From Builder to Businessman:
UDA ConstructionOffice Transforms Third-Generation North Carolina Contractor
Lasley Construction Company
Asheville, North Carolina
After seeing Construction Office on a colleague's computer in 2003, Tom Lasley, President of Lasley Construction Company, purchased the Professional QT version for his Ashville, North Carolina firm. To take advantage of the most up-to-date tools available, he upgraded to the current version in 2004 and then added the advanced scheduling component, UDA Scheduling XT, earlier this year - making his package the best-selling Construction Office Professional XT.
Like many construction professionals who integrate technology into their businesses, Tom implemented ConstructionOffice incrementally. "When I first got ConstructionOffice, all I'd use it for in the beginning was to estimate and then export my estimating information to QuickBooks so I could run my budget. But, the more I explored the software, the more impressed I got, and the more intensely I used it. As I continually discovered new features, I realized how much ConstructionOffice could actually perform for me."
Although Tom only used two components in the beginning, he was able to see the value of his investment. "When you get a set of plans and you have a project, whether it's a multi-family project or a single family project, every single element has to be taken off by square footage or count and then entered into the estimate. The great thing about UDA Estimating is that it prevents me from forgetting anything because the estimating sheet is so detailed, and I like that I can modify it to be more specific for my business."
"From the takeoff in estimating, ConstructionOffice allows me to print out every document I'll need for the job. Recently, I started printing out the bid sheets from the software and sending them back to my suppliers. And the whole document management element of the program is very good, too, I like the fact that it keeps the project information and all the documents related to that project grouped together - it keeps me organized."
Another element of UDA Document Management that Tom finds especially beneficial is the time-saving feature of automatic emailing. "An incredible aspect of this software is the way it interfaces with email. ConstructionOffice makes it easy to send stuff right from the program. That actually started me using Microsoft Outlook a whole lot more intensely than I ever did before. In the past, I mostly used it to store phone numbers, but now I use it for my contact management."
As Tom explored ConstructionOffice further, he began utilizing the scheduling component, a task he wishes he had attempted from the beginning. "From the estimating, I got very deeply involved in the scheduling. I just wish I could hit myself in the head sometimes for not having started to use it earlier. On several recent projects, if I had used the scheduling component sooner, I probably would have finished the jobs at least 10 percent faster, which of course, in this business means money. So I'm using UDA Scheduling now for everything, no matter what size the job. I don't care if it's a one-week remodel - I'm using scheduling."
ConstructionOffice components like estimating, scheduling, and document management work together to form a complete, integrated system, and Tom now uses the whole system on a regular basis.
"ConstructionOffice gives me the ability to use the estimate to generate a schedule, and then go from the schedule to print out a weekly task list that has the notes to indicate things like materials, resources, and so forth that are necessary for the job and email it to my project supervisor on Sunday night to let him take a look at it, then I'm able to take it to work on Monday morning. It's just inconceivable how fast and easy it makes the whole project management process."
More than Project Management Software
The ConstructionOffice system enables its users to do more than streamline project management, and Tom has taken full advantage of such opportunities. Along with using ConstructionOffice to get organized and run his projects more efficiently, he discovered that he could also lend credibility and professionalism to his company through the resources available in ConstructionOffice.
While exploring the software, he came across the UDA Planning Guide, a 25-page document designed to be part of a company's client correspondence: "When I first saw the UDA Planning Guide, I said 'oh yeah right' - like it was nothing, but it turns out that I use it for every project. I created a spiral bound workbook that's called the Lasley Construction Company Workbook for Residential Construction, and it's a full 165 pages front and back."
With the exception of introductory pages for each section and photographs of his company's builds, Tom only used documents generated by ConstructionOffice to fill the workbook. "I start off with the UDA Planning Guide that I modified and then added a flow chart that shows the construction process from the beginning block, which is the decision to build, to the final block, which is moving day."
"The workbook takes customers through every stage and every feedback loop in the building process using the UDA Planning Guide, UDA Estimating, UDA Specifications, UDA Contracts, and budget reports that I created using the UDA QuickBooks Integration. Everything I do during the construction process is diagramed and tabbed out using the resources from UDA Technologies."
After using ConstructionOffice to develop the Lasley Construction Company Workbook for Residential Construction, Tom found it to be extremely valuable, in part because it enables his customers to better understand the full scope of homebuilding. "When I developed the specifications section, I put the full set of UDA Specs in the book just to show people how much stuff there is that someone has to make a decision about."But the workbook has other purposes as well; Tom also uses it to lend credibility to his business and provide buyers with updated information.
"The response to my workbook has been absolutely phenomenal. One of the strongest responses I've gotten from it is from real estate brokers. We've taken it to interviews and shown it to several brokers, and it's extremely obvious to me that they are very impressed."
Although each spiral-bound workbook costs approximately thirty dollars to produce at his local copy center, it's worth much more to Tom because it allows him to stand out from competing construction firms. "The most common comment I get from people is 'I have never seen a builder as organized as this.' It's the strongest marketing tool available - even stronger than a word-of-mouth recommendation. When prospective clients get that booklet in their hands, I know I'm going to get a serious shot at the job. Whether I get the job is another thing, but I absolutely know that I will stand out. If our bid is close in price, I'd bet on me getting the job based on the fact that this is such a strong marketing tool. It conveys to them a certain degree of comfort that I'm a professional and know what I'm doing."
From Builder to Businessman
As a third generation construction professional, Tom does know what he's doing at the jobsite. "I'm a very, very good builder. I know how to put stuff together physically and even built a traditional 32 foot wooden boat by myself. My grandfather was that way, too. He cut every rafter that went into every single one of his buildings, but my dad was different. He was a good businessman - the general contractor who wore a tie to the jobsite everyday. He'd meet with the architects and customers, and go to the jobsite to ensure deliveries. He had the same 4 or 5 carpenters for 22 years, and those carpenters are actually the ones who taught me how to build."
"I learned the old, traditional, true, solid, custom residential construction, and then my dad taught me how to do take offs and all that. But one thing I've never been strong at is business, and that's what ConstructionOffice is all about - it's about business management, and it has really absolutely transformed my business."
"I used to micromanage everything that was going on at the jobsite. Now I only have to go to the jobsite once or twice a week. I have a very good superintendent, who is also a licensed general contractor, my son is in the business and he's an upcoming builder, and I have two other employees that perform miscellaneous tasks like ceramic tiling and painting. We have all determined that the most efficient way to run the business, and it's kind of a joke, is for me to stay away from the job, because they can manage the work and get it done quite well. That leaves me home managing the business, devoting my time to planning and estimating and project management from an administrative perspective. It just saves all the time in the world."
"Even my stress level is lowered because everything is organized. At the jobsite, everyone knows what's going on today, and the next day, and two weeks from today. While it's only necessary for me to go to the jobsite once or twice a week, I do go out there more often because I like to put my own eyes on it. But, I could function and not go to the job. ConstructionOffice is such a strong device. I almost feel like I have more control of the job when I'm sitting here using the software to manage the business than I do when I'm at the job pointing at something, telling a subcontractor to fix this or do that."
Benefits of Better Project Management
ConstructionOffice is now an integral part of the company's operation, and Tom has been able to build his business and accept more projects by utilizing time-saving features that streamline project workflow. "My jobs have a whole lot less wasted time now. I'm not waiting to get that piece of material for that thing which is holding up the next thing. Everything is so organized now that the duplication of work, and therefore a lot of lost time, is eliminated."
"Using ConstructionOffice has allowed me to increase the volume of work I can take on by at least 100% - that's twice as much work as I could previously handle. But that's not even the best part. The best part of it is that I've not only increased my volume, productivity, and efficiency, but I've also increased my profitability."
Tom Lasley continues to discover ways he can use ConstructionOffice to enhance project management at his company. Now spending at least twenty hours per week using the software, he is having his 22-year-old son start estimating with the software. A confessed techie, Tom recently purchased a PDA and is looking forward to utilizing the mobile integration capabilities to save his company even more time and money in the future.
He was also recently featured in the June 2006 edition of Tech Home Builder, a leading industry magazine focused on the role of technology in the construction industry. In the article entitled "Program for the Future," Tom attributed the notable growth his company has experienced to the advanced features and integration offered in the ConstructionOffice system.
"For small and medium sized businesses, this is by far the best project management software choice. Before I had ConstructionOffice, I did everything by hand on a piece of paper, but it allowed me to transform my business and quadruple my profits. It's worth twenty grand to me."
Quick Facts about Lasley Construction Company, Inc.
Location: Asheville, North Carolina
Industry: Residential Building
Projects per year: 6 - 12
Years in the business: 3rd Generation Builder, Full time since 1995
Number of Employees: 4