About the Author
MarkSystems' senior consultants are not only experts on the software, they also bring their experience in the residential home construction industry to each implementation. In this blog, we feature Patti Sorensen, Senior Consultant with MarkSystems. We sat down with Patti to learn more about her experience in the home building industry, what makes an implementation successful, and get her advice on what builders need to look for in a new system.
I have been around both residential and commercial construction since the early 1990s after I earned my B.S. in Accounting from Metropolitan State University in Denver in 1988. My first experience with new home construction was for a small custom home builder in Colorado who built homes in the Denver-Boulder area as well as the Vail Valley. Because they were a small company, I was lucky to wear many hats in my role as their office manager – accounting, lending relationships, design selections, and performing walk throughs with the customers. Since our first office was on a large job site, I was able to walk the jobs daily with our project manager, where I received a crash course in Construction 101. After that, I worked as an accountant for a large commercial contractor in Denver. I performed complex job costing reports and payroll processing including 2 labor unions. I returned to my first love of new home construction after that. First as an accounting manager for a large homebuilder in Colorado and then as a controller for a builder in New Mexico. The last 2 builders were both MarkSystems customers. In addition to my construction experience, I have been a real estate agent in Arizona where I represented smaller new home builders.
The changes in our industry have been enormous! Builders have become much more savvy in their construction, technical, and business knowledge. They have learned that it is no longer enough to draw a house plan on a napkin and call local suppliers a few days before they need materials and/or labor. The industry has become increasingly competitive across most markets in the U.S. Successful builders know that construction management knowledge alone is not sufficient for a successful company. They have learned that they also need technology – primarily fully integrated ERP software – to communicate well, get timely data without duplication across multiple systems, and to produce accurate reports on job costs, construction schedules, financial statements, etc in order to make solid business decisions.
During my first 15 months with MarkSystems, I have worked with approximately 60 builders from startups to larger builders who complete and sell more than 600 homes per year. For those builders, my assistance has ranged from limited, one-topic assistance to being part of a large implementation team for large builders.
Successful implementations truly are the result of a good working relationship between our customers and the MarkSystems team. The most successful implementations are the result of full participation by the customer from day one of the project to graduation day. Many of our builders are coming from non-integrated systems, so there is a lot of work and data building by the customer prior to conversion to a live system. The builders that know their business well and know what they want out of their new MarkSystems software stay focused while meeting the deadlines of their project management and implementation teams.
Know what you want from your new software. For many of our builders, the lack of integration across multiple software platforms provides huge challenges for them in their daily operations. These challenges arise due to entry of the same data multiple times in multiple software packages and lack of communication with their internal teams as well as their trades and customers. It results in excess labor costs, slipped construction schedules, and errors in installing the wrong materials, etc.
Do not expect to transition from your old systems to a new software package in a few weeks or months. Builders need to be prepared to dedicate time and resources to any software conversion. It has been difficult for some of the builders in the past few years because they were already struggling to manage growth of 200% or more year over year and their resources are stretched thin.
Embrace change and expect a learning curve across all departments in your company. With any software package, there is always a sharp learning curve which some of your team will handle with flying colors while others long for “the good old days”.
Look for software that can help you manage growth, provide improved operating efficiencies and communication, as well as the data that you need to truly manage your company across all departments. Many builders delay software conversions because they do not think that they have the time to do so this year. But, if you are busy and your company cannot get the data and communication that you need to manage your current operations, let alone future growth, when will you have the time?
MarkSystems consultants can help home builders find ways to do more with less. Whether it's automating manual processes or creating reports that save time, our consultants can support your business without having to hire additional full-time personnel. Read how MarkSystems consultants have helped these builders streamline their processes.
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About the Author