In an economy where profits are being squeezed, it’s more important than ever to be accurate, flexible and quickly responsive to prospective customers — using your own business model. Whether you realize it or not, even a paper and pencil version of an estimate involves a model. It’s in your head, but it’s still a model: the mental picture you have of what’s needed and how it fits together. If you give an estimate, you used a model to do it. Essentially, you performed Virtual Construction in your head to prepare the estimate. So for starters, let’s do away with the notion that software and paper/pencil are different approaches — they’re both measuring the same things.
Computer software can be invaluable as a time saving device and can do more advanced Virtual Construction. Many builders have taken the plunge and utilize everything from spreadsheets to semi-automated systems tuned to their preference to aid in the speed and precision of estimating. These have varying degrees of success, but everyone agrees that overall, time is being saved.
Effective use of software is crucial as you expand your business or work to make it the most efficient it can be. It’s important that your sales efforts are accurate should you hire someone to do sales. Software helps since this keeps the salesperson in the correct ballpark. Your paper / pencil mental model may not jibe with that of the salesperson, and Virtual Construction with computer software helps negate this as a problem.
In addition, accuracy, speed, flexibility and responsiveness are derived from software that is clever enough to calculate labor and knows your ways of doing things. Flexibility allows you to evaluate and do what you normally wouldn’t or couldn’t do. For example, while you may normally build using 4-5′ on center trusses, you may locate a source of 8′ OC trusses for a really good price. Can you use these? With the right software, you plug in the new truss data, change the purlin spacing and/or lumber size/type as needed, and you can Virtually Construct buildings to have a trustworthy answer within a few seconds. How much can you save using these trusses? Does it make a difference? You aren’t going to truly know if you don’t have accuracy and flexibility — and a speedy way to evaluate.
The right software can be used to play these types of “what if?” scenarios easily. Moreover, it’s cheap — you don’t need to spend hours going over everything by hand. You just plug in some data, or you can make changes to engineering and see what the impact is on building cost (including labor) in mere minutes. This is “Virtual Construction” at its best and most advanced; what you create is rendered and analyzed on a computer screen.
Where Virtual Construction can also have an immediate impact is in the sales process. Envision this — you have a perfect building estimate constructed to the customer’s spec. Your customer looks at it and says “Hmmmm… what if we add another window here? What if we move that door to here?” “What if we make it 12ft longer?” Sound familiar? With Virtual Construction ability you can make these changes INSTANTLY and get an accurate and reliable price. You can work interactively with your customer, and instant response to customer queries can make a sale that might otherwise be lost. Instant. Not “next week.” Not “I’ll get back to you.” Not “let me ask the office.” Instant, as in Right Now. What is customer confidence worth to the sales process?
Real-time modeling software that easily does what’s been written about here is key to operations efficiency and sales effectiveness. COMPLETE 3D modeling of a building INSIDE AND OUT and AS YOU WOULD CONSTRUCT IT allows you to know that it was done properly and is, therefore, accurately priced. Simultaneously, the software also allows your customer to see you as a highly skilled professional deserving of the sale because your customer sees the virtually constructed, finished building that he/she will be buying from you.
Saving time, money and selling more are all key components to thriving in any economy. The right software helps you with all three.
You can see for yourself how simple and accurate software can be for FREE. Just go to www.bizportz.com and click on the link (middle of the page) to download and install a FREE copy of PostFrame Manager. It’s not time limited; you don’t have to tell us who you are. No gimmicks. Get a feel for 3D virtual construction and visualization. You’ll find that you can’t afford to NOT invest in accuracy, flexibility and responsiveness.
By Scott McKinney
CFO of BizPortz/PostFrame Manager
Scott McKinney has over 17 years of experience in the post-frame industry. Drawing on industry knowledge and his background as a CPA and as controller for a manufacturing and construction company, for the past 9 years, McKinney has assisted post-frame builders from all parts of the country and Canada in adapting computerized estimating systems to meet their specific needs and construction styles – from the midwestern 8ft oc posts and trusses to the northwestern style of 10-12ft oc with 2-ply trusses and a spacer between to central Canadian styles of 4-5ft oc posts and trusses and countless other variations. This experience allows McKinney to easily adapt and automate estimating using any combination of the hundreds of different post-frame construction details/styles in practice today.