UDA Case Study
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Time to Do More:
North Carolina Builder Saves Time and Doubles Business with ConstructionOffice


First Home Builders, Inc.
Henderson, North Carolina

David Lesser, builder of custom homes for stars like Gary Sheffield and Jorge Posada of the New York Yankees, is a devoted fan of Construction Office. "ConstructionOffice has taken our business to the next level, from AA baseball to the major leagues. We now have a world-class software package that's integrated our entire company. I'm such a fan," says David, co-owner of Windstar Homes, Inc. "If anybody wants to know, I'll tell them how ConstructionOffice has made our company infinitely better."

"When I first got into it, I mostly built small stuff. I started out with duplexes that were about 1800-2100 square feet. Most of what I build now are small homes in the 1200-1500 square foot range with some large homes on occasion. I have built 6,000 square foot houses, but it's a rare project."

"Last year, I completed about 10 homes, but I hope to do about 20 this year. The economy here is better, but also because ConstructionOffice has been a big help to me. I'm basically a one-man operation. I figure the jobs, supervise the construction, and handle all the payables and send out all the bills - the whole works. Having the software lets me take on more volume - it's very powerful. Right now I have a few subdivisions that I'm working on - one with about 150 homes in it, another with about 20 homes in it, and a subdivision at the lake with 12 homes in it."

Like most sole-proprietors, Dennis did all of his estimates by hand in the beginning but soon realized that he needed a more efficient method. "I had a lot of experience with software and knowing how it needed to work, and I felt pretty comfortable with computers. When I got into the construction industry and started off estimating by hand, I knew there had to be a program to help me along with it, and sure enough there was."

However, he started off with a different brand of construction software that ultimately hurt his profitability. "I used to use [another program] to manage my projects, and it ran on a database with costs of materials. When I would enter my materials prices, [the other program] would update the whole database and change the costs I had already entered in the estimates for my other jobs. Let's say I had four jobs going on at once. So, I priced one job and then priced another job, but during the brief time period between estimating the two jobs, prices went up, so I would enter new prices into the database. Well, then if I went back to the first job, the prices wouldn't be what I first entered. It really messed me up on a few jobs. When I had 3 or 4 estimates going at once, all of a sudden, I would have a big problem. It wasn't so bad for the customers when the project cost changed, but I had to eat it because that's just what happened. It was not a fun time. For me, once I sign a contract with somebody, it's a question of integrity. Luckily, issues like that don't happen with ConstructionOffice."

After he experienced numerous costly problems with the other construction software, Dennis started looking for a better project management system. "I had to get around the database issue." He searched online for another software package and found the ConstructionOffice system.

"What got me interested in ConstructionOffice was the ability to do a whole subdivision with all the components required for that. One thing I definitely like about ConstructionOffice is that you can create a list of everything used in the house in the construction project and also manage being able to get quotes on materials and update all that. The fact that it flows right into QuickBooks is a great asset, too."

"Within a week of getting the software, I was figuring a job on it. I don't think it is difficult to use once you understand how it works. I have a better understanding of how the program works now, and I really do think it's very, very powerful. I believe it will be an even bigger help in moving me forward in the future."

"Part of what has helped me out so much at this point is being able to compile all the information. Also, I like the sample contracts and sales agreements - they are really very interesting, professional, and time saving. And of course, the best thing to do is to take the samples and modify them to create your own. That just saves so much time. And savings in time means savings in money, too."

"The reaction to my reports has been pretty positive - I keep getting the jobs I bid on. My stuff may be more detailed than most folks are used to seeing and that gives me one up on the other guys."

"Now, I don't have to spend much time working with the program at all. I can do an estimate for a small house, one that's around 1300 or 1400 square feet, in a couple of hours and have it all ready to go. And once I finish the estimate, everything just flows after that. Once I have all the information from the client and have generated the estimate, I print out the materials list. Then, I generally create a contract and use the ability to do the allowances and print an allowances report that lists all the costs. That report becomes a part of my contract, and once they sign it, everything goes into QuickBooks and I'm ready to go."

Because of the time savings that Dennis has experienced with ConstructionOffice, he has been able to take on significantly more projects as well. "Recently I had 8 houses under construction at once, and quite frankly, I could not have done that without ConstructionOffice. The most I could have handled, doing everything the way I used to is about half of what I can do now. ConstructionOffice enables me to handle twice the amount of work now - I've absolutely doubled my volume."

"It's got to be a benefit to you - even if you're just one person who builds two houses a year - this would be a big help. Especially if you get up into 25 - 50 houses, you've got to have something like this. There's just no other way. It's perfect for anyone who's interested in really tracking costs. Sure, you could do it on paper, but software speeds it up. If nothing else, you can at least put together an estimate a lot quicker and have a fair amount of the paperwork produced automatically."

"It's a great program. It would have to be a benefit to anyone who uses it. If you're in the construction industry, I don't see how this would do anything but help you pretty dramatically."

Quick Facts about First Home Builders, Inc.

Location: Henderson, North Carolina
Industry: Residential Homebuilding
Projects per year: 10 - 12
Years in the business: 6



 
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