:

Thank you.

Charley Burtwistle:

Bye.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Charley, we just had Piper on “The building code.” Even after the interview, we kept going, and she is a superstar. Absolutely enjoyed that conversation immensely. She was showing us around her Selections template she delivered on the goods. I was extremely impressed.

Charley Burtwistle:

Yeah. It was impressive. I thought it was funny, she apologized during the episode like, “Sorry for the feedback.” And as soon as we stopped recording, we spent 20 more minutes getting more feedback and you connected her with one of our user researchers. So, she’s going to be giving infinitely more feedback. But that’s awesome. She uses Buildertrend really, really well. They have a really, really fantastic business. They treat their customers right, they build and design awesome homes. We want to make sure that the platform and the products is tailored, and people can use it to maximize their business.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Yeah. And I love the deeper level we got to with her about her business and design philosophy, and the relationship with her subs. It’s so fun and to learn about that side of the business and administration. Hopefully you enjoyed it as well. Obviously, I really did. Charley, what were your takeaways?

Charley Burtwistle:

It was a unique perspective. I was feeling a little self-conscious when we were talking about where design comes from, and she’s talking about the fashion runway models. I’m here in a hoodie and a flat bill hat.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Which would not be any …

Charley Burtwistle:

O’Neill, Nebraska fashion. If I was a house in designing, I’d be a barn somewhere. But no, it was awesome. I thought their process was really interesting. The boutique concept where you feel a little bit more specialized and tailored toward you. I thought their relationship with their clients was really cool too, whereas it’s like, “You tell us what you want, let us…” I think she had a line which would probably make a good t-shirt. “Let’s turn what you want into what you need,” which I thought was a really cool way of thinking about things.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Just an absolute brand star. Well, remember to like comment, subscribe. Check us out on YouTube. Like we started, I’m Zach Wojtowicz.

Charley Burtwistle:

I’m Charley Burtwistle. We’ll see you next time.


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