Inside Buildertrend: An easier way to invoice

Every other Thursday, we give our listeners a glimpse into the inner workings of our business with our new “Inside Buildertrend” series on “The Building Code.” What are our teams working on? What features are coming up, and how will they benefit our users? What data and research are being collected behind the scenes? Tune in as we take a look inside Buildertrend.

What do users need to know about the upcoming invoicing feature update?

Today on “Inside Buildertrend,” Emma Dickinson, product manager, joins Zach and Charley to talk about the upcoming updates to the Invoicing feature and how it’ll bring the best of both CoConstruct and Buildertrend together.

Tune in to hear more about how the new invoicing workflow will help streamline financial processes and create a better experience for homeowners.

What are the key takeaways?

  • What’s new with invoicing?: The update to the Invoice feature will introduce a new workflow for adding costs that are elsewhere in Buildertrend. When creating an invoice, users can pull in costs from estimates, selections and change orders into a single invoice.
  • How does it benefit homeowners?: Needing to invoice costs from multiple features and sending three separate invoices creates confusion for clients. The update will eliminate the confusion by allowing costs to be collected and sent to homeowners in a single invoice document.
  • How does it save users time and money?: The biggest benefit is that users can easily check a single invoice to make sure they haven’t missed any costs. This means it’ll be less likely that they miss costs that should’ve been invoiced to their clients. The other big benefit is the amount of time saved. Instead of invoicing from three features, it’ll all be done from one.

Why is this cool for Buildertrend users?

Creating construction invoices is an essential piece of running a successful business. And keeping numbers accurate requires simple workflows and organization. That’s why our Product team has worked hard to create a new invoicing experience that will streamline the process and make it easier for homeowners.

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Emma Dickinson

Emma Dickinson | Buildertrend

Charley Burtwistle:

Welcome back, guys, to another episode of “The Building Code.” I’m Charley Burtwistle.

Zach Wojtowicz:

I’m Zach Wojtowicz.

Charley Burtwistle:

And today we have another mini-sode, “Inside Buildertrend.” Zach, who do we got on the podcast today?

Zach Wojtowicz:

We got Emma Dickinson, who is actually from CoConstruct, but now works at Buildertrend.

Charley Burtwistle:

Absolutely. A true bringing the best of both companies together kind of success story here. And I believe that you and Emma worked together a little bit, is that correct?

Zach Wojtowicz:

Yeah, we absolutely are involved in each other’s work streams occasionally here at Buildertrend. She is heavily involved in the financial areas of program, she’s in products, so she’s helping develop and improve the performance of our product for our customers. But I work a lot with our Financial Services team and the strategies around that, and our Customer Success team, so we’ve crossed paths many a time on a lot of different projects. She’s phenomenal. I will talk about this in the interview, I’m sure it’ll come up, but she’s a bit of a superstar to me because she’s tackling a problem that I think is long overdue.

Charley Burtwistle:

Yeah.

Zach Wojtowicz:

And I’m excited to bring her on.

Charley Burtwistle:

I was actually in it, we had a little Q1 wrap-up for financial services yesterday, which I know you would’ve been on if you weren’t out, and she presented to a room of probably 40 to 50 people this update and walked it through and minds were blown.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Jaws on the floor.

Charley Burtwistle:

Jaws on the floor. So, I told everyone in there, if they want to hear more about it to listen to the podcast.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Oh, no pressure.

Charley Burtwistle:

So, this is the aforementioned podcast that hopefully everyone in that meeting, you know who you are, is listening.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Should we just name everyone? Just pull up the teams and just read?

Charley Burtwistle:

Yeah. They know who they are.

Zach Wojtowicz:

They know who they are.

Charley Burtwistle:

For sure. I’ll call them out.

Zach Wojtowicz:

If you were there, you know.

Charley Burtwistle:

So, let’s go ahead and get Emma in here.

Zach Wojtowicz:

All right, Emma, welcome to “The Building Code.” Thanks for joining us.

Emma Dickinson:

Thanks. I’m happy to be here.

Zach Wojtowicz:

We were talking, before we went out live here, about this is your first time on a podcast but you were on a radio show in college.

Emma Dickinson:

Yes. Yes, I was.

Charley Burtwistle:

So, high expectations.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Yeah. So, you know, it’s like riding a bike, right?

Emma Dickinson:

Yeah. I’m sure. I’m sure it’ll come back to me, just like that.

Zach Wojtowicz:

And we told our listeners in the intro a little bit about you, but we’d love to hear directly from you. Tell us about your experience. You have a unique backstory when it comes to your Buildertrend employment, so we’d love to hear what’s your story.

Emma Dickinson:

Yeah. So, I like to say that Buildertrend inherited me from CoConstruct. I’ve been working with Buildertrend for about six months, but I’ve been with, I guess the collection of companies, for four years. On the CoConstruct side, I started off doing customer support. So, there I was on the phones talking to tons and tons of people every day.

And then I transitioned into working on the Product team at CoConstruct. So, I was on the Product team there for about three years. And I typically would focus on the areas that were financial-related, so cost management, things like that. But I think over those three years, I worked on every area of the system.

Charley Burtwistle:

Yeah. And I think that this is a really cool story, and I’m excited to dive in a little more because it’s the perfect example of when CoConstruct and Buildertrend became one, the pitch and the dream was that we’re going to take the best of both softwares and combine them into kind of this ultimate, best of both worlds, experience. And so, here you say, “I was working on these things at CoConstruct and now I have the opportunity to build them to Buildertrend,” I think is just practicing exactly what we were preaching.

And so, you mentioned you were primarily working on financials. I know you’re working on invoicing a little bit here. Can you kind of give a little bit of a backstory in what exactly you’re working on and how it’s going to kind of change the day to day of the way builders invoice?

Emma Dickinson:

Yeah. So, our most recent update to our invoices basically introduces a new workflow for adding costs that are elsewhere in Buildertrend to your invoices. So, I think everyone that’s listening to this knows the importance of making sure you have money coming into your business; without that you literally won’t survive as a company. And it’s really important to make sure that you’re getting paid for all of the work that you’re doing. It’s when you start to miss costs, and you start to forget to invoice your client for something, that’s when your profits start to drop. So, this new update is focused on making sure that builders can create an invoice and make sure that they’re accounting for everything and nothing falls through the cracks.

So, specifically, with this new update, when you’re creating an invoice, you can make sure that you’re pulling in your costs from your estimates, your selections and your change orders into a single invoice.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Wow.

Emma Dickinson:

Previously, to capture costs from all three of those areas, you would’ve had to either create three separate invoices or have a little bit of manual data entry, which, whenever you have manual entry, that means things can get missed or mistyped, you can miss a zero and that can cost hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. So, yeah. This project aims at reducing the chance of error and also making the time it takes to create invoices shorter, so that you have more time back in your day.

Zach Wojtowicz:

I don’t think I’m being hyperbolic when I say this, but this might be the most anticipated update in Buildertrend for me in a long time.

Charley Burtwistle:

Really? Wow.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Yeah. Emma knows this. Emma and I actually worked together quite a bit on the financial services side of things, and she could probably attest a couple meetings where Zach went on a rant about needing to improve our invoice flow from a product standpoint. It’s not that the current one isn’t great, it’s just that it misses a few things that Emma’s talking about, and the importance of that to running the business is essential, as she eloquently outlined. So, I’m beyond hyped. So excited. Have been waiting for this for a long time.

So, Emma, let’s talk a little bit about motivation behind why this was your first project, really, that you started to work on almost immediately when you joined Buildertrend.

Emma Dickinson:

Yeah. Like you said, I have the unique background of working at CoConstruct first. And if any of our listeners have changed between the companies, they’ll know that Buildertrend and CoConstruct have completely different approaches for how invoices are created. In one system, there was this concept of you would pull costs into an invoice, versus in Buildertrend you would kind of push things to create an invoice. So, while both of those systems would take costs that lived elsewhere in the system and turn them into an invoice, the way that you did that were complete opposites. So, we saw an opportunity to kind of bring together the best aspects of both of those to improve the invoicing experience overall.

Charley Burtwistle:

And I was a little nervous for this episode because I know that you and Zach work together pretty closely, and I hate sounding stupid in front of Zach. So, I’m going to ask some questions here, and I apologize if you need to dumb it down for me, but once they’re all in the single invoice, you mentioned you can pull in costs from multiple different features, I’m assuming then, obviously, just having it all in one is more convenient, is faster, but then you’d also probably be able to track back where those originated from, too. Is that part of their scope?

Zach Wojtowicz:

You’re a smart man.

Charley Burtwistle:

Thank you, Zach. You have no idea how much that means to me.

Emma Dickinson:

Yeah. Good question. So, you’ll still be able to see the percent that it’s invoiced and when you’re selecting to bring them into your invoices, you’ll actually pick if you want to bring in selections, change orders or the estimate first. So, it’ll kind of be your first step. The line items that you bring in will still be connected to all those other areas of system.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Nice.

Emma Dickinson:

So, if you end up creating a second … If you partially invoice something and then you go back, maybe … You invoice half of a change order, you go to the change orders page, it’ll still live there. You can see that it’s been halfway invoiced. So, everything still stays connected just like it did before.

Charley Burtwistle:

Wow. That’s awesome. So, you mentioned that you had come from CS originally at CoConstruct, so you’re used to talking to customers. I would imagine that same sort of customer influence came into a big factor here with these updates and making sure that it truly was the best of both worlds, and you weren’t operating on assumptions. Can you talk about how that customer feedback loop really impacted and informed this decision?

Emma Dickinson:

Yeah, of course. This project started when I was just going over through existing feedback that we had gotten. Both companies have huge collections of feedback that we’ve gotten, either through interviews or surveys or even offhand comments that builders make when they call into support about something totally different, so I started combing through all of that looking generally for ways that we could improve our invoicing. We didn’t have a firm idea at that point in what ways we were going to improve it, we just knew that usability in general could be improved.

When I was doing that, I saw a lot of trends. Specifically, the pain around needing to invoice for costs that were in different areas individually. That was a huge one that people would bring up because that would end up creating confusion for their clients. So, if they were trying to use the built-in methods of creating invoices, their client might receive three invoices on the same day and trying to explain, “No, no. Those aren’t duplicates, but you do need to pay all three of those invoices I just sent you,” is super confusing.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Right.

Emma Dickinson:

And then that doesn’t instill confidence with your clients and maybe can delay the payments because they’re confused if they should be paying everything.

And then maybe the worst side of that was people were asking for functionality to add those costs to their invoice. So, they just didn’t even know we had it, which that means we have a discoverability issue. They literally don’t know that the system can already do that, because they can’t figure out where to go to make that magic happen. So, that kind of gave us a good direction to start with, and then once we had that, “Okay, we think this might fix people’s problems,” we did a bunch of usability tests. So, we put something in front of users and asked them to do tasks, basically, and see if they can do it. And if they can, how long it takes. When we did that, it was pretty clear that combining the best of both would solve those main issues of being able to find that functionality on their own without a coach telling them which buttons to click to find it. And then also that they could use it once they did find it.

Zach Wojtowicz:

That’s huge. And I just think it has so many unlocks as well, from why should you go through the motions of learning selections or change orders if at the end of the road, being able to manage the actual administration of the costs and requesting your money becomes really difficult. This eliminates that entirely. You can almost dangle this in front of them and say, “I’m going to teach you invoicing. And then I’m going to explain to you why you’re going to want to use all these other pieces to make this the best process possible.” So, it has always been something, hence my hype …

Charley Burtwistle:

Yeah, I was going to say. You’re getting fired up. I’m watching you right now.

Zach Wojtowicz:

I can feel the consulting side coming out.

Charley Burtwistle:

Yeah.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Get me back on the road because I’ve had a lot of conversations about this in my time, anecdotally talking to customers traveling, about the invoicing side of things. And so, Emma, she’s my hero, when it comes down to it.

Charley Burtwistle:

Wow. There you go, Emma.

Emma Dickinson:

Thank you.

Charley Burtwistle:

Zach’s hero. That’s something I’ve been striving for, for a long time, but it was nice to hear him say it to you.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Keep trying, buddy.

Charley Burtwistle:

Yeah. So, what are some of the other benefits, or what other problems are being solved with the invoicing update?

Emma Dickinson:

I think the biggest benefit is that you can easily check to make sure you haven’t missed anything in one spot. So, before you would’ve had to go to the estimate, to change order, to selections, individually, to see if there was anything left that you hadn’t invoiced for. Now it’s, when you want to make sure you’re invoicing your clients, you go to invoices and from one spot you can see if there’s anything left that maybe your client hasn’t been billed for. And again, that means it’s less likely that you’ll miss something, less likely that a project will end and a few months later you realize you never charged them for the second half of that $20,000 change order.

Charley Burtwistle:

Right.

Emma Dickinson:

Those costs that you forget to bill them? Those come out of your profit, and that’s detrimental.

The other big benefit, I think, is the amount of time that you save. It’s quite a bit faster to create your invoices now. So, back to those you usability tests I mentioned, the process of going to your invoice and then pulling costs in, that was about 75% of the time that it took as compared to the previous method of going to those locations and pushing them. So, while a 25% reduction doesn’t sound huge, if you’re invoicing every week that adds up over time and that turns into hours that your accountant or your bookkeeper is saving. Or maybe you, if you’re in a smaller shop and you’re the owner and managing a bunch of the office stuff. So, huge time saver.

Charley Burtwistle:

Yeah. And just from a reconciliation and reporting standpoint, too, not even creating the invoices but making sure that you’re getting paid. Some of the customers that we’ve been talking to with our custom data reporting that we’ve been working on, they have whole Excel spreadsheets, so they’ve asked us to build dashboards. If I want to see all my costs, I want to see how many have been paid across all my different jobs. And it sounds like you guys are going to be kind of running that initiative out of a job here pretty soon because it’ll just be right there in product, which is incredible.

Emma Dickinson:

Yeah. That’s definitely our hope. Have as much insight into the data that’s already in Buildertrend available to you within Buildertrend as possible.

Charley Burtwistle:

Right.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Do you think there’s any other areas, from a financial feature standpoint, that this is going to affect? I kind of stole your thunder on that particular area, but maybe I missed something. I mean, you brought up other companies that are smaller. If you’ve got 70, 80 jobs, and you’re invoicing in three or four draws on those jobs, obviously that makes it so you’re not having to keep track of, “Did I invoice here or there,” and creating all these variables. But what else, from a financial standpoint, are the things that you’re looking to expand on with this release moving forward?

Emma Dickinson:

Yeah, yeah. Of course. This release, on its own, I don’t think changes how you would use those other areas, but because it makes it easier to make sure those costs end up on an invoice I think it gives, like you said, a little bit more incentive to actually use those other features. Especially if you are a smaller shop. If there are things like change orders that come up, and you’re maybe doing all the work, there’s a little bit more incentive now to actually create it as a change order, knowing that you can invoice it later versus just adding it directly to an invoice because you’re worried that you’re going to forget to invoice for it. And things like getting payments from your clients, hopefully this means people are using our invoices more, so now those other tools are easier for them to use just because that barrier to using our invoices is lower. So, hopefully they shouldn’t have to change any of their processes beyond potentially expanding what they’re putting into Buildertrend in the first place.

Zach Wojtowicz:

I’m sure you’re eagerly looking at those usage dashboards, like, “Come on, come on. I want to see them go up.”

Emma Dickinson:

Oh, yeah. Yes. Absolutely.

Charley Burtwistle:

Well, cool. I think we’re getting pretty close to time here, Emma. This was a fantastic interview. Really appreciate you hopping on. So, I mentioned this a little bit in the intro, but Emma and I were on a call yesterday that you were supposed to be on, but you’re out of office, but we teased this episode to about 40 or 50 people on the Financial team. Soc, hopefully everyone from that meeting listened to this and found this just as enjoying as we did.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Shout out.

Charley Burtwistle:

Yeah. I’d go through the meeting attendee list, but we’d be here for 10 minutes to …

Zach Wojtowicz:

Fun fact – Charley, he tries to plug the pod at work a lot, and I always find it really, really endearing.

Charley Burtwistle:

Yeah, absolutely. If you don’t promote yourself, who will?

Emma Dickinson:

I don’t think he’s trying to plug the pod, he is plugging the pod. He’s doing it.

Zach Wojtowicz:

There’s a lot of eye rolls happening, but …

Charley Burtwistle:

Oh, stop it, Zach. Thanks again, Emma. This was fantastic.

Emma Dickinson:

Yeah, of course.

Zach Wojtowicz:

Well, Charley, we just had Emma on from CoConstruct, now works at Buildertrend, talking about our invoice update.

Charley Burtwistle:

Yeah, it was huge. I mean, I can see why you were so excited. I think throughout the course of the … Because you came in really hot, you were in the intro …

Zach Wojtowicz:

I was fired up. Charley had me razzed up from the intro.

Charley Burtwistle:

In the intro you were fired up. I was excited, but I think throughout the course of the interview and you guys explaining it to me a little bit more, I started to understand why this was such a big deal and super excited. I mean, this is …

Zach Wojtowicz:

Did your data side, you’re like, “Ooh.”

Charley Burtwistle:

I did start … There was a time there, if people are watching on YouTube, you could probably see me, I started spacing off because I was thinking about all the new data.

Zach Wojtowicz:

All the possibilities.

Charley Burtwistle:

Yeah. A better informing our builders and allowing them to see everything all in one spot. And I think that this update will be bigger than a lot of people realize.

Zach Wojtowicz:

I love that you brought up the reporting aspect, because that is a huge aspect of, “What is my in and out?”

Charley Burtwistle:

Yeah.

Zach Wojtowicz:

And depending on the status of what’s been billed, what hasn’t, having the invoice … I mean, the logistics of just administering this is going to be a huge benefit for everybody.

Charley Burtwistle:

Yeah. You got anything else, Zach?

Zach Wojtowicz:

No, that’s it for me. Thanks for tuning in here on “The Building Code.” I’m Zach Wojtowicz.

Charley Burtwistle:

I’m Charlie Burtwistle. Like, review, subscribe. See ya.


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