About the Author
MarkSystems Community User of the Month is Dan Smoulder, Vice-President of Petros Homes. Serving the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio for more than 30 years, Petros Homes builds on average 60-70 homes per year, including townhomes, cluster communities and single-family homes.
What was your career path to becoming a VP?
I have worked in the residential construction industry for over 16 years, starting my career with Petros Homes right after I graduated from Mercyhurst University in 2003 with my degree in finance and accounting. I have always had big goals when it came to my career and when I had the opportunity to work for Petros Homes, specifically Sam Petros and Gary Naim, I knew that the knowledge I would learn from them would be a huge part of my success.
My first position at Petros Homes was as an estimator and administrative coordinator. While working in that role I always took advantage of every opportunity to learn the business and become an interictal part of the operations of the company. After the Great Recession, I had the opportunity to move into management, and eventually to Vice-President.
What's the most challenging aspect of your job? What do you do to overcome that challenge?
The most challenging part of any job is working and communicating with other people. It’s the relationships we build that makes us the most successful.
To help with this challenge, I would say step one is to be open-minded and realize that we all have different personalities and communication styles.
For the best communication, it’s important to understand yourself and your personality and communication style, but also the personality and communication styles of the people you work with. A lot of times it is not what you said it is how you said it or your body language.
How have you seen the home building industry change in the last few years?
The labor shortage in the trades is one of the biggest changes and I think it goes back to the Great Recession. A number of people got out of the industry and didn't come back into it when things improved.
This has caused a lot of price increases--it's hard to find quality trades for an affordable price. It seems more and more challenging to find the right trades people.
On top of that, keeping cycle times and schedules have been more challenging. I would say from what I can see in our organization, as well as from talking to other builders, they have added about a month to their schedule because of this issue.
How long have you been using MarkSystems?
We started looking for software back in 2004--we were doing handwritten change orders. I remember catching math errors on the change orders that didn't add up correctly! We had to put things in an excel spreadsheet to provide some kind of order to it, so getting a system was important.
In January 2005 we launched MarkSystems--Liz Stallone came out to help with the implementation. She was a great asset during the early years!
For the past 14 years, we’ve appreciated how the people at MarkSystems have been willing to listen to their customers and develop their product with them. The roundtables MarkSystems held were a great way to share insights and they were so important in the development of the software.
What’s the one MarkSystems feature you can’t live without or helps you be more productive/efficient?
There are so many good things about MarkSystems, but where I’m at today, the material list purchase order system is something that I couldn't live without.
To fully utilize the purchase order system, we created a fictitious release date for material lists that are for budget only items. That way items that are budget only are still tied to a unit price that can be changed or updated quickly for all elevation and option budgets. Therefore, everything in the system changes in real-time. All this helps ensure accuracy in the overall price.
We’re are also a very custom builder and having accurate base plans budgets helps us ballpark custom plans by comparing them to similar base plans. Then In the final stages of pricing a custom home we are able to copy a base material list and change the quantities to finalize the sale price of the custom home.
There are so many other items that I now wouldn’t want to live without--custom options, VPOs, eliminated paper by emailing work orders and purchase orders, and EFT payment option. We even use the EFT/ACH payments for customers.
We’re even taking advantage of leveraging Lasso CRM to help with managing prospects and follow-up processes.
Do you have any specific successes you'd like to highlight?
I mean the success of utilizing the purchase order and material list to estimate and price custom homes is something I always dreamed it could be and it is.
I think the purchase order material list was out a couple of years before I really started diving into it, but it plays a huge role in maintaining accurate budgets and staying ahead of price. In this industry, with the labor shortage and increases in materials and labor, it’s important to stay on top of, and be ahead of, costs to make sure we're raising our prices to cover these increases. As a builder you can’t absorb all the cost increases we’ve experienced.
What was the best career advice you received? Do you have any tips or advice for those entering the home building industry?
Don't focus on making yourself look good, focus on helping others succeed by creating policies and procedures that you know are going to grow the company and make people’s jobs easier. Try to answer the question, “What can I do to help make their lives easier?”
Favorite thing to do outside of work?
My family and friends are the most important. I enjoy cooking, boating, traveling, and having get togethers. I also love spending time with my family at Chautauqua Lake.
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About the Author