Ep.50: Choosing Estimating Software with Jef Forward

Estimating accurately is critical to the success of any remodeling business. As you grow your business or hand off estimating to an employee, having the right system in place is paramount. It can feel like an overwhelming decision — there’s so much software available. The wrong decision will cost you lost revenue, but even worse — lost time.

Fortunately, there’s a simple strategy to help you navigate this very important decision.

In this episode, Jef Forward talks about estimating software with Tim and Steve. He’s worked with several estimating software packages and systems over the years, and shares what he’s learned.

Jef Forward is the founder — and co-owner with his wife Monica — of Forward Design Build Remodel in Ann Arbor, MI. For more than 20 years, Jef has performed every role within the company, including designer, laborer, carpenter, bookkeeper and estimator — you name it, he’s done it. Now with 24 employees, Jef has two full-time estimators.

Start your decision-making by looking at two factors — getting the estimate itself right and how the program’s output will be presented to someone other than the estimator — especially your clients. The first step is to not look at any software, Jef says. You can get distracted by all the bells and whistles of new programs and miss whether it will really work for you. He talks about the vetting process, what it can do for your estimating, and some of his favorite software choices, including:

  • How to create a Process & Needs document
  • Integrations with other programs
  • Deciding on must-haves and nice-to-haves
  • Mixing and matching vs. all-inclusive systems
  • Not looking for quick fixes
  • Evaluating and testing
  • Who to involve in making choices
  • The fine art of guessing
  • What to do by hand vs. what’s automatic
  • Slicing and dicing information
  • Client presentations and reports
  • And more …

Choosing the right estimating software for your company depends on many factors, but the work done up front will ensure you’re not saddled with a system that doesn’t fit. Taking the time and involving the team will help you make the right pick.

Tell Us More!

Do you have a suggestion for a topic or guest for an upcoming episode? Send Tim an email: tim@remodelersadvantage.com.

Listen to Episode 50 >>

The Good and Bad of BYOD, and Why You Need a Policy

BYOD, or Bring Your Own Device, is common in small- to medium-sized organization like remodeling companies. Your employees use their own phones, tablets, and sometimes laptops in their business operations.

A CBS MoneyWatch survey says more than 67% of workers use one or more of their own devices at work, and that doesn’t seem to be going away soon.

The Pros

There are advantages — the company doesn’t have to provide these devices, saving you money. Your team can respond to situations as they crop up during the day, especially when on a job-site or in transit.

They’re probably using tools they’re familiar with. It can be tough to pry an iPhone out of a dedicated user’s hand and have them happy to use an Android, for example. Trying to get a designer who’s worked on a Mac forever comfortable on a PC may take time you don’t have.

There’s no learning curve with familiar operating systems, and people are happy to use the devices they already chose. If their tech is current and able to do what needs to be done, it’s sometimes best to just let them use what they know.  

The Cons

Security of files and information is harder to ensure with BYOD. Using administrator-controlled cloud-based data storage systems like the Google suite, Dropbox, CoConstruct, and BuilderTrend, for example, add a layer of security. If an employee leaves the company, simply deleting or deactivating the account keeps your business information from walking into a competitor’s business.

Be careful with those accounts, though. With general apps like Google and Dropbox, opt for the professional or business programs, that allow the administrator to add or limit permissions for editing or deleting documents or data. With no limits on permissions, a careless or disgruntled former employee could wipe out years of business information.

Have a Policy in Place

You should have a mobile device policy in your employee manual — whether you supply the devices or your workers are using their own. It should address personal business on company time, passwords for security, and inappropriate use. That could involve posting something client-related on Facebook, say, or offensive posts on social media.

In this hyper-connected world, your employees are always a reflection on you. Take some time to ensure it’s a good one.

[Podcast] Episode 28: The Dos and Don’ts of Implementing Technology with Donny Wyatt

Technology is critical to boosting efficiency and ensuring scalability for remodelers and builders, but tech isn’t the answer to everything. It’s hard to know where to start, and what problems tech can solve for you. Too often, you purchase an expensive program, people don’t use it, and it gets shelved.

In this episode, Victoria and Mark talk the dos and don’ts of tech with Donny Wyatt, the founder and CEO of CoConstruct, a web-based project management system for custom builders and remodelers.

Back in 2005, Donny was a homeowner who had a typical, but frustrating, building experience, and used that inspiration to create a web-based system to help custom builders and remodelers serve their clients better. Today, CoConstruct has been named the No. 1 software of its type by SoftwareAdvice and Finances online. Donny leads a team of nearly 100 employees serving 5,000 customers across North America and beyond.

The biggest key to successfully implementing a software solution is to start small, advises Donny, and pick one or two key problems to solve. Then use your sales skills to get buy-in from your team, concentrating on one or two key players — a driver and a curmudgeon. Donny tells you how to do that, as well as:

  • Figuring out what problems you need to solve
  • How to get past the human speedbumps
  • The positive side effects of the right software
  • Why a tech problem may really be a leadership problem
  • Using tech to make your clients’ experiences outstanding
  • When to keep going through a puddle
  • And a whole lot more…

This is lively episode packed with information you can use today. You can learn more about CoConstruct with just a click.

Click Here to Listen to Episode 28 >>


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And as always, if you have a topic that you would like us to cover or know of an industry contact, author or thought-leader that you think others would like to hear from, let us know.


Small Business Cyber Threats – Are You at Risk?

Cyber Attacks and Threats only happen to the big guys, right? Banks, .COM Retailers, big corporations, right?

Not so fast…. You’re at risk more than ever and it’s only going to get worse…

The reality is that as the big companies spend millions on cyber security, the bad guys are now setting their sights on easier targets… YOU! The Small Business guy!

According to companies like Verizon and UPS Capital:

  • Almost two-thirds of all cyber attacks are now directed at small business & Individuals.
  • 61% of breaches hit small businesses last year, up from the previous year’s 53%.
  • Cyber attacks cost small businesses an average of between $84K – $148K per incident.
  • 60% of small businesses go out of business within six months of an attack.
  • 90% of small business don’t use data protection for company & customer information.

So what can you do to protect yourself? I’m not going to get technical here but I CAN break it down to two things to start off with.

  1. Protect your Data – that means working with your “computer guy” – whether it’s someone on staff or a vendor – and get security software installed on ALL of your computers, phones, tablets.. yep those too! Anything that connects to the internet in the office or in the field.
  2. Back-up your Data – Whether it’s a portable drive that you take with you off-site every night, or perhaps an online service like Carbonite, Crashplan or even DropBox… that backs up your data so it can’t be attacked or held hostage.

There’s so much more to this but hopefully this has you paying attention to it… Talk with your IT person or vendor to make sure you are protected and work with your team to:

  • Be aware and informed
  • Know the policies and procedures that your team will be following
  • Know the warning signs to look for if hacked and the steps that need to be taken if it does happen to your business.

Anyone out there experience a hack or have you taken some additional precautions you want to share? Please share your experience in the comments below.

Thanks, and I’ll see you next Thursday.

6 Must-have Tech Tools for the Jobsite

Today’s remodeling business owners are taking advantage of the latest mobile technology to stay up to date with real-time reporting, job costing, and labor time tracking. Keeping in touch with your employees, and on top of materials and equipment are easier than ever before with these new tech tools. Here are some recent tech advances that can further enhance your mobile business operations.

1. Inside Your Vehicle

Most new cars and trucks are now equipped with 4G LTE wireless data networks, keeping you connected to internet access anywhere. LTE, short for Long Term Evolution, allows mobile users to enjoy download speeds up to five times faster than 3G. Now your car really is your second office.

OtterBox2. Strapped

The next generation of rugged tablet cases have strapped on the new OttorBox Utility Series Latch II, for tablets. Known for their durability and long-lasting materials, OttorBox’s new Series Latch case straps on to your rugged case to enhance your tablet with greater portability. In your hand, around a headrest or on a table, the Utility Series Latch II tablet carrying case works everywhere.

3. Heavy Duty Tablet Case

The Rugged QX NXT XX-Large Heavy Duty case is custom fit, heavy duty, durable case is perfect for jobsites. It features a detachable swivel belt clip. It’s engineered for Samsung Galaxy Note 4, but the specs will fit similar tablets.

battery pack4. Stay Powered Up

Keep your wireless devices charged with the latest in power supply options with this four port USB External Battery Pack. The four ports are perfect for sharing power with your crew.

And the Limefuel Blast batteries can charge twice as fast as other external batteries on the market.

5. Wearables

Spurred by the “impending” release of the Apple Watch, wearable technology seems to be one of the most promising new developments for construction/remodeling especially in the context of worker safety.

Smart hard hats will be able to detect and report impacts or falls and when they are not worn in a hazardous area. Smart safety vests can report in real-time vitals, body temperature, repetitive motions, and location.

Smart safety glasses by XOEye Techologies come equipped with a camera, microphone, speaker, detachable flash drive, and wireless antenna. They can be worn by new and inexperienced field workers to be “the eyes” for experienced veterans to identify and solve problems in hard to reach areas while, at the same time, providing on the job training.

6. Lost Your Android Phone?

If you’ve lost your Android phone, now it is easier than ever to locate and recover it. All that is required is to type “find my phone” into Google Search from a desktop browser. Just be sure that you are logged into the same Google account on the browser as you are on the phone, and that you have the latest version of the Google app installed on your phone. After you’ve successfully done the search, Google will display the location of the phone on a map and even offer to ring it for you. This is especially useful when your phone is “hiding” in your truck or toolbox! But don’t wait too long, the phone has to be powered up!


Whether sending electronic time cards from your truck or reading your most recent emails, your jobsite is an extension of your office’s operations. Staying flexible with mobile devices and accessories can give you the competitive edge to keep your business successful.

How does your company utilize technology to enhance operations? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below!