COVID-19 and construction series: Northeast U.S. region

On today’s episode of “The Building Code,” the second in our COVID-19 series, Paul is joined by Josh Rosenthal of Cabin John Builders in Cabin John, Md. and Nick Colarusso of Cedar Mill Group in Webster, N.H. to discuss their experiences of working with COVID-19 in the Northeast region of the United States.

Listen to the full episode to hear more about their company stories and how they’ve been able to adapt to change and prioritize their teams and clients during this time.

HOW DID YOU DECIDE WHAT WAS BEST FOR YOUR TEAM AND YOUR CLIENTS?

“Given the safety regulations, which we agree with and we thought were important to keep staff safe, can we be efficient? So, we were working on finishing a 16,000 square foot house at the time that had about three months left to go. You have more than 10 people working at that house on a regular basis to get that type of home delivered. We had the advantage of space, but we had to go through job site by job site. And we did make the decision, which we stuck to until now, of not working in any occupied homes except for emergency repairs. From both a safety and a disruption standpoint, it just felt like too much.” – Josh Rosenthal

“There were three of us in the office and we were all just watching the television to see whether or not construction was going to be an essential business. We were running four projects at the time and I had customers that were calling me that entire day asking me what we were going to do. After we found out that we were essential, then it was going back to our customers and saying, we can still legally work on your project, what is this going to look like? It’s a team approach. Not only did I want them to feel comfortable, I wanted out team and trade partners to feel comfortable. Luckily, three out of four homes were uninhabited. We limited the amount of people on a job site. We rolled out masks and hand sanitizer. Everybody was on board with implementing the changes.” – Nick Colarusso

WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED FROM AND WHAT ADJUSTMENTS HAVE YOU MADE?

“There have been a number of changes. Most of them minor, but I think they add up. One example is, we’re a small office team, so we didn’t have a lot of formal meetings. I also was someone who didn’t believe in remote work in such a tactile industry. Well, we were forced into remote work. It has been much better than I expected, and we started a, what we thought was going to be temporary, daily quick standup that I have with the office manager who also has a weekly larger group meeting. It’s really been an asset to the company to have that formal time. It’s really helped, and I think it’s something that we’ll continue.” – Josh Rosenthal

LINKS AND MORE

Check out these builders on their websites and social:

Cabin John Builders

Cedar Mill Group

Get signed up for IBSx, the 2021 virtual International Builders’ Show.

 Follow us on social:

Instagram:

@thepaulwurth

@buildertrend

Facebook:

@buildertrend

We want to hear from you! Reach out to us at podcast@buildertrend.com.

Listen to “The Building Code” on YouTube! And be sure to head over to Facebook to join The Building Code Crew fan page for some fun discussions with fellow listeners.

Josh Rosenthal and Nick Colarusso | Cabin John Builders and Cedar Mill Group

Paul Wurth:

You are listening to “The Building Code,” a podcast by Buildertrend where we talk all things technology and construction. Be sure to stick around to the end of the episode, where you can find out how to be a part of the Building Code crew. Let’s get it.

All right, everybody. Welcome again to “The Building Code.” Today, we’re continuing our regional series, taking a look back at COVID-19, talking to a handful of our clients and just wanting to hear their story about the last 10 crazy months. Today we have Josh Rosenthal from Cabin John Builders. Josh, welcome to the podcast.

Josh Rosenthal:

Thanks so much. Happy to be here.

Paul Wurth:

You’re out of Maryland. I’m seeing out your window right now, it’s rainy. It’s the perfect January day.

Josh Rosenthal:

Yes, it is. So, we’re right outside of Washington, DC, which does add a little bit of complication both to what we do and our COVID-19 experience because we work in Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia. So, instead of keeping track of one set of rules on any given day, we’re keeping track of at least three sets.

Paul Wurth:

Fun.

Josh Rosenthal:

But yeah, it’s a good place to be.

Paul Wurth:

That is a unique challenge. So, what would you say you guys work in terms of mileage? Like 10 or 15 miles around you in any given direction and that’s three different states?

Josh Rosenthal:

Yeah, typically we’re about probably 15 miles away. Actually, if everyone could see the window you’re looking out of right now, you can see Virginia from my desk even though I’m sitting in Maryland, and Washington, DC is about five or six miles off to my right. So, we’re actually located where they all come together, which is a fantastic opportunity for work, but leads to the jurisdictional issue.

Paul Wurth:

Especially in the time of COVID-19. So, before we get into that, because obviously that’s the focus of this episode in this series, let’s just hear about Cabin John Builders, I will say to start, thank you and the team, because you guys have, in about next month, you’ve been with us 10 years. So, that’s a huge amount of time for our client base. We started slow. We’ve definitely ramped up in the last four or five years in terms of volume, but our first few clients are still very near and dear to our heart because they took a chance on our technology when technology wasn’t really the main thing to do. So, I just want to say thank you before you get started.

Josh Rosenthal:

I appreciate that, and it actually weaves a little bit interestingly into our story.

Paul Wurth:

Let’s hear it.

Josh Rosenthal:

My brother and I are business partners. Cabin John Builders has existed for about 11 years. We were in the industry before working in a family business and decided to go out on our own for a couple of reasons, and one of them, as we started to have our own company was realizing that we could dictate how things were going, and construction being an industry that is traditionally behind the times, especially on technology, especially on some business practices because as you go down the food chain, I remember numerous times buying fax machines for subcontractors back in the day or setting up Gmail addresses, so they could interact with us online and not even understanding.

And we felt like having an open dialogue with our clients, which having an online project management system certainly helps with as well as streamlining our overhead, and the people we were working with would be part of our approach of solid custom building, which really is our focus, working with customers to match their lifestyle into their home with a more modern approach to how we would run our office, trying to be paperless, trying to be efficient, trying to cut down on overhead. And if we all do our math, this company was started during the downturn.

Paul Wurth:

Yeah, I remember that.

Josh Rosenthal:

Yeah, we all remember that. So, that again was part of this foundation plan and direction was how can we run efficiently? How can we deliver an experience to our clients that is more keeping with the times and keeping with the situation?

Paul Wurth:

Wow, that’s a great story. I don’t think people realize, two things you said. Number one, I think people totally realized like hey, it used to be fax and phone calls. People get that, because 10 years ago, the smart phones didn’t exist. It was fax and email was not really used that much in this industry, and I think everybody gets that. What people don’t realize is there was a trend or there was a business practice for the majority of construction shutting the client out of information. It was almost like, I don’t want them to know anything because then they’re going to like hound me for information. Is that fair to say?

Josh Rosenthal:

Yeah, I think it’s very fair to say, and having worked with parents who were in the industry forever, they talked about even a generation back where home builders would hand back your deposit check if you wanted to change the swing of the door, and this again, part of why we want us to do it our way is my father believes I’m the builder, you asked for the price of your project, I give you one number on a contract, you say yes or no, and that doesn’t make sense given today’s marketplace, given the information asymmetry that is out there. You really need to adapt to today’s consumer.

I think it is both for better and worse. I think there are certainly where it can be time consuming. You can get caught up in silly little arguments, but one of the things I talk about and it’s one of the reasons also when we started, we expose our costs and our markup and every estimate. And people ask me why and my first answer is the fear of our markup significantly outpaces our actual markup, that everybody has this feeling of builders are out there to rip them off, or people have been taken advantage of, or am I getting the truth? And people aren’t afraid, they know they need to pay for our company, and that we have insurance, and we have trucks and all of these things, and I think it does a lot to the relationship to open that up quickly and say, hey, here’s what it is. If you have a problem with what the foundation’s going to cost, ask me why it’s that expensive. If you have a problem with what we’re going to cost, ask me about that, and we’ll discuss that instead of saying, okay, here you go. $970,000. Yes or no.

Paul Wurth:

Take it or leave it. I don’t think people talk about that enough, and I guess it’s great to hear that you and your brother were seeing what was going to happen with clients in communication and the information age where they can go learn a lot. I think it’s wild to some people who work at Buildertrend. They’re younger as you’ve been here and met our team, but also companies that have come in over the last few years in the industry, that the trend was not to share information, not only with the client, but with the subcontractors. You didn’t want them to see your plans because they’re going to shop at somebody else and there was no networking between builders in terms of sharing information. There was surely networking, but it was like it was a very, very you hold everything close to your chest and you’re seeing that evolve now, which is great.

Josh Rosenthal:

Yeah. And I think it is great for the industry, and I’m somebody who believes that there is plenty of room for reputable, qualified builders out there, and it’s really our job to hold the industry off to do things right and to highlight the people who aren’t following the law, are causing problems. It is not the issue that it was in the industry 15 or 20 years ago or longer back, but that’s still exists. And I think all of this helps add to the legitimacy and the professionalism of what are professional companies.

Paul Wurth:

And that’s something that we’re really passionate about as well, so we definitely share that. So, you guys are in Maryland. One thing I wanted to have you explain because I don’t think people get this is Cabin John is actually the city you’re in, right?

Josh Rosenthal:

Correct.

Paul Wurth:

It’s not some sort of story you have about your name, right?

Josh Rosenthal:

No, it is actually the city I’m in, which is a really small, really old city in the middle of Poplar. So, people know the DC area. They’ve heard of places like Bethesda, Maryland, Potomac. We’re right in the middle of there in this old small area that was actually where people would take a carriage ride out to sit by the river and cool down in the 1800s.

Paul Wurth:

Oh, boy.

Josh Rosenthal:

And we were trying to come up with this brilliant name and how are we going to figure this out? And my lawyer was hounding me going, give me the name. I need to file the paperwork. We need to do this. And we just were like, well, all of our competition has these creative names, and they were all either like their last name or where they were from. I looked over like, oh, Cabin John Builders is available. Fine. We’ll use that and we’ll deal with it later, and it just stuck.

Paul Wurth:

That’s great. Good for SEO there. You are the builder in Cabin John.

Josh Rosenthal:

Yes.

Paul Wurth:

There you go. All right, so let’s get to the meat of the subject here. Let’s call it March 15 last year. I think the reality of what we all maybe thought was coming or didn’t think was coming hit with the COVID-19 regulations and the shutdowns. Can you walk me through you and your brother dealing with that initially, and then the next coming weeks?

Josh Rosenthal:

I think initially, we were both fortunate and unfortunate in our area, in that we were in the part of the country that was hit first or early on, but we were a couple of weeks behind New York. So, our government, we had the ability to see a little bit of what was coming. They were a little more proactive, so it didn’t get quite as severe. And I think in the beginning, there was a little bit of a deer in headlights for a day or so as we were trying to understand what the regulations meant, what the lockdown meant. There was a debate in our state as well as nationally over whether builders were going to be essential or not essential, and I’ll say we were lucky we had some terrific sources of information. I’m not necessarily an association rah-rah guy all the time, but our local association did an amazing job working with our governor’s office, communicating to us what the laws were. Then I think we just had to, like any other problems, take it piece by piece.

A new piece of legislation comes out, read it, try and understand what you don’t, process it. We did a lot of work working with our Builder 20 group as well. We had a lot of people who were going through similar situations in different parts of the country. So, we had some group think there, but I think it was also setting a priority list. So, how are we going to deal with immediate safety of our staff, clients and job sites, then what’s the procedure? What are we doing on? And trying to communicate as we went, because you can only do as a small business so much at a time. So, I remember back to March, we were writing a memo to our clients weekly. Here’s what’s going on, here’s what we’re doing for masks, for washing, for working.

As time went on, and we better understood, that obviously slowed down a little and it became a little more ingrained and obviously, we also have to do in priorities of we’re focused on our job sites, on our field staff and their safety, but then there’s also how do we run a business through this? Are we staying open? Are we applying for PPP and the IDL funds? How does that work into our process? Even if we’re allowed to work, should we shut down? And going through that process in a systematic manner as possible.

Paul Wurth:

Yeah. The one thing that’s, I guess, a really difficult decision for you and other owners out there because construction was deemed essential in the majority of states, you actually had to make a decision, as you said, for your staff, your clients, and your job sites, hey, we can work, but is this the best thing for our people or our clients?

Josh Rosenthal:

Correct. Also, there’s the subset of that that goes with given the safety regulations, which we agreed with, and we thought were important to keep staff safe, can we be efficient? So, we were working on finishing a 16,000 square foot house at the time that had about three months left to go.

Paul Wurth:

That’s large.

Josh Rosenthal:

You have more than 10 people working on that house on a regular basis to get that type of home delivered. So, we had to go through, we have the advantage of space. It was a little bit job site by job site. You’re somewhere where we have the advantage of spacing, but are we going to get effective work done if we can have like two for four person crews, a delivery person and a supervisor, and that’s it? And working through that, and we did make the decision, which we stuck to until now of not working in any occupied homes except for emergency repairs, because from both a safety and a disruption standpoint, it just felt like too much. I can’t, and I don’t want to control where my painter goes when work is over, and now I’m going to bring him into your house where you’ve got two spouses working and a couple of kids trying to do online school, and we’ve got a compressor tearing out a bathroom or whatever. It just it didn’t feel like a good fit. So, we actually stopped all of that type of work and have yet to resume.

Paul Wurth:

I’m sorry. Had renovation remodeling been … what part of your business was that?

Josh Rosenthal:

So we’re about 50:50 new home and renovation addition, in part because there is no land really where we are. So, you’ve get some tear downs, you get some whole remodels. Tended to larger-sized projects. So, most of our renovations and additions people are still moving out. We’re ripping the roof off, ripping the back of the house, but we were doing some work, and we had a couple of clients who were finishing their jobs and obviously, they wanted to get into their nice new, safe house, but we didn’t feel comfortable marching guys into there right as COVID was hitting. So, we had to work through those issues. And I think being a custom builder, the client side played a big role in it, too.

We had some clients who were very safety focused and concerned about the health of our crews and making sure it was other … and we had some people, frankly, who were very focused on their needs. A new regulation would come out from the state, and I’d have an email from one of their in-house councils telling me what we needed to do under the law in terms of stretching it and getting us to their house, and look at this loophole, you can get more people. So, that was a dynamic we had to work with and say, okay, we understand that, but we’ve got to keep safety in mind. It’s ultimately on us and work through those issues.

Paul Wurth:

That’s interesting. So, when you talk about the litigious nature of maybe regionally, maybe it’s different regionally with different types of clients and different levels, did you guys learn anything about the contracts and the different language you have? Did you guys make any adjustments there or do you feel like you were set up pretty well for that?

Josh Rosenthal:

From what I’ve learned, obviously I’m not an attorney, but I spoke to mine plenty of times, initially we were pretty well covered by the general force majeure language, because this was so unexpected. Past that though, it has forced us to change our language a little bit in terms of better understanding construction delays, material delays, and how that relates to the project and how that relates to consequences and also now we’ve adjusted our contract language going forward because I’ve also heard the force majeure does not exist as much because the pandemic has been around for 10 months. So, I can’t say, oh, surprise. This thing happened in January. We knew it was coming, so that has changed it.

Paul Wurth:

So, good tip for any other business owners out there. Probably just a good time, I’m sure you have, get your lawyer to take a look at your terms and conditions, make sure they’re up to date with the force … What was that term again?

Josh Rosenthal:

Force majeure.

Paul Wurth:

Force majeure. Got it. It looks like that’s something you’ve adjusted. What else have, if anything, have you and your business partner said, okay, we learn from this and we’re going to maybe make some adjustments internally with our people, with our clients, with subs. Is there anything that stands out?

Josh Rosenthal:

Well, I think there’ve been a number of changes, most of them minor, but I think they add up pretty well. So, one example is we’re small office teams, so we didn’t have a lot of formal meetings. I also was someone who didn’t believe particularly in remote work in such a tactile industry. Well, we were forced into remote work. It has been much better than I expected, and we started what we thought was going to be temporary daily quick standup that I have with the office manager that also has a weekly, larger group meeting, and it’s really been an asset to the company to have that formal time, even though we’re still talking and messaging and emailing, to have that formal what’s going on for the day quick meeting has really helped, and I think is something that will continue.

Paul Wurth:

Yeah, there’s some power in a recurring meeting. Sometimes, it’s like we meet to meet, but when it’s the right length. There’s power in somebody knowing that I don’t have to call him right now. We’re meeting tomorrow morning. Hey, I don’t have to talk to this person. We talk every Wednesday, so I’m just going to get my list together, and therefore we can just deal with it all at the same time. When somebody knows that there’s going to be that time that they can be heard or to speak or to deal with things, there’s definitely power in that.

Josh Rosenthal:

No, there is power in that, and I’m thinking also interestingly to me, really helped a couple of our employees who were struggling with the pandemic, living by themselves, not having a lot of interaction. How do I get into this work from home? It brought a little bit of repeatability and a regimen to their day where they knew, okay, I got to be up at this time, ready to go and mimic the workday more than the, okay, I’m on my couch in my pajamas with a laptop. So, it actually benefited us in that way. I think a lot of our job site hygiene is something that will stay even past this. Construction sites are dirty place, and we keep them clean and organized and our materials, but I don’t know how much attention we’ve ever paid to things like hand-washing and separation of trash and cleaning down tools that are in a shared environment and things like that. It seems like a best practice.

Paul Wurth:

Yeah. Obviously some of the best companies like yourself, you guys had a company policy let’s say like, hey, we want to keep a clean job site, but that was only a company policy. Now it’s state regulation. If you don’t, you will be fined. But that seems like it’s probably pushing a lot of people to say this isn’t just a choice or a differentiator between my company and somebody else’s, this needs to happen every. By the way, us doing this helps us keep things more organized at the job site. Maybe there’s a benefit there.

Josh Rosenthal:

No, I think there is, and I also think there was awakening, a lot of builders, ourselves included, confused an organized job site with a clean job site.

Paul Wurth:

I like that.

Josh Rosenthal:

And learning that clean is different than organized, especially when it comes to the health of your people. I think when it comes to our trade partners, and to our employees, we try and treat them with respect and work with them on a very professional level, but seeing us buying PPE and creating hand-washing stations and making sure they were paid if they needed to stay home sick and distancing and masks and all of these things that were extensively for their health resounded very well with them, and I think they appreciated. We weren’t the only ones, but they appreciated the builders who were taking their health and livelihood and family seriously, and we’re a little concerned about the ones who weren’t.

Paul Wurth:

Yeah. I guess it was a time to see who’s real. As always in building, when building’s good, it’s all very easy, but when things get hard and people have your back, and it’s not just dollars and cents, we had another guest on from the west coast who said the same thing. It was a renewed focused on taking care of your employees, taking care of your subcontractors, and making them know how important they are to you.

Josh Rosenthal:

Absolutely. I think it also renewed the collaboration. We went away from we all get into this habit of calling the electrician, you’re going to be here tomorrow, right? You got stuff you need. Okay. Cool. Thanks, bye, into a real conversation of, are you going to be there? How many guys? Are they feeling well? Can they get it done? What’s your supply chain issue? Do you have a delivery truck coming? When’s it coming? And really collaborating to make this work. We talked about that larger project where we’re limited by the number of people. We had to get into, okay, I know you want to bring four guys, and I know you’re trying to keep payroll going for them, but I only really have space for three guys and would you be willing to do … Can we make this work with two or three guys on this day? But you can work on Saturday and bring other guys to get them the hours or whatever it was. So, I think it renewed the collaboration and problem solving past the rut we get into.

Paul Wurth:

It gave you a chance to truly show your subs that you’re compassionate, and you definitely are there to help them as a partner. You understand, I know you got to get your payroll people, but here’s the situation we’re in. That’s great.

Josh Rosenthal:

Yeah, absolutely, and I think it also made it clear and easier for us to say to them, hey, these are the things we need in this environment. Not just for you, not for the other people, but also for our business because we’re trying to keep things rolling. We’re trying to keep on the ball. We’re trying to get through all these just as you are.

Paul Wurth:

Yeah. It feels like, if this ever happens again, whenever the vaccine is fully out and no more mask, maybe just throw a party for everybody. Just tons of beer. You guys all in a tight space, all the subs and vendors, just a celebration.

Josh Rosenthal:

Yeah. Well, it’s funny. That was one of the hardest things for us is every year we throw a big barbecue, basically during the holidays, and it’s like not only our staff, but our subs, give out a winter hat or whatever. We’re lucky that one of our key employees and lead framers is Brazilian and loves to barbecue.

Paul Wurth:

Oh, really? Nice.

Josh Rosenthal:

So, we do this huge setup on one of our job sites and have everybody over and it was really hard not to have that comradery, and was texting with guys being like next year, next year. We’re going to really do this next year.

Paul Wurth:

Maybe we can do Christmas in July.

Josh Rosenthal:

We might have to.

Paul Wurth:

There you go. Maybe I can get out there. Well, I want to be really appreciative of your time, Josh. This has been great. Honestly, this series was an idea that we thought would be good, but we’re getting so much great information that I think that every listener is going to be able to either relate to or take with them and go, hey, that was a great idea. I mean, I’ve got tons of notes here from you. So, first of all, great job. I think it’s obvious that you guys are doing things right there. Again, very much appreciative of the 10 plus years now you’re going to be with us and thanks for your time today.

Josh Rosenthal:

Oh, you’re very welcome. I enjoyed it.

Paul Wurth:

All right, man. Wish you the best.

Josh Rosenthal:

Thanks so much.

Paul Wurth:

Bye.

Hey, everyone. As you know, this year’s International Builders’ Show is going virtual. So, if you’re attending IBSx, be sure to visit Buildertrend virtual booth to check out our latest feature updates and talk one-on-one with our team. In addition, I’ll be leading on-demand education session. So, be sure to look out for Going Virtual: Your guide to project management on-the-go. It’s available February 9, and you’ll learn all about the nuances of remotely managing your projects, some technology that can help you, and how you can save more time. Registration is still open online at buildersshow.com. See you there.

We have Nick Colarusso from Cedar Mill Group joining us. We are talking to companies in the Northeast region of our regional podcasts. They’re out of New Hampshire. We’re really excited. Nick, welcome to the podcast.

Nick Colarusso:

Paul, thanks for having me today.

Paul Wurth:

How have things been this year?

Nick Colarusso:

I mean, if you’d asked me this question back in February, if you said forecast for me what the year is going to look like, I probably would have been doom gloom, and I’m usually an optimistic person, but back then it was just so much uncertainty that you need to adapt and stay fluid. Honestly, we had a record year this past year. We far surpassed my goals, and this year coming up is looking to beat this past year.

Paul Wurth:

That’s so good to hear. We’re hearing a lot of that. We started this regional podcast series really with the goal of hearing people’s stories while it happened. What did you guys go through specific to your state, your local? So, you talked about it like there’s local rules, your county rules, your city rules, your state rules. So, we really want to hear that. What’s so great about this series is listeners know, who have been listening to it, is that overwhelmingly it’s been a positive thing. It’s something that really snapped back quickly and building and construction has been one of these highlights of the industry that’s benefited from this, which is so great. We definitely want to hear that. Let’s start off by just laying the table for everybody listening. Who is Cedar Mill Group? Where are you guys located? What do you do there? Give me the rundown.

Nick Colarusso:

You got it. No, that sounds great. So, at Cedar Mill Group, we are a design-build, remodeling company, strictly residential construction at this point. We’ve been in the business as Cedar Mill Group for 14 years. Before that, we rebranded back in 2007. Some of the people that go back to 2007, it was one of the trickiest years to rebrand. Nobody knew that 2008 was going to hit, and so we started out and they had a little bit of savings and honestly it’s a 100% relationship based business, and we just pounded the pavement with some of the contacts that we knew and it just kept growing and growing and growing.

In the middle years, we weren’t thriving, but we were staying afloat and for the past seven years, I would say we’ve had an upward trend, and it’s amazing the amount of repeat business that we’ve had. A lot of that is due back to the fact that we are a remodeling company. We do new construction, but I would say 75% of our business is all remodeling typically high-end homes where people live there. So, it’s a niche market where, I tell everybody that anybody can build you something, but it’s how was the process? How is the experience? And if you didn’t want to kick me out at the end, then we knew we did a good job.

Paul Wurth:

That’s a good little thing. I like that one, because as Avery talks about, it’s a relationship, and relationships have their ups and downs. You’re in somebody’s home if you’re doing remodeling. That carries its own stress. So yeah, if they don’t hate you by the end of it, then you’ve probably done pretty good.

Nick Colarusso:

I tell customers because now I’m on the sales side. I’m vice, vice-president of Cedar Mill Group now. Paul, when you first met me, I was a project manager. So, I started in the trenches just running these projects and we’ve grown so much since then that now I’m strictly on the sales side and the project development side. And I tell every single one of our customers at the first meeting when we sit down to the sales table, I say, if we’ve done our job correctly, you’re excited to get going, halfway through the project you’re going to call me up and you’re going to say, Nick, when are we going to be done? And you’re going to start to get antsy, and at the end of the project, you’re going to be sad to see us go.

We’ve had every single customer over the past seven years, they’ve been sad to see us go, and it’s been amazing what they’ve done for us after the project. We’ve had project parties. They all become your best friends. They know that if they call our number, somebody is going to pick up and handle the problem. They’re used to business.

Paul Wurth:

Yeah, that’s amazing, and I’ve got a lot of questions about that, because a lot of the point of this podcast in general, beyond this COVID-19 series, is trying to find these things that you guys do really well and then hopefully sharing that with other professionals out there. So, I want to talk about that, but you had referenced that we’ve known each other a long time, because back when I was doing sales for Buildertrend when we were a smaller company, I always had targeted Cedar Mill Group because you guys just were a really great company, wanted you on board. I think I hunted you guys for a few months, maybe even longer, finally got you in front of a demo and then you guys made the jump.

So, we are super appreciative of you guys using Builders for all these years and letting us be along with you for the journey. Now, everybody knows remodeling and really construction in general, if you’re doing custom projects is a referral based business. Everybody’s number one lead source. So, what do you guys do specifically at Cedar Mill to ensure that you’re getting max referrals from your clients?

Nick Colarusso:

I think 90% of it is listening. Anybody can talk, we can sit here and have a good conversation, but it’s listening and addressing, I don’t want to call them problems, I’ll call them opportunities, and it’s just being there to be a sounding board and to make people feel that they’re trusted, they’re heard and that they’re being taken care of. And honestly, if you looked at my marketing budget for this past year, I think my marketing budget was $1,200, which that’s to keep my domain going. Honestly, and maybe a little bit of website prep, but it’s all been referral, which is referral based and it was amazing. On a personal note, we just had a baby. So, my family and I had our first son, which is super, super exciting.

Paul Wurth:

Congrats, man. That’s awesome.

Nick Colarusso:

And the amount of customers that came out of the woodwork to reach out and congratulate and just that wanted to be a part of our life, it really resonated with me and it showed me that what we were doing was working and there’s no pre-programmed script. I keep telling people that I’m the worst salesperson in the world. I’m the least salesy salesperson, because we’re real.

Paul Wurth:

It probably makes you to seem the best.

Nick Colarusso:

Exactly. It’s great. We just want to start a conversation, and we want to say what we’re going to, and then we want to do what we’re going to say, and all that stuff.

Paul Wurth:

It’s so simple, and I think some people try to over-complicate it, and I’ve always said in sales, especially in this day and age, nobody wants to be sold. There’s so much information out there that they can go find themselves if they’re curious. Nobody wants to be sold, they just want to be heard. And I think you had mentioned that. That’s a great thing you guys do because I think construction companies, and we talk about this all the time on the podcast, is that we forget because we do it so often that this is their first time, and this is a really important thing for their business, probably financially and personally. They’re changing their structure they live in, so they can make it more livable for them and their style of family, wherever they are. And so it’s important to really, I think, appreciate that and then over-communicate and listen. It seems like you guys do a good job of that. Do you actually specifically ask for referrals? I know a lot of good companies they say, look, hey, if we’ve done a great job here, tell people.

Nick Colarusso:

Actually, I can tell you, in all honesty, I’ve never asked for a referral, but it’s been amazing the amount of people that have come up to me and they’ve said, hey, Nick. Do you mind? Can we refer our friends? Can we refer so and so, and the one big thing that I’ve done and this is an odd statistic, but we had 20% of our business over the last three years that came in from referrals from customers that were never our customers, and I’ll explain that a little bit.

Paul Wurth:

What does that mean? Okay, let’s unpack that.

Nick Colarusso:

Customers that came to us that, we always go to a first meeting. We start with a phone interview, but I always want to go out and see the project, I want to meet with the people, and we’ll spend on average one to two hours just talking with somebody. And if I feel that it’s a project that is a little bit too small for us, because we’re a niche market. We’ve gone ahead, and we’ve found out that between this project size and that project size, we run really well and we run efficiently, but instead of declining and saying, hey, listen, we can’t do your project, I always want to leave somebody with a referral to another partner.

We have copious amounts of partners in the business and I always call it co-petition not competition because there’s enough work out there for everybody. Honest to God, I’ve had more people call me that said, hey, you met with my friend, Betty, and you never did her project, but you had a great referral for her. Just to have a company that’s willing to go ahead and do the legwork and make the introduction, knowing that it’s not going to be a direct impact, direct revenue generator, really resonates with people. I never knew that.

Paul Wurth:

That’s a great tip. Nice. That’s a great takeaway from anybody because every interaction is an advertisement for your business, positive or negative, no matter what. It’s just the reality of it. So, I just did a class for the International Builders’ Show. Have you guys ever came and seen our booth at the show?

Nick Colarusso:

No, I need to go do that.

Paul Wurth:

Oh, man.

Nick Colarusso:

Hopefully, we can get back to that in person.

Paul Wurth:

We’ll get it back probably next year, so it’s all virtual right now and, Danielle, it’s February 9? So, if you’re not registered yet, I would register because I just did a class and then I talked about sales and having a sales process is important, not because you don’t want to be personal, but because you can deliver the exact right consistent marketing message every time. And so, if your sales process is no matter what we’re going to take a call and this client may not be anywhere near the budget we like that’s our wheelhouse, but we’re going to take the 30 minutes, we’re going to meet with them an hour, and we’re going to give them that referral for somebody in referral network, and man, that’s planting the seed. That’s really great to hear.

Nick Colarusso:

The key to doing that is that I always ask the potential customer or the person that I’m referring, I always ask them to reach out to me afterwards and let me know how it goes because it just brings the conversation full circle. And I always tell people, I want to give a good referral. I just don’t want to give a name that’s going to go ahead and handle it, and it brings that personal to level. There’s been some customers that have come back to me and they said, hey, Nick this is a great referral. They did X, Y, and Z really good, but hey, they could have done this better, and I have personal relationships with all these companies and I have a sit down with them after the fact and say, hey, listen, this is information that they may not have told you, but we’ve built this relationship and this is the feedback that we’re getting, and a good company is going to listen to that feedback and they’re going to implement it.

Paul Wurth:

Well, holy cow, Nick, you’re just dropping great stuff here. Where’d you come from? Did you grow up in construction or?

Nick Colarusso:

I did. So, I grew up in Connecticut. We’re a New Hampshire based business now, and it was funny. I wasn’t going to go to college. So, my backstory on this, I grew up, when I was 15, I joined a framing crew, and I was going to be a framer for the rest of my life. I said, this is it. This is great. It’s sunny outside. You get a tan in the summer and you don’t have to go to the gym. This is perfect. Luckily, my parents woke me up and they explained to me that that was between May and August. And they said, become a framer in the middle of the winter and get back to me. And I said, okay, I see where you’re going with that. And they said, the least you can do is go ahead and go to school, get an education, go be a sales guy. I come from a huge insurance family and they said, go work in the insurance industry. And I said, well, okay, fine. I’ll go to school.

It wasn’t until my second semester of my freshman year it finally dawned on me that I was going to be graduating with 3,500 people that were all management majors. And I said I don’t want to be fighting with 3,500 other people when I get out of here three and a half years from now. What can I do? What skills do I have? So I got an architecture degree from Keene State.

Paul Wurth:

Where’s that at?

Nick Colarusso:

Once I applied everything that I knew because I loved working with my hands, but once I did that, and I spun that into an actual bachelor’s of science, literally it came easy to me, Paul. It was the most fun I’d ever had. And then implementing that and rolling that out in the business world back in 2000, so it was 2007, 2008, we talked about obviously the downturn back then, so getting right out of college and then having the economy literally pump their brakes and say, hey, just kidding. This is great. You have a degree, you can put it on your wall, but nobody is hiring, I actually, I had loaded up my car with all of my stuff. I had had two interviews down in Florida for architecture firms. It was a two day journey down there and halfway down I was in Pennsylvania, and got calls from both the firms that I had had meetings with, interviews with, and they basically said, hey, Nick, hate to tell you this right now, but we’re in a hiring freeze. It’s like everybody had shut down. It was in that October window.

And I said, oh shoot. I said, where do I go from here? Because it was the first time I’d ever gone without a job too. I’m like, this is not good. So, I spun that around, and I actually had networked with a lot of people when I was in college, and I joined AmeriCorps. So, I joined AmeriCorps, and I actually worked for Habitat for Humanity for two years. You make no money, but honestly the relationships, the experience that you get, and I was 20 something at the time, and they fly you all around the country. So, that wasn’t a bad thing either. But I still talk to some of those people today, and it’s a direct correlation to the market we’re in right now, the building that we’re in. You’re just trying to help people. It was the stuff they can’t teach you in college that you learned.

The rest is history. I’ve worked for a few larger construction companies they weren’t family-based. It was literally you are a number. I was employee 439 and it was how quickly can you get it done and how efficiently can you get it done? And, oh, by the way, move on to the next one. So again, going back to Cedar Mill Group, we’re a nine employee company. Honestly, we always tell people, once you come here, once you’re hired, you’re never leaving. You can’t go anywhere.

Paul Wurth:

It’s kind of like a mafia.

Nick Colarusso:

It is exactly, but it’s amazing. We’re super diligent during our hiring process. We’ve utilized a few different techniques, and we utilize, it’s a personal assessment that … Have you ever heard of DISC assessment?

Paul Wurth:

Yeah, we use it here.

Nick Colarusso:

You use it, okay. So, we utilize that. We implemented that about six years ago and it’s so funny to get guys that are in the construction industry not only to take that, but then to sit around a conference table and do a two day seminar on really breaking that apart and what does that mean? Our DISC language, all of us talk about it, and we’ve grown leaps and bounds personally and from a business front now that we all know how to interact with each other. From a sales side, that is literally, it’s amazing what that’s done for us on the sales standpoint as well.

Paul Wurth:

In terms of hiring salespeople or?

Nick Colarusso:

No, from first appointment, second appointment. So, the other thing Paul, that Jeff and I have implemented, and we’ll never go is we do a team sales approach. So, it’s always Jeff and I that go, and the reason we do that is that there’s going to be, for a two hour conversation, there’s going to be things that I hear and there’s going to be things that Jeff hears. He’s going to hear things differently, but then there’s always, when there’s two decision makers at the table, obviously nobody has the same DISC profile, and you start to pick and pull what other people’s DISC assessments are. So, you’re going to want to talk to a little bit differently than Danielle wants to be talked to and so on and so forth. So, you can really start to look at those key areas before they become a thing, and it’s just another tool in the toolbox.

Paul Wurth:

A lot of people believe those assessment things are just to help you identify the types of people you want to hire. There’s so much value as you just said, Nick, in the team sharing that because everybody likes to be communicated differently. If you’ve ever been to therapy with your wife, not saying I have, I love my wife, but everybody communicates differently and receives communication differently.

Nick Colarusso:

Absolutely.

Paul Wurth:

That’s really important to identify. I think that’s such a great call out. Already in the first 10 minutes here we’ve got some great takeaways. One thing I want to talk to you about though, so you’ve got a close-knit nine-employee team. Once you’re in, you’re always in, much like a gang. So, when COVID-19 happened, there was a lot of adjustment that needed to be made, excuse me, from a business perspective. I assume New Hampshire is much like everywhere else, where right away there was a lot coming at us. We need to start working from home. We need to wear masks. We need to protect ourselves. We need to do social distancing. So, just take me back there. What were some of the challenges you guys faced and how did the team, your close-knit team react and how did the leadership of your team communicate effectively?

Nick Colarusso:

We’ll pan into the first six hours of that, and it was like the first, it really hit us when the governor really came in and all of a sudden these mandates come out. I remember watching, I don’t know if you ever watched the television when you were a child, watching for cancellations in snow days?

Paul Wurth:

Yeah, you bet.

Nick Colarusso:

So, I remember there was three of us in our office just watching this TV, and we were all watching to see whether construction was going to be an essential business, and I had customers. We were running four projects at the time, and I had customers that kept all day, that entire day kept calling me saying, hey, Nick, what are we going to do? What are we going to do? What are we going to do? And I said, we’ve got to wait. We have to wait and see whether A, we’re essential, because if we’re not essential, we’re all going to go home and we’re going to think about it for the next couple of months and then we’ll come back. So, after we knew, we found out that we were essential, then it was going back to these four projects, these customers and saying, okay, we can legally still work on your project. What is this going to look like? Because again, it’s a team approach.

So, not only did I want them to feel comfortable, but I also wanted our team to feel comfortable, trade partners to feel comfortable, and obviously most importantly, I wanted to feel comfortable about the decisions we were going to roll out. We were blessed with the fact that three out of the four projects were all uninhabited, so they’re all second homes. The struggle with that is that they’re all vacation homes, and we work on the New Hampshire, Mass border. Everybody from Massachusetts went North, everybody that was in the city said, hey, oh by the way, this is supposed to be a six month project, but can you get it done in four months because we want to move in.

Paul Wurth:

Right, because they want to move out of those cities. We’ve talked a lot during the series about this exit from the urban centers because you don’t have to be there anymore. So, that’s funny you guys were doing vacation homes, and they wanted to be in those vacation homes.

Nick Colarusso:

Yeah, they 100% became permanent homes. I had two customers that we were literally in the home stretch. We were probably three weeks from finishing, they called and said, Nick, hey, listen, we’ll pay you more money if you can finish. And I said, it’s not a money thing. I said, it’s just, oh, by the way we’re trying to limit our job size. To answer your question, one of the things we did was we limited the amount of people on a job site at the same time. We rolled out the masks, we rolled out the hand sanitizer. I wish I had invested in stocks before this. I’d be in a lot better spot, but everybody was super onboard with, again, you go back to that team approach. It’s we’re going to roll this out. We need everybody to implement it.

By the way, I don’t have the time to go job to job to check to make sure that people are actually following the protocol. So, it was really empowering and holding people capable that yes, you’re going to do this for yourself, but you’re also going to do it for other people. I only had one job site where we found one guy that wasn’t following the protocol. This was about six months ago, and he was one of our tile guys. Great, awesome, awesome installer, and he’s feeling sick and long story short, he gave COVID-19 to the entire … two of our employees were affected and then four other trade partners were affected and their families.

Paul Wurth:

Wow.

Nick Colarusso:

It was a shock to me because I said I thought we were doing all the right things, and even that, you’re not immune to it. So, even after that, one of my project managers, he’s our Buildertrend guru right now, he said, okay, how can I use Buildertrend to go ahead and move the schedule around? Can I space people out? Can we communicate differently? And we’ll get to that in a little bit. But again, it was just making people aware and getting their buy-in that they were going to go ahead and actually implement the plans that we’re rolling.

Paul Wurth:

And it probably helped to have buy-in already. It starts at the beginning. I think what we’ve realized in this is that if you didn’t have a good setup, whether it’s your HR, your hiring, your team communication, this probably just exasperated that problem to you. Because if you had a great communication already, then you probably rode this as a company a little bit better, and that maybe it’s just … again, we’re looking back and saying, okay, what can we learn from this and implement later and get better at?

So, if you didn’t have it before, it just basically showed you how important it was. One thing I want to talk about is your sales process, and I’m going to surround this around COVID-19, but I want to know. So, I preach to everybody about their sales process and construction is have a cadence, have a process. Do you guys, when you get a new lead, do you have a process you guys use? And is your call to action not just try to sell them over the phone and show how great you are, but like, hey, let’s set up a meeting. Let’s set up a meeting. That’s our first step.

Nick Colarusso:

This will be a two-fold answer, but obviously once you set up the meeting, you go to meet with the people. I always want to do it in-person if we can, and even still to this day, if we can do it in person or over Zoom, I want to meet you in person because you can take a telephone call, you can read an email, but you’re only getting a third of the communicators there. Somebody sends you an email, and you’re automatically creating a story in your head about what they’re trying to tell you. On the phone, you can hear their voice, but they could be rolling their eyes at you. The body language is a big indicator and driver of how that meeting’s going to go. So, my number one thing is get in front of the customer, whether it be by Zoom or whether it be a face-to-face appointment.

The second answer to that, and this is a big shout out to Buildertrend is, if you had seen our sales process or at least our lead tracking before Buildertrend, I think it was on the back of a napkin and that napkin was stuffed in a drawer. You look at the napkin every now and then, but you’re really relying on memory, and I always joke. I say, if I get hit by a bus tomorrow, we’re all in trouble because the guy that keeps all the information, he seems powerful until all of a sudden he’s not there. So, we utilized the lead tracking and the sales end of Buildertrend just to keep a pulse checker.

I always do a Monday morning meeting with the entire company, which for us is easy with nine employees, but it’s always starting with lead tracking. We always want to tell guys, even if they think it’s important or not important, I always want to talk about what we have in the pipeline. And we look at the percentages, we look at the closing rates, we look at, so again, using Buildertrend as that tracking tool, and it’s an easy spot. I can look at it right now if I wanted to, and it’s just, as long as the sales guy does his job and puts the data correctly, we can track it, we can look at it, and we can actually do something.

Paul Wurth:

That’s awesome. Great, great, great stuff there. I think we’ve talked a lot about this, but some of the best construction business owners and really just business owners in general, they over-communicate to their team. And you had mentioned a great thing there, which is I tell the entire team about progress in sales. Whether they think they should care or not, trust me, that’s in the back of their head. And if they can help that, or add to it, maybe it’s months down the road, because they’ve heard it every Monday, and they have a good idea for you, but if you never involved them, then that’s never going to happen. And everybody’s more bought in, which is great. So let’s talk about this real quickly, because I think you bring up a great point, because every construction company should or does have a filter. You’ve mentioned it twice.

You guys have a certain project that you know you do best in, whether that’s best means make the most money or just are most efficient, or you’re on your best foot for that job, you do your best quality work. You know where that’s at. So, step one is defining that for your business. If you haven’t yet, let’s do that if you’re listening. Step two is you then have to understand who’s your best client. And you can only do that if you have some checklist or filter during your sales process, and I think you nailed it. I literally just said this in the IBSx virtual class I just did, is you can’t do that over the phone. There’s a huge running joke with me and my wife where is like the word sure in a text message is the worst word of all time.

Nick Colarusso:

Dot, dot, dot.

Paul Wurth:

Because it’s like, hey honey, can you go do this? Sure. Oh gosh, she didn’t like that one, but she could just be saying sure. So, it’s just a great example that words via text or email, it’s just so hard to understand the intent behind them. And so definitely get a face-to-face. Now, so you guys do virtual meetings and one thing I wanted to ask or maybe give you a tip is that you have this team approach in sales because two people interpret things differently, which I think you’re dead on with that. So, do you guys record the Zoom calls that you do so you can go back to them and be like what did she say? Or how did he or she say that?

Nick Colarusso:

That’s funny that you said that. So, I just found out that you could actually record these things. We have not, and I’m like that was a game changer. I felt like I was just like where have I been my entire life? So, that’s going to be a process that I think we do, not only for sales calls, but for trainings, for seminars. We talk to a lot of people. We do a lot of educational stuff. Recording it is huge because then going back, it’s like watching tape when you were in sports in college and high school.

Paul Wurth:

That’s exactly right.

Nick Colarusso:

You want to be able to look.

Paul Wurth:

So, we talk about this a lot. I hope this is not repetitive during this series because I’ve said it a number of times, but technology and construction has not been adopted as a whole, and we’re still second lowest in terms of industries of tech adoption. I think a lot of companies understood the value of technology, but there was barriers for them. Hey, I’m too busy right now. Joe’s 76. He’s my cab driver. There’s no way he’s pulling his phone out. Mary, she’s my accountant, she’s stuck in her ways. I’ll wait until she retires, or I’ll wait until a different time. I think what’s been great about this pandemic is it’s pushed people over the edge. It’s like there’s no option now. We’re here.

Nick Colarusso:

100%.

Paul Wurth:

We’re here, and I think what’s great about that, tell me if I’m right with you and your experiences, once employees got pushed out of their routine, maybe they’re open up to more of that. Let’s seize this opportunity to say, now that you’re out of your routine and you know you’re still alive, everything’s fine, maybe we can start doing that more in our company.

Nick Colarusso:

The best part of that, and this came from … we adopted using again Buildertrend. We’re a huge Buildertrend company. CRM is the backbone of our process, and I remember, this is a couple months back. I was talking with one of our project managers and I said, how can I make your job easier? I’ve been in his position before and it’s a stressful job. And he said, he goes, hey, Nick, he goes, do you mind reaching out to the team and asking if anybody would be willing to do daily logs? And I said, well, they should already be doing daily logs. But I had a laborer that literally, he called me up that night and he said, Nick, he goes, I’m not really a techie person, but can I manage the daily logs for whatever job site I’m on? And I said, Michael, that’s great. I said, go ahead.

I did a walkthrough, I did a tutorial, and it was amazing. Once I gave him the courage and just the power to say, yeah, go ahead and do this, it was amazing what came out of it. And then when everybody watched him doing this and having fun with it and said this is five minutes out of your life every day that can pay dividends in the end. And once they saw that he could do it, everybody said, well, that’s easy. I can do this.

Paul Wurth:

That’s awesome.

Nick Colarusso:

And it slowly stepped from there and it’s like, okay, well, I can have a better daily log than this person, and I can have this, I’m going to put … I instituted a long time ago. I said, if I ask you to do anything with Buildertrend, can you at least post three pictures a day? I used to make this thing because I can’t be at every job site that we go through and specifically with COVID-19 now. I just I can’t be everywhere. So, the fact that I can pull up my phone or my computer and figure out like this is the progress that got done this week, this month, this day, it’s amazing how interactive and it gives people, again, the opportunity to contribute in ways that they never thought they were going to contribute.

Paul Wurth:

Wow, that’s such good stuff there, from employee engagement to that competitive thing between them, that’s so great. I could have sworn you may have been like eavesdropping on my webinar I just did for IBSx because my second takeaway for this class was daily logs. It’s a philosophy and a workflow and the vehicle could be anything. If you’re using Buildertrend obviously we have got the perfect thing for you. We have a feature called daily log, but for a business to get in the habit of saying to their employees, hey, everyone, from now on, if you visit a job site, as you are leaving, take two minutes, add a log. Who was there? What happened? Send me three photos, take a video because you can do videos too. Let’s take this step further, hey everybody, every time you take a phone call from a homeowner, every time you interact with them in.

Nick Colarusso:

Log it.

Paul Wurth:

Log it, because what’s so great about that is it’s obvious. First of all, it gives you and the ownership, leadership team, the ability to see literally months and years, day-to-day of what happened. There’s no misconstruing that, but secondly, what I’ve heard from many people like you is that the next time you go talk to a homeowner, every homeowner believes their project is the only project and that’s okay. So, it allows you as a business owner or a leader to be so knowledgeable about the job without even having to be there. Before you talk to the client, you take five minutes, you scroll through the last two weeks of daily logs and you’re on it. So, such a good takeaway, your team should be doing daily logs. Don’t care how you do it, but do that in your business because it’ll pay dividends.

Nick Colarusso:

The other thing that we adopted too, and this is similar to daily logs, again, before Buildertrend, our communication process, our file structure process, I’d say it was at about a 60%. It wasn’t bad by any means, but we had information and documentation everywhere. And if something went down, you were probably going to lose a chunk of that information. So, one thing, you talked a little bit about this, but everybody has their habits and you get into this routine, and we specifically broke our field routine, but we used to hand hold all of our lead carpenters. I’d have a lead carpenter call me and say, hey, Nick, can you give me the specs on this appliance or this install? And we had our designer who really is instrumental with our project manager.

They use Buildertrend as the central hub for everything. So, we would go ahead and we adopted the practice of just putting things on Buildertrend and doing no printouts. Certain things where somebody would call me and I’d say, did you check Buildertrend yet? It got to the point where they would automatically want to check Buildertrend before they called me because they knew that the information was probably there, but they were lazy. We all get lazy to fit into these routines and now, honestly, it feels weird I don’t get the phone calls.

Paul Wurth:

That’s awesome.

Nick Colarusso:

I feel like I’m so disconnected. I’m a huge controller, so for me to be disconnected from that feels different, feels weird, but it’s progress and it’s working,

Paul Wurth:

That’s great, man. That’s such good stuff. All right. One of the last questions, man, I wish we could keep doing this. So, here’s my promise to the audience because I know you’re loving what Nick has to say. I am. You’re coming back on in 2021. If you will, we’ll do a full episode with you because I really want to run and get in your head about business process and construction because I think there’s some great stuff there for you. Last thing I want to talk about is, before or after COVID-19, did you guys make a concerned effort to talk to your prospects about the communication that they should expect during the job?

And what I mean by that, did you guys say, okay, this is going to be a nine month job, and you lay out. You’re going to be really excited at first and halfway through, you’re going to be like, when are we done? You’re going to be really great at the end. But did you get even more specific like that? Hey, every two weeks, we’re going to have a meeting, me and you, or you and your project manager, and we’re going to talk progress. Do you guys have any schedule like that?

Nick Colarusso:

We do. We have a huge schedule like that. Again, it all stems around Buildertrend, and I bring Buildertrend to the first meeting. This is a sales tool that we didn’t think was going to be a sales tool. I mean, I bring my laptop with me everywhere and because we’re a design build, in the beginning, I’m designing with that. So, we use Chief Architect as our design platform. Love it. But you have the computer open for that presentation. So it says, oh, by the way, let me show you how we’re going to communicate. I always tell people this isn’t the end all be all. We use Buildertrend again, as a tool in the toolbox, nothing beats that phone call, that face-to-face communication, the email.

It all plays its part in the whole process. But yeah, we do. We use the schedule a ton because I schedule, they can see. The only thing I did wrong the first time we used Buildertrend is I let the customers view the entire schedule. So, on day number two, they’re looking at the end date, and they never forget that end date. And we tell this story, and I say, listen, this is what we’re going to do. I always do a weekly job site meeting, whether it’s 30 minutes, whether it’s an hour. It’s the old adage trust, but verify. I want to trust what people are saying, but I also want to verify that is in truth a fact. We put it, we log it all on Buildertrend. We tie it in with a lot of different other technological aspects in our business and it all works. As long as you do the thing, it works, but you got to do the thing. That’s the one thing is you got to use the tool.

Paul Wurth:

Yeah, and you got to be consistent. For me, I just always remind construction owners that again, this is their first time, we don’t have the best reputation as an industry, and I think that’s wrong. I think there’s so many amazing companies like you guys who have great integrity and all that, but as an industry in general, the construction doesn’t have a great reputation. So, anything you can do to battle those two things from the get-go, which is be super professional, have all your social media up to date, set a meeting and be on time, and then show them how organized you are, whether that’s Buildertrend or not, you are going to just be head and feet above everybody else because it’s just not very common. So, great takeaway. I think you guys do it the right way. So, how’s next year looking for you guys? You guys had a great year, so how’s next year looking?

Nick Colarusso:

Next year, again, so Jeff and I and the leadership team, every January we forecast for that current year, and I’m always the more reserved one. I don’t want to count the checks before they come in, but we always set these goals and this coming year, I think we’re going to do one and a half times what we did this year.

Paul Wurth:

Wow, that’s so good.

Nick Colarusso:

Which then becomes a production. It’s so funny because you look at sales and you look at revenue and you’re like, this is great, but … My two project managers I have, I get all jazzed up. I walk in the room and everybody’s high-fiving and they’re like, oh no. How are we going to get this done? It becomes a production and a scheduling thing. So, my plug to everybody in the industry right now, there’s so far fewer plumbers, electricians. It’s amazing that the young kids that don’t know what they want to do, and they’re in high school, they’re seniors in high school pick up the phone and call me because I’m going to tell you that you can make such a great career out of this and there’s not enough people in the industry. So, spread the word bring back the trades.

Paul Wurth:

If you’ve listened to this podcast, again, we’ve had Brandon from Iowa Skilled Trades on earlier, and we’ve talked about that. It’s this idea that blue collar isn’t interesting. But man, if you start 18 as a plumber or electrician, you’re going to making so much more money than your buddies who are in college for four to six years. If you’re like me it’s six and a half.

Nick Colarusso:

No student loans.

Paul Wurth:

Yeah, no student loans, and you’re going to be killing it, and the industry needs you. You’ll be in demand. So, I’m with you on that. We’ve got to get some more attention around that. Maybe we can try to get a consortium together of all my builder buddies, and we’ll do something.

Nick Colarusso:

Game on, I’m ready.

Paul Wurth:

All right, man. Well, it’s so good to hear from you guys and hear that last year you guys overcame the obstacles that everybody had and then you guys are charging forward. So, congrats. We super appreciate you as a client. And again, I promise we’re going to bring you back on. Danielle, our producer here, she’s going to schedule you already. We’re bring her back on and let’s talk a ton more things because there’s a lot to unpack there.

Nick Colarusso:

Well, I really appreciate it, Paul. It’s always great to talk with you and thank you for the opportunity,

Paul Wurth:

All right, man. We’ll talk to you later.

Nick Colarusso:

All right. Take care.

Paul Wurth:

Thank you again for tuning into this episode of “The Building Code.” Make sure you subscribe and like wherever you listen to podcasts. Also, head out to Facebook and join the Building Code Crew, and finally drop me a line at podcast@buildertrend.com. We want to hear from you, suggestions on guests or topics, anything. Thanks so much for joining and appreciate you.


Places you can find us

Return to top