STACK Construction Technologies CEO Phil Ogilby joined the industry in 1984 when he launched his first construction contracting company, doing residential and later commercial work. STACK got its start in 2008 and, in the years between, Ogilby had a prominent role in creating estimating software that measures using a digitizer or on-screen measurements, developing (at the turn of the century) an online portal allowing general contractors to share plans and specs with subcontractors via the internet, and merging both these ventures with an online plan room to form iSqFt, now a ConstructConnect company.
Ogilby knows his stuff when it comes to roofing and contracting technology and has the boots-on-the-ground experience to back it up. Let's see what he had to say about how to use technology to your advantage.
How can advanced technology impact a roofing contractor's business and bottom line?
Ogilby: I started my career as a roofing contractor in Dayton, Ohio, and I know how difficult it can be to find and sustain financial success as a contractor. Historically, building trades contractors have had among the highest failure rates of any industry. Most experts will tell you that one of the biggest reasons for that is a reluctance to invest in technology.
Today, materials are more expensive than ever, but so is labor. Therefore, investing in technology is absolutely crucial to helping contractors grow their business while keeping more of what they earn by increasing accuracy and efficiency. Industry surveys indicate that successful contractors typically spend between 1%–2% of their gross revenue on technology.
What is the most significant difference contractors experience when switching from traditional estimating practices to using software for takeoff and estimating?
Ogilby: The single biggest comment we hear is the difference in speed. Typically, our users report as much as a 10-times increase in the speed at which they can complete a typical takeoff and estimate versus manual methods. Increased bid volume directly leads to increased top-line revenue.
If you think about it, the contracting business is about bidding on as many opportunities that fit your specialty as possible. Some might say each time you submit a proposal, you are "flipping a coin." However, technological solutions like STACK and others help you flip a lot more coins in less time.
Why is it essential to have a minimal learning curve for users implementing new technology in their roofing business?
Ogilby: There is a general reluctance to embrace technology, primarily because it means contractors must change some aspect of their behavior. Change is difficult for most of us. Our focus as a proponent of new and useful technology from day one has been to keep it as simple as possible, despite the complexity of the task. Making tech easy to use drives more user adoption.
How will cloud-based software solutions change the construction industry in the next five or 10 years?
Ogilby: Great question! One thing we talk about internally is that as our users estimate more and more projects inside of our solution, they are building a library of historical data they can tap into for future use. The bigger the data set of projects inside the program, the more information we have to help you understand where you should focus in terms of project type, customer, location, margins and more.
We've also found that easy access to more historical data equals better decisions—and a more successful operation.
What is the most unique business advice you've ever given or received, and how do you put it into practice?
Ogilby: I've been in the industry for a long time now. One thing I have always believed is that tomorrow can and will be better than today and that I have the power to make it so. I realize that might sound simple, but that fundamental belief and understanding is perhaps the most important "superpower" one can possess. When applied day after day for years, you can move mountains.