All posts by Nate Joy

About Nate Joy

Nate is the Co-founder and Owner along with his wife Terra. Nate joined the team full-time in Spring 2017 with 10+ years of Project Management/Business Analysis experience. He works with clients on process improvement and software implementation.

Tools of the Trade Post #1: Procore

Year end is quite a busy time, and it’s been a while since we’ve posed a blog at Joy Accounting. But never fear, a new year is upon us, and new posts are coming!

In fact, we’re kicking off the year with a new series called ‘Tools of the Trade’, in which we will review a number of tools (or ‘apps’) that we recommend and help implement for our clients. The title is a play on Tim Ferriss’ book, ‘Tools of Titans’, in which Ferriss interviews many high achievers in different fields to understand the secrets of their success. Like Ferriss, we at Joy Accounting are constantly researching, analyzing, and selecting different tools to enhance the success of our contractors and trade-related customers. We find that when the right tool is matched up to the right business need, magic can happen!

In this first blog of the series, we’ll be examining Procore. Please feel free to comment or let us know about your experiences with Procore as well!

What is Procore?

It’s difficult to be in the construction field for long without running into someone who is using Procore. In fact, it is the most widely used construction management software in the world.

Many apps that we utilize focus on doing a few things well; this is not how Procore is designed. In fact, there are so many aspects to Procore that you really need to become an expert in the tool in order to maximize your success. Here is just a sampling of what Procore does:

  • Management of your project portfolio and high level settings that apply across every project
  • Construction financials management, including processing of Prime Contracts and Commitments (Subcontracts), management of the monthly draw process, and creation and tracking of change orders
  • Everything Superintendents need to track quality and safety, including inspections, observations, punch list, and daily logs
  • Everything else Project Managers needed to manage the project, from sending out bids to submitting RFI’s (Requests for Information) to updating drawings to managing the schedule.

Procore is an amazing tool for a contractor because he or she has all the needed tools to manage the project itself and everything needed to manage relationships on both sides of the project (Owners on one side, Subcontractors on the other). When implemented in the right way, it truly is an end-to-end solution for large-scale projects. Let’s talk about our perspective of the ‘right way’ to implement Procore.

What We’ve Learned about Procore

As you saw in our last post, “The Fast-Growing General Contractor“, Procore is a key solution that enables our client, Bob the GC, to manage his set of projects. As Bob’s key partner and accountant, the Joy Accounting team has invested a lot of blood, sweat, and tears developing expertise in Procore (okay, maybe not ‘blood’).

We’d like to share our learning with you. Here are the top 6 things we consider essential for any General Contractor (or Owner) who is thinking about Procore:

  1. You can’t go halfway with Procore. Investing in Procore is an all-or-nothing proposition. Technically you can utilize some tools and not others, but we believe that if you are paying for this system (which is not cheap) you should just go all the way and use most of the tools available.
  2. Along with #1, although technically you can pay for Procore on an annual basis, we wouldn’t recommend getting started unless you are sure you can give it 3 years to work for you. Year 1 might be rough, but it’ll get better – and it’s important to remember that there is always pain associated with change. In this case the pain you experience at first will likely be worth it if you stay the course.
  3. You have to be able to get ALL stakeholders on board. It goes without saying that all internal employees need to actively participate in the system, but you also need to get Owners and Subcontractors firmly on board. Many stakeholders will be resistant because they are used to doing things a certain way, and others won’t be comfortable using such a technology-first approach. Before you take the plunge, analyze whether you think you can sell this to all stakeholders. Once you purchase Procore you must become an advocate/salesman for Procore as your success depends on everyone else using the tool.
  4. Reward Procore compliance in your contracts. This goes with #3. When everyone uses Procore to the full extent, people are on the same page, processes run smoothly, and everyone is happy. When stakeholders decide they don’t like the system and refuse to use it, duplication of effort and wasted time can occur. Ensuring that Owners and Subcontractors utilize Procore is critical to your overall success, so our recommendation is to write your contracts accordingly.
  5. Ensure your business processes are in place. Like any app, Procore is just a piece of technology. Before you even implement the technology, you need to ensure you have solid business processes that you plan on using. Then you can configure Procore based on the processes you want to use. Don’t expect Procore to be able to tell what your processes should be. This is really homework that a contractor and his or her team needs to do on their own – regardless of whether Procore is used.
  6. Make someone on your team the ‘Procore expert’. It is absolutely critical that your team has an expert in Procore who is staying current on updates to the tool and ensuring that your company is utilizing Procore the way that it should. Procore cannot be treated like an afterthought, and it’s also not something that you can learn just once. You need to continue learning, and we believe the best way to do that is ensure that part of one of team member’s job description is to be the Procore expert.

Top 5 Reasons a General Contractor Should Consider Procore

  1. The monthly draw process is a big pain and a Subcontractor or Owner isn’t getting paid on time.
  2. Change orders are getting lost or are difficult to track.
  3. The tools you are currently using on the job site aren’t giving you enough data, or aren’t working well for your Superintendents.
  4. You feel out of control, are tired of chasing papers all over the place, or don’t have the data you need at your fingertips to make decisions.
  5. You understand the value of spending a fair amount of money on technology, and you are willing to put in the time to maximize your investment.

Top 5 Reasons a General Contractor Should Not Consider Procore

  1. You have very little ability to control whether or not your stakeholders (Owners, Subcontractors, etc.) end up using the system.
  2. You don’t have the time to devote to learning a new system (although, conversely, this could be a symptom that shows that you really need it!).
  3. Your operation is really small or you would only think you would use a small number of the tools within Procore.
  4. You are not comfortable with technology.
  5. Everything is already working smoothly without Procore!

Where Does Joy Accounting Fit?

One of the themes that we will continue to revisit in our posts is that, while keeping books clean is a critical part of our services, it is far from all that Joy Accounting does for our clients. Our work with Bob the GC and Procore illustrates this point.

As mentioned above, it’s critical to have your business processes in place. When we started working with Bob, he had a relatively new operation. He had a lot of information locked in his brain about how he wanted things to work, but nothing was on paper. Over the next couple of months Joy Accounting worked with Bob to lay the groundwork for how he would ultimately want to use Procore. This involved the following:

  • Interviewing Bob and getting all the processes in his brain on paper, in the form of process diagrams. This covered items like the monthly draw, change orders, RFI’s, and much more.
  • Putting together packets for each stakeholder type (Owner, Subcontract, etc) detailing everything they needed to know about utilizing Procore. These packets included both information that was specific to Bob’s implementation of Procore and great resources from Procore (videos, etc.) about how to use the tool.
  • Training internal staff on how to use Procore.

With the building blocks in place, Bob was able to start utilizing Procore to the full. Since then, Joy Accounting has been working alongside Bob and his team to ensure that the processes are continually followed.

Currently we are at the 1-year mark into the Procore implementation. As mentioned, the first year can be challenging. There is a LOT of learning to be done. However, it’s clear that there are so many benefits to utilizing this system. There is no longer any question about where a change order is, or who is responsible for it. Subcontractors have clear, system-mandated dates to submit bills, ensuring everyone is paid on time. RFI’s are assigned to the correct person, and issues are resolved in a timely manner. We’re still at the point in which it is sometimes difficult to quantify the benefits; but there is no question that Procore has brought a lot of order into the situation.

One thing to keep in mind if you are considering Procore is that the system is designed to meet the ‘most’ needs for the ‘most’ customers. Practically, this means that some of your ‘custom’ needs may not be met, at least right away. Procore does have a custom development team, and they certainly try to meet your requirements. However, at the end of the day it is just a piece of software – and if your needs are too far out of their box it might go unmet, and you may have to make changes in your business to accommodate (or consider workarounds). This factor is important to if your business has a lot of unusual or ‘out-of-the-box’ processes.

The bottom line is this: it’s never easy to take on a new system like Procore. But if you are aware of potential pitfalls, and you have completely bought in to the system, it can revolutionize your business. Please let us know if you have any questions!

 

 

Case Study #1: The Fast-Growing General Contractor

My favorite thing about running a small business is the opportunity to work with business owners, each with their own unique set of challenges. At Joy Accounting, we don’t just focus on getting books straight (although that is important!); we also replace sub-optimal business processes and create new ones, suggest and implement technology solutions, and work with our clients every step of the way to ensure people, process, and technology are all in sync.

In other words, while we certainly focus on the important metrics (revenue, profitability, etc.), we spend a lot of time getting to the root of WHY the metrics are what they are. Oftentimes we find that a few small process tweaks paired with the perfect technology leads to vast improvements, and can completely make the difference between ‘barely making it’ and ‘thriving’.

To illustrate this point, in the coming months we will be providing short case studies to show how we design solutions based on the unique requirements of our clients. We’ll start with our largest General Contractor, which we’ll rather uncreatively refer to as ‘Bob the GC’ for the remainder of the post.

The Fast-Growing General Contractor

Setting the Scene: Bob the GC discovered Joy Accounting within the first year of starting his contracting business. In this case, we had the opportunity to design the solution from the ground up instead of analyzing existing processes.

Bob was also unique because of the scale he was quickly looking to reach. His plan was to scale from virtually zero in revenue to $10 million USD in the first year, on up to $30 million in the second year. This is larger than our typical client and represented a challenge for Joy Accounting. How could we provide the entire back-end accounting solution at such a scale and ensure our client wouldn’t miss a beat? Before we got to the ‘how’, we needed to understand Bob’s core issues.

The Issues: Some initial discussions revealed that there were a host of challenges Bob would have as he scaled up his business, as follows:

  • Tracking and ensuring proper approval and timely payment for change orders
  • Managing the bidding process
  • Bringing order to the unwieldy monthly draw process, ultimately ensuring everyone is paid on time for completed work
  • Finding a project management system that would track everything and leverage repeatable processes in a way that would save time
  • Designing an accounting solution that would accurately track things like labor costs, receipts, etc. while receiving funds and providing payment in a timely manner
  • On-going CFO-level guidance and direction

After understanding the issues, it quickly became clear that the client needed an end-to-end business solution, not just an ‘accounting’ solution. Joy Accounting was more than ready to meet the need!

Designing the Solution

  • Technology – QuickBooks Online (QBO) is the core accounting system that we use with all our clients, but it doesn’t do everything that is needed. To meet this need, QuickBooks has a lot of partner apps. While this is great, it can also be overwhelming. Thankfully, since we focus on the construction industry, we already have a list of ‘go to’ apps that we turn to first for our clients (although we are continually evaluating if these are still meeting the need). Sometimes we investigate new or different apps based on client need, which was the case for Bob with Procore. The suite of apps that we landed on for Bob are as follows:
    • Procore – This is the best-of-class construction project management system in the world, and it handles most of Bob’s issues listed above. It keeps everyone on track in the all-important monthly draw process and so much more (including some nifty on-site tools for Superintendents).
    • Bill.com – This is really the only app we’ve found that does a great job at paying bills. It saves so much time and hassle!
    • T-Sheets – Everyone loves T-Sheets for time tracking. It’s intuitive and easy to use on the go, and it provides great reports.
    • Karbon – This is an internal task management tool that we use at Joy Accounting. One of the cool features is that we can send tasks to our clients via the tool. This helps Bob stay on track with all the miscellaneous tasks we need him to do throughout the week.
  • Process – Technology is only as good as the processes that a company implements. As mentioned earlier, Bob had only recently formed his company. So, although he was starting to use Procore (a great construction project management system) he really needed to define his processes so that he could leverage Procore in the best way possible. And this is where Joy Accounting came in again.

We worked with Bob to build out process flow diagrams for each of his most important processes. This work memorialized information that, until then, had existed only in Bob’s head. Getting this all on paper was a critical first step to scaling the business. Additionally, it defined how we needed to ‘tweak’ the system to make it work for his business. And it helped us define how exactly we needed to use the other apps mentioned above in the overall flow (such as Bill.com)

  • People – Getting the processes and technology in place is only 2/3 of the battle; it’s critical that employees are on board as they will play a large role in determining overall success. Since we got the people and technology in place, we have been organizing trainings with various stakeholder groups such as Superintendents and Subcontractors – sometimes with Procore leading, sometimes with us leading.

Results: We are at the tail end of our first full year of working together with Bob. Getting the kind of people, processes, and technology in place and finely tuned is a bit like building a house. You have the design in mind, but there are many unforeseen challenges that come up and require tweaking. And we have certainly experienced some of those difficulties throughout the first year. However – Joy Accounting’s focus on Bob’s people, process, and technology has acted as a blueprint that we continually point to and drive toward.

As 2017 winds down, Bob is close to meeting his revenue goals this year and, as mentioned earlier, is looking towards tripling this number in 2018. It will not be easy, but we all believe that Bob can scale that next mountain with the partnership of Joy Accounting!