ConstructionSuite User Featured on HGTV's popular Television Show "Curb Appeal"
Longtime ConstructionSuite User continues to earn National Recognition
Tri Vista USA
Samuel Goldwyn once said, 'the harder I work, the luckier I get,' and Michael Sauri, Owner and President of TriVista USA is living proof of the truth to that statement. When UDA met up with Michael Sauri back in 2007 for a case study on his business, TriVista USA, they seemed to just be hitting their stride. They were being featured on HGTV's Curb Appeal and were staying extremely busy completing between 12 and 15 projects each year. Almost three years later, things just keep getting better for TriVista USA. Working hard to produce happy clients and exquisite results, Michael truly feels that the harder he works the luckier he gets.
In the past three years, TriVista USA has not only doubled the number of projects they complete each year, with projections to complete 30 in 2010 alone, but those projects are steadily increasing in size. Michael says, "We have grown a lot, in terms of the work we are doing in the last few years, but we are doing business a lot different than we used to. We're tighter and smaller now and partly because of UDA's software we are much more focused on the management and design portion of the project. It's a very different world than it was in 2008, and because of that, we stay focused on the client experience so we can ensure high quality results."
UDA's ConstructionSuite is what has helped TriVista USA stay lean and mean, even as they are busier than ever. Michael is currently using the 2010 ConstructionSuite Premier system, which features Advanced Estimating including Change Order Management, QuickBooks Integration, Company Management with lead management and insurance tracking, and the feature that has earned Michael plenty of attention, Scheduling and Calendars.
"When we were getting ready for our taping of Curb Appeal, I sent HGTV a schedule for the job. I sent a copy of the schedule to the designers and to the producer, who has probably worked with over 100 contractors throughout her time with the show. She was amazed with the schedule I sent. She even printed it out and walked it around her office saying "Who does this? Look at this!" Once we sent that first schedule, we continued to update that schedule every week and the people at HGTV realized that it wasn't just a showpiece - it's actually what we do. They could barely believe it. It definitely made me and UDA look good."
Like HGTV quickly realized though, this wasn't just for the show - it's part of the everyday work they do with ConstructionSuite, and their clients love it. "One of the things we do for every job is that we have a client meeting every week, and after that meeting, I email them an updated version of the schedule. And, when clients get that schedule, they see that it's more than a pretty piece of paper - they see a visual representation of what we need from them. I think they buy into the process faster that way, and I definitely point to ConstructionSuite for giving us the ability to create those printouts for our clients."
The "Whoops" Factor
Before using UDA ConstructionSuite, Michael faced numerous problems with his projects, ranging from leaving important items out of the estimates and construction schedules that would go over by weeks and sometimes months. Plagued by these issues, he knew that his company was not as profitable as it could be.
"When I first started using computers, I used Microsoft Excel, and that was great, but it just didn't have the integration. One of the first things I was looking for in construction software was help in estimating. There's always a list of stuff that I would forget to include in my estimates - the "gotcha" that is the responsibility of the general contractor."
"Especially when I was doing spec homes, I would try to get an idea of what it would cost to do a job and be really excited about how much money I was making, and then whoops - all of a sudden, I wasn't making the money I thought because I didn't count on $20,000 - $30,000 worth of expenditures that should have been included in the job. That's a lot to lose off of expected profits."
Change for the Better
After losing money on projects because he didn't have a comprehensive estimating program, Michael knew he needed a better solution, but he didn't want to spend tens of thousands on software. "Before we originally purchased UDA software, we did a lot of homework to see what we could get. UDA was, and still is, the best bang for the buck. I had the previous version - ConstructionOffice - and upgraded to the new ConstructionSuite. Even though the price tag has gone up, it's still a much better deal than anything out there. Other software programs that are not web-based run about 4 times the amount of the money, and the ones that are web-based just have no end to the amount they cost."
By making the smart choice of UDA project management software, Michael was able to see an immediate return on his investment. "With ConstructionSuite, we've not had those "oops" factors costing us $30,000 a piece. We don't forget as much anymore and we can lay out a budget for the homeowner that's realistic."
"The estimating portion keeps me away from the "oops" factor, and the scheduling piece keeps all the ordering and procurement part on schedule so the construction can stay on schedule. If we finish the job on time, that means we're onto the next job on time, so we're making more money."
"If we're on target, and we're hitting our growth, a week can be worth $20,000 - $30,000. So, if we're off by even just two weeks at the end of the project, which used to be highly possible, we could lose anywhere from $40,000-$60,000 of gross revenue. And we're not that big. There are people who use your software who are 10 times larger than us."
"For a long time in the construction industry, it really didn't pay to have a computer. However, times have changed. In our case, we have clients who want a lot of hand holding, and for those clients, we probably have 400-600 emails by the end of the job, and it's critical to keep that stuff organized. While there are some contractors out there who don't think software is necessary, the great thing about the organization that software affords you is that if you're more organized, you know the right answer and the wrong answer when you're dealing with clients. That means that you can go back to your notes, refer to a specific meeting or email, and know exactly what transpired and what was agreed to - which is critical, especially in relation to project changes."
ConstructionSuite Premier has also given Michael the additional benefits of the Change Order Management system, which enables him to create change orders in his estimate, designate them as pending, accepted, or rejected, and automatically generate documentation, proposals, and contracts for his vendors and clients. "The Change Order system helps me know the difference between what is and is not an accepted change and I can print all the change orders out and keep track of them, Then I can turn that into a document that I can give to a homeowner. It's been so helpful - I know which ones were signed and that ultimately means that we, as contractors, can charge for the work we're doing and have proof that the client approved those changes."
Communication is Key
Beyond staying organized, Michael knows that providing the highest level of customer service is critical to his business success, and a large part of ensuring that level of service is communicating clearly with his clients. "Things are pretty expensive here, and while price tag isn't an issue, service definitely is. Customer service for clients in this area really needs to be top notch. We have a high-end clientele that's usually very educated, and there's a lot of client involvement. Our clients typically have a lot of disposable income, they have a lot of value in their houses. They want to see the great parts of their house matched by the not-so-great parts that we're working to bring up to speed. And they really have a very high level of expectations." "It's great for us to be able to track down every single dollar for our clients - where they are spending it and why. That lends a whole lot to customer satisfaction and confidence. With ConstructionSuite, we're not bumbling around with papers shoved everywhere trying to get them that information, either. We're not the contractors with endless clipboards and McDonald's wrappers shoved up in the front of their pickup truck. That's not us." "Every time we hand them something, it's coming out of UDA - from us to the client, and it instills a certain confidence in our customers. There are so many scary contractors out there, and everyone immediately realizes that we're not one of those. So, it definitely acts as a credibility piece as well."
Another way Michael stays connected with those involved clients is with ConstructionOnline, a new web service provided by UDA Technologies, which has become the industry standard in teamwork and collaboration. ConstructionOnline provides TriVista USA with that easy, and free, medium to stay connected with their clients, potential clients, subcontractors, and other team members. Michael can create projects and upload important information he needs to stare with his team. Whether it's plans, schedules, estimates, photos, or change orders, ConstructionOnline provides them with a go-to place to share and store files while keeping the entire team connected.
That connection has been made even easier with the recent release of OnSite Mobile Apps for iPhone. On his iPhone, Michael can log into OnSite Photo and instantly take photos and upload them to his project on ConstructionOnline. Once uploaded, those photos are available for his other team members to view, share, and comment on. He has the same capabilities with OnSite Video, but with OnSite Files, Michael is also able to instantly access any of his ConstructionOnline files from the convenience of his phone. Opening up that important schedule, estimate, or change order, is made incredibly simple with the OnSite Files app for his iPhone.
Peace of Mind - Every Time
While much of Michael's success stems from his commitment to superior customer service and meticulous work, he attributes part of that success to UDA project management software. "Because we don't have a big structure, we rely on UDA to help us track where everything needs to be, to know where it's going, and to stay on top of procurement. We just wouldn't be able to do what we do if it wasn't for the organization that UDA affords us."
With the different insurance and licensing documentation required for each job, Michael has also learned how much liability he assumes as a general contractor. "In this industry, there's such a difference between how much money you can make and how much liability you assume. If you're the general contractor, as I am, the liability lands squarely in your lap 9 times out of 10. And that is the chance to go from a really profitable job to a seriously profit-losing year - not just job. You can lose a lot of money in a short amount of time if it's your fault. Just by having the ability to track the insurance and licenses gives me huge peace of mind."
That peace of mind is invaluable in the hectic world of project management, and to ensure that everything runs smoothly, Michael relies on ConstructionSuite each and every time he's on the job. "If I'm working on my business, then ConstructionSuite is open. I take my laptop into the field every day, and any time I'm working on my business, I have two things open: my email and my ConstructionSuite. It is absolutely integrated into our day-to-day operations."
ConstructionSuite provides TriVista with documentation and numbers they can put their trust into. "All the specs and documents I get from UDA are based on national standards. When I look at the numbers and see where I should be, I know that's a national standard I'm comparing myself to. I can make adjustments and changes, but I know that it's coming from somewhere respectable, and I don't have to pull it out of "you know where'."
When asked what advice he would give to other construction professionals who are considering project management software for their businesses, Michael had this to say:
"If I were talking to my friends, I would say "If you don't know how to use computers, it's time to get yourself a computer and figure it out. It's very easy to spend a lot of money on a computer program and not dive into it, but if you're going to commit to using it, in a very short period of time you're going to do some stuff that you didn't know you could do."
"In probably a 4 - 6 month time period, you won't understand how you ever did business without it. I would liken it to using a cell phone. And everybody in our business uses one. And I would say to them -think about life without a cell phone, and that's how you'll think about life without project management software."
Exceptional Work. Superior Results.
Professionalism and quality are both incredibly important for TriVista USA to do exceptional work with superior results. Michael explains, "Communication is 90% non-verbal, and if you show up with a level of service that starts at a high level, and that level remains consistent as you dive into the job - if the specs look good and contract is well-presented - if everything looks good and is tight and neat - then everything, including your company, looks professional because it is. Obviously, it begins and ends with you doing what you say you're going to do, but ConstructionSuite helps people do that and get stuff to clients on time, stay on budget, and that's the beginning and end to me."
A few of TriVista USA's current jobs get Michael really excited, especially one extremely unique home in the D.C. area. "We're working on some very cool things right now - specifically this amazing home that is set into the side of an extremely steep hill. So steep in fact, that a parking deck had to be built to give the family parking access from the street. From this parking deck, there is an architecturally beautiful bridge they walk across to get into the house but the space beneath the bridge and parking area has gone completely unused so far," said Michael. He continued, "TriVista is recreating this area to make a gorgeous flagstone patio and the family will finally start enjoying this amazing space."
Excitement, passion, and love for what you do is extremely important, especially when you have the hectic schedule that Michael Sauri has. His passion truly shines every day when he has the chance to develop creative solutions. He says "I love the design part of what I get to do - the first few meetings are always the best. I meet with my clients and they've got something in their home that just isn't working for them. I have the privilege to come in and transform that space, usually with a solution they never thought possible."
Another thing that keeps Michael excited and challenged is the fact that everything TriVista works on is custom made. "It's easy to just do something you did in a previous project because you know it works, but we don't do that. Everything we do is custom made and by making yourself come about something with a brand new approach each time, it ensures that your end results will be even better," said Michael. The end results are extremely important to Michael, as he explains "in my industry, I am constantly building things that outlive me - every single day. I am very aware of that in everything I'm doing, because in ten years, I may not be here, but my work still is, and honestly, I don't want that to suck."
It may be that mindset that contributes to TriVista USA's exceptional work which continues to earn notice. Michael was just recently selected to be the Green Building Technology and Strategies on-camera spokesperson for the online component of Remodeling Magazine, Remodeling TV. He is featured on Remodeling TV to discuss the ins and outs of Green Building. TriVista USA was also recently selected to be featured on BobVila.com for their recent work on a home in Washington, D.C.
While these adventures just add to Michael's busy schedule, he's extremely excited to be a part of it. He said, "What I hope comes from these opportunities with Remodeling TV and Bob Vila is that I'm going to help other business owners who are in similar situations by giving them insight into what's been working for us. Hopefully those who see my ideas will reach out to me, either by giving me constructive criticism or just telling me their different opinions. That alone will help TriVista USA and myself grow and improve because really, bouncing ideas off of each other is going to make us better and also the industry as a whole."
Media attention isn't the only attention that TriVista USA has been receiving. The solid results they've produced have resulted in the 2009 Arlington County's Green Home Choice Award as well as multiple National Association of the Remodeling Industry's Contractor of the Year (COTY) Awards. TriVista USA was recognized in 2008 with COTY Awards for their work on a commercial interior at the Robert Shields Interiors office space, and for an entire house renovation for a home in Silver Spring, Maryland. Additionally, they were awarded COTY Awards in 2007 for their commercial interior work in the Washington D.C. restaurant, D'Acqua, and for their residential exterior renovation of a home in McLean, Virginia.