UDA Case Study
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Florida Builder Hits Home Run with ConstructionOffice

Windstar Homes, Inc.
Tampa, Florida

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."

Windstar Homes, Inc., of Tampa, Fla., builds high-end custom homes in both Florida and the Bahamas. These multi-million dollar estate homes are some of the finest in the Tampa Bay area and have granted Windstar Homes a bevy of national awards. Windstar's Casa Linda residence, an 11,180 square-foot beauty with a theater, wine cellar, and pool with swim-up bar, was awarded the Make A Wish Foundation Home of the Year for 2003. A cocktail benefit complete with an open house raised over $50,000 for the Tampa/Sarasota chapter of the foundation.

Although Windstar Homes has enjoyed success since its inception, David notes that "something was always missing." He goes on to say, "We've always been one of the most organized construction firms I know, but we had difficulty connecting various tasks and stores of information."

David was looking for something that refined the project management of Windstar Homes into a well-oiled machine. "I used to use [other construction software] for estimating and accounting," David says. "I spent tens of thousands of dollars on it, and it stunk," says David, describing the program as unfriendly, costly to operate, and difficult for employees to use.

The need for a better project management system was a pressing one for David. "This business is not for the faint of heart," he observes. "You have to be meticulous and organized, or you'll get eaten alive. I knew we needed to make a change."

David's office manager asserted that ConstructionOffice was worth considering as a solution, but, David says, "I shrugged it off because of the price. It was just too cheap." David had thought he would need to spend several thousand dollars for a good project management software.

Finally, when David had a break from building at Thanksgiving, he tried out the ConstructionOffice free trial. Impressed, he bought the software the same week. "I've studied a lot of construction software packages, and pound for pound there's nothing like ConstructionOffice. The flexibility and ease of use is incredible," David says. "I would have paid 3 to 4 times more and never blinked an eye."

David started with a single-user version of ConstructionOffice Professional XT. After he learned to use the software and implemented the system as part of his business model, he upgraded to the 5-user version of Construction Office Professional NT.

With ConstructionOffice, David was able to initiate and maintain a reliable project management system for Windstar Homes. "ConstructionOffice helped us bring all of our data together in one place, so it's more usable and accessible than ever before," David says. "Estimating ties in directly with proposals so I can't leave anything out of the total price. Then as the build progresses, the strong estimating and scheduling integration makes it easy to keep our cash flow on track."

With ConstructionOffice, users can automatically create schedules that display estimated costs for each task. "This allows us to use Construction Office schedules as draw schedules, instead of the old AIA forms," explains David. "My office manager calls the project manager, verifies the schedule, and then gets a draw from the bank. We get our cash much faster."

Thanks to their new streamlined project management system, David estimates that Windstar will be able to build two additional homes this year without adding even one more employee. "We're able to do things much more efficiently," David says. "We create estimates and specs earlier than ever before, which helps us close deals and facilitate the front end."

"ConstructionOffice took us to just where we needed," David says. "Now, after only 2 months, I've integrated all of our existing material into ConstructionOffice and made ConstructionOffice part of my daily system. It's made my world a much better place." David plans to convert his accounting system to QuickBooks so Windstar can integrate estimating and accounting information as well.

For document and contact database integration, users can convert existing company information into documents that work with the ConstructionOffice system. "With Document Management, we can create letters that go along with certain documents, set tasks for pre-scheduled meetings, automatically email information, and import Outlook contact information into documents," David says. "We have a 124-page homeowner guide that we now use as part of the ConstructionOffice system."

Windstar is currently using ConstructionOffice to manage the construction of a 7,000 square foot, 3.5 million dollar home. "We will be able to complete this home in 8 months, instead of 14-16 months. This is huge," David says.

"It's amazing what this system is doing for us-on the low side, I believe we'll make an extra $1 million this year because of ConstructionOffice," David says. "We're doing things for our business with ConstructionOffice that we didn't think were possible."

Quick Facts about Windstar Homes, Inc.

Location: Tampa, Florida
Website: www.windstarhomesinc.com
Industry: Custom Homes
Projects per year: 8 - 12
Years in the business: 9
Number of Employees: 12

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