Every small construction company likely has similar goals: scaling, winning more bids, and providing excellent customer service. But how each small company goes about achieving those goals makes all the difference.
You might not think it’s worth the time or cost to implement new construction software. You might think, “I’m busy all the time. I’m booked up for three months. I don’t need to worry about that because I’m fine doing it the way I’ve been doing it.”
Unfortunately, that mentality won’t help you scale and grow because there will be a time where you’ll hit a wall. You won’t be able to efficiently provide quotes, manage your books, keep up with finances, and provide the excellent customer service your customers expect, and that’s where software comes to the rescue.
Aaron Dumas knows this from experience. He has worked in Texas-based construction firms for nearly 15 years and even launched his own roofing company at one point. He has some advice for small construction companies when it comes to using software:
“What small contractors don’t appreciate yet is the benefits software can provide, like accuracy of estimating. Using software makes it so much easier to accurately collect customer information, and the cost of materials and labor in your area, and it leads to fewer mistakes. You might be content with the 20 jobs a year you’re getting, but with the efficiencies you get from software, you could be doing 120 jobs a year.”
Sales Manager for Premier Pools
In each section, we’ll discuss the importance of these construction company goals and how software can help you achieve them, along with real-life advice from Dumas:
- Scale and grow efficiently
- Provide excellent customer service
- Win more bids
Goal #1: Scale your business more effectively by implementing software as early as possible
Your construction company should have a plan in place to scale. And scaling begins with effectively managing the financial and project management sides of your business, not just the construction work. Using software helps you eliminate unnecessary errors that can cause confusion and lead to missed opportunities and bad reviews.
You likely started your own construction company because you’re really good at what you do. You’re great at installing floors or roofs or remodeling kitchens, but you might not have much experience with the business side of things. Why not give yourself some help when it comes to that side of the business?
“You can either build really well or sell really well, but most people don’t say, ‘I’m such a great bookkeeper. I can’t wait to start a construction company!’”
When Dumas started his own roofing business, he did everything manually, and if he had a time machine to go back and give himself one piece of advice, it would have been to implement roofing software and construction accounting software early:
“Keeping up with accounts receivable and paying your subcontractors manually was a nightmare. Software makes it so much easier for you to do it week-to-week and makes the end of the year taxes and documentation so, so much easier.”
FOUNDATION Software’s accounting menu for construction businesses (Source)
If you’ve ever stressed about keeping track of time, making sure you pay your subcontractors on time, making sure you have all your proper tax documentation, or getting all of your expenses in order and to your accountant, you should seriously consider software.
“You can invoice your customer through construction software. Simply push a couple of buttons and your customer receives a professional looking invoice with your letterhead and branding on it. They can immediately pay using a credit card or wire transfer.”
The alternative is spending time manually writing up an invoice, without your branding or easy payment options.
Whether you’re a new company or an established business looking to scale, you should implement software in order to be competitive. You will be able to more effectively scale because you can increase your efficiency, automate and eliminate errors in common tasks, and more easily handle the bookkeeping aspect. Put simply, software helps you keep up with the demand and work smarter, not harder.
Goal #2: Improve your customer experience and job satisfaction by using construction estimating software to provide quick and accurate estimates
Instead of sitting on the bed of your truck with a note pad trying to work out an estimate, use software to get a more clear picture of what labor and materials are going to cost.
In fact, according to the Small Business Construction Survey we ran in May of 2021, 51% of construction companies say that construction-specific estimating software was most critical to their success in the previous year.
Construction estimating software automatically pulls in the cost of materials and labor from multiple sources and presents the data to you in real time. You simply plug in what you need and the software will do the math for you and present it in a professional way you can share with your client.
The worst conversation to have with your client is when you have to tell them that they will have to spend more money for something because the price changed. It’s not good for your business and it’s frustrating for your customer. That’s much less likely to happen if you are using estimating software.
Esticom Software’s estime calculator (Source)
It’s also much faster and easier. If you’re providing estimates manually, you have to check multiple sources for how much each material costs at the time, write it all down, compile it, then add it all together before sending it off to your client. The more complicated a job is, the harder it is and the longer it takes.
“I can knock out an estimate of a very complicated project in about 20 minutes and know that it’s incredibly accurate. We can point to labor costs and know that they won’t change once the job starts. I’m not just spitballing a price. I know it’s accurate, and that matters for our business’ reputation and for the customer experience.”
Another benefit is that the longer you use the software, the more data you’ll have about how much you’re spending on each job and for each material, which will allow you to make more accurate estimates in the future. For instance, you might have thought sheet rock was your problem, but with software you can go back and see that it was actually lumber and concrete that was the issue instead.
You can also use this historical data to adjust your bids, which will help you remain competitive. You’ll also improve your customer experience because your client will know exactly how much they’re paying for each material and labor.
Ultimately, construction estimating software takes the guesswork out of estimating jobs and increases the accuracy and efficiency of your estimates, which leads to happier clients and fewer hiccups. If budget is a concern, check out “3 Free Construction Estimating Software Tools” for an idea about what you can get for free or cheap.
Goal #3: Increase revenue and win more bids by using 3D visualization software
Your top goal as a construction company is likely winning as many bids and completing as many projects as possible. One of the ways you can meet and exceed that goal is to use 3D visualization software.
3D modeling software has become standard for large home building, architecture, landscaping, and pool installation companies, but Dumas says that he doesn’t see it used much by smaller residential remodeling businesses that work primarily on kitchen, patio, or bathroom remodeling.
Example of a 3D home model in Cedreo Software (Source)
Imagine these two scenarios:
- You’re sitting with your potential customers, talking through their ideas for their kitchen remodel, taking measurements, and answering questions. They ask to see any prior work you’ve done that’s similar. That’s great. You have plenty of pictures to show them, or maybe you’ve even spent the time sketching something up. It works. It’s fine. You leave and spend even more time writing up an estimate only to find out they went with another contractor. You not only lost that bid, but you also lost all of that time you spent working with them.
- Same situation as before but this time when they ask for pictures of other projects, you can use software to show them a 3D-rendered model of their actual kitchen with the specific changes they want. If they ask, “Oh, what would it look like if we made the counters granite instead of marble?” you take a few seconds and make that change. Suddenly the work isn’t theoretical to them. They can actually see everything in context. You’re providing a level of customer experience they haven’t gotten from other construction companies.
Dumas has been using this type of software during his sales pitches for years and has some thoughts about why it’s superior to older, more manual, methods:
“If I’m presenting against someone who is drawing by hand or just using pictures from previous jobs, but I’ve spent the time to implement and learn this 3D software and can make real-time changes and show my customers what their vision would actually look like, I’ll win that bid 99 times out of 100. There’s no contest.”
In some cases, you can even use VR headsets to show your customers what their remodel will look like in a 360-degree virtual environment.
If you take the time to learn to use 3D modeling software, you’ll better impress your potential clients and win more bids.
Parting advice on implementing software to meet your construction company goals
“Software is going to save you time, make you more money, and separate yourself from your competition. You might not realize that spending $500 on software now will make you $5,000 down the road.”
Software is becoming more and more crucial for every industry and construction is no different. You better believe that large organizations you’re competing with have software, so as a small contractor, it’s important to remain nimble and competitive by using software to make your business run as smoothly and efficiently as possible.
Here’s a recap of the specific kinds of tools we mentioned and how you can use them:
- Construction accounting software helps you nail the financial and bookkeeping side of your business.
- Construction estimating software helps you take the guesswork out of estimating jobs and increase the accuracy of those estimates which will make your customers happier and lead to fewer mistakes and hiccups.
- 3D modeling software helps you win more bids by better contextualizing the job for your clients. You can show them what the finished project looks like before you even begin.
The Software Advice Small Business Construction Survey was conducted in May 2021. We surveyed 538 U.S.-based workers in construction small businesses.
We used screening questions to narrow our respondents into those with relevant experience and expertise, and we worded the questions to ensure that each respondent fully understood the meaning and the topic at hand.
Note: The applications selected in this article are examples to show a feature in context and are not intended as endorsements or recommendations. They have been obtained from sources believed to be reliable at the time of publication.