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Success Story:
French Brothers Homes

MarkSystems® Cloud-based Software Provides the Increased Scalability, Security, and Productivity That Drives This Fast-Growing Homebuilder

When it comes to the software features and functionality needed to run a successful home building construction business, few programs even come close to MarkSystems® from ECi.

Totally integrated software architecture is the key to managing layers of complexity

Designed for homebuilders by homebuilders, MarkSystems provides a genuine single point of contact for the full range of home building applications—from customer and prospect management and quotes and proposals, all the way through to walk-throughs, punch lists, and post-delivery warranty work.

MarkSystems’ totally integrated architecture recognizes the complexity homebuilders deal with every day and makes managing that complexity remarkably easy. Make a change in one module and it automatically flows through the entire database, with no need to switch in and out of programs or import or export data manually.

In Alamogordo, New Mexico, French Brothers Homes has been successfully using the software since 2010.

MarkSystems scalability has allowed French Brothers to quadruple the number of homes it builds each year

“MarkSystems is an excellent piece of home building software that has become absolutely critical to our business over the past eight years,” says co-founder Jim French. “We recently reached a 100% customer enthusiasm level in all four of the markets we serve and MarkSystems played a key role in helping us reach that milestone,” he says.

There are many reasons why French is an enthusiastic MarkSystems fan, but its scalability is close to the top of the list.

French Brothers went from building 30 homes the year it transitioned to the software to somewhere north of 120 today, but the company has only needed to add one more person to its purchasing department during that time, French reports. And that’s just for starters!

MarkSystems’ builder scheduling software optimizes the company’s efficiency

MarkSystems’ delivery of reliable, real-time information ensures pricing on option packages and upgrades is calibrated to hit the company’s profitability targets. Its scheduling application keeps closing dates on track and its warranty module provides an easy way for customers to request and track work needed.

MarkSystems also allows the company’s trade partners to know what’s coming at them weeks ahead of time, making it easy to efficiently manage crews and deliveries. But as impressive as all the hi-tech bells and whistles are, they only tell part of the MarkSystems’ story.

Having reliable data security saves the company from catastrophe

“It’s the people at MarkSystems who really make the program shine,” says French. “They really care about the success of your business. When you work with MarkSystems, it’s a genuine relationship, rather than dealing with just another vendor.”

French found out the hard way just what that relationship means in December 2017, when his company fell victim to a ransomware attack.

“It was just another Friday and we were getting ready for the holidays,” French recalls. “I came into work, sat down at my computer, and got ready to log on. The only problem was my machine was locked up and so was everyone else’s.”

Initially, French and his team weren’t too concerned. They had already heard plenty of ransomware horror stories and had been conscientious about performing daily and weekly backups. Then they got hit with some more bad news: those backups may have been timely, but they had not been configured correctly and were basically unusable.

Pure luck saved the company from what could well have been near total catastrophe. “Fortunately, we had done a software update six weeks prior to the attack and as part of the update process, they (MarkSystems) made a copy of our entire database,” French explains. Even so, French and his team were still without a system to run their business. That is until MarkSystems stepped in.

“MarkSystems realized the seriousness of the situation and they jumped through hoops to get us up and running again as quickly as possible,” he recalls. “They went into total ‘whatever-it-takes’ mode for us to minimize the damage.”

In just two days, MarkSystems had taken French Brothers’ data and put it into the cloud. “The data was six weeks old, but the main thing was that we were up and running and able to start doing business again,” says French. While re-creating and reconciling the previous six weeks’ business was tedious and labor-intensive, transitioning to the cloud meant he and his team would no longer face the ransomware threat and could count on having robust data and system security.

Operating in the cloud dramatically raises staff productivity

Once the company moved to the cloud, they found additional benefits beyond just increased security. “Moving to the cloud means our system never goes down anymore,” French reports.

"Before our server would be down a couple of times a quarter and when that happened, the people at our branch locations, our supplier partners, and our customers would all lose access. Now, if there’s a problem at our main office, we’re the only ones it affects and everybody else can still use the program. With the server out of the picture, connectivity, in general, is also much faster," French reports.

Moving to the cloud has also freed up valuable staff time. “Our IT and administrative people no longer have to do daily and weekly backups, so they can focus on more important areas. In addition, we don’t have to worry about whether our backups are configured or stored properly anymore,” says French happily.

Today, the ransomware attack that could easily have spelled disaster for French Brothers is just a distant memory. When we talked to Jim French, his company had just come off its best first quarter ever, with ambitious plans to more than double business over the next three years.

“MarkSystems is vitally important for French Brothers today and it’s only going to become even more important as we grow,” he says.

What would life be like at the company without MarkSystems? “We’ll never know,” says Jim French, in a voice that suggests he may only be half-joking. “After what we’ve been through and the way MarkSystems responded, you couldn’t peel this program out of my cold, dead hands!”

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