The ConTechCrew 238: “You Can’t Boil The Ocean All At Once!” with Mallorie Brodie from Bridgit Solutions
Geek of the Week
Construction Tech News
Construction is the world’s oldest industry but spends the least amount of money on innovation. When we realized people outside and inside the industry, did not typically associate with technology like virtual reality, apps, and robotics, we started The ConTechCrew. Each week we bring our listeners the latest in ConTech news and interview the minds behind the technological innovations, changing the way we build.
So, strap in, enjoy the ride, and geek out.
It’s ConTechCrew time!
JAMES: Oh, I cannot believe it is the 4th quarter of 2020. And is October Jeff Sample. It is almost ski season again.
JEFF: We have had snow, man, so it is coming. And that means to me that maybe someday soon we will put 2020 in the rear-view mirror and get this thing going forward.
JAMES: Get it behind us. I do not want to think about it. It will be like a bloop. Can we just call it a whole leap year, not a leap day? This is like a leap year. Like, oh no, we went straight from 2019 to 2021. Oh, man. I do not know what happened that year. Absolutely nothing happened in that year. I mean, seriously. Oh wait, has enough snow fallen on the ground to ski yet?
JEFF: Oh no. But as usual, the race has begun, Arapahoe Basin has fired up their guns and they are blowing snow and they will be racing their neighbors around the corner of the pass there to see who opens first. It is usually between them, Copper mountain, sometimes the Southern mountains open like Wolf Creek if they get a big storm early. I skied one year at Halloween, wearing a Halloween costume. So, the race has begun.
JAMES: I would love to do Halloween snow skiing. Mallorie Brodie, you are Canadian. Do you ski?
MALLORIE: I do ski. I was going to say, I am from Canada. We all grew up skiing. I grew up close to Quebec, so Mont-Tremblant was close by and then I also did some skiing out West last year for the first time actually. I was awesome at Banff.
JAMES: Nice. Oh, Banff.
MALLORIE: I did not understand the powder thing until one day we got powder and I was like, oh, this is what everyone is talking about. It is not like you are sliding down the ice-covered hills in Quebec. So yeah, different level of skiing.
JAMES: Yeah. East coast skiing is a different deal. Now mind you, with the summer studio in Michigan, occasionally The ConTechCrew chief goes up there in the wintertime. They have ski slopes there. Quote unquote. But they are 600-900 foothills. And they are a lot of fun. It is better than having to fly all the way across the country cause it is only 30 minutes away. But it is firmly packed. There is not a lot of powder.
JEFF: The call that Pocono hardpack where I grew up.
JEFF: But Mallorie interesting, do you remember Gray Rocks, which was next to Mont-Tremblant?
MALLORIE: I do. Yeah.
JEFF: That is where I learned how to ski. I went there for three years straight, for a week each year, to learn how to ski, and that is where I fell in love with it actually. I was skiing right there. And we would go to Mont-Tremblant once every trip.
JAMES: Oh, it goes back to when you did not have to have a passport.
MALLORIE: I love skiing, but it is so cold, like the feeling of your toes and your fingers defrosting after one run is real.
JEFF: This is why I moved out here where it is always 28° and perfect. And the snow is powdery plush, and we do not go skiing on vertical ice rinks.
JAMES: Vertical ice rinks. That is awesome. Well a big reminder out there, never miss an episode by having every one of them sent straight to your email inbox when you text ConTech to 66866. Not just the audio, you are getting our weekly emailer, our link to our show notes, and the articles we discussed on the show. That is ConTech to 66866. Also remember you can text me at any time with questions, comments, suggestions. You can call this line, leave a voicemail. That is our Google voice line at (979) 473-9040 and we can play your stuff on the air. We can address your questions that come up. We get a lot of these questions. We will get a couple dozen of them when it comes close to our talk with the crew at the end of every month. So please feel free to text any questions or comments. Moving on.
According to the CDC, construction occupations have the highest rate of suicide, as well as the highest number of suicides across all occupational groups. To combat these statistics, contractors, unions, associations, industry service providers, and project owners must work together to stand up for suicide prevention. The Construction Industry Alliance for Suicide Prevention is raising awareness about the risk of suicide within the construction industry and providing suicide prevention resources, and tools, to create a zero-suicide industry. Visit PreventConstructionsSuicide.com for more information.
And back to our interview with this very special guest, she has been on the show before, back in the ’70s. Like episode 74 or whatever it was, of The ConTechTrio before we renamed it The ConTechCrew. It has been fascinating. Of course, we have covered news on Bridgit all along and it is great to have her back. Mallorie Brodie, the fantastic Canadian. So good to see you again. Thanks for coming on the show again, Mallorie.
MALLORIE: Yeah, thank you for having me. I cannot believe it has been three years, so I am excited to come back and catch up on the last few years have been.
JAMES: Yeah, it has been a dynamic situation. We had 2½ ridiculously good years of the economy being pretty superheated and construction being crazy and all kinds of great things happening. And, we had this little incident in the last six, seven months that has been an interesting situation to navigate through, but I just love to catch everybody up. If you want to hear the full interview with Mallorie, go back into the ’70s on our episode list, you can listen to that, but Mallorie just reminds everybody where you’re from and what you studied in school and what you wanted to do, and then how you ended up here.
MALLORIE: Absolutely, I am the CEO and co-founder of Bridgit. We have two products in the market now, Bridgit Field, which is for punch-list management, and Bridgit Bench, which we launched in May of 2019 for resource planning. I grew up in Ottawa, which is the capital of Canada. And my great grandfather had a rebar company. My grandfather had a demolition company. Dad was in real estate. And when I was in university at Western university, we call it university in Canada, not college. I met my business partner and she was a civil engineer, studying civil engineering and had worked at our grandfather’s company, specialty trade contractor, vector corrosion technologies. And he had sent her to 13 different states across the US going from site to site. She had learned a ton on site, but then also was very motivated to see how we could bring more technology to the industry. We got our start way back in 2014 in our final year of school.
JAMES: Nice. And construction and real estate are obviously in your blood. You have got multiple generations, kind of like me. The benefits of being business owners for a minimum of five generations that I can track now. And it has been fascinating to see kind of what my great-great-grandfather, great grandfather and grandfather, and dad did. You kind of did the same thing. You followed some footsteps that were laid before you. There is a little bit of pressure there. You are like, okay, I got to do this right. I got to do it better. I am very competitive, so I wanted to beat my dad and my grandfather, at whatever I was doing. I understand that. We interviewed you a few years ago, so a lot has changed with everything going on. I just want to start. What has been the biggest lesson in the last three years that you have learned about construction companies and the needs they had. Cause you pivoted your business model by adding another product and making it the main focus. You went from Field being the main focus to Bench being the main focus, but if you can talk through why that happened, and what you learned that led you to do that.
MALLORIE: Yeah. Going back to just the original history of Bridgit, we did over 500 onsite interviews with project managers and site supervisors to understand what some of the challenges were and landed on Bridgit Field, which was for punch-list management, as being the number one pain point that came up, and everyone said, well wasn’t it risky to start a business? What made you leap of faith? And we were like, once we heard those interviews and how much need there was for this in the industry, we could not walk away.
The company was founded on this desire to help the industry move forward based on the customer feedback we were getting. So then fast forward, when we had been in the market with Field for five years, the construction tech market had changed significantly. There are many new players in the space. Adoption of technology was much more widespread and we were like, I think we could help the industry more by investing in a new area, as opposed to just continuing to build punch list management out because there are now many more solutions in the space and this isn’t the number one way to help the industry anymore.
JAMES: And punch list management became a feature, not a product in its own right. And you never want to be in that situation in software where your entire product line is a feature of half a dozen other companies. And punch list management became a fairly common feature set out there right?
MALLORIE: Yeah. And I think that evolved a lot because initially technology was new on-site and, ultimately it was a lot to roll out, like this massive system that had 15 different modules, so point solutions were the way to go for the industry and then I think that evolved as the industry got a lot more comfortable implementing technology solutions, and it did become a feature. I agree with you.
JAMES: That is great Mallorie. Jeff, I know you have a great question to follow that up.
JEFF: Well, I know, and I love the idea there too, of pivoting, because in the beginning there were things that were now becoming (like punch lists), becoming part of other products and you have to stay ahead, but with all that you said about 500 interviews. That is getting down to the problem. And that is what I want to understand. Why is manpower scheduling fundamental to construction success, and what did you guys find was the problem you were going to solve?
MALLORIE: What I think happened was there was such a big focus on field-based software and what ended up happening was for a few years, I think the office team in some ways was neglected by construction tech vendors. They are getting totally contacted every single day about new field apps, but not for their back-office needs. When we went in to talk to CTOs and VPs of operations of the ENR 400 companies, they were like our ops team, the executive level ops team members have been asking us for manpower planning software for the last five years, and I do not have a company to send their way. Because we have not heard of anything for the construction industry.
The first company we heard that from was really interesting. And then we went out and expanded our research, talked to about 400 ENR companies, and found the need was the same across the board. And the pain point they were looking to solve was, as executive-level contact that is doing manual data entry into an Excel spreadsheet to try and keep profile history, so a person’s job history up to date there, their accreditation’s, their schedule and they have 500 people that they are trying to schedule onto different jobs, and also keep the utilization rate of their workforce high.
You do not want people on the bench all the time. You want them on projects. And so that just got complicated to track for companies once they are beyond 50 team members and so by giving them a software solution to help solve this, you can have more visualizations to picture where your team members are, all of the data can be up to date automatically through integrations, and it can be a lot more collaborative than it had been historically as well.
JEFF: That is solving a huge problem, and part of that is keeping good players on the bench and not using them. And they are costing you money when they are on the bench, they are not out there making money. It had a financial drive to it too, for them. When it comes to technology, there is always this ROI talk and sometimes it is kind of difficult, and it probably could be kind of difficult in this world where you are quantifying that, but I bet you there is some real business impact on that side.
MALLORIE: Yeah, there is. There are the time savings in the resource planning activity itself. So, what used to take 15 hours a week, we have now heard contractors taking only two hours because the information is just at the tip of their fingers, so that is great. But then it is also there have been a few aha moments when we have done certain implementations and we get all of the data into our platform and everything is visualized on these different Gantt views. And we have literally heard VPs of operations or directors of operations say, oh, I did not know these four people were not on projects right now. And of course, they did not. It is not their fault in any way. You have hundreds of people you are trying to keep track of so there are probably going to be some people that fall within the cracks. And so even that is a huge cost saving if you can just make sure that your team is being fully utilized.
JEFF: That is awesome. James, you are going to love this. It is another experience of killing Excel, right? This is my favorite topic.
JAMES: Yeah, it is my favorite topic. I call Excel the cancer of construction because it is just brutal. The vast majority of construction companies use Excel in mission-critical planning tasks every day. All of that data gets locked up and walked away in non-reportable databases. I put that in air quotes. And certainly, data security is a nightmare with Excel and collaborations are a nightmare. There is a lot of things that are good about it for ad hoc reporting that make it terrible for being a core enterprise workflow app. I want to talk about the interview process because we have a lot of folks that listen to us that are construction tech companies. And I was just a mentor with the National Science Foundation I-Corps program, which tries to get academics with great ideas to learn the basics of entrepreneurship.
It was a seven-week program. They had to do a hundred interviews and men, you are working with professors and I was mentoring professors and they are stepping outside their comfort zone. There was lots of time we had to spend teaching them how to interview people, how to ask questions that are historically facing not saying well, what would you do, say what do you do? Ask questions, do not ask them what they buy, do not talk about your product at all. Just ask them about the problems they are currently experiencing. I want you to walk through the process of asking questions, cause this is important. Both for construction tech companies listening, and for construction technologists, who listen to this show, that are trying to figure out how they discover where the real problems in their organization are. This is one of the biggest topics we have to talk about, is how do you discover where the real problems are. You have racked up some good clients on Bench, right?
MALLORIE: Yeah, we have 30, 35 ENR 400 clients and dozens of other companies outside of the ENR 400 as well.
JAMES: You are not going to close 35 ENR 400 companies. I remember when I sold SmartBid we had like 140 something in our company. I know what it takes to have to close enterprise deals with those companies. It is not easy, so you have obviously hit a nerve with the market. And it has been something they want. What is the best way to do to conduct these interviews? What did you learn about interviewing people in those 500 interviews that help you discover the real pain point?
MALLORIE: A couple of things. One, we never went in with an idea of what our solution was going to be. We went in completely openminded and we let whatever the person we are interviewing wants to talk about, we let them guide the interview in a lot of ways, so we did not go in saying, okay, I want to talk to you about our punch list solution, or I want to talk to you about resource planning. We would just go in and say, we are just looking to learn more about your day to day work and some of the challenges you may be experiencing. So do not even talk about the solution you may have in mind.
And then the second thing would just be to not ask leading questions. Things like I assume it is pretty time consuming for you to do resource planning is not something you would want to say. You would just want to ask questions that did not lead them down a path of saying that their experience was either positive or negative and wait for them to volunteer that for you. And to kind of round up what we learned about our product development is just, you cannot fall in love with your own idea. If you are out there to solve a problem, it needs to be coming from the customers that you are looking to serve. And it cannot be something that you just dreamed up in your boardroom.
JAMES: Yeah. So again, just to recap, do not ask leading questions. Do not talk about your product. Ask them where their pain points are. Do not take it personally. It is not about you. Is it? It is 100% about them.
MALLORIE: Yeah, and it is easy to encourage companies to do that, but it is incredibly rare for companies to go about the research process in that way. It has been written about in a ton of startup books and blogs and people talk about it, but it is hard when you do have a bit of an idea to go in and not mention it. So yeah, those would be our key pieces of advice.
JAMES: You got to bite your tongue and sit on your hands.
MALLORIE: What about resource planning?
JAMES: No! You do not get to talk about this. This is not something you need to talk about. But you end up on resource planning. By the way, let us dive a little bit on resource planning since you had 500 interviews about this. Not all of them were about resource planning obviously, but how are they doing it before they were using Excel sheets for resource planning?
MALLORIE: Excel sheets, whiteboards in the office, which we touched on a little bit earlier, but with COVID and people working from home that immediately did not work anymore. It was typically one person that would own this document, so it was very difficult to collaborate. Or if the person were ever to leave the company, then any succession planning around it was also pretty difficult.
JEFF: That is a big one. Succession planning. We let a lot of that valuable information walk out of the office, walk out of the job site, walk out of the company, whether it be if they are retiring or not. I mean that is an invaluable piece we try to solve so many different ways and I never even thought about that Mallorie, that that would play into resource planning too.
MALLORIE: Yeah, absolutely. When you’re thinking about maybe a director of operations or someone that’s been at a construction company for 20 or 30 years, working with many of the same site supers and project managers, they know, oh, Joe works well with Mark and Mark doesn’t work well with Josh and they know that and it does impact the quality of the resource plan. In a lot of ways, they know what teams have worked together, but it is hard to scale that if the company grows and it is hard to replace that if that team member retires or moves to a different company. So interesting to see one company, they did have in an Excel spread, 20 years of historical project assignments, and so, they uploaded that to Bench. And now when they are assigning someone to a new project, you can quickly check the history or filter on the history to be like, oh, this person worked on a hospital project. They may be a better fit for this hospital project, as opposed to pulling someone from a school project or something like that. They can leverage that historical information that is in there as opposed to having to rely on one person that just remembers.
JEFF: That is awesome. And by the way, the discussion you were having about the questions to ask was hilarious. I just read the book Running Lean by Ash Maurya, and that is totally the focus of that entire book is, do not do the leading. So, if anybody is looking to read something and follow up on what they are talking about, thanks to a guy named Rick Galleon for giving me that book. I had a conversation with him, and I just ate that book up. And it is all about, you are not leading with your own biases or else, you are just going to end up building something that nobody wants. And that is just not good in life.
MALLORIE: I will add just one more tip cause you just reminded me of it with the book. But one thing that we found was sometimes people just want it to be nice to us during the interview process when we eventually did tell them about our idea and they are like, that sounds great. You should move forward with that, even if it was an idea that clearly was not going to work. And so, one way that we tested against that was getting letters of interest signed, that said if we build this product, you are interested in paying X number of dollars to use the product, and it obviously was not like a binding agreement, but as soon as they saw that this was not just an idea, and there was going to be a price tag and they were going to be signing their name, they were like, well actually, it’s my boss that would need to make this decision, or really, I don’t know if we would ever have the budget for this, or it’s more of a nice to have, and you get a lot of honesty just by asking for this nonbinding agreement to be signed.
JAMES: Mallorie, we did the same thing last year. We have a new product called TerraClaim here because, through the construction process, we met a lot of self-insureds in the construction space cause they are big enough to self-insure. And then long story short, we are building claims software.
MALLORIE: That is awesome.
JAMES: Yeah, it is cool. It is super cool, right? I am having a blast. It is a lot of fun. We have a lot of experience in construction and insurance and it works out well. We are building claims software, and we did the same thing. Now, people are desperate to please you, right? They are desperate to just make you happy. And they know that if they just say yes, I am interested, it will make you happy. And so, even, if you will not talk about your problem, it will drive them crazy to the point they are like, tell me what product you have, cause they want to know, and then they will almost overwhelmingly say they are interested in buying it.
We did the exact same thing. We did a nonbinding and across the top, it says non-binding letter of intent. And then, in three more times through the letter, I say, non-binding, there are no consequences to not signing up. Nonbinding, nonbinding, right? And it is still the fact that they have to put ink to paper and there is a price in there too. There is an expected price. And by the way, the price is also nonbinding, right? Like it is not even saying that is absolutely, it is the expected price. We had the same experience. They would tell us, yes, we would present. I said, okay, I am going to send you a nonbinding letter of intent. Oh, well, I am going to have to run that through someone else. We have to run that through people, and it would take one, two, three. The longest took two months, from a guy who said he was absolutely interested to sign a nonbinding letter of intent that had no consequences and no teeth whatsoever, but it validated exactly what they were interested in for us.
And so it is amazing, what just the simple act of asking for a signature, and here is the tips for our listeners, Mallorie. Cause we are trying to help people right now, right? Is internally you can do letters of intent. You can do nonbinding letters of intent. If we buy this, I intend to use it. Here is the interesting thing. You are not even asking them to make the purchasing decision, but they are still having to put their ink on paper saying they intend to use it, so if they do not end up using it, they know they are in trouble, cause it is their signature on there. There is this crazy high-value people weight to their signature, is not there?
MALLORIE: Yeah, we could probably do a whole talk on just like the psychology of signing your name to something and what that means because it works well.
JEFF: Yeah, but you guys drizzled it with the right thing though. You said something critical that I know James is going to make you just smile. You put a real cost to it. Here is the thing. People will buy, if you had not put the cost, I bet you the ink to paper. Oh, I will use it. Why? Cause I am assuming it is going to be free. You have not given me a reality that you believe in A, you know the problem, B, you have a product, and C, it is worth money. And I am going to guess from the two of you listening to you, that was a reality-based number. That was not some like $100. It was based on what as best you could, really what you value that product at. That is a critical piece because if you believe those three things, you know you put that little special sauce together, it shows a few things, and James, it makes you profitable early. And we know the bootstrapping, man. It is a bootstrapping entrepreneur over there.
JAMES: Yeah, so Mallorie you will have to pardon me. I am a militant bootstrap entrepreneur; I do not hate when someone raises money, I do not hate that, but it almost makes me sad when people raise money too early because they have to give away too much of their business, you know. And so that is something that I teach all my students is like, here is how I bootstrapped. Cause we never did any fundraising rounds, and we bootstrapped our whole company for the last 20 years. And it is not a knock against fundraising because sometimes you have no choice. Like you have no option, you have to raise money and I get that. But the process you went through allows you to be very capital efficient. So even if you raise money, you do not want to waste a lot of time in your investors of money, chasing down an idea that nobody wants, right? Like solving a solution in search of a problem. By the way, I have to know. I have to ask the obvious question. Are you just going to leave it around to service the clients that are already on it or are you going to get a rehash Field as a bigger and better option?
MALLORIE: Field is a fairly mature product. It had been in the market for a while. We still have about 130 customers on that product that are continuing to sign up for new projects and we maintain the tool. We are not releasing new features all the time on it or anything, but it does do a good job of solving punch list management. And we actually had a number of customers that tried out larger solutions and come back because they wanted that point solution, the simplicity, easy to implement, good support, and everything. So yeah, like the R&D and major sales efforts are going into Bench, but still, it is a popular product and our customers love using it.
JAMES: You can feel free to not answer this, but is it the desire to not have to compete against these giant 800-pound gorillas that are in the market? You have Autodesk that bought PlanGrid, and then you’ve got Procore Corp out there, you have got Oracle who bought Aconex, you have got these really big players with big field management pieces and they have got on after it hot and heavy with literally hundreds of millions of dollars of investor capital. Do you just see that space as being oversaturated? Not to mention the next level of players out there, like Fieldwire that has 2300 GCs at last count using Fieldwire. Do you think that the market is saturated? You are focusing on an area that is being underserved?
MALLORIE: I do think it is saturated. However, being based in Canada, I think actually gave us an edge because we focus on residential developments for Fields, and there is a specific warranty process that is very strict, and government-mandated in Canada. And by building a tool for Canadian companies initially, we had the feature set for that. And now a lot of US developers are like, yeah, wow, this is an organized process for a homeowner sign off and warranty walkthroughs, and everything, so I think we are still differentiated in the residential space. So that business is just continuing to run off inbound leads and everything. We are not having to go out and invest a lot of money in marketing and sales for that product. It is just inbound leads coming in and that feature set is driving it.
JAMES: You know it is funny, I have spent 20 years in this business, I spent 15 in construction and construction tech products. Sometimes you just have to let it a product in a market naturally mature and catch up to your product. And there is a fascinating dynamic. I have a product SmartCompliance that does certificate of insurance tracking, I have had it for 10 years now. And we just hit hockey stick and it has been really exciting, but it took nine years. I mean, it took a while to keep refining it.
MALLORIE: Yeah. It feels like that with Field. The last few months it has just gone up and we are like, maybe we just had to let it be for a little bit. I do not know.
JAMES: My dad told me, and he is my business mentor, and he said look, a lot about business is being in business long enough for right product, right time to happen. In other words, it is timing is everything. And sometimes timing is a lot longer than we would like it to be. Jeff?
JEFF: Well, I love that because I am a book guy and I just read Crossing the Chasm. And if you want to see about sitting around and waiting for things to come around, they rewrote it in 1999. They are talking about things that are ahead of their time at that time. And it was like Zoom, it was gigabit, ethernet, it was high-speed wireless. And I am like, that took like 18 years. COVID kicked Zoom and Teams and all those things and Skype into mass option. You are right. A lot of it is technology gets ahead of the market and sometimes the market’s got to catch up to it. And it speaks a lot that you have to be diverse and Mallorie, you guys did leave that product to maybe let the market catch up to it, but you did not stop innovating either. You kept solving problems.
And I think that is critical, but I want to pivot it here a little bit because there is a lot of discussion in their industry right now around diversity. And diversity crosses a huge scale. It is not only gender, race, ethnicity, it is experience. We are seeing the industrialization of the industry by bringing people in from manufacturing, et cetera. And I know that your company, your co-founders, and other women, so it is two women running it, but there is a lot of real business purpose to bring diverse experience in. And I wanted to allow you to talk about your take on how that is and how that has been for you as a female in this industry for a long time that has been very successful.
MALLORIE: Yeah, we got asked that question many times. Initially by journalists when we were first starting the company and launching our first product. And it sounds crazy, but we had not thought about it ourselves because our families have been in construction and I had started a business before Bridgit, so I had done the entrepreneurial thing and she had started a small business before and so, we were like, why not us? Of course, us. And then as soon as we started getting asked, we realized that it was, I think a little bit more unique than we had realized, and I think for us, we’ve just been able to live through this idea that if you can bring diversity into your company early on, whether it was intentional or not, and in our case, it wasn’t intentional, it just is very easy to scale that within your organization, so without any effort towards trying to recruit a diverse workforce, where 50% male and female across every single team, like even the product and development team, which is typically more male-dominated.
Our board is actually, I think has more females on it than males which is very uncommon. And it just, you know we have probably attracted more female investors and that is shaped our board. And because there are females in the leadership team, that has maybe attracted more female developers and product managers to apply, so I think a lot of the time, if you can see something and you can see yourself in a potential role model, then it is a lot easier to believe that you will be able to achieve it yourself. And we have been a case study for that happening at Bridgit.
JEFF: I think that is awesome because you hit on a lot of it there, like seeing women in leadership then draws in other women to feel comfortable. And, what that brought to you, cause you said it. It is 50/50, are you probably have the best 50/50 of each. The best people for each job because it is what you are looking for. And they are comfortable feeling themselves and seeing themselves in your company. And I think that is something people fail to understand when you are talking about changing. You have to realize that you have to promote people to positions so that others can be drawn in and can be open. I have been kind of hot on this lately. It is not about cultural fit. It is about what are you lacking in your culture, that you need and getting that. Cause if you end up, as I have heard this the other day, as a monochromatic group, then really why me, why discuss if everybody has the same opinion, then I already know the opinion. Let us just move forward. Does that help you with that group thing, having that no single dominated group help you guys out?
MALLORIE: I think so. And a couple of other examples, just beyond some gender diversity, a lot of companies in town only recruit from the one local university, but again, because we did not go to the local university here, I think we brought in the recruitment strategy early on, so we have many colleges and universities that we have covered across the country that we have pulled students from, that all have a different area of expertise, so that is one thing. And then the second thing is because when tech companies start to grow, you need to recruit people quickly. And within the tech community here, everyone was just starting to poach from each other, and it was just, you know there is one talent pool and the talent pool was not growing, but every company was trying to grow, and that is not productive for the ecosystem.
We started recruiting from other industries. One thing we did early on was we made little postcards that we had put on everyone’s windshield outside of the local gyms. And we are like, we like your energy, you should apply for Bridgit, yada, yada, because we figured whoever is going to the gym at 5:00 AM is probably a pretty ambitious and determined person. We just did all these little tactics to try and expand our hiring pool and hired a few people from the hospitality industry locally that had not worked in tech but are great personalities, great at sales, great at some of the HR capabilities, and just tried to not recruit from one single source at any point and that has helped us a lot.
JEFF: You can just throw the microphone now, just chuck it down and cause that is what we preach, and it is so good for the industry. And so good for the company. All those people just have experienced so much. You know, Sean McGuire with Range, you know bringing that book to us all on just that. Generalists can provide a lot and so, and good on you, man. I never would have thought to go to the gym at 5:00 AM and put a sticker, like everybody who is listening, you just learned how to ask questions, get your sticky notes out and get to the gym at 5:00 AM when they reopen and start doing that, cause that is awesome.
JAMES: Mallorie, let us talk back about tech. And I want to wrap up our discussion with you around resource management. You mentioned a very interesting potential use case, and that is, you said there is no institutional knowledge remembering who works well with others. Jimmy works well with Johnny and Jenny works well with Jack. You do not have that other than in the people’s heads, so are you saying, you are actually quantifying relationships between different resources and who works well as a team?
MALLORIE: As a starting point yeah. With all of the custom fields in our product, we are automatically pulling in a previous job team. You could see without having to do any manual data entry, you can see exactly who has worked well with who in the past. And we are starting to add notes on those roles as well, so then you could add things like do not put these two together or try and definitely keep these two together. And we are continuing to improve that just to try and automate it even more, because why go through the learning curve of being with a new team every single time if it is not necessary, and it is hard to plan for that if it is a person planning it, but if a computer can do the planning for you, then it is a lot more realistic.
JAMES: Yeah. Well people in construction, I was having this conversation the other day with one of my general contractor friends who was saying, look, when we look for people, we generally go to the workers we really like, and we ask them to bring their friends, to come work with them. And I am not sure everybody looks at resource management this way, but it is two-sided. The employer would like people to work well together and would like their skillsets to complement each other in general. But there is an interesting flip, and this is not so much in, to some extent in the software business, but nothing like construction. And the workers, the actual tradespeople that are doing the work, they want to be surrounded by competent people, that they trust that are not going to get them killed.
And that those are, by the way, the words they used with me this past week, they are like, I do not know who these contractors are, and I need to be with a contractor who is going to keep me safe, not get me killed and put me around people that are competent so I do not have to deal with people that are incompetent all day. It was a fascinating twist to this whole thing. And we do not know this. People like to work with people they like. That is common sense, but to look at resource management from the perspective of it is better if we can keep people paired. Have you created a data element that connects resources and then turns that into an entity called relationship and then has fields around that entity, like how good or bad that relationship is? And are you quantifying that into a score?
MALLORIE: Yeah, some companies have configured those specific fields around relationships, so we are tracking all of the project histories from their resource plan. So anytime they formulate a team, that is going to get added to an individual’s profiles, you will know exactly which team members they worked with historically, but they have also started to add some of those configurable fields around relationships and I think it is a great retention tool. When companies are busy and they are desperate to bring on new talent, they want to keep their existing teams happy. And one way to do that is to put them on teams with people they like to work with. The second way is to put them on projects that are close to their homes, and that is another thing that we are helping them track. So just making sure that the proximity to the job site is also pretty close so someone is not commuting across town unnecessarily.
JAMES: Yes, it almost seems like when you are looking at a relationship pair in your resource software, that you would just do a thumb up thumb down, like, hey, they get along or they do not, you want to keep it simple. And then that would quantify into the search algorithm that you had a low rank, any people working together. You have had them develop a rank scoring system to recommend resources on projects based on proximity to their house, relationship with other people, skill sets they have that they are needed, correct? They have to have the right skills too.
MALLORIE: Yep. That is that is correct. So right now, the list is basically sorted by any of those sorts of default fields that we deem as being the most important. And then you can always add additional field filters if you are looking for someone with a specific certification, for instance, that was not outlined in the need for the role. Awesome. Jeff, a close-up question.
JEFF: Well, that’s incredible because James in your world and pilots, they have proven that airplane crashes are highly more probable when you have a new group of people working together versus even a group that might be overworked and overtired, just because they are familiar with one another. And that really, I think would translate to safety, so you guys are probably driving a safer setup job sites. Have you seen Mallorie any of those, again it is those tertiary things that great products provide? They provide and deliver on their goal, but then they provide all of this other, have you seen anything like that, that surprised you?
MALLORIE: Safety has not been part of the conversations we have had specifically around resource planning, but I think to the point James made earlier that that is from the individual’s perspective, why they want to work with people they know, it is not just so it is more enjoyable for them. There is that trust that you can remain safe on site. And I think that is something that we will look into, cause I think that is an awesome additional value to the product that we could potentially bring to the table.
JEFF: It would be interesting to look at the safety score, how their safety scoring, and then look at the different teams and how they work together, but on that too, on the final note. You have gone down a couple of different roads here. Not maybe giving away anything you are thinking about in the future, but what is the thing in the future you think that has got your ear, or your eye where you are like, that is something somebody has got to do something with.
MALLORIE: On the resource planning side, I think it comes down to these team formations and that looking at everything that a software product can do versus what a human would have had time to do, and how much more intelligent I think we can get around the resource planning, both from a cost savings perspective to keep that utilization, and then also from that retention perspective of keeping your team members happy with on jobs with people they have worked with before that they like working with. There is a lot there, and then the obvious one is just the person with the best skills for the job is the one that we are already focusing on today. I think resource planning can be completely reconsidered, and redesigned and there is a lot we can do to improve the process in the industry. We are excited for the next couple of years to continue making progress on our product bench.
JAMES: Awesome. Well, Mallorie, thank you and obviously stay around for our news please so we can have a good discussion around what is going on this week in construction technology. I wish we had more time to talk with you because this has been a really, substantive conversation around, not just resource planning, but the tools that construction technologists can use to discover where they should work on, and where the problems exist. And that is probably even more useful to everybody. And on the news, it has been a pretty busy week on the news front. I am excited to see what you have Jeff. What is going on this week?
JEFF: Well, I am going to start with a little bit of fun here. I got a little LinkedIn crazy this week, and this is from one of my favorite people in the industry that if you guys have not come across him yet, his name is Dustin Adams. He is the Director of Information Technology at Hermanson company. And he put out a recent blog. He has got a couple of great articles, but it is, let us go build something lackluster!
And it was kind of an interesting thing because it goes a little bit against some of the things that we do in construction and we do in technology, is do not let perfect get in the way of good enough. And it took me a little bit, cause at first, I will say I was thinking, I am going to go into this article, and I am going to disagree with him. And ultimately though, as you read through it, it really talks about expecting more from technology. I think somewhere along the construction lines, and maybe it was what the early tech was able to do or not able to do, I mean we were just talking to Mallorie about how it took a while for people to kind of see the depth of the product that they had already created had it in the punch list app.
But there is this idea that, okay, well, we got something, and it is good enough. It did it. Okay. And we are not holding ourselves to continuous improvement or to a higher standard of what we are capable of. And not only just holding our software providers but ourselves and our teams and our adoption. How many times have we heard in the field that oh, well it is got to be simple because they just cannot use it? And I am going, wait a minute. You just said that somebody who is welding and building the HVAC or electrical systems, that would probably kill me if I did it wrong, that they cannot use a piece of technology. I think you are underestimating it. I think you are setting your standards low. It is like your kids. If you set your standards low, then that is as high as they are going to reach so you have got to continually push the bar. I had a lot of fun reading Dustin’s article because, again, as I said, I like going in and I wanted to have an argument with him over it.
And in the end, I have to agree with him. We need to expect and have that higher standard and hold that higher standard. That does mean that just enough is good enough for now, but it is, do not just leave it there. Always push yourself to go forward. And I think that helps drive businesses forward. I also think it helps when you are looking at your software vendors and you are talking to them, push them, right Mallorie? I am sure you guys enjoy having somebody across from you that is trying to get you to push your product forward.
MALLORIE: Oh, yeah, we love it. Getting feedback from the customers and hearing their ideas and wanting them to make these advancements, it is the most exciting part of our job, I would say.
JEFF: And there is a push and pull there, right? Do not tell me how to do it but tell me what you need to be done. But expect that of them. And James, you had to see this over the years with so many construction companies you have come across where they are like, oh, we are digitized, we are good, right?
JAMES: Yeah. And you would find out what digital meant to them. And really, they would not use that word, to be clear. They would say we are paperless. And then I would say, well, there is a difference between going paperless and going digital. Going paperless generally meant that they just took a crappy analog process and they accelerated the rate of the crappiness by scanning the paper. They cut the paper out, but they still had the paper instruments. They scanned it in, but it was all unstructured data and it was still pretty clunky. They did not rethink their workflow. And that was the chief mistake. That or they took a paper form and made an Excel form, and many of them actually made the problem worse because they could not find the Excel sheets now. And the paper had binders, but Excel, it was not easily sorted, so there are all kinds of the laws of unintended consequences that came out as people tried to go paperless instead of trying to go digital. And I think those are two different things. Mallorie?
MALLORIE: There are some awesome papers by and Deloitte and McKinsey, talking about the difference of doing digital versus being digital. And doing digital is just, we are using software for existing processes, but there has not yet been a fundamental change to the way that you are working the culture of the business, so, if anyone wants to check those out, I think it does a great job at explaining the difference between just buying software products before, rather than just changing your entire culture and rethinking workflows.
JEFF: Yeah. And I agree with you. There is such a difference in that, but then also what I think Dustin was getting at too, and I think it is something that I will get on my own soapbox for a second, being the IT enterprise guy.
JAMES: You? No!
JEFF: You had to try to these conversations where there are limiting decisions that you can make that can keep you at just good enough and not great. And he went into their ability to not over-engineer, but not prevent yourself from being able to adapt in the future. And a lot of that we all saw during COVID. You saw groups that invested and understood and did not preclude themselves from greatness, but just put it out there that they could continue to get there and get towards it, versus the ones who set out they were just good enough. This is where we are going to go. And when COVID hit, and everybody had to split and go remote and do those things, a lot of things fell over. And I think showed it. So great article, Dustin, I appreciate you and at some point, we will all be in person again, and I can continue to talk to you about it. Check that one out. If you have not, follow them. I think Hermanson and what they are doing over there is a fantastic group. I am always intrigued by talking to him as well.
My second one for the day is going to be quick and easy. And this is a public service announcement from Amy Marks. If you guys are not following Amy Marks right now, you are just way behind, I find her to be a fantastic galvanizing voice in the industry, that has really taken the platform that she created and is trying to do something fantastically innovative. And it was a great addition to Autodesk. I cannot believe they got her and that she is over there, but they are allowing her to spread her wings. And all I can think about James is, Bob Schneider and all those folks with all the incredible pictures and things they are building that have never seen the light of day. Amy’s put out on a LinkedIn that she wants video photos, let us pretty up prefab. I think the industrialization of the construction industry is the future, but like any good movement, it requires a little bit of marketing. And I think she is out there trying to get it, so this is a quick and easy one, but James, this is one of the things we talk about on stage all the time. This stuff that gets built is so cool. They need to show it off.
JAMES: They do, there is doing something and there is letting people know you did it. And certainly, I think a lot of folks do that do themselves a disservice by not, in general, is just not documenting their projects well enough that they can use later for marketing and sales and promotion and telling the story. Humans are naturally attracted to stories in general. And if you are a good salesperson, you are a good storyteller. And this is one of those things that they need to tell the story better. And I think that might be part of what she has challenged them to do.
JEFF: I think she is, and it was funny because I posted this one because there was this domino effect for me. I do not know if you have ever followed it on LinkedIn BuildWitt, but it is a marketing and photo company and Aaron from BuildWitt does, I think it is Aaron Witt is his name actually. It started off taking these incredible photographs of heavy machinery and people. And one of the people who work for him posted the impact that the photos that they have had taken, and those company has used and posted around their office, and how that made people feel, whether it was the owner connecting with what they do, by seeing the picture. Or if it was the person who was in the picture connecting with it, or people had even been told stories of, I wanted to work for this company because when I walked in, I saw their work plastered. I saw their DNA on the walls in photographs and videos. And we need that in the industry if we want to draw people in and show them just these fantastic things we do, we need to do that. Mallorie, you have seen a lot, with a lot of different of those construction companies you are talking about. You have got to be blown away just by the work they do.
MALLORIE: Oh, we were so blown away. Lauren, my business partner who was working on site before we started Bridgit was like, I still don’t quite get how these buildings can just go up in front of your eyes, even when you’re the one doing work on the project, just because they’re so complicated and so many moving pieces and everything. I think, yeah, it is just an incredibly interesting industry and it is a really fun one to be a part of.
JEFF: I am with you, and to anyone listening, do your own PR people. Get those pictures into Amy, she will appreciate it. Amy, we appreciate you for all you are doing in the prefab world and the industrialization movement for construction. With that, I am going to take it to an interesting one because I think there are two movements in construction when you talk about what Mallorie even referenced before when you look at the Deloitte and McKinsey studies. And this is How Incremental Innovation can Benefit Your Construction Business. And this is really about the construction industries poised for change, as technology takes hold, but unfortunately, it is going to become less in the form of disruption and more in the form of impactful increments. I actually tend to think it is going to happen both ways.
I think that incremental innovation must happen. It is just like what Dustin’s article was. Do not be satisfied with good enough. Continue to push forward. Make an incremental change, whether it is in your resource planning. Whether it is in your project management. Whether it is in your field technology and the quality of the adoption that you are getting. And continue to make small steps forward. Especially given what we are against right now, and you have to stay on top of it. And there was a lot about leaning in on, you know this is an EY firm that serves all manners of industries. Like you said Mallorie, you can get people from outside the industry to come and help you and get that different perspective on how you can do it. We just talked with Amy about industrialization. Well, where do you think we are going to get them from? We are going to manufacturing to get that and learn how different manufacturing techniques have had a huge impact. Mallorie would you look at Bridgit as an incremental improvement or is that sort of a discontinues innovation so to speak?
MALLORIE: I think you actually have to make incremental improvements to get to the next major step in innovation. For instance, around resource planning, there is all these insights and potential for artificial intelligence and all these sorts of things, but you have to get the data first. And to get the data, you have to build a really easy to use interface that adds value immediately to your customers. I think it is hard to make these massive leaps without at least getting the foundation there first, is what we found through our experience at least.
JEFF: And I think you are right. And what is nice for the industry itself, and this is where I agree with the article is, those discontinues innovations that happened, and so you guys know there is continuous innovation and a discontinues innovation. Continuous innovation is something that you digitized or changed, but it just advances or makes it a little bit easier. It is like those releases that we all saw in Word in the beginning when it was really hard to use but understandable. And then they made them upgrade it. So, spell check was easier to use. And you could right-click on things. Same with email.
But a discontinued innovation is when you completely chuck out the way you were doing something, and you are completely different. And those are hard for companies to grasp a hold of if you have already created a culture of wins. On the other, there are far too many who tried to go from a completely paper process across all sectors of the organization and then try to roll it all out digital. And you cannot boil the ocean in one shot. I think the article goes back and forth on the influence of incremental change, and how it will have an impact on our productivity. A small move forward in productivity is huge for the construction industry. Just think about your products Mallorie and your experiences here. At what a small ability to get a few people off the bench, how much is that adding back on profit-wise at the bottom line?
MALLORIE: Yes, absolutely. I was actually reading an article that summed up what you just talked about with doing a full digital overhaul in an organization is just difficult, and it was talking about a digital origin rejection that if you are trying to force software or a solution onto a company or on individuals where they are not individually feeling the pain point, then you are going to get this rejection and losing the trust and it is going to be very difficult to bring future innovation into that company because everyone would just say, no, no we have been here before, didn’t go so well. And you are not going to get that openness to bring new solutions to the company.
JAMES: Alright, and onto my news this week first one, and it is always good to we will look at new drawing apps, new drawing systems that are coming out. There are, and I want to point out, there are some exciting developments that are going on in the ERP space. I know. I actually just said that! There are exciting things are going on in the ERP space. There are ERP providers that are building their own drawing management, their own field management. They finally accepted that they cannot just do accounting and project financials. They have to do field management. And this is again, Mallorie. We talked about this, the market’s getting even more saturated.
This week, I was on the horn with two different ERPs that are building field management out. I am doing a whole bunch of workaround that space. So interesting stuff. Inertia Systems Announces New Intelligent Construction Drawings Technology to Improve Jobsite Productivity. And I always like covering product announcements, so this is out of Chula Vista, California. Inertia systems is a location-driven construction management platform. They filed some patents on it. This has not been awarded yet. The intelligent construction drawings tech, that enables proactive data-driven connected, smart construction drawings. In other words, they can do some pretty neat things to leverage BIM in a new way that gives teams more access to manage information through the process. New technology analyzes construction documentation and data to produce high fidelity object, linked, smart construction seats.
In other words, they are ripping through all these sheets and then smart linking it. And they are not the first person I have seen to do object recognition inside drawings, but this is important. If your drawings are not connected, if when you see a detail sheet, and you cannot just click on the link and jump straight to it, then you might want to check technology like this out because of the manual process of dealing with construction drawings and linking them as a real giant pain point. And there is a lot of different solutions out there. Here is another one for you to check out by Inertia system, go check that out and you can look at their smart connected drawings. PlanGrid was one of the early pioneers in ripping through construction drawings and recognizing the objects on them and then cross-linking all the files, so if you reference something you could very easily access that particular detailed drawing.
The next one, so this is the Construction global magazine, it is about AI. Behind the curve: Construction and AI and it is talking about the different five apps that are transferable from other industries to bring into construction, and it is always a useful exercise to look at what is being successful in similar industries that we can commercialize into construction. There are 5 applications. Transportation route optimization – that‘s a really important one. Outcome prediction is used in the pharmaceutical industries. The pharmacy industry uses machine learning algorithms around outcome prediction that we can use in construction. Retail supply tech, that assistant inventory management, it turns out retailers have been using and leveraging AI for inventory management for a while. And we could take some hints from them. Image recognition is used in healthcare. To carry out risk assessments.
So there is a whole bunch of work that has been using; if you have not seen it; as we’ve covered it on the show, talking about how machine learning and artificial intelligence is more accurately diagnosing cancer and other various diseases than even the doctors are because they can factor in millions of cases. Machine learning algorithms in general, are being used in mathematics. There are some really cool applications of artificial intelligence solutions in other industries that we can commercialize into construction. I am excited about it. And I think it is something that we all always have got to keep our eyes open for, is what is going on elsewhere, and how do we port that into one of the world’s most important industries, right? How do we bring that success here?
The last article of today is about Hilti. We talked about their soft, comfortable exoskeletons that I cannot wait to get. I am going to start wearing an exoskeleton around the house just to creep my kids out. And Hilti has a maturity monitoring sensor that they are rolling out into major markets. I just wanted to mention this. This is six months after they acquired the assets of Concrete Sensors in Cambridge, Massachusetts. We covered that on the show six months ago. They are starting to build out the startups, maturity monitoring device, and quality control tech. So really, it is all called now Hilti Concrete Sensors. And you are going to be putting these into the concrete when you pour, and it can measure all kinds of things about the pouring process and the curing process.
And they are taking this acquisition and expanding the technical capabilities, so if you have got dumb, concrete, get on board with smart concrete, right? I mean, come on. Why not have your concrete talk to you about how it is curing? Like, why not have it tell you what is going on during that process? And you can now. It does not have to be a guessing process. You can know. And Hilti can help you. The important thing here is to point out that the major tool companies are getting on board with all these technologies we have been talking about for the last 10 years and what that brings is scale of manufacturing and distribution channels. And you cannot understate the importance of that when you are talking about hardware.
Software providers like me and Mallorie and all kinds of other people have a much easier time of distributing our product because it is all digital and it can be delivered over the internet. But when you are having to deliver technology and hardware, it is a completely different proposition. You have to deal with installation and support and manufacturing and scale. And it is very complicated. And that is where we have seen DeWalt and Milwaukee and Hilti and Bosch and others do some neat things, make neat acquisitions, and fund interesting efforts that they can use their manufacturing scale and distribution for. So, kudos to the team over at Hilti. And that is about it. Mallorie, it was an absolute pleasure having you on the show thank you for the great conversation.
MALLORIE: Thanks so much. We will see you in another 200 episodes or so.
JAMES: I hope not that long. I hope to be in Canada, you know. I hope our border lifts and we can resume hanging out with each other again, because I go there two or three times a year, every year for the last 20 years. And I have not been to Argentina yet this year. I have not been to South Africa this year. I have not been to Canada. All the usual places that I like to go to, I have not been able to go to, so it has been no fun. I am missing all my friends abroad and I was hanging out. I did a speech for the Canada Construction Conference that just happened, and I was hanging out with a bunch of Canadians and they said I was an honorary Canadian, I guess that makes it official. Just takes one Canadian to make you an honorary, I love Canada, so thank you for joining us today, Mallorie.
MALLORIE: Thank you. Have a great day.
JAMES: Yeah. And Jeff Sample as always, keep it real and have fun out there in the changing fall landscape of Colorado.
JEFF: You got it, man. I am going to go ride a little yellow brick road later, which is those yellow Aspen leaves on the ground.
JAMES: Oh, my goodness.
JEFF: I have got my own yellow brick road. I will post later on it if you guys want to see it. Check it out on Twitter.
JAMES: Yeah. I am in the hunt for a good triathlon bike right now. I have been doing tries on my crossover road bike and I got to get something better. I mean, it is brutal. Once you start hitting 30, 40, 50 kilometers and you are like, I got to get a better bike. So I am in the hunt. Thank you for joining us today.
And thank you for tuning in today to geek out episode 238, our interview with Mallorie Brodie from Bridgit. Join us next week for episode 239 with Bassem Hamdi. My good buddy from Briq. To read all of our news stories, learn more about apps, workflows, and hardware, please subscribe to our newsletter at JBKnowledge.com or subscribe to our podcasts by texting ConTech to 66866. Big thanks to Jim Greenlee, our Podcast Producer, Kara Dalton-Arro, our Creative Producer, and our Advertising Coordinator, Tish Thelen, and our Transcriptionist, Adéle Waldeck. To listen to this show, go to the show website at TheConTechCrew.com. This is The ConTechCrew, signing out.
Until next time, enjoy the ride and geek out!