Recently we interviewed Boyett Construction’s CEO, Vern Boyett; VP, John Khau; and former IT employee and consultant to the firm, Maria Acuna of Ariam Consulting, to find out how they used Quickbase to help them become one of San Francisco Bay area’s largest specialty subcontractors. Here’s what we learned.
For many years, Boyett Construction used spreadsheets to share information and manage business and project processes. But as the firm expanded and diversified, spreadsheets turned into impediments that stood in the way of progress. A digital strategy backed by Quickbase’s online app development and field services database platform became a catalyst for transformation on many levels.
Maria: One of our biggest challenges was trying to manage $12 million dollars a year in purchase orders and materials for our Door Department with a spreadsheet workbook. The larger and more complex it became the more problems we started seeing, like delivery date and project condition mismatches. Everybody was trying to get on the network drive share, but when only one person at a time can access a spreadsheet it slows everything down and makes it difficult to collaborate.
Vern: Relying on spreadsheets to get project details was also a source of frustration because they were not always up-to-date. That meant you’d have to walk to someone’s office or out to the warehouse, or even call out to the field and interrupt work. Coordinating something as complex as door assemblies was especially challenging. They come at a critical phase in construction, and involve interfacing with the life safety components of a building which require testing everything from mechanical to low voltage electricity and fire safety systems. Installations must go smoothly as hold ups can cost big money. We’re on a project right now that has $200,000 dollar a day penalty clause.
Another challenge to our business was that that people were using spreadsheets in different ways. That made it difficult to be consistent in the way we provided internal and external services or updated contractors [customers] during project phases.
Trying to coordinate projects and schedules with spreadsheets, emails, texts, and in-person conversations not only created confusion and affected workforce productivity but also had a big impact on growth. In an industry with many moving parts and little room for error, the only way Boyett Construction could ensure quality and timeliness was to put a cap on how many projects it could take on at once.
Maria: In this business, work must be seamlessly handed off like a baton from one role to another. Underpinning collaboration and information sharing with spreadsheets limited the level of complexity and the number of jobs we could effectively handle.
Vern: We had reached our saturation point. To support business growth without impacting quality we needed a way to standardize everything and put the latest information at our staff’s fingertips.
Point solutions vs. Quickbase
Maria and the leadership team began their search for spreadsheet alternatives by initially focusing on out-of-the box solutions. However, an out-of-the box solution would require Boyett teams to conform to the processes set by the solution versus the solution conforming to the way they do business. In addition, they quickly realized that finding a single point solution capable of addressing the many roles and the equivalent of 4 independent companies under Boyett Construction’s roof was impossible. And spending the time and money to get several of these solutions to work together—if they even could—was a risk they were not willing to take with the business. That’s when they discovered Quickbase.
Maria: At the time, cloud computing was just getting started and we were interested in looking in that direction. Quickbase came up in one of our searches and we quickly realized the opportunity it represented. It gave us a way to trade manual spreadsheet-based processes for custom solutions that we could build just the way Boyett operates. And because everything would be tied to a centralized data repository, we’d have instant access to the latest project data.
Vern: One of the big advantages I saw with Quickbase was that we didn’t have to tackle building a battleship all at once. The platform gave us an effective and cost-efficient way to build and integrate solutions one role at a time.
Maria: Quickbase enables you to crawl, then walk, and then run your way into building software. It’s not intimidating to learn, and easy to tiptoe in and then build your expertise from there.
Optimizing the way work is done
Now in its 9th year of operation, Boyett Construction’s Quickbase solution (called the “BMS app”) has helped standardize communications; simplified and accelerated data collection from 30+ roles and corporate systems; and streamlined and automated tasks and processes across the firm’s Office & Field business.
Now, instead of juggling spreadsheets and tracking down the latest updates, a centralized, online repository supports all the work, seamlessly populating customized dashboards with up-to-the-minute project data for various roles. With automatically generated alerts, notifications, and scheduled reports it’s easy to keep everyone in the loop and everything moving forward. Custom reports can also be compiled for internal or customer (contractor) needs in minutes. And that innovation continues…
Maria: Right now, we’re working on a Quickbase project called DFH material control that will help us improve the way materials are managed at each stage of the door assembly process. It’s a little like using the Domino’s Pizza app to track your order at every step—just with a lot more people and data in the mix.
We have a team of five, including Vern and John, who are all experts in their respective fields. We meet on Tuesdays and talk about processes, roles, and the kind of information handoffs that are happening. I build a little bit, get feedback from everyone, and then build a little more. Quickbase is a great for that because it gives us the flexibility and speed we need to evolve the app in real time.
John: This project is a critical one for our business, especially when you consider that we do about $28 million dollars’ worth of door assembly work a year. And $21 million of that represents the materials that run through this warehouse. When you think about the number of people involved, the workloads they’re dealing with, and all the questions they are asked daily, it’s a lot to keep a grip on.
Quickbase is helping us track and manage every facet of these operations—from submittals, to materials ordering and delivery, to building and installation. With their personalized dashboards, staff in different roles can oversee all the details in one place, and quickly prioritize the work coming in. They’re now proactive and efficient managers of their own workloads and projects, which has become a real morale booster. Project managers who had their hands full managing three million dollars of work each can now easily handle four and a half.
Overall, Quickbase innovations have made work more productive and enjoyable—and that goes a long way toward helping retain the best talent. It also enables our team to build stronger relationships and take pride in their work. For example, when a contractor calls in with a question, our team can get them an answer while they’re on the phone. It’s not what they’re used to, and we get a lot of ‘WOWs!’.
Vern: What Maria has done with Quickbase is to take the effort out of collaboration and make timely information flow freely. And that’s been a big incentive for adoption. Once we developed a couple of dashboards and information started flowing, people immediately saw the advantages and wanted to know when they were getting their own dashboards for their roles. It’s just the opposite of what you typically hear when you’re implementing new systems within an organization.
Quickbase saves the day
When an unexpected malfunction in the server room put Boyett Construction’s network out of commission for a week and a half, the Quickbase online platform—and all the project information within it—kept the business up and running.
“Quickbase was definitely the hero,” says Maria Acuna, IT consultant for Boyett Construction. “It literally allowed us to continue operating. The firm relies a lot on Quickbase uptime, and this unexpected incident showed us just how much we can count on it.”
Consistent, high-quality work—and more of it
Higher workforce efficiency and effectiveness, deeper insights, proactive problem-solving, better reporting, and reliable outcomes have all helped Boyett Construction’s Office & Field business attract and confidently take on a growing number of concurrent projects. This has contributed to the firm’s ability to sustain strong year over year growth—something that wouldn’t have been possible without Quickbase.
Vern: What Quickbase helps us promise and deliver is an elevated level of service in multiple trades. People, like our estimators, can focus on their core competencies because we can take everything that doesn’t have to do with estimating out of their world, and turn it over to one or two admins. With more of their time free to focus on their primary role, they can consistently deliver a higher level of service to our contractors. They can also handle more volume which maximizes the value they bring to the business as it grows.
John: As soon as we land a project, the estimator clicks an “awarded project” button in the BMS app and it alerts an admin who sees the new project on his/her dashboard. The app helps him/her secure and record the necessary information from contractors, architects, and other stakeholders on project schedules, materials ordering and delivery timelines, teams, etc. As a company, Quickbase allows us to be very proactive about the pre-planning of a project, so we’re not doing things at the last minute in a rush. It also enables us to report on progress quickly and consistently.
Companies don’t advance unless they work on the business and continually strive to improve operations. That’s what Quickbase is allowing us to do. It has become the heart of the organization and our Quickbase solutions keep multiplying because people keep coming back and asking for more.
A chain reaction of advantage
Boyett Construction’s growth and success are also driving advantages for other businesses and opening new opportunities for the firm as well. For ASSA ABLOY, a leading global manufacturer of door assemblies, the construction firm’s expansion has translated into a 250% increase in annual sales. Boyett now purchases $21 million dollars in materials a year from ASSA ABLOY. The firm has also become one of its most valued distributors.
Recently ASSA ABLOY set out to create a network of lean distributor partners (chosen from hundreds of distributors) to help drive greater efficiencies throughout the industry. Boyett Construction was named among the company’s top four “with the capability and systems in place to support ASSA ABLOY’S efforts”. This has helped further the success of both companies. For instance, sales through Boyett Construction to a major purchaser of ASSA ABLOY materials have increased by 600%—and they continue to grow.