MarkSystems Home Construction Software Provides Solid Platform for Growth for Texas Homebuilder
In McAllen, Texas, Nick Rhodes and his team at Esperanza Homes have got a tiger by the tail. They’ve gone from just 32 homes in 2015 to 100 in 2017 and right now, they’re on track to double that number in 2018!
It’s the kind of growth that all too often ends up putting both the company and its workers under enormous pressure. Margins and cash flow suffer and everyone from top management on down ends up feeling like they’re just one phone call away from a total meltdown.
Business quadruples with the help of MarkSystems residential construction software
Talk to Nick Rhodes about life these days at Esperanza and it doesn’t take long to figure out that problems like these aren’t even on his radar screen. “We’ve pretty much quadrupled our business over the past three years, but our margins have remained stable and our people are handling the extra workload just fine,” he reports happily.
There are a number of factors behind the remarkable success story that is Esperanza Homes. But, as Rhodes makes clear, its use of the MarkSystems® home building management program from ECi Software Solutions is at the top of the list.
“We wouldn’t have been able to grow the way we have without MarkSystems,” Rhodes says. “We would probably need at least an extra three or four employees and would certainly not have as much control over our margins as we do today. MarkSystems has not only increased productivity throughout our organization, but it has also helped make our already strong customer satisfaction scores even stronger.”
Esperanza Homes started using MarkSystems in August 2017 after two years of using the Buildertrend program.
As a data-driven builder, the company needed comprehensive analytics and business insight
“Buildertrend is good software in many ways, but it really couldn’t take us where we wanted to go,” Rhodes explains. “We needed an integrated system with the ability to automate processes as much as possible and scale with us as we grew. In addition, we’re a very data-driven organization and that means we also require a program that allows us to generate reports and analytics on virtually every aspect of our operations quickly and easily.”
With MarkSystems, he says, Esperanza Homes got all that and then some!
Rhodes had no special IT training before getting into the home building business, but with MarkSystems’ technical support team and the wealth of online training and technical manuals available, that hasn’t been a problem.
“The folks at MarkSystems did a great job of learning about us as a business when we were preparing to implement the program,” says Rhodes. “They not only figured us out very quickly, they also gave us some great advice based on some of the best practices they’d seen at other homebuilders on how to use the software. And as we got ready to go live, they kept us on track and made sure our data migrated over problem-free.”
And once Esperanza started putting MarkSystems to work, Rhodes and his entire management team gained far more visibility into the company and its performance than they ever had before.
Custom home building reporting capabilities improve all aspects of operations
“It’s not hard to learn and we’ve gotten very good at building custom reports in MarkSystems that allow us to track virtually everything that’s going on in the company,” he explains. “We can pull reports just about any way we want—by house, by subdivision or by superintendent—and it all comes through in real-time and in a way that’s easy to understand. With MarkSystems, we can identify any variance in budget or performance and move quickly to address it before it becomes a problem.”
The sales team is one of the biggest users of MarkSystems
And all that’s just for starters! The benefits MarkSystems has brought to daily operations at Esperanza Homes begin with the sales process and flow all the way through to closings and warranty work, Rhodes explains. The company’s salespeople, he says, have become some of the program’s biggest users. “Every home option is pre-priced in the system so it’s very easy for our sales team to sit down with a client, work through all their structural and design options, and price everything out as they go.”
Automating manual processes results in substantial productivity gains—and less paperwork!
With MarkSystems’ ability to interface with the DocuSign digital transaction management program, 100% of the company’s contracts are now generated automatically in the system. This eliminates all the human errors that used to creep in when contracts were prepared manually.
Once the contract has been signed and work begins on the new house in earnest, MarkSystems make sure things flow smoothly. “With our old system,” Rhodes remembers, “every house start would involve hours spent manually doing all the estimates and getting all the budgets together. With MarkSystems, we just do the floor plan once and it saves everything, including the options, so it all becomes an automated process every time afterwards. That’s a huge productivity gain.”
Once the floor plan and options have been finalized, the selections automatically populate the necessary purchase orders, so there’s no double data entry and no opportunity for errors to creep in. And when a purchase order is uploaded, it attaches to a schedule of activity which not only allows everyone involved to plan their time more efficiently, but also provides automatic trigger points for the project superintendent to pay off the various trades and subcontractors.
Before switching to MarkSystems, Rhodes recalls his superintendents would accumulate literally thousands of paper purchase orders in the course of a week that they would have to manually sign and turn in to the company’s accounting department for processing. Not anymore! With MarkSystems, the superintendent can approve completed work from the field and the check gets run with just a couple of mouse clicks.
“Before, it would take us days to process all the invoices, get the approvals and cut the checks. We were always missing things just because of the sheer volume of POs we were dealing with,” says Rhodes. “With MarkSystems, all that is now 100% automated, so we not only need fewer people in purchasing and accounting but our superintendents can spend more time on other, more important areas like quality control and customer service.”
Once 10 jobs was a stretch to handle, but now 20 wouldn’t be overwhelming
MarkSystems enables the company’s superintendents to take on more projects. “We used to think handling 10 jobs at a time would be enough for our superintendents, but with MarkSystems, we have a couple of guys who are currently running 18 jobs and they’re doing just fine,” Rhodes reports proudly. “They’re not overwhelmed and they’re enjoying it.”
The supers aren’t the only ones finding life a whole lot easier thanks to MarkSystems.
The Internet ToolKit cloud-based project management software keeps company, clients, and contractors on task
The Internet ToolKit (ITK), MarkSystems’ cloud-based project management program, has taken communications with subcontractors and clients to a whole new level. “Our subcontractors have been amazed by how much the ITK is helping them,” says Rhodes. “For example, the cabinet guy can log in on Monday, go to calendar view and see every activity he has coming up in every subdivision, on every day for the week ahead. On Tuesday morning, he can log in again and see what we’re going to be paying him for when we issue checks on that Friday. The ITK is not only helping subcontractors manage their time more effectively, but it’s also invaluable for their cash flow analysis.”
Rhodes points out, his own accounting people are now spending a whole lot less time dealing with subcontractors calling to find out their payment schedule or trying to track down missing invoices.
Managing warranty work—another aspect of the operation that used to be time-consuming and labor-intensive—is also so much easier since moving to MarkSystems, says Rhodes. “With MarkSystems, we have a homeowner portal on our website where the client can submit warranty requests and track progress on the work. Once the work is completed, Esperanza’s warranty manager can create a warranty purchase order in the system, approve it for payment, and it generates a check.”
MarkSystems home building software will help Esperanza Homes hit future growth targets
The way Esperanza Homes operates today is light years ahead of how things were when Rhodes joined the company in 2014. The days of never really knowing for sure just how well the business was performing are long gone and the accounting and purchasing staff are no longer drowning in paperwork and wasting valuable hours on duplicate data entry and cleaning up endless human errors.
Instead, there’s a new sense of confidence throughout the company in its ability to handle just about any surprises the market may deliver and still keep its aggressive growth curve heading in the right direction.
“We’re aiming for 280 homes in 2019 and 350 by 2020 and we feel very comfortable about our ability to reach those goals,” says Rhodes. “MarkSystems is not only making everything run smoothly today, but it’s also giving us a very positive, optimistic outlook that we can hit our future growth targets, too.”