The Building Code Takeover: A conversation on mistakes with Matt Risinger and Brad Leavitt

Today on “The Building Code,” guest hosts Matt Risinger of Risinger Build and Brad Leavitt of A Finer Touch Construction are talking about mistakes and how to avoid them. They’re telling personal stories and sharing great insights on how to make the best decisions for your construction company.

Listen to the full episode to hear about how they’ve overcome challenges and what they’ve learned over the years that has contributed to the continued success of their businesses.

WHAT MISTAKE LED TO THE DECISION TO IMPLEMENT BUILDERTREND?

“I remember a job in particular was one that I foolishly signed a guaranteed maximum price contract on a remodel that ended up having a bunch of problems, and the client wouldn’t sign off and didn’t do a great job of responding back. And I wanted to keep construction going and so, I forged ahead thinking surely, he’ll pay these bills, and we’ll get these change orders signed.

I lost a ton of money on that GMP job. And I didn’t want to sue the client. I wasn’t willing to do that. And I live to fight another day. But it was a really hard lesson for me and saying, not only can I just be a good builder who does it right, I also need the business of building to be right and get all my ducks in a row.

And honestly, it’s one of the things later that led me to make the move to Buildertrend, was that Change Order feature, and being able to be on the job site with a client and physically get their signature on my iPad for a change order that’s happening in real time on a cost-plus job with lots of changes.” – Matt Risinger

HOW HAS BUILDERTREND HELPED YOU TO COMMUNICATE AND AVOID MISTAKES?

“One really interesting thing was recently I had a client who’s hard of hearing, not quite deaf, but close to it, and so the typical Zoom call type communications were not great. And of course, email communication in general is not a great way to communicate with a client. We almost did 100% of our communication with this client through Buildertrend, and man, the project just wrapped recently, fantastic project. And all of our fears of communication and how are we going to make sure that expectations are met when we can’t communicate in the primary form that we have for years, man, turned out really, really well.” – Matt Risinger

“So, even outside of the client relationship, which is really important, especially from out of state clients, I look back where maybe I’ve had an issue with my framer who’s behind schedule. I can go into the daily logs and I can track, I can see the manpower, the crew sizes that were there, what days they showed up, what days they didn’t. And so, for me, that’s actually internally as a company, when I sit down with the owners of my trade partners, I can really be critical or give them a good analysis of the performance, and that’s been valuable. And then in addition to that, when you think about just the marketing side before and afters, progress, as they’re taking photos and uploading it, I have this on the cloud, I can go back. So, I can use it for marketing, I can use it for audits of my trade partners, and the most of all the clients see the value there.” – Brad Leavitt

LINKS AND MORE

Follow us on social:

Register today for the Building Better Summit presented by Buildertrend.

Instagram:

@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.

Matt Risinger and Brad Leavitt | Risinger Build and AFT Construction

Matt Risinger:

Hey, everybody. Welcome to “The Building Code.” My name is Matt Risinger of Risinger Build here in Austin, Texas.

Brad Leavitt:

And I’m Brad Leavitt here in Scottsdale, Ariz. We are known as AFT Construction by most of you on our social media and the AFT Construction Podcast. Although our formal name is A Finer Touch Construction. So, glad to be here with you, Matt.

Matt Risinger:

Thanks, Brad. We’re here as part of “The Building Code” Takeover series. Now, you guys are probably old school listeners of “The Building Code” from Buildertrend, but Brad and I have the floor to ourselves today. It’s kind of cool, Brad. We can do whatever we want, right?

Brad Leavitt:

I know. Flexibility. Let’s go.

Matt Risinger:

This is week two. Now, Brad and I, you guys probably know we’re both Buildertrend users, and we’ll both be speaking at the Building Better Summit, which is later this month. I hope you guys will join us for that. The first ever summit presented by Buildertrend will feature the latest trends, showcase industry insights and give you tools for building your business. Now, it’s going to be awesome, guys. I need you guys to jump in. Brad, are you getting excited for this?

Brad Leavitt:

I can’t wait. I’m excited that there’s going to be some amazing speakers, Matt. I know you’re going to have your own dedicated summit, which I’ll be tuning in to. We’re surrounded by an amazing cast. I’m looking forward to the presentation they’ve asked me to do, so it’s a super exciting event. Can’t wait.

Matt Risinger:

Yeah, me too. There’s a lot of good insight, advice. A lot of pros are going to be there and a lot of learning that’s going to happen. Which, we’re all needing right now because no one’s been going to anything live. So, I’m excited about this. Well, you ready to get going on today’s topic, Brad?

Brad Leavitt:

Yeah, let’s do it.

Matt Risinger:

Alright. So, we’re going to be talking today about something we’d all like to avoid: mistakes. Now, I’m a little older than you are, Brad, so I’ve got a few more in my back pocket than you do.

Brad Leavitt:

I don’t know about that.

Matt Risinger:

But anybody listening to this who’s a builder or a modeler or a contractor, they will relate because we’ve all made them. Here’s a rough outline. Here’s a few things that I think we’re going to jump into on the podcast. What are a couple of common mistakes that are made in construction? What are a few tips that we’re going to give you on how to avoid mistakes? How does communication and real-time updates play a part in avoiding those mistakes? We’re going to talk about the importance of keeping your clients involved through the building process. And we’re going to talk about Buildertrend, too, and how using technology like Buildertrend can help prevent those mistakes. So, with that in mind, Brad, can you think of a couple of common mistakes that you think are made in the industry or that you’ve personally made over the years?

Brad Leavitt:

Yeah. I mean, we can get into specifics as far as some personal mistakes, which I have plenty, as you mentioned, just from as a builder with clients I’ve learned. But when I think of overall building plan program, if you will, this is stuff that I speak about a lot, is something over the years where I’ve gained more experience in the pre-construction. What I’ve seen is there’s this old mentality. We’re going to design the home, we’re going to create the architecture, do the design and then we’re going to send it out on the street for bid. And it is such a bad process. And for whatever reason, the public has this mentality that I have to get three bids, I have to get a design and bid. And you’re set up for failure right from the beginning.

And I’ve seen whereas we educate the public and our clientele and each other, that if the client can find an amazing contractor who they trust, that they can get the architect on board, the landscape architect, the designer, well, now you have the team. You have a budget. Every client has a budget. No matter how transparent we are or are not, there’s still a budget, and we can design together. And it’s really important because all of us have different strengths we bring to the table, we can find different things in pre-construction, and we’re designing to the budget of the client. And this sets us up for success, so when that permit’s released, we’re starting already with a clear plan in place, ready to be successful. And I look back at my career, all of the projects that have been, I don’t want to say disaster, but extremely challenging, are ones where we came late to the table and bid them. Ones that we’re involved from day one with an architect and designer have been extremely successful.

Matt Risinger:

Oh man, that is such a common one, Brad. My company moved to only doing pre-construction services agreements and basically telling people, look, we don’t bid anything. You can only hire us through a PSA, as we commonly refer to it, about a dozen or so years ago. And it was during the last recession, that ’07/’08 time period, that I had a really visceral experience on the three bids that solidified it for me that said, I’m not doing this ever again. I had a prospect come to me who I thought was my client, I was only the only one who was going to provide pricing for them, and I didn’t ask for a commitment or money from them. And then when I presented what I call up a high level bid, or a ballpark bid, they said, That’s great. The final plans will be available soon, and then I’m going to have three bidders. And we had those same conversations like you had, why is it that you want to do that? Well, everyone says I have to do it. And at that point I should have bowed out, but I didn’t.

But interestingly enough, this particular job had a very detailed set of plans and specs, it was actually … You probably know Peter Pfeiffer, a very well-reputed architect in town. Barley and Pfeiffer, old firm, 50- page set of plans, 100-page spec book, everything was nailed down. I knew every fixture, every light fixture, everything in the house at this time. And long story short, when the bids came back, I think I was 1.1 or 1.2 in the house. One of my really good friends bid, a guy that I trusted and knew we shared a few subs, he was about 200,000 more than me, and then another bidder that I didn’t know, that unknown player was 100,000 less than me. So, here the client is, he’s got a bid for 1,100,000, my bid for 1,200,000, and another bid for 1, 400,000. What does a person do with that? How do they understand what the differences are?

And I got the job, I got the nod. And later I got this info from the client, and I’m like, well, how’d you pick me? He’s like, well, you were the middle bidder. That’s why I picked you. I figured throw out the high guy, throw out the low guy, and I picked you. Well, the client was willing to give me some of the bid information. I was digging into this. When I looked at my competitor’s bid, a guy who I considered a friend, a good competitor, there was literally two subs he chose differently. He chose furniture-grade cabinets instead of more traditional shop-built cabinets, like a really top cabinet maker, and maybe one or two subs that were a little bit more expensive than what I choose, and that was the …

Brad Leavitt:

The breaker.

Matt Risinger:

… 10% difference. Yeah. That was the breaker. That’s why he lost. And in the end, the client chose those subs when I gave him the choice later and said, well, we can do furniture-grade sub. We can do this or this, as well. The project was 1,400,000, 1,500,000, I forget what it was, when it was all done. And he had a terrible process to get there. And the only reason he didn’t choose the other guy is because he didn’t trust the bid. It was a spreadsheet bid with hardly any backup.

Brad Leavitt:

See, and I love that you share that, Matt, because it’s interpretation. Right? What ends up happening, even as many defined specs as you have, every builder is going to interpret it different, and they’re going to have no building practices. And the other thing is, what’s your protocol, Matt? You’re going to look at this and say, look, I’m going to bid this project. Aside from the cabinetry example you gave, but you’re bidding it, saying, I know what this project is going to cost. Some bidders are going to be low. They want to get into the project, and then they can change order they have a different mentality. Some of us may bid knowing what the project is going to cost at the end of the day. So, the customers just can’t navigate through that. They see a sticker price, it’s not a finished product, so it’s really hard to navigate through for them.

Matt Risinger:

100%. 100%. And Brad, one of my big mistakes I’ll share with you, is early on in my business, I really moved to cost plus construction, where I have a contract that is, you pay me whatever costs, and then my fee will be added to that. And unfortunately, I’m an excellent builder. I didn’t start as an excellent businessman. It’s taken me a long time to get there. I made many mistakes over the years and really communicating well with my clients and getting signed change orders. And I remember a job in particular was one that I foolishly signed a guaranteed maximum price contract on a remodel that ended up having a bunch of problems, and the client wouldn’t sign off and didn’t do a great job of responding back. And I wanted to keep construction going and so, I forged ahead thinking surely, he’ll pay these bills, and we’ll get these change orders signed.

And this was a recession job that I was doing in like ’08, ’09, ’10 when I had two cents in the bank after everything was paid, and I lost a ton of money on that GMP job. And I didn’t want to sue the client. I wasn’t willing to do that. And I live to fight another day. But it was a really hard lesson for me and saying, not only can I just be a good builder who does it right, I also need the business of building to be right and get all my ducks in a row.

And honestly, it’s one of the things later that led me to make the move to Buildertrend, was that change order feature, and being able to be on the job site with a client and physically get their signature on my iPad for a change order that’s happening in real time on a cost-plus job with lots of changes. So, that we’re all on the same page, we all know what the budget is, and I have your signature saying, yes, proceed forward with this money that I’m willing to spend. Because just because it’s a cost plus job, does not mean they’re actually going to pay those costs, is what I’ve learned over the years.

Brad Leavitt:

Yeah. I love that, and I love that has that feature because we use that, as well. I mean, sign change orders, we could probably spend an hour on this topic about mistakes we’ve made.

Matt Risinger:

Four-part podcast series is what it is.

Brad Leavitt:

Yeah. And just understanding, not only to get it signed, but help the client understand the communication why it’s necessary or what’s behind it. Right? How it affects construction, how it can cause delays, stopping a train at full speed. But one thing, I’m going to give some kudos to you, Matt, I had you on my podcast, and you actually shared something that changed my entire company structure, just so you know, and I never told you this.

Matt Risinger:

Whoa, alright.

Brad Leavitt:

Yeah. So, I had you on, and we were talking actually specifically on the cost plus about the mistakes, and one of the things that I’ve struggled with as a builder is, on these more complex luxury builds, my issue with the cost plus is, yes, a lot of our clients want us to get three concrete bids, they want me to get three framing bids, they want me to get three roofing bids. Right? And to some extent, that’s okay. Right? When I’m talking about paint, for the most part, dry wall, cabinetry, some of these finishes, I can work with most of these vendors and work through that. The issue I’ve always had is I don’t want to take the lowest concrete bid, I don’t want to take the lowest excavation bid. And one thing you said, Matt, you said, even on a cost, you’ll fight when it’s in regard to the structure, when it’s something where my lifeline and my reputation and my company is on the line, because this is a life safety thing, I’m getting one bit of someone I trust.

And so, fast forward, you and I had that podcast, fast forward two months, we have probably one of our most signature projects, one of our trophy homes, if you will, and the client’s very savvy, he has a third-party management company that we’re working with, a contractor’s rep that I’ve done in commercial, but in residential, this is my first experience. And it was so much more informative for me to sit down and say, look, when it comes to cabinetry and the finishes, I’m going to get you three bids. Landscape, I’ll get you three bids. But concrete, framing, waterproofing, excavation, masonry, I’m getting one. Because they’re good, they’re cost-effective, I know their pricing is good, but this is the safeguard of your home and my reputation. And they understood that, and they said, that’s fine. And so, going back to your cost plus business strategy, it’s changed and so, it’s allowed me to be a little bit more, I use the word precise, but at least more direct with the client. And it’s been super helpful.

Matt Risinger:

That’s awesome. This is probably a whole another sideline that we can talk about, too, but honestly, I’m cost plus with several of my subcontractors, as well. I’m in a market that’s not a sophisticated market. Austin, Texas doesn’t have any contractors that have been around for second generation or third generation ownership, so I’ve got painters, drywallers, cabinet guys, framers that are all first-generation businesses, they’re all struggling to make a living. None of them are living in mansions. And so, with a lot of them, I’ve worked out a weekly, a daily, a monthly rate, and we work together on projects, and they know every year I’m going to renegotiate their pricing. So, if they feel like they need a raise, great. In January, we’ll talk about it.

But like my framing carpenter I’ve used for 12 years, they do a fantastic job. We generally know how much it’s going to cost based on how many weeks he’s done in the past for me, but I don’t bet anybody else. I don’t even talk to anybody else. He does all of my work, and we have a great relationship. So, he’s basically cost plus to me, and I’m cost plus to my clients. And you know what? That works out, that he doesn’t have to get a set of plans and go, oh, crap, I could lose a ton of money on this if I underbid this. I better put a huge margin of safety on this. And on the other hand, I don’t ever have him do jobs where he poops the bed and loses 20 grand because he has to stay with his bid price.

And so, we’ve created this culture of, hey, we’re going to charge fairly, and we’re going to make a decent living, but we’re not going to live high on the hog. And we’re going to do the same across the board for our clients, as well. And that brings a trust culture.

Brad Leavitt:

Yeah. And I love that because going back to the mistakes, one of the mistakes I made early in my is trying to be everything to everyone. Right? Not really having a goal, or at least a direction, or a specialty. And to that point, you get to the point like you are, Matt, where you have a reputation, you’ve built that, there’s credibility and so, you’re not trying to be everyone’s client. You have a specific client that’s going to value you, your trusted trades, and that when you call these trades you built relationships with, they’re going to show up, they’re going to perform even in a busy economy, a tight labor issue or material shortage through COVID-19, there’s a reputation there that you have a credibility. And there’s value there, and there’s going to be a client that respects that and wants that.

Matt Risinger:

Yeah. And the other benefit on that is, I just got off the phone with one of my long-term clients, is anytime they have a project, I’m their builder. And I’ve got a client now that I’m probably on project six for, and they’ve probably given me, I don’t know, six or seven or eight million dollars over the last 10 years for their projects. And some of them are small projects, like I’m going to fix a kitchen ceiling at his house that had a leak issue, small project. There’s no contract. There’s no nothing. I do it for him, and he knows that we’re 100% fair. And he calls me on anything. And he also had a ranch that had a big problem, and it’s going to be probably a two million dollar job. He wouldn’t even talk to anybody else. Why would he talk to anybody else? He only called me.

So, this year he’ll probably give me two million dollars, and I know for sure that he’s got a house in planning probably in the next one to two years that I’ll be the only contractor he talks to. And it’ll be the same builder’s fee, pricing that he had on his last job and all the same subs. He loves it, and I love it. It means that I don’t have to go out and interview. I only do about $10 million of construction every year, and if this guy is going to take two of that, great. I only have the other 80% to fill for the year.

Brad Leavitt:

Yeah, which is awesome.

Matt Risinger:

Which is awesome.

Brad Leavitt:

Yeah. And going back to the mistakes, I think about just speaking on this topic of the pre-construction and cost plus and going through the design specs, we made a decision, I would say, three years ago that I won’t do a project unless we have an interior designer, and that’s really been something … architects always involved landscape architect, typically, in Scottsdale because we’re dealing with the natural desert, but a designer is something that I’ve held firm to because the last major project that I worked on where I had a big problem was that we’re making decisions as we go and the client … this is an ICF house. You actually toured this house, Matt. And it was a lot of years in pre-construction we’re building this. And ICF set, we had the window package ordered, and we’re getting ready to install, and the client comes through and says, I want to change all my walls, my window openings.”Right? And this is major stuff.

Then, fast forward, that that was a huge problem, which I could spend 10 minutes on, but then you fast forward to drywall stage and everything was going to be trim, we’re going to have door casing and base, and then he decides … we’re getting ready to have the drywallers come on, he says, I want to go kerf jamb. And I said, well, the issue going kerf jamb is now I have to get my door jambs, get them stained, they have to be kerf. This is a six week delay. So, the project goes on a dead stop for six weeks. So, that really, it cost me a ton of money, aggravation to the client and now, by having a designer, I know when I break ground, my decisions are made. It’s not that they can’t make changes but … yeah. I know the specs, I know the finishes. I can have some pricing securities for myself and the client, and then I can build quicker. And so, we’ve moved to that, and it’s actually been really successful.

Matt Risinger:

That’s really smart, Brad. Brad, let’s talk for a minute about communication and real-time updates and how that plays a role in avoiding mistakes. I’ve built a lot of projects for out-of-town clients. Austin is home of the University of Texas, and a lot of former UT students tend to want to either retire here or have a second house here. And so, I currently have a California client who I’m building for remotely, and I currently have a Houston client that I’m building for remotely. So, for us over the years, one of the things that we’ve realized is we really need to be good at communication with that client, who’s not going to have a weekly, or even a monthly for that matter, site visit. Are you guys also experiencing that? I suspect that Arizona might have some out-of-towners, as well, moving there.

Brad Leavitt:

We do. It’s interesting. So, I would say 60%, maybe even 70, are out of town. Right? We have a lot of clients …

Matt Risinger:

Wow.

Brad Leavitt:

Yeah. And that’s the majority. I have probably 30, 40% primary residence, the rest are from the Midwest. We have a lot Minnesota, Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota that have second homes in Phoenix, a lot from California and Oregon, Washington even. So, we do have a lot of the seasonal traffic being that, look, Phoenix is superhot in the summer, no one wants to be here in July, but from October to May, they want to be here. They want to be golfing and enjoying it when it’s snowing back home. So, communication is absolutely a big component of these clients and what they want.

Matt Risinger:

I’ve got a story on communication that actually ties this back to Buildertrend. I think I mentioned this. I can’t remember. I’ve been on Buildertrend for almost four years now. And we started using daily updates as a feature on Buildertrend, photos and snapshot updates almost immediately. It was one of the first modules, things that we implemented right away as we transitioned from our old platform to Buildertrend. And man, I immediately found that clients, once they realize that we were posting pictures, they were on their portal every single day seeing what was going on. And it really allayed the fears of, is my project sitting idle? And the other cool thing was it’s recording weather data, things like that, so they could go, oh, nothing happened today? Oh yeah, I see it rained like cats and dogs all day. No wonder they weren’t working on the foundation. So, buildertrend has been key there.

But one really interesting thing was recently I had a client who’s hard of hearing, not quite deaf, but close to it, and so the typical Zoom call type communications were not great. And of course, email communication in general is not a great way to communicate with a client. We almost did all 100% of our communication with this client through Buildertrend, and man, the project just wrapped recently, fantastic project. And all of our fears of communication and how are we going to make sure that expectations are met when we can’t communicate in the primary form that we have for years, man, turned out really, really well.

And that ability to have those real-time updates, photos straight from the job site to the client, who was in a spot where they could be checking and responding often always, it turned out to be an amazing job. And honestly, probably even better communication sometimes than our clients who are super busy CEO types who can barely look at their phone because they have too many meetings during the day and can’t get to those critical things that we need for them to take a moment to look at.

Brad Leavitt:

It’s so funny, so I’ll have to share an experience that happened recently. We had some clients from Minnesota, and they came down, and they’re doing it the right way. They’re interviewing builders to put the team together right from the beginning. And actually, it came down to two, it came down to another builder and myself, who’s actually a fellow member of the CDSA, which I know you are too, Matt. We’re at our CDUSA lunch and ended up selecting us, fortunately, and this other builder who’s very well-respected in Scottsdale comes to me, he says, Brad, I’m so upset. He said, this client, I asked him, why did I lose the job? And they said, well, Brad has this owner portal, and he has his daily logs, and he has Buildertrend. And he’s like, I have it. I didn’t even think to tell him that.

So, we actually won the job because of that. And we also have another client from Nebraska that the reason they chose us was they were looking at the being out of state, they wanted a contractor that communicates and used Buildertrend, and so that was a huge one for us, two clients that we won these projects from that software.

But to that point, my background, early in my career, I worked for a large commercial contractor and in commercial construction, it’s a little bit more, tight knit, it’s a little more regulated, as we know, especially on if you’re working in high rises and us working in downtown San Diego on a very complicated project, and daily logs were essential. We come in into the GCs trailer every morning, we write how many staff members are on site, what we’re performing that day, scope of work. They tracked this. And that’s the mentality we brought into the residential side. And it wasn’t until Buildertrend that we started, probably similar to you, three to four years ago, that we use daily logs, and my team is very savvy, I should say, on daily logs. Every day, they’re putting photos in, they’re documenting the weather, because not that we have a ton of weather issues, but we do get rain, and if it’s concrete pour … we’re pretty soft out here in Phoenix, so there are delays, and it helps us track that. But more than anything, we’re tracking manpower.

So, even outside of the client relationship, which is really important, especially from out of state clients, I look back where maybe I’ve had an issue with my framer who’s behind schedule, I can go into the daily logs and I can track, I can see the manpower, the crew sizes that were there, what days they showed up, what they didn’t. And so, for me, that’s actually internally as a company, when I sit down with the owners of my trade partners, I can really be critical or give them a good analysis of the performance, and that’s been valuable. And then in addition to that, when you think about just the marketing side before and afters, progress, as they’re taking photos and uploading it, I have this on the cloud, I can go back. So, I can use it for marketing, I can use it for audits of my trade partners, and the most of all the clients see the value there.

Matt Risinger:

Yep. Big time. Brad, we talked about Buildertrend in particular and how it’s helped us avoid mistakes in communication and change orders. How else can Buildertrend or other tech even on your jobs help prevent mistakes? Can you think of any other examples from your jobs like that?

Brad Leavitt:

Yeah. I can. We’ve really looked at our systems, especially these last two years, and in addition to Buildertrend, probably the other software we use most is Bluebeam. Right? So, Bluebeam is software that we use, and what it really allows you to do is you can layer plans, you can colorize different pages, and you can put them together to oversee. They overlap each other. And then what’s great about Bluebeam, and it’s like a PDF writer, so you can actually put notes. We had a project in Gilbert, a city here, where we’re demoing the existing house and existing property, and the homeowner wanted to demo 50 of the trees but keep 20 of them. So, we could go on Bluebeam, and we could specify which ones were staying, which ones were leaving. That way … or remaining. That way, the subcontractors could really give us a competitive bid, because it really outlines the project. So, it’s software that’s very adaptable to us as builders.

And so, what happens, and not to throw my architects under the bus because we work with some amazing architects, but they miss stuff. And they design it, then they send it out to their professionals and engineers. Right? There’s civil and grading and drainage and structural and mechanical. All of them are looking at different things and doing different layers, and it’s not all getting transcribed and communicate to the architect. So, what’s key is I have a couple members on my team, on the pre-construction that are sophisticated with Bluebeam, and they layer the project, and they find issues with pad heights and grading and drainage, which is a big issue for me in my market, especially with hillside builds and the complexity of the natural desert and 100 year flood zones and washes, and a lot of things we deal with.

So, these layers are extremely important because it saves us hundreds of thousands of dollars by these layers on Bluebeam. It’s essential. And then Buildertrend, we can capture Bluebeam in these PDFs and put them into Buildertrend, which is now an online portal, online documentation, where we can send that to the subs, and throughout the project, they can see these layers that we’ve highlighted, and they’re PDFs that are accessible throughout the entire project. So, it’s been key for us as we’re spending a lot more time in pre-construction before we break ground.

Matt Risinger:

Yeah, that’s awesome. This is a little bit off script, Brad, but I wanted to mention when it comes to tech and preventing mistakes, when I moved to Buildertrend about three or four years ago, they just started doing onsite consulting, basically a team of two or more builder folks that can come onsite and help train you to really make the best use of the software. And my team had two people come from Nebraska, from BTHQ, and they spent … I can’t remember if it’s two days or three days now, it’s been a while ago. And man, it was a total game changer for us. And the reason I bring this up is my buddy Wade Paquin, WKP Builders in Rhode Island, called me this past week and was like, hey, should I do this? I’m thinking about having Buildertrend come. I know it’s kind of expensive. It’s not free, right? You got to pay them for their time. I said, dude, it’s 100% worth it. It was a game changer for us in adopting the software.

And the key with adopting software, whether it’s Buildertrend or any others, is it needs to be adopted 100%, people need to understand how to use it, and you need to make it a part of your team, a part of your practices, your routine. And that’s what we’ve done with Buildertrend. And if you’re watching this, you’re probably a Buildertrend user, or you’re thinking about Buildertrend, use all the modules, use it completely. And make sure everybody’s using it. Not just, oh, Jim’s … he’s not tech savvy. We don’t make him do his daily updates because he doesn’t know how to use apps on his phone. Whatever. No, everyone needs to be trained. And everybody does it, it just becomes part of your culture. And that routine helps eliminate mistakes.

And also, this is going back to what you said earlier about the day logs, gives my management team, the ability to not have to hit every job site every day like we did 10 years ago as a team and see what was happening and make that a lower-level project manager who doesn’t have much experience as a higher- level project manager. Tim who’s my VP of construction, can look at all those photos, and he was telling me the other day he called one of our junior people and was like, hey, I was looking through your photos, and I noticed X, Y, and Z. Have you thought about this? Because these days with scheduling, you really need to get this on order. Is that done? Oh no, I hadn’t thought about that. That’s right. The lead times have been going up. So, now, my whole team doesn’t have to be on the road all day, every day checking out jobs. We can easily have that second check from the office because we’re using tech and using it wisely.

Anyways, we’re probably running short on time, Brad.

Brad Leavitt:

Yeah. And real quick, before we close this out, but what’s interesting, Matt, is when you talked about using the modules, a lot of the feedback I get from other contractors that reach out to me on social media and other platforms is they say, Brad, we want integrated with Buildertrend, we’re trying to understand how to educate and really get up to speed. Right? Because there’s value there if you understand the software. And what we’ve done is I assigned my project manager, you need to be the expert on the owner portal and so, he does the one-on-one training, he becomes an expert, and he can train the team. My team. Then I have another superintendent that is expert on daily logs, another one that is on tasks, another one on change orders, another one on scheduling. So, now you delegate one member of your team to become the expert on that specific module, they can train everyone else or be a resource and so, that has really alleviated all of us trying to know everything about the software and specialize, but it still benefits the entire company.

Matt Risinger:

That’s really smart, Brad. That’s really smart. Alright, everyone. I hope you’ve enjoyed our discussion about mistakes and how to avoid them. Before we sign off, we want to talk a little bit about the Building Better Summit that’s coming up in just a couple of weeks.

Brad Leavitt:

Yeah. So, the Building Better Summit is on April 27th. You can join Matt and I for in-depth learning sessions and a live panel discussion with other industry experts. You’ll hear about our experience and get advice on a variety of topics that will help you to better your construction business. So, just go to buildertrend.com\summit2021 to learn more and sign up today.

Matt Risinger:

Good stuff, Brad. I really appreciate you joining me for this, man. It’s really fun to spend a few minutes with you. I wish you lived closer. I get to see your stories and your Instagram, but to spend 30 minutes on a podcast with you sure is fun.

Brad Leavitt:

Yeah. And following us, we have Joe Christianson of Cardinal Crest Homes and Brandon Patterson of Alliance for the Skilled Trades that’ll follow us, so everyone definitely tune in.

Matt Risinger:

That’s right. They’re the next takeovers on this building podcast from our friends at Buildertrend. Guys, thanks for joining us.

Brad Leavitt:

We’ll see you next time on the podcast.


Places you can find us

Return to top