You’re a tough crowd to please. You put demands on tools and materials that extend far beyond what a do-it-yourselfer or production builder would impose. So when one of your number has a favorite product, we take note.

Technology


EagleView Technologies

Aerial images are EagleView Technologies' specialty. The company recently merged with Pictometry, a similar company.

Charlie Graves began using Pictometry’s services early on to help differentiate his company. Sales staff could offer prospects detailed estimates quickly. “A salesman can do 10 estimates in the time it used to take him to do six—and do it more accurately,” Graves says.

Gone are the days of Graves’ salespeople climbing all over a roof to get an exact measurement. That took a lot of time, and as salespeople aged, it became more difficult. “If a person has a simple up-and-over roof and they have a garage there might be four different planes,” Graves says. “On a new house there might be 26 roof planes. When you’re selling a roof or ordering materials ... you’ve got metals, underlayment, you might want to measure gutters, the ridge cap. There are a lot of things that take a lot of time for a salesperson to make an order list for materials.” Within 24 to 48 hours of logging in to EagleView on his computer and inputting a property address, Graves can see a schematic of the structure and roof pitch, with an error ratio of about 2%, he says. His sales reps do field measurements to check accuracy. EagleView reports (which are about eight pages in length) show aerial photos from each direction as well.

EagleView also recently introduced QuickSquares, a less expensive program with shorter reports, which Graves anticipates will boost the popularity of the service.

Charlie Graves, principal
Graves Bros. Home Improvements
Rochester, N.Y.


Microsoft 365

Once Dave Merrick had made the decision to move all his company’s files from the server to the cloud, there was no going back. He chose Microsoft 365, a subscription-based service, to replace his server. And now, he says, “I don’t need IT people or tech support because it’s all part of Microsoft. If something goes wrong, I call them. It’s a different level of tech support. They respond right away.”

Merrick gets access to Microsoft’s usual suite of products—Excel, Word, PowerPoint, and OneNote—but also gets SharePoint, a team site that his company uses daily. He can access documents from anywhere at any time. “If we have a power failure in the office, I can work remotely. If I’m at the International Builders’ Show in Vegas, for example, I can be as connected as I want to be,” Merrick says.

It’s the access to SharePoint that Merrick really likes: “I use it to track leads and to manage clients through custom lists that I’ve set up. Our whole pipeline is there—what’s a lead, what’s in production.” He adds that Microsoft 365 is more cost-effective than other builder software programs and is custom.

Using it has saved Merrick time and money, he claims. “It’s become the backbone of our business.”

Dave Merrick, president
Merrick Design and Build

Kensington, Md.


Apple iPad

Job binders that contain purchase orders, specifications, and blueprints for each project take up a lot of paper. John Gemmi thought there should be an easier way to store and access this information, so he enlisted technology. Each of Gemmi’s four lead carpenters now has an iPad. The result: the demise of the hard-copy job binder; the iPads now hold all that information, and staffers don’t have to hand off a bulky binder to another lead who might need to step in for them on a job. “They can read specs and prepare for the job the night before,” Gemmi says. “We’re pretty much paper-free in the field.”

The leads also use their iPads for doing their timecards using Numbers—Apple’s version of Excel. Every task is coded and the leads use a template to record their work at the end of each day. “On Monday morning they email into a timecard email account that goes directly to our production manager,” Gemmi says.

He also likes the iPad’s camera. “You can upload a picture right into Dropbox,” Gemmi says. And “a lot of times we’ll share folders with our clients,” many of whom live in New York City but have second homes in Gemmi’s market. “We upload and share pictures with them. They can see progress. We do virtual walk-throughs using Facetime.”

Similar to the iPhone and its applications, Gemmi likes the iPad for its larger screen size and nearly every client has an iPad or smartphone. “iPad, Dropbox, and FaceTime have really changed the way we communicate with the field and our clients.”

John Gemmi, owner
Gemmi Construction
Bucks County, Pa.



iPhone Applications

Michael Sauri describes his Apple iPhone as an “incredible tool” that he uses more and more. He has 60 apps—most for work—on his phone. Among them are apps for voice dictation; taking geo-tagged, time-stamped photos; shuttling documents; drawing sketches using his finger; marking up photos and documents; and taking 360-degree photos of a jobsite.

He loves apps but chooses them carefully. “The tool has to allow for the work to get done,” Sauri says, but he measures the benefits in more than just efficiency. “Ten years ago, how big a bag would I have needed to carry all this stuff with me?” he asks. “If you can give yourself the courage to grab hold of some of these new things, you’ll find you have more time. ... You can spend more time on your jobsite and your guys and, oh, because you’re done, you can go home earlier and be with your family. And that’s kind of the point.”

Michael Sauri, co-owner
TriVista USA
Arlington, Va.