Elms Software, “Beam me up Scotty”.

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Real software developed by a real person.

By The Paul

I love my job at Remodel Crazy because I get to meet with the people who end up in the spotlight, unique and talented individuals who make a difference in a most positive way in the industry I’ve grown to love.

Scott Gerald of Elms Software - estimating software
Scott Gerald of Elms Software

Today we meet Scott Gerald the founder of Elms software, an estimating software system that does a whole lot more, on top of that its intuitive and has a short learning curve.

Scott did a few things before becoming the genius behind his company, one early job was “Scott the pest control officer”, you know roaches, ants, mice, your uncle Bob, for a fee they were gone, except Uncle Bob, he left when you ran out of beer.

Scott is from Sandusky, Ohio, home of Cedar Point Amusement Park, the Happy Hippie park of the late 60’s and also home to Wes Craven, Steven Spielberg, Harlan Ellison and Charles Manson. I asked Scott if he knew any of these famous people and he said he knows Charlie a little.

Scott graduated from Bowling Green University with a degree in computer sciences and enjoys golf, piano and gardening, hey, is this starting to sound like a Craigslist Personals ad? Aw’ right, I’ll get serious. I met Scott last year and he’s a smart, interesting and very nice person, here’s Scott……………….

1. Why did you choose the remodeling industry for your software development?

The industry kind of chose me. I first developed ELMS in 1999 for a large remodeling company here in Central Ohio. This company was among my first customers when I started my software development and consulting company. They are still using the original software today with 15-20 users. I have been supporting them over the last 11 years. I have also worked with multi-billion dollar companies, used the latest technologies, and traveled the U.S. working in many industries.

I find myself continued to be drawn to the remodeling & construction industry. I can find many parallels between construction and software development, but the real draw is the people. Today I get to work with the people who have their name on the door and have their livelihood at stake. I get to work with entrepreneurs that make decisions that have real consequences. This is so much different than working for some middle manager concerned only for their own position in the hierarchy.

2. What do you think is most important when buying contractor software?

Businesses exist for the primary purpose of generating revenue. I think that any purchasing decision be based on impact to the bottom line. The primary component of this equation is always cost vs value. Every company is different in their definitions of cost and value and how they translate to dollars.

Technical features is what grabs everyone’s attention. They are usually well documented and easy for the buyer to use as decision criteria. There are a number of other factors that may not be immediately obvious, but are just as important.

Support – Response time and quality of support – Can you readily communicate with the persons who have the tools to help or answer your questions?

Updates & Enhancements – Is your vendor continually improving and evolving their product? Otherwise, What are their intentions?

Ease of Use – Is the software easy to use and learn? Learning a new software package is part of the cost of software that many customers may not realize likewise easy to use software will reduce training and learning costs.

3. Where do you think construction software is headed?

I think of software solutions in three different areas, technology, business functionality, and service.

With respect to technology, construction software, like many other solutions, is about making information available anytime, anywhere, on any number of technology devices. Today, this points to the web, the internet, and mobile devices. Tomorrow, the vehicles or technology may be different, but the need for information availability will remain the same. A good example is the iPhone, iPad, and Droid. The vehicles are changing, but it availability is still key. Construction software will continue to follow these trends providing faster access, more diversity in access methods, and better availability.

The functional business requirements of remodeling or construction companies have changed very little over the last 11 years I have been involved. Construction software will continue to add functionality tomorrow that is currently not supported today. Packages may integrate vendors, suppliers, customers, or add a warranty tracking solution, but these are not new business requirements. You already do this today. Real change here will be initiated by the industry.

I see the direction of construction software , in terms of service, changing drastically. Software customers will demand greater flexibility, customization, and support. Software vendors must accommodate with little or no increase in price. The number of solutions available for remodelers will increase and drive competition. Software vendors will be forced to provide frequent updates and new enhancements. Remodelers will no longer be held hostage by yearly software contracts. Those software companies that continue to respond to their customer base will continue to thrive.

4. What would you suggest to a new contractor just buying software?

Remember that all software is just a tool. Tools are designed to make the job easier. Sometimes paper and pencil is the right tool. Construction software will not make you a better designer, estimator, or remodeler, but it may help you become more efficient, lower costs, save time, and help you grow your skill set. Additionally, do not rely on software to define your business process. You should have your business processes established and look for software that accentuates your business. Your business is constantly evolving to accommodate new trends, products, and customer expectations. This means that core business software must be able to evolve with your business.

5. If you could do anything else what would you be doing?

You know, I am really lucky – I always wanted to develop software. I have done the IBM thing, the Microsoft thing, and worked in many different industries. I now have the opportunity to not only develop software, but I get to write the software I want to write and work in the industry where I have the most fun. There is almost no amount of money that could pull back to the cubical nation.

I do, however, have a recurring dream. I have a truck with a trailer, a couple mowers, weed-whippers, and leaf blowers. I could easily spend my days mowing lawns. I would get instant satisfaction for a job well done. Who knows, “Elms Lawn Service, LLC?”

3 COMMENTS

  1. I am a competitor of ELMS and think the story is pretty good. Software company will only do well when the people behind the scenes have a true passion for what they do. I would like to challenge the perception of software customers demanding customization. Customization implies that you are willing to make a change for a specific company, and that is dangerous when dealing with small companies with limited IT infrastructure and money. While we would all like to claim that we are great programmers, every permutation opens up the door to challenges down the road. I would sooner provide software options that are part of the base system making ongoing support and development more focused, and thus, keeping costs under better control. I would sooner favor customizing for a particular group, say Plumbers in general, as opposed to say Joe the Plumber the individual. Contractors average from less than a hundred K to over just a few million per year, all representing a small business in the scope of things. Therefore the applications should be targeted to be lean and mean with options, but customizations for an individual should be carefully considered. Glad to have you in our field.
    Brian Javeline
    President & Co-founder
    http://www.MyOnlineToolbox.com
    2008 Dell Top 10 Innovator
    2009 Forbes America’s Most Promising

  2. Thank you Paul for your kind words and putting together a great article. I also want to thank everyone else who sent their comments to me personally, especially the comedians out there :).

    With respect to ELMS, customization does in fact mean we will listen to any customer and are fully willing to provide the customizations that will service their needs. ELMS is committed to delivering monthly updates to our service. These updates primarily consist of changes and customizations requested by “Joe the Plumber”. ELMS is a better product because of this. ELMS Advantage Online is a service provided by a service company, not a software package provided by an IT company.

  3. Thanks Scott, all I did was record your message.

    On the 2 comments, I see 2 different approaches, whatever your comfortable with is what a person should choose, but make sure you understand what your getting or not before you choose.

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