On the road with SimpleBuild

I’ve been involved in the construction trades for over 30 years. Whether as a tradesman or later in life as a IT person supporting and educating builders on project management software (The SimpleBuild) or consulting in regards to schedules and implementation of a full service system. Offering builder’s access to myself 24 / 7 to insure no one is left without an answer when they need one. That said I’ve come to the poi...

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ReStore & Deconstruction / Habitat for Humanity

ReStore & Deconstruction / Habitat for Humanity    Last week I wrote about the amazing job performed by the Habitat for Humanity’s (H4H) building team. This week I would like to focus on another of the H4H ventures, the ReStore’s. ReStore’s are places where folks can donate any “gently” used items. These items are then sold and the profits benefit the H4H efforts. The Wake county group has seen significant growth over the past few years through the guidance of Mitch Rhodes the V.P of Operations. We had the opportunity to meet with Mitch to explain the SimpleBuild Construction Project Management System. In our meeting we discovered the unique challenges which a group such as H4H presents. In addition of our ability to solve their Scheduling issues we are also in the position to offer a solution to their warehouse and ...

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Miracle which is Habitat for Humanity

The Miracle which is Habitat for Humanity   This week we’re in Raleigh NC for the Habitat for Humanity of Wake's (H4H) Builder Blitz, which will produce 250 homes in one week across the nation. This is undoubtedly one of the most daunting tasks that I have witnessed in the building industry. The coordination can only be describ...

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Schedules for Various Contractors

Schedules for Various Contractors   As with most remodelers I had a general idea of how my schedule should progress. The issues that separate remodeling from new home construction are the variables. When it came to scheduling I could not be as stringent as a new home builder. For the most part new construction is without hidden obstacles like those dealt with in remodeling. This is one of the reasons why those of us at The SimpleBuild insist on offering schedules and templates that accommodate both new home builders and remodelers. New home builders require Critical path schedules to insure that if there is an interruption in the schedule that all subsequent vendors and crews are notified regarding the modification of the projects schedule. Remodelers require Open...

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Motor Home Upgrade 101

Motor Home Upgrade 101   Well, we motored ourselves and our newly acquired Fleetwood motor home back to Illinois in one piece. As I look around this beast I now notice all the little things that were overlooked at the dealership. Still believing that I got a deal due to the extras that I deem necessary such as a 7000k watt generator which his rated quiet enough to run in a National park after ...

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OHSA and Construction in the City

OSHA and Construction in the City   Living in the city is never boring and not without a story to be told. I’ve had he fortune or misfortune to have a construction site right outside my window. Now having been in construction for a majority of my life I’m aware of what is and what is not acceptable building practices. The project next door was adding space to what was once a flat roof, for over a year now this group has not only taken valuable parking away from those that live and work in the area but, has created a dangerous zone to be anywhere near. How dangerous you ask? These moron’s were slinging steel beams to the roof of the building next door and NOT ONE of these workers was wearing a hard hat. I was stupefied! Of course not at any time during the construction was the name of the actual contractor visible, not on any of the trucks nor on any of the workers apparel. Now I...

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Warranties and Warranty Claims

Warranties and Tracking Warranty Claims   Where many builders offer various warranties on a new home, it’s the tracking and dispatching of the repair which is most important to the home owner. If this is a first home for this individual or family, ownership can overwhelm them. And it’s the handling and response of a warranty claim or issue that can help create another positive marketing ad for your firm and reputation. Odd how this seems to go, create a positive result and they remember you for a day. Create a negative result and they will never forget you. In order to create the positive result you will require the ability to assist the home owner is every way to relay the issue. Allowing them more than a brief text explanation, give them the capacity to display images that go beyond what words can explain. Then make it easy to assign a vendor or team memb...

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Reputation Built on Customer Service

Reputation Built on Customer Service   Last week I wrote about our obtaining a Motor Home for Simple Builds Onsite training and consulting. It started with a deposit and plans to fly out to Omaha, NE. Hopefully that was the last time I have to fly, at least domestically. I really dislike both airports and flying. As someone in the industry, I say service is the cornerstone to every successful bus...

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We have a Winner, OTR with SimpleBuild Group

After a year of research and many inquiries into a variety of motor homes, we have a Winner! After 14 months of hard searching, tire kicking, and trade shows, we’ve made our decision. The choice is not without many factors being taken into consideration, cost and reliability a...

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How to Insure Compliance

As many of you are aware I work with a wide variety of Homebuilders and Remodelers. The issues which arise while implementing a system also varies by the size and cohesiveness of the office & field personnel. What to do to instill compliance when your staff is stagnant and complacent in their work?  I like “reviews”, one on one sit downs and go over what needs to be accomplished with the understanding that we will continue to meet until full compliance is reached. Asking for a Daily report on a daily basis starts to...

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Who's in charge?

While you were out...   I tend to write from experience or experiences and this is a troubling observation I’ve made. My team trains anywhere from 4 to 6 new builders each week, and we enjoy being busy for the most part. What we do object to and are troubled by, is our devoting time and energies to a builders office and nothing takes place afterwards. Recently I’ve been contacted by a new Project manager for a builder which had purchased a subscription months ago, had one employee go through the training and then did nothing. This PM wanted to be trained and insisted on using the system for all...

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Is Your HBA Working for You?

While assisting our sales staff I have found that there is no uniformity in the presentation of HBA members from one local to the next. The well designed and laid out locals allow for home buyers to pruise through their member info and start the process of choosing a builder. These locals offer Company name, builder name, phone, email address and website address along with any HBA listed qualifications. The poorly administered HBA's offer nothing on their members and make it quite impossible for a qualified buyer to do any research on the builders who are members. As I see it these builders are being cheated, and not getting exposure to new business opportunities ...

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What Dictates the Trend in Building

Late last year we signed up a Custom home builder in the Indianapolis area. He had a website but, that alone did not equate to a jump in business. When he added a transparent project management system which allows for unparalleled communication between all parties, builder, vendors & homebuyer, business spiked. In fact as of this morning he has several projects in the design and quote phase. As mentioned the builder prior did not have a PM service and most likely would be buried in work trying to handle all of these projects. Now he is poised to undertake 3 x's the workload with the same personnel. This builder has taken every step to attract and retain prospective buyers...

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How to Choose a Custom Home Builder

Here it is Mid March and hopefully spring is on the way, somebody should remind Mother Nature. Anyway as more and more of my friends and associates get ready to have a custom home built, I get the call "how do I find a good builder"? A great question, you would think that in this day and age there would be an independent listing of Home Builders with some type of comments or rating. Well as it turns out resources for this are limited to the following: visit your local HBA for homebuilder listing, word of mouth, google and recently a site called Hoodle. When you visit the NAHBA site to find your local office, you will find a wealth of listings but, no comments or review of their work. Depending on the HBA local you will be able to link to prospective builders websites where you can find samples and...

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Time to Prepare, Winter is almost over.

Lets face it, building in the winter is time consuming and costly. What to do when the elements are working against you? Well, now would be a good time to start preparing for when the weather does break and building is back in full swing. Where to start? You could begin with listing out the weak elements in your building processes. Just where is it that you believe you and your firm can enhance the over all presence and performance? It may be slow going now, but spring is inevitable, the pace will pick up and now is the best time to tackle these issues. In which case might I suggest a solution that will remedy both issu...

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2014 Looks Like a Winner

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Invest In Your Business

The buzz word that sends me over the edge every time is, what is my ROI implementing your system. Return On Investment, does this mean nothing is purchased without a thorough investigation on whether there is a sufficient ROI?  As I see it, not everything is tied directly to a ROI for it to become a good business component. Imagine if we demanded the same of every employee or dare I say our politicians, oh boy. Let them explain their worth to the public, I apologize for the sarcasm but, I live in Chicago, IL. A city and state which is the poster child for inefficient government. Well back to ROI for key business component expenditures. Here at SimpleBuild we offer 24 x 7 support, is there a calculable ROI for this? Probably not but to the builder who is working late or happens to be in the office on a weekend, this kind of support is priceless. Making that extra effort alway...

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Helping Illinois Tornado Victims

You guessed it, we are a Illinois business and we care deeply for the wellfare of our friends and neighbors downstate. As I write this blog our CoFounder/President Clay Miller is rounding up support for a food and clothing drive for those in the effected areas. Not seeing the devastation first hand we were unaware of the scope of work which needs to be done to get these folks back to some form of normality. However, talking with one of our builders in the Peoria area, Scott of Scott Lewis Homes said that close to 1000 homes need to be rebuilt or in need of major repairs. There is never a good time for an event such as a Tornado but, around the holidays seems to compound the impact. This is where the builder community can show their compassion and team like efforts to assist these folks in their time of need. Whether its a donation to the Red Cross or anyo...

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Does Size Matter?

We've all heard it before "size does not matter" and in many instances this is true. Especially in the building trades, smaller can mean, more  hands on which can lead to greater attention to detail. This is the key many times in swaying a client your way, ...

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COMMITMENT

This is the anniversary of the 9/11 attach on the USA and I wanted to acknowledge those who have committed themselves to the cause. For those of us who have served, we understand the sacrifice and pray that others never have to repeat this cycle of events. No matter what branch you serve, your rank or job is, we salute you for your service and commitment. It takes great courage to put yourself before others and this is what I think makes America the greatest country ever! Recently we at the (SimpleBuild Group) were asked to demonstrate our system to a non-for profit group (OurBravest.org) that constructs specially adapted smart homes for severely wounded U.S. military veterans. What a great cause and we want to assist these brave Americans by donating our services without charge to help organize the construction of these very specialized ho...

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Small Operation BIG Results

I hear it all the time, "we are a small office and not interested". After hearing this I think, not interested in getting more done with the same staff? This sounds absurd to me, not interested in having a more productive office, not interested in adding another highly effective sales tool, or not interested in organizing all my Change Orders and billable Selections, which would allow us to realize every dollar earned on a project. All of these suggest to me, "not interested in staying in business". It's a sign of the times, doing more with less should be the objective for every contractor that plans on more than staying in business.  Chaos consumes more dol...

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Custom vs Spec Home

Having never been a spec home vs a custom home builder, I had to rely on the perspective of others for this article. My main reason for not building a speculative home was purely profit driven. I have heard the horror stories of those that bought properties several years ago to build on or purchased tear down homes to remodel. Most of these firms are now out of business due to the lack of adequate financial planning and or backing. Today most are cautious to say the least, and banks that once supplied financing even more so.  A sure thing does not exist in the home building market, either there is an attractive location and activity in a given area or you're a pioneer and risk taker. The rewards for taking these risk...

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Natural Disasters bring out the Best

Lately I have written about Hurricane Sandy and the Tornado stricken areas around Moore Oklahoma. Now we have the fires which are engulfing the western portions of the US. Currently there are multiple fires in Colorado alone. Over 38,000 have been displaced from their homes and 400+ homes have been destroyed from the...

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Does the Current Building Activity Equate to a Come Back?

It seems like everywhere you turn there is a building project going on or building material truck's crowding the highways. Some might think this is nothing more than an illusion but, building statistics show that home building is on the rise along with home prices. I believe the increased activity is driven by a couple of things, first there is the rebuilding of the east coast which has been devastated by Hurricane Sandy. Then there is the remains of Oklahoma and other midwestern towns which have been leveled by a rash of Spring tornado's. Add in a depleting inventory of existing homes and you have a rebounding building market, one which has driven up lumber prices steadily over the past several weeks. Another indicator would be labor and from the numbers exhibited here it does not look as if the building process is in full tilt, as of May those in the trades had a unemployment rate of 10.8%. So, what we have here is a mixed bag of indicators, labor has yet to experienc...

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How many Subcontractors are Enough?

It may not sound like an issue which needs to be addressed promptly, but your projects coming in on time and on budget may require you to rethink this. How do I know if ABC Construction is giving me the best value for my money? As I have pointed out in past posts you will have to find a balance of cost and performance and do this over and over till you have acquired a healthy list of qualified subs and suppliers. Some of the criteria I use to judge the viability of a sub; are their project tasks finished on time and on budget? What d...

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OK Oklahoma

Left with not much in the aftermath of a major Tornado, Oklahomans are set to take on a near impossible task, rebuilding again. The folks of Moore just like those of Barnesville, WI, have a daunting job ahead of them. First sifting through the scattered debris for any salvageable belongings, then removing the mess left behind. Of course this was not the first time this town has been targeted by massive storms and perhaps may not be the last. However, this may be the last one to take so many lives. I'm a firm believer in building codes; they insure safer, better-constructed structures. The new building codes for the Moore area include shelters to be constructed on each property. These codes will not stop the devastation of property but will restrict the loss of life. Buildings can be replaced, lives, not so much. The few, who did have a shelter in place, were extremely thankful to have had one to escape to. Rebuilding a storm-rava...

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Why a Paperless Office is more Efficient

This could pertain to most businesses of the day but especially the construction industry. Needing specs and other important documents NOW instead of sometime soon can be the difference between building on time and on budget or not. The cloud as it is called allows for all type of information to be made available instantaneously with the capability to forward this on to another’s email address or localized printer. Accurate data delivered when you need it is the key to a successful contracting business. Why most offices progress to a minimal paper office is two fold. One paper is volatile, is susceptible to fire, water damage, misfiling or just plain lost in the shuffle. The Cloud, allows for smaller transportable devices to communicate with others whether they are in the office or out in the field. What type of functions can be accommodated for? In the field we can look at renderings, drawings, prints, schedules, the...

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Need to get organized before you can start to grow

As I was beginning my career in the building trades I noted a few issues which drove me both crazy and lost me money. The big one was not having a corrected schedule for when my crew was to be on the job. If there was an event which delayed our phase/task on the job I needed to know earlier than the day of, with highly paid skilled workers, wasting an hour was a bi...

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Just How Important are Punch Lists?

           It does not matter if this was a complete custom built home or a single room addition or remodel, punch lists are inevitable. And how they are handled can make the difference between unhappy clients to one that will sing your praises to the masses. I call it "fit and finish"; it is in the details that separate an OK builder from the superstars. As a long time tile setter I can tell you that when I visit a space w...

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How do I convince my Clients that I'm the right Builder for them?

Builders are always looking for a way to stand out from the crowd in a positive light. Where does it all start? A well designed website is a step in the right direction, having your builders portfolio online complete with photo's, testimonials, & awards or certifications. This should include all professional designations such as, CAPS (Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist), CGP (Certified Green Professional) or GMB (Grand Master Builder) any of these would enhance your stature as a qualified builder. There should be a history of how the business was started and why the principles are qualified to build and deliver a quality custom home. All affiliations should be noted such as NAHB (National association of Home Builders) or a member of one of the elite builder groups such as th...

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What Comprises a Managed Project? Part 1

  Not as easy as it sounds, many college grads working their way to Project Management jobs are not fully prepared for the task at hand. Only through a working involvement with seasoned PM's will they be able to learn the complete process and how to apply what they have learned to each new project the embark on. Just what is involved? First, general project management skills, Negotiation - specifically, Integrative Negotiation - is very important for dealing with suppliers and getting the in-house resources required when t...

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Job site Errors eating away at Profits

For the ill equipped builder losing profits are an everyday occurrence. It may not be one change order or purchase which upsets the accounting on a project. The accumulative changes and purchases however do make a heavy impact on the projects bottom line. Does not matter h...

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How can I effectively manage my Contractors

OK, so you have your bids and sold the project, whats next? Now you must make sure all of your suppliers and subcontractors are on the same page and understand just when and where they are needed. The days of calling up all the winning contractors and setting up a tentative schedule are long gone. Calls take time and in most cases you are in short supply of that commodity. Today the fastest and most reliable form of communicating with your subs & suppliers is through email. In one email you can attach PO's, drawings, mill work schedules or anything else pertaining to the job in one quick click of the mouse. Having massive excel files depicting the temporary schedule of tasks or Gantt chart (Death of Gantt Charts)can...

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Technology for Life & Business

To obtain and maintain clients today it will take more than a spiffy website. If you want to engage your prospects you will have to show that you and your staff are prepared. How can you do so? Technology! most likely you either have one of these smart devices for business and or personnel use. They are the tools of a new efficient business model which allows the office to go with you, anywhere. Yes, this is the era of doing more with less and the latest smart technology assists at every level. Smartphones today are such a big part of our lives, that forgetting your phone at home is usually the beginning of a very bad day.  How is it possible that something that didn’t exist five years ago now directs us through our daily activities? As we all read more and more information online...

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Why we choose to provide Cloud based solutions

The old school of thought that software must be resident on local hard drives or in house servers is gone. Today no one wants to be weighed down by bulky laptops in order to enter or capture data. With the inception of the smart phone, ipad and other ultra portable devices we now have the capability to work with more freedom. This is why we have decided to launch our system over the cloud. Cloud computing is the use of computing resources (hardware and software) that are delivered as a service over a network (typically the Internet). The name comes from the common use of a cloud-shaped symbol as an abstraction for the complex infrastructure it contains in system diagrams. Cloud computing entrusts remote services with a ...

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The Simple Build Group from the Beginning

Ryan Windmiller and his family have been in the custom home building business for over 25 years. Over these years they have seen many trends in the field and in the office to improve on all aspects of a construction company’s operations. So when it became time to have a better handle on the project management side of the business, they started researching a few of the solutions available and tried several. The Simple Build Group was the brain child of Ryan Windmiller & Clay Miller. Ryan and other members of his Builder 20 Group had discussed the various systems, which they have used for project management. The consensus was that not one had enough of the required features to fulfill their needs adequately. So, with the a...

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