About the Author
Our MarkSystems’ User of the Month is Andy Lett, Systems Manager, with Schuber Mitchell Homes, a single-family home builder in southwest Missouri and northwest Arkansas, on track to do more than 500 homes this year. In this interview, Andy discusses his career path, the impact of COVID on their business, and how he sees changes in the industry.
Tell us about your background in the industry and your career path to becoming a Systems Manager?
I’ve been in the construction industry and with Schuber Mitchell, for five and a half years. We were about 6-8 months past the initial MarkSystems implementation and ‘go live’ when I joined and started using it.
I first joined as an intern, working for three months with the build team to learn the ins and outs of building homes. Eventually, I transitioned to the office with my first role being a purchasing assistant, helping with a little bit of everything from meeting with vendors, correcting takeoffs, ordering materials, and building new plans and options.
About two years ago, as the business was growing, we needed to split purchasing into two departments. At that time, I assumed my current role as Systems Manager. In this role, my team and I ensure that the whole system is running correctly for the build and sales teams in both of our regions. We are responsible for all of the takeoffs, materials list management, options and the system, as the main administrators. We also make sure our cost and budgets are accurate and all options and plans are in the system so that the sales teams can sell them accurately and confidently and the build teams can show up and build the homes with accurate Material takeoffs and Purchase Orders.
How do you see your role evolving over the next few years?
I see the team growing in new areas, focusing on creating more efficiencies, and improving processes across the company. One area we are focused on today would be Variance Purchase Orders (VPOs). We have a goal: Find VPOs, and how to eliminate those—we track them down and find the root cause. We know they have a big impact on saving time and money during construction, and have made significant improvements in this area of the business.
What's the most challenging aspect of your job? What do you do to overcome that challenge?
There are a couple of healthy challenges that we face. The first is around taking ownership of making lasting processes and procedures. We need to look at how this will work today and make sure these processes work with our anticipated growth. We overcome this challenge by looking at the bigger picture and running through the all of the different scenarios that a process is trying to improve before we implement it. You’re balancing how we can make it more efficient and accurate today, but also ensuring that these new processes will be lasting from not only 100 homes but through 1000 and so on.
Another good challenge is the pace that we’re going. The pace continually challenges us as we realize that the sooner, we build new options and plans the sooner we can offer better products and additional savings to our customers
We have a great team to help get out the new products and options to our sales team, build team and customers. They provide good checks and balances for each other to ensure excellence and we continually publish high quality work.
Another challenge of responsibility would be ensuring our budgets are continually up to date and accurate so that we can use and relay on them to determine sales pricing for all our homes and options. We overcome this challenge by making sure budgets are current and the homes that are closing are coming in as we predicted, and we do not have any additional “Padding” in our budgets to offer the best price that we can.
How have you seen the home building industry change in the last few years?
There will always be different trends and products that customers want—they will come and go. But at a higher level, the industry has changed with respect to technology. Home builders are focusing on technology more than they did before. They want to understand how to better use their systems and software to not only create efficiencies for us as home builders but for our customers as well.
By utilizing consistent systems more effectively company-wide it creates company wide transparency, we can make better decisions, and build better homes, and build better communities.
This creates efficiencies for home builders and helps homeowners get a quality and affordable home quickly!
How has COVID impacted your current operations?
With COVID we all worked remotely, and this helped create more effective communication. Our meetings had to be intentional and we needed to spend our time in them more efficiently.
Our Purchasing Team did a great job on being proactive and moved to having weekly meetings with all vendors and we were able to give extra lead time by communicating and notifying them for not only our current needs but also when we’re going to increase starts as we grow. These weekly meetings helped us keep products moving.
Like other builders we also had to change to virtual sales meetings and closings, as well as impact in the field by having only one trade in the house at a time and taking extra precautions as recommended.
What’s the one MarkSystems’ feature that you or your team can’t live without or helps you be more productive/efficient?
We have 50 floor plans with 100 different options. As a result, the Materials List Maintenance feature has been critical. The inheritance feature lets us effectively manage and control all plans and options list of materials and we have it filter down to all the neighborhoods. One edit can be made to the list of materials ordered for every home and it can take effect in every single neighborhood rather than making the edits per neighborhood or development.
Do you have any specific successes you'd like to highlight?
In our goal to eliminate VPOs, we’ve done a really good job of making that a priority. Five years ago, we probably averaged about 16-17 VPOs per home and we are currently averaging 0.88 per home, and that is due to our great team being intentional on adjusting takeoffs as we track down root cause. As gate keepers of materials list, we avoid over and under ordering which ends up causing delays or material being wasted on site, which ultimately saves everyone time and money.
We couldn’t have made this a main goal of ours without the intentionality from senior leadership team. They quickly saw the importance of having VPOs as a one of our main focuses. This has in turn helped our company along with our Trade Partners and their time and our customers as we were now able to offer competitive pricing by ensuring we are not wasting time and materials. Each savings we make, multiplies significantly as we continue to build homes.
Another one of our biggest successes would be given the responsibility of setting our sales pricing from our budgets. We have worked hard on getting the budgets to a place where we can trust them and now use them to determine not only our option pricing but all of our home plan’s pricing as well.
What was the best career advice you received? Do you have any tips or advice for those entering the home building industry?
Always strive for excellence and have a hunger to learn. What you may be doing, may work and be relatively effective, but you can always improve. Always strive to learn--regardless of who it’s from, we all get better when we challenge each other.
Favorite thing to do outside of work?
I enjoy spending time outside with the family—being in the woods, being on the lake or being on a four-wheeler.
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About the Author