Implementing Technology in Construction with Bob Armbrister
Episode 4817th August 2022 • Construction Disruption • Isaiah Industries
00:00:00 00:40:50

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There are many reasons why a construction company might doubt its need for custom software. Maybe it’s too complex, there’s no need for it, or the process of adopting it might hinder operations. 

 

However, the world moves fast around us. Focusing on progress and innovation can take your business to the next level.

 

President and CEO of Spark Business Works, Bob Armbrister, works closely with construction companies to create solutions that elevate their productivity and make technology work for them. Spark is a software development company specializing in several industries. For the construction industry, it provides field reporting tools, data integration, and workflow improvement.

 

Bob shares how custom software solutions can change how you do business and create more growth opportunities. We cover methods for implementing these solutions and who they are best suited for. 

 

Technology solutions can be the difference between winning a bid against your competitor or falling by the wayside. Tune in to hear more about how technology is disrupting the industry. 

 

You don’t want to miss this one!

 

Topics discussed in this episode:

  • How Bob came to be at Spark
  • What fears do companies have around exploring new technology?
  • How does Bob work through creating a roadmap of solutions for businesses?
  • Specific client success stories with Spark
  • How design thinking goes into Spark’s custom design process for custom software
  • Difference between custom software and off-the-shelf software
  • Key areas where construction companies need more tech
  • Advice on how people can bring value to the industry

 

Head to sparkbusinessworks.com for more information on how custom software could benefit your business!

 

Connect with Bob: LinkedIn

 

To hear more Construction Disruption episodes, visit us on Apple Podcasts or YouTube.

 

Connect with us on FacebookInstagram, or LinkedIn.



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Transcripts

Bob Armbrister:

:

Using design thinking is how we get technology adopted in construction. Getting the end user involved in the solution, the design of the tool, how it fits into their daily field day. That ensures that it solves their problem and makes their lives easier. You do that, you'll get technology adopted in construction.

Todd Miller:

:

Welcome to the Construction Disruption podcast, where we uncover the future of building and remodeling. I'm Todd Miller of Isaiah Industries, a manufacturer of specialty metal roofing and other building materials. And today, my co-host is Ethan Young. Ethan, how are you doing?

Ethan Young:

:

I'm doing pretty good, Todd. I'm doing pretty good. Just got back from vacation and enjoying being back so.

Todd Miller:

:

Well okay, rub it in and tell us where you were.

Ethan Young:

:

I went to Italy for a week, so it was my first time going over to Europe, so it was a lot of fun. We went to Rome, Venice, and Florence, so.

Todd Miller:

:

Awesome.

Ethan Young:

:

Saw a lot.

Todd Miller:

:

But I do want to hear more and see some photos someday. You said you took a bunch.

Ethan Young:

:

Yeah, I did.

Todd Miller:

:

I have been in Italy one time on business and it was kind of a whirlwind trip, but definitely told me enough that I need to go back.

Ethan Young:

:

Worth taking the time for sure.

Todd Miller:

:

Well, fantastic. Well, I also want to let our audience know we are doing a first-time event here on Construction Disruption. With this episode, Ethan and I have given each other challenge words, so each of us has a word given to us by the other one to try to work in at some time during our conversation with our guests today. So and then at the end, we will reveal our success or lack thereof, possibly. In my case, I don't know. But I want to let our audience know because now they can be listening and seeing okay, if they hear a really odd word which tend to come out of my mouth a lot anyway, they can say that's the challenge word. Maybe, we'll see. So our goal here at Construction Disruption is to provide timely and forward looking information regarding the construction world. As part of that, we're always looking at innovations and trends and practices, building materials, the labor market, all kinds of things. Basically, our goal is to learn about new and emerging things that are going to shape the future of building and remodeling and construction. And then we go out and find an expert in that area who we can bring on the show and spotlight what they are doing. So in today's episode of Construction Disruption, I think we're going to be about as cutting-edge as you can be discussing custom software that many contracting companies are choosing to have built for them in order to improve their operations, and also, I think, to solve specific business problems. So with us today on this topic is Bob Armbrister, president and CEO of Spark Business Works, based in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Bob, welcome to Construction Disruption. It's really a pleasure to have you here today.

Bob Armbrister:

:

Yeah, thanks for having me. Todd and Ethan, I want to hear about your trip as well. Yeah. Yeah, thanks for having me.

Todd Miller:

:

Well, you have a really long history in software development and I.T. and would you share with us a bit about your career and how you came to be at Spark?

Bob Armbrister:

:

You know, quite a bit of history in I.T. and then moved into software. And I've always been passionate about how technology can actually impact a business and get real world results. And so I've had several start ups and software firms that I've owned and operated, and the common thread was that people kept coming to me saying, Will you help me build something for my business? And construction was was huge. One of my big clients was a national construction management firm and I'd been consulting with them. And we just saw a huge need for digital innovation in construction and the industry just getting kind of a bad rap. Like it's not an innovative industry when once you get into it, you realize it is. And so, yeah. So we've been focusing a lot of our business on construction and a lot of trades because there's so many options in construction when it comes to point solutions. And especially in the last few years, all of the investment that goes into these new start ups that are all offering different solutions, it's pretty risky for a lot of construction firms to try to pick the winners and losers of those and kind of hitch their technology roadmap together. And so we've seen a lot of success in just helping firms in this industry navigate that, decide when to build something themselves, custom versus using something off the shelf. And so it's just a great environment. And we've been we've been lucky to spend quite a bit of our time in construction. But yeah, we build workflow tools and technology for a bunch of different industries and it's just kind of been my bread and butter.

Todd Miller:

:

Well, I think it is quite interesting that you folks work a lot with construction, with the construction industry. And I think you're spot on. There's a general perception out there that our industry is kind of stodgy and slow to change, not necessarily really early adapters, but you certainly have hit the nail on the head in terms of there are companies out there in the construction industry who have been early adopters and really are working to push things ahead. Some companies, though, there are a lot still in our industry who are pretty old school and really aren't pushing things ahead. What do you think their fears are? Why? Why are they sometimes afraid to go into new things or explore technology?

Bob Armbrister:

:

Every firm has had the pain of a technology failure.

Todd Miller:

:

Good point.

Bob Armbrister:

:

And when you experience that pain, you don't want to feel that again, right? Hey, this was the solution. This was the silver bullet that was going to solve all our problems. We went to roll it out. Field team rejected it, office team got mad. I mean, it's a ton of pain, right? They don't want to make that mistake again. And especially right now, there's thirty, I think there, I saw the other day that there's 3,500 technology startups in construction right now. Firms are either finding their road map, building the solutions they need and innovating, or they're sitting on the sidelines and waiting. So the firms that are sitting on the sidelines and waiting, they've got good reason too, they don't want to experience that pain. They're going to wait and see who the winners and losers are and then, you know, adopt the right technology. The firms that are finding ways to navigate through it are starting to get further and further ahead of those firms that are waiting. And I'm seeing that very clearly in our experience.

Todd Miller:

:

So is that your general advice also? To kind of, you know, take it maybe not necessarily slow. Be very proactive and forward reaching, but kind of a one step at a time approach for companies.

Bob Armbrister:

:

Yeah, I call it practical innovation. There's times where we've built solutions for clients, that is a time entry tool. Like that's not very innovative, right? These firms, like I drove by a a large dorm, a dormitory for a college. I saw the entire thing get built over the course of 18 months. It was a modular design. The footprint of the job site was tiny, right? So these trades just built this giant building, assembled it onsite, I mean, super technical, and then we end up building time entry tools for these types of firms. It's like, why would, doesn't seem very innovative. But when that tool allows them to have data in real time and time, material, equipment usage, and they use that in their ability to do deliver better to the marketplace. And that tool has an ROI of six or twelve months, practical innovation for construction, in my opinion. Maybe it's not the whiz-bang drones automation, but it's practical. It paid for itself, it got adopted, and then they move on to the next biggest ROI initiative. And so that kind of practical approach of we know the landscape is going to change, we know there's going to be all this new stuff. But what's our biggest bang for the buck right now that will put us in a better position when we readdress things in six months? So kind of taking that practical approach of how does it impact us and then pop your head back up, look at the landscape, what's changed? And let's look for the next one. We see that being the pathway that works the most, the best in construction.

Ethan Young:

:

I really like that, too. I think a lot of people in construction are very practical people. And like you were talking earlier with the kind of people sitting on the sidelines, they don't want to take a lot of risk. If you do a smaller risk like that, that's a great way to get them started without, you know, sacrificing huge chunks of time and effort and then losing all of it. And see, I agree. I think that seems like a really great way to do it.

Todd Miller:

:

So a company might, you know, as they explore technology, they might kind of go from vanilla to chocolate and chocolate and then chocolate with sprinkles, not straight from vanilla to pistachio or something necessarily.

Ethan Young:

:

You gotta take your time.

Todd Miller:

:

Okay. Well, I'm kind of curious as you help your clients kind of figure out what that road map is and, you know, maybe what some of the low hanging fruit is. Are there any tools or how do you work through that with them? I, I remember once I worked with a consultant and he said, Todd, make a list of all your frustrations. And he honestly thought I'd give him a list of like five or six things. And I literally had about twenty pages. I'm a very frustrated man. But how do you work through that process with folks?

Bob Armbrister:

:

It's a great process. So what we try to start every client with is understanding how their where and their why. Where are you trying to go? Why are you trying to go there? There's too many times where I talk to firms that are replacing an accounting system or they're replacing their project management tool and they don't know why and how it impacts their ability to get where they're going from a visionary standpoint. So kind of going back to, hey, where are you going with this firm? Is this firm going to double in size in five years, or are you going to get smaller or what is that? You cannot make a good decision around technology until you know that. So you get that where and why and then you helps you understand what to pick. We then ask firms to look at their competitive advantage, right. Why do customers choose you as a business? Sometimes it's, hey, we have the best relationships. Our clients have known us for 50 years and we have deep relationships. Or maybe it's low cost. We're the low-cost provider. Understanding that why clients buy along with the vision, we then can help clients decide what to invest in on that roadmap in construction technology, right? If you're all relationship-based, you're going to want to invest in the technology tools that enable that to continue. So there's times where if you're a low-cost provider, you're going to want to make sure that you're investing in technology that enables you to keep your costs low. It seems obvious, right? But there's too many times where you're spending time on technology doesn't need to happen. An example like that time entry tool, that client has the oldest accounting system known to mankind. Like any technology person looking at that company, replace that accounting system. But that doesn't help their field team. It does fine. What they needed was the ability to get data in real time from the field. So those kind of examples, when you put a roadmap together, that includes why client's choosing you and where you're trying to go and filter out that noise of potential projects. We then ask clients to pick guardrails on this roadmap. One or two things that will enable them to stay on the right path. I call them innovation guardrails. Examples are we have got a client where there are two guardrails are, any technology has to help the field team and it has to have a 12 month ROI. They know they're where, they know where they're going. They know why clients pick them. And they have these guardrails. So when someone wants to bring up a project, they won't bring it up unless it's going to impact the field team. So now it takes those 3500 startups and all those options. It now narrows it right down. And then sharing that where and that why with the team. They understand why you're doing projects. They understand how it impacts the business. They're easier to adopt, they get it. It's not just leadership asking them to adopt a new tool. They're brought into the solution. So I know I'm giving a lot of information, but we do this all the time. I love it. You can probably tell that. But you put those things together and you're starting to implement a technology roadmap that actually helps construction firms win more work the way they're winning it right now. It's awesome.

Todd Miller:

:

That's really neat because, you know, we're a manufacturing company, not necessarily a hands on banging nails, construction firm. But, you know, I'm already seeing in what you're saying some of the basis of the reason for some of the, you know, frankly, technology failures that we've had over the years. You know, we were branching off into the next bright, shiny thing,.

Bob Armbrister:

:

Right.

Todd Miller:

:

Rather than really making sure that it was right. And that concept of innovation guardrails, as I think about that and some of the things that we have done, I can clearly see how that would have altered our decision if we would have had those guardrails in place.

Bob Armbrister:

:

Yeah, I mean, the guardrails are awesome. Like that example I used of that client, they had just transformed the way their business operated and having that 12 month ROI, they were able to use kind of the boom of the market to fund all of their technology innovation and it all paid for itself. And that's what's cool about construction. A lot of the smaller privately-held firms you're dealing with the owners. These people do not waste money on stuff, right? So when they're able to get a dollar back in 12 months, it's really cool and at the same time just transforming the organization. It doesn't get any better than that.

Todd Miller:

:

Are there any specific success stories of your clients that come to mind that you could give us a teaser of?

Bob Armbrister:

:

Yeah. I mean, I think that firm that I was referencing, a large mechanical contractor, went from because they implemented a tool to get daily data from the field. They went from a company that used to look backwards to look at how last month went with the project or the financials, to now knowing daily and they were able to use that data in their their bidding process because they got a lot smarter. And so they they recently won a really big regional project and one of their competitors I saw that same week that the announcement came out in their competition, told me that that client underbid everybody to a point where they weren't going to make any money. Then I went and talked to my client that actually won. I said, Hey, I heard you guys won and they said, Hey, we're going to make a killing on this project. The reason differentiation between the firm that lost and the firm that won, it was a huge project. So the client, the firm that lost put all the risk in that business because of all the unknowns. The client that won had eliminated that risk over the last year by getting daily data from their field, getting more efficient. So they were way more confident in their price. And that differentiation is showing up on big projects over time. It's going to come down to the firms that are waiting. They're going to start losing smaller and smaller projects this way. And that's just kind of a story that really resonated with me, to see the difference between those two firms.

Todd Miller:

:

That is fascinating. And I can certainly see how that ability to get real time information from your current projects, which, you know, may I don't know this company, but I'm guessing some of these projects could be 12, 18, 24 months long and get that information in real time rather than six months after it was done. And you've had a chance to analyze everything and really do a deep dive into it. So then that impacts everything that you're bidding in that interim.

Bob Armbrister:

:

Oh, yeah.

Todd Miller:

:

That's fantastic.

Ethan Young:

:

I did want to ask about your design process. I saw a blog post you wrote about design thinking, and that was something that I covered in college, that kind of pinged. And I have a book actually right here about the guys that kind of created design thinking, Tom Kelley and David Kelley, the brothers that kind of created it. And I find it a really fascinating idea. And I read your article and thought it was great. Could you go into a little detail about how that applies to your design process for custom software?

Bob Armbrister:

:

And so there's also a post out there about making like a software company, which is really what I'm talking about, practical innovation, building a culture of change. So the biggest risk in construction technology, like I'm sure people listening hear about that company that went to doing field entry and they're rolling their eyes going, Yeah, right. You're never going to get that adopted. Using design thinking is how we get technology adopted in construction. Getting the end user involved in the solution, the design of the tool, how it fits into their daily day and their daily field day or whoever is using. That ensures that it solves their problem, makes their lives easier. You do that, you'll get technology adopted in construction. I mean, the reason people don't adopt technology in the field or in certain areas of construction is it doesn't help them or it's confusing or it's hard to use. I mean, you just list it off. So using design thinking in the beginning of implementing many of these tools is the key to getting it adopted. That addresses the biggest risk. And it's fun, like when you get, we always bring in the most difficult users in the company. Because typically when you're making decisions in technology in construction, like you don't bring in, you know, Ed the guy that hates everything, he's gonna shoot holes in all of it. He walks by a television and it gets blurry, right? Nothing works for that guy. We bring him into the room. Tell us all the reasons why this new field entry tool isn't going to work. We listen and he helps us design the solution. Now, when you roll that out, he's out there being a champion. That's how you get adoption.

Ethan Young:

:

That's the thing I was really picking up too from the article is just you get in right with the people and, you know, like you said, to become a champion of it. Then it's not just something coming down from the top that they have to deal with. And, you know, there is no way they had to do a new system. And I guess that's kind of the whole point of design thinking for anybody listening that's never heard the term before is just very user focused, very human focused, like how can you make this product perfect for that user and not just your idea or what, you know, kind of tailoring it. So it's a really interesting concept to me. And they talk about in the book with a great example of a guy that designed medical machines like MRI's, you know, it's like he has this award winning design, it's great. And he goes to see it in use and there's a little girl in there and she's just scared to death to go in the machine. And he's blown away. He's like, Well, my machine, you know, he thinks my machine is great. Why is it? But at the end user, it just it scares them and, you know, it's just not the right fit. So he ends up going back to the drawing board and making like a way kid-friendly machine with like all these stickers and designs and, you know, it's just a resounding success once he goes back to the end user and really tailors it for them.

Bob Armbrister:

:

Perfect example, my first mobile app we built for construction, my first contracting client. This is probably seven years ago, you know, I built this mobile app and at this point I think I was developing it, you know, and I show the HR person down the hall, okay, what do you think of this? And they loved it. I showed the marketing person, I showed all these people, right, that were around me in the office and then I take it to the field and this guy comes out and he's got like the biggest fingers and the biggest hands and he's trying to click these buttons on his phone, and he's just like, This is ridiculous. I just realized, like, one, my hands are tiny and my computer guy hands versus like real work hands. But then it's like, wow, like these buttons need to be way bigger. And then, yeah, how's it going to work if you had gloves, how's it going to, you know, the font size? And it's just like, oh, man, that was when I realized, you know, design thinking and construction, duh. But too many times these technology solutions are getting built in an office without pulling at the user's hand. So using design thinking is really kind of our suggestion to mitigating that risk of lack of adoption.

Todd Miller:

:

Boy, I can sure see how what you're doing is going to play well for your clients and really provide them with good solutions that have ROI and, you know, allow them to continue to go forward with additional tech and projects.Probably one of those scary things for a lot of people as they're listening to this is, Oh my goodness, custom software, that sounds really expensive and like it's going to take forever. And you know, of course, any of us who have done package software or cloud software know that the dollars add up quickly and you got to hire an integrator and it takes months to do all that type of stuff. So tell us a little bit about the comparison between custom software versus trying to do something off the shelf?

Bob Armbrister:

:

Yeah, there's a lot of great solutions out there and we've probably never really rebuilt anything that's been out there that's working great. We'll help clients integrate that. So there is a place for custom and there is a bigger place for off-the-shelf, right?

Todd Miller:

:

Okay.

Bob Armbrister:

:

When a client does decide that, hey, it's probably too risky or software doesn't do exactly what we need the way we do it, then we go to the customer. And in those cases, the biggest differentiator or the biggest difference between off-the-shelf and custom is, off the shelf, you might buy you're buying 100% of a product and you're going to use 20% of it. When you're building custom, you're going to only build that 20% that you need. And so a lot of times the custom side is a lot lighter, not so many options, not so complicated, not all these features that you don't use. So you really compare the cost a lot of times is not that different than being committed to a very large or licensed recurring solution off the shelf. And there's, we've seen a lot of clients who find ways to reduce the price by getting grants, R&D grants, different ways to do kind of you know, a lot of our sophisticated CFOs are finding ways to kind of depreciate these assets because this custom software is actually an asset. It can go on your balance sheet. It can depreciate over time just like a piece of equipment. So they're finding ways to make it kind of being apples to apples when it comes to the actual expense. But getting what they need. Now, with all of the investment in construction tech, we see clients actually choosing custom because it's the less risky option. There's a lot of startups that appear to be amazing, huge software companies, and really they're three guys, but they have a software solution for a certain subset of the market and it's amazing. There's going to be a time here. We've seen it in other industries where you've got all this investment, there's all these startups, and then several years go by and then there's a huge consolidation movement where you're either going out of business or you're getting purchased and rolled into something else. More sophisticated firms acknowledge that's happening, and they're kind of choosing custom as a risk mitigator to signing up with the wrong company that might not make it. So they're saying, hey, we're going to we're going to leverage point solutions for the stuff that just makes sense. But when it comes to maybe a core that revolves around our our differentiator in the marketplace, we're going to build that. We're going to let that connect to all these other cool tools that seems to be kind of the strategy that a lot of firms are choosing, which is pretty cool.

Ethan Young:

:

Yeah, I really like that. I mean, you get the flexibility of custom and the stability of well, the relative stability of already out-there solution. So it seems like a really good way to do it.

Todd Miller:

:

Just as I'm listening, I'm thinking back to and this probably is back to about 1990, so long time ago. We needed a CRM system. Well, off-the-shelf CRM systems didn't really exist for the most part back then. I mean, I think there was a program called ACT that was just getting started about that time.

Bob Armbrister:

:

Oh yeah.

Todd Miller:

:

So I had a custom design system made and we read it on a Qantel Business computer and it did exactly what we needed. And you know, of course, today we're several systems down the road where we've used various off-the-shelf systems. And I still go back and think to that system I used in 1990. I think, it did exactly what it needed, and that's all it did. It was perfect. And yet, you know, you just we can't recapture that all with off-the-shelf systems today. So good stuff. So I mean, you've talked about things like increased productivity, job reporting, different things. Are there any real key areas where you believe that technology and software development is going to bring some real benefit and advantages to the construction industry going forward? I, I guess what I'm trying to say is what are some of the key areas that you're seeing companies really delve into more tech?

Bob Armbrister:

:

Yeah, really depends on their unique road map. You know, where they're going and why.

Todd Miller:

:

Mm hmm.

Bob Armbrister:

:

And going back to those guardrails, most of the time, it involves some type of field data collection to start trying to increase the velocity of data in the organization. Rarely do we see firms not being able to get past or getting down to a really solid road map without that. So typically it's some type of field data collection if you're in the field doing that kind of work.

Todd Miller:

:

Okay.

Bob Armbrister:

:

From there, typically the next biggest ROI is is time savings around scheduling and utilization of assets and material. I'm just kind of going through like the biggest ROI things. And typically it's your time, decision-making, which is the field data collection, and then typically scheduling. We also see a lot of clients focusing on cash flow. How can we bill clients sooner? And when you have the data from a daily basis, you can start to bill clients faster than monthly, right? So we have some clients and say, hey, we're going to double in size and we want to get our quick ratio, our balance sheet in a way better spot. We want to start invoicing with clear, want to start invoicing daily for certain things. So it really depends on the client. But when you kind of think of it in business terms and you have some of those guardrails, the options really kind of rise to the top. Clients aren't, you know, struggling to find the next thing, it's pretty apparent to them.

Todd Miller:

:

Yeah.

Bob Armbrister:

:

And then at the end of the day, what we see is these companies that are building cultures of innovation, right? When they start to implement changes every 30 days or every 90 days, they're rolling out things and they're making improvements and they're taking input from the users. They start to build cultures of innovation and change. So then it doesn't become such a huge lift every time you do it versus the firms that like every five years, they have to do some massive thing, some massive cut over.

Todd Miller:

:

Right.

Bob Armbrister:

:

And they lose a lot of cultural, they damage the culture a little bit versus building cultures of change. And that's what that's what I kind of see is like the the underlying benefit that you can't put a price tag on. But the firms that are doing it, they're becoming more attractive when it comes to recruitment. They're retaining more employees. So there's a huge advantage there that I was talking about.

Todd Miller:

:

Yeah, that's interesting. And, you know, not to mention simply building value into their business also.

Bob Armbrister:

:

Right.

Todd Miller:

:

And really being a more attractive target when that owner chooses to move on to something else or. But you're right, so much of that is about anything you can do to attract and retain team members is so critical, too.

Ethan Young:

:

I think it ties really nicely into the design thinking to one of the concepts that I was kind of looking at before this podcast was Creative Confidence. Which is once you start going with this, you can really just kind of like you're saying those businesses, they they get a little sense of it and then they can make that a cultural thing and that's just huge for them versus the ones that aren't super confident about it, you know? Every five years they do it and then, you know, they just never get on a roll. But if you get that confidence, I mean, definitely a game changer.

Bob Armbrister:

:

It's cool to see.

Todd Miller:

:

The last few years have been really interesting for everyone in our world and I think [the] construction industry in particular. And you know, we had COVID and then we had a time period where we were all dead for a few months and then we had a time period where we were all crazy busy. And a few months after that we were all experiencing supply chain problems and price increases. And and now we're seeing, of course, higher interest rates and sort of a bear market in the stock market and inflation, things that are going to continue to impact our industry. Because of your work with construction companies, Bob, do you have any advice for construction companies right now as we kind of chart into these next few years and see what they bring?

Bob Armbrister:

:

I think the key is that remember why your clients choose you and then make your investment decisions off of that. Maintain that. Typically what we see is clients have to pull back on spend. Don't pull back on the things that enable that to happen. I mean, now I'm taking my technology hat off and putting my business hat on. You know, what we've seen is firms that aren't aware of that and cutting in the wrong spots. Velocity of data is easier than you think, which is really just getting ahead of things. Like if you're tracking stuff monthly, try to figure out, how do you track it weekly? That makes a huge difference too. And that usually doesn't involve too much more technology, right? If you're getting that data monthly, what can you and your team do to increase the velocity so that you can get that data saved up. That usually doesn't involve much cost at all or an outside firm. You're already doing it and then just kind of working away, working it back that way. Just to put yourself in a better spot because too many times, we're making decisions too late. So when the times change like that, do that. I think having some clients and then being transparent, I mean, that's that's one thing that technology, you know, we see the difference in. You know, we're in boardrooms and we're in jobsite trailers, seeing the difference of when it comes to technology and initiatives where people don't know they're going to make up or they're not told. Right. So being transparent and here's what we're doing, here's why, helps you get that by. Especially in a time like this when you know, the market's doing all crazy stuff, having alignment with your team I think is huge. I guess that goes for any industry right now.

Todd Miller:

:

That's good and yeah that's something I know I stress around here is don't just tell people the how or the what, tell them the why. You know why, why we're having to do this or why we're in this situation and why we're making these decisions. And I love what you said there, Bob. I mean, it's so simple just thinking about, you know, why do your clients choose you and don't monkey with those things.

Bob Armbrister:

:

Don't mess those up. Keep those going.

Todd Miller:

:

Right? Yeah, that's fantastic. I think a lot of our audience members here on Construction Disruption are younger folks who are getting started with careers in design and in construction. Any advice for folks entering maybe the industry or maybe even IT folks who want to figure out how to bring more value to our industry? And i love your story that you were the guy that saw an industry that I can bring value to. So any advice to folks?

Bob Armbrister:

:

I think the biggest advice to younger folks is, as technology is coming in any industry, is to understand the business side. I've seen too many times where the technology group suggests a great project, like I used that example of that accounting system. Like, Oh man, this accounting, this new one could do all these things. But especially in construction, like no one's going to invest in anything that doesn't have an ROI. So understand the business model because you can come into a construction firm right now, probably find a hundred things that don't make sense, right. Why are they using paper for that? Why are they using Excel for this? But if the solution doesn't pay for itself, it's not going to get adopted. And I think I've seen a lot of young people eventually see that and then they're just off to the races. I see other ones get real frustrated and they think that the leadership are a bunch of idiots, right. But try not to be too negative here. But you guys know, I'm sure, Ethan, I'm sure you've come up with ideas of thinking, what are these guys doing here? Why are they doing it this way, right? Well, there's something happened at some point in time that made it easier for them to use paper then whatever system they were using prior. So I think just having that empathy of understanding that people made the best decision they could at some point in time, understanding that and then taking a fresh approach. And then, I mean, respect your elders, get their input. We've got some firms. I mean, I think every construction firm has that person that's been there for 30 years. That person's input is so valuable, right? So just because they have gray hair, don't dismiss their input and get their input. They're going to tell you all the ways that things have failed in the past. Take that into consideration. I guess these are things I'd be telling my sons right now if they were here.

Todd Miller:

:

I mean, that's great life advice too. And I know one of the things, I think a lot of people and I'm way off of construction and IT now, but I think a lot of people go through points where you look back on your childhood and your parents and you think, gosh, why did they do that? Or them doing that impacted me that way. And I know for me, the light switch really clicked when I realized exactly what you said, Bob. My parents did the best they knew how to do, given what they had at the time, and their intentions were always good, and that really changes a lot of that pain and different things. Baggage you may be carrying from your child when you start to realize that, okay, my parents did the best they they knew how to do. And even if they didn't, if you develop that mindset, it at least changes you.

Bob Armbrister:

:

There you go, right?

Todd Miller:

:

Yeah, absolutely. Well, this has been cool. We are close to the end of our time. And I thank you so much. Before we close out, though, I do want to ask you if you're willing to participate in our rapid-fire questions.

Bob Armbrister:

:

Let's do it.

Todd Miller:

:

These are seven questions. Maybe a little serious, maybe silly. All you got to do is give a short answer. So you're up to it?

Bob Armbrister:

:

I'm up to it, right.

Todd Miller:

:

Our audience needs to understand, Bob has no idea what we're going to ask.

Bob Armbrister:

:

And if I screw up, you got to just cut this out, okay?

Todd Miller:

:

Yeah, we can edit.

Bob Armbrister:

:

Yeah, right.

Todd Miller:

:

Maybe. One thing I will clue the audience in on, I have already been able to work in my challenge word.

Ethan Young:

:

I have not yet, so I have to get creative here.

Todd Miller:

:

But Ethan has not. So now, as we alternate questions, he can just completely change a question.

Ethan Young:

:

I can and that's what I've been thinking about. So we'll see.

Todd Miller:

:

Okay, well, we will do our questions. You want to do the first one?

Ethan Young:

:

Yeah, I can do the first one. So if you're in the Olympics, what sport would you participate in?

Bob Armbrister:

:

Golf.

Ethan Young:

:

Nice.

Bob Armbrister:

:

That's an Olympic sport now, I think.

Ethan Young:

:

It might be, yeah, one of the newer ones that they introduced.

Bob Armbrister:

:

If it's not, it should be.

Todd Miller:

:

There you go. Okay. Question number two, how long does it take you to get ready for your day each morning?

Bob Armbrister:

:

15 minutes.

Todd Miller:

:

Oh, man. You got me beat by five. I swear, as you get older, it takes longer because there's just more stuff you got to look at and say, oh, I got to fix that.

Ethan Young:

:

Alright, what language would you like to learn?

Bob Armbrister:

:

Spanish?

Ethan Young:

:

Yeah, it's a very practical one.

Bob Armbrister:

:

My boys speak Spanish and I can't. So they have, like, this secret language. I don't know what they're saying.

Todd Miller:

:

That's dangerous. Question four. This is interesting, what is the earliest major news story that you recall from your childhood?

Bob Armbrister:

:

Probably the Challenger crash.

Todd Miller:

:

Oh, interesting. That was what, '84, '85? '85 maybe.

Bob Armbrister:

:

I remember seeing that. I remember on one of those old TV that sat on the ground, you know? It was like a piece of furniture.

Todd Miller:

:

Yeah, oh yeah.

Bob Armbrister:

:

I'm not that young. I still had that experience.

Todd Miller:

:

I think I still have one of those TVs stuck someplace in a room. That's interesting. Yeah, because mine is probably the Vietnam War. Yeah, that was. That just seemed to permeate the news when I was a child.

Bob Armbrister:

:

Right.

Ethan Young:

:

All right. What's the weirdest food you've ever eaten?

Bob Armbrister:

:

Weirdest food?

Ethan Young:

:

Yeah.

Bob Armbrister:

:

Probably like something like crickets or...

Ethan Young:

:

Okay.

Bob Armbrister:

:

One of those, like, things. One of those gag gifts you eat it, just like.

Ethan Young:

:

Yeah. I ask this because when we went on my trip, we ate a couple of interesting things too. I tried some octopus, which I've, I've had before. It was kind of interesting over there and it was fun. You know, the food over there is great.

Bob Armbrister:

:

I've heard that.

Todd Miller:

:

You stinker. Okay?

Bob Armbrister:

:

No, was that one of his key words to fit in there. I see how you did that.

Todd Miller:

:

That's good. Next question. Favorite flavor of ice cream? Now, I could have worked my word into this. Okay, I'm giving him, I'm telling too much here. Favorite flavor of ice cream?

Bob Armbrister:

:

Probably peanut butter or no cake batter. Cake batter, for sure.

Todd Miller:

:

I like chocolate peanut butter.

Ethan Young:

:

I'm a cookie dough kind of guy.

Todd Miller:

:

So there you go. Okay. Last question, Ethan.

Ethan Young:

:

If you could turn to oceans into any other substance, what would that be?

Bob Armbrister:

:

Wow. That's a strange question. And I don't know if I'd want to change it, right. Would all the animals survive?

Ethan Young:

:

Theres's a lot of negative environmental stuff there. So, I don't know, maybe just for a short time.

Bob Armbrister:

:

Let's just keep it the same.

Ethan Young:

:

I don't know.

Todd Miller:

:

It's not really going to happen.

Ethan Young:

:

Yeah, okay, that's fair.

Bob Armbrister:

:

Peanut butter ice cream.

Ethan Young:

:

There you go.

Bob Armbrister:

:

Or cookie dough ice cream.

Todd Miller:

:

This has been great. Well, thank you. This has been a real pleasure. Is there anything we haven't covered that you'd like to share with our audience?

Bob Armbrister:

:

Yeah, I think the, getting back into construction tech. If you feel like it's too late or you've missed the boat like you're not alone. That's one thing I you know, I speak to a lot of groups about this and there's a lot of people that get negative, like we haven't started or we're super far behind. Like, now's actually the best time to start, right? The solutions are the least expensive they've ever been. Your users are the most technology savvy they've ever been. It's perfect timing. So if you haven't started or you feel like you're super far behind, don't feel that way.

Todd Miller:

:

Yeah, that's a good point. No time to start like the present.

Bob Armbrister:

:

Right? Yeah.

Todd Miller:

:

Well, this has been great. If folks want to get in touch with you, what are some easy ways for them to connect with you and your company?

Bob Armbrister:

:

Yeah, so our company is Spark Business Works. You can find us at sparkbusinessworks.com. You can find me on linkedin.com/in/bobarmbrister. That's how you get ahold of us and we'd love to help anyone interested or we've got a ton of resources on our website too about construction, technology, and all the stuff we've talked about today. So feel free to pop on there for some free insight.

Todd Miller:

:

Fantastic. Well, I know I connected with you through LinkedIn and and yeah, I did that, but I'd also heard of you some other ways too. So thank you again for joining us. This has been really great, very informative and hopefully we're opening up the minds to a lot of folks of the things you could do for them.

Bob Armbrister:

:

Absolutely. Thanks for having me, Todd. Thank you Ethan.

Ethan Young:

:

Yeah, thanks.

Todd Miller:

:

And I will share with our audience. We both completed our challenge words.

Ethan Young:

:

Yeah, I snuck it in there.

Todd Miller:

:

Mine was pistachio.

Ethan Young:

:

Mine was octopus, which was a pretty easy one with my recent trip to fit in there so.

Todd Miller:

:

Well, I could have easily worked pistachio in during the ice cream question.

Ethan Young:

:

Yeah, could have been a softball there.

Todd Miller:

:

But I thought, "Oh that's too easy."

Bob Armbrister:

:

Good job, guys.

Bob Armbrister:

:

Todd Miller: Well, thank you. Thank you very much, Bob. And thank you to our audience for tuning in to this episode of Construction Disruption with Bob Armbrister of Spark Business Works and sparkbusinessworks.com. Please watch for future episodes of our podcast. We have more great guests on tap. Don't forget to leave a review on Apple Podcasts or YouTube. Until the next time, change the world for someone, make them smile, encourage them. Very powerful things that we can do to change the world an interaction at a time. Until the next episode, God bless, take care. This is Isaiah Industries signing off until the next episode of Construction Disruption.