Blue Door, an organization that provides emergency housing in the York Region of Ontario, began operating its Construct program in 2020. Construct is a social enterprise that offers residential and commercial construction and property services in the Greater Toronto Area. Construct recruits, trains, and employs motivated individuals to learn and work on-site with qualified tradespeople to prepare for a career in the construction industry.
Offering services such as home renovations, landscaping, demolition and site cleanup, and general labor, Construct turns jobsites into on-the-job learning experiences, helping to propel trainees from vulnerable populations into careers in the trades.
Construct’s goal is to provide excellent contractor services to the community while working to end homelessness by connecting people to career paths, breaking down barriers to meaningful employment, and leading them to affordable housing.
Origins and Challenges
Blue Door was founded in 1982 and is the largest emergency housing provider in the York Region. Because of their long history of experience helping people experiencing homelessness, Blue Door staff have an intimate understanding of the challenges that come with lifting folks out of poverty. Rudi Genovese, Senior Manager of Construct, says one of the biggest challenges that continues to come up is that of employment.
Affordable housing in the York Region requires earning $24/hour, Rudi explains. So, there’s been a giant employment gap with a lot of the people who come through the system. The Construct program is designed to alleviate and fill that gap.
Construct’s program is 8 weeks long. For the first 2 weeks, participants receive in-class training and certifications from the local labor union. During the following 6 weeks, participants work directly on Construct projects, alongside skilled tradespeople on staff, after which they are linked to meaningful employment opportunities. In addition to providing help to underserved individuals, Construct is helping to fill the skilled labor gap that exists in Ontario and throughout North America.
Starting Up with STACK
Construct’s Business Manager, Scott Issett, says they knew they needed a takeoff and estimating platform from the inception of the program. An online search led the team to STACK, and Scott generated Construct’s first customer quote from his free account.
The experience was smooth, so he had a conversation with a STACK account executive to learn more. “I was really appreciative of the response I was getting,” Scott says, referring to initial communications with the STACK team. He discloses that Construct is a social enterprise and all margins generated are reinvested into the organization to support vulnerable people, so they try their best not to incur massive capital costs, and STACK was reasonably priced.
After taking his free account for a spin, Scott was ready to launch, and STACK was an integral part of Construct’s takeoff and estimating process from the beginning.
The Goal from the Get-Go
Rudi explains that from the outset, Construct’s plan has always been for fast growth and scaling to help as many people as possible. With that in mind, the team knew they didn’t want to start out with pen and paper and have to make a change as they grew. They chose STACK from the start so that, as Rudi says, “as our capabilities grow, we’ll be able to support that growth with the tools we already have in place.”
Scott started learning STACK from scratch, but says it’s user-friendly and easy to get up to speed. To create takeoffs, Scott goes out to the field to take measurements and then creates layouts and plans to load into STACK. From there, he uses items and assemblies to determine material quantities and pricing and creates an estimate.
“I really appreciate being able to add overhead, markup, and tax by line item,” Scott says. Because each job is different – whether it’s travel time, tools/equipment involved, number or workers required, or other factors – being able to apply things on a line by line basis makes it easier to account for all the variables that come with each job. Scott explains, “There may be a product that takes time to find that is not included in the end price and therefore, the flexibility to have all this accounted for on a line by line basis ensures that the customer pays the right amount – not more or less than required.”
Once the detailed estimate is created, Scott also includes everything he can in the scope of work and terms fields before generating a branded, professional proposal in STACK.
To be successful and allow the program to continue scaling, it was important for Construct to be seen as a true quality general contractor, so they needed to ensure they put themselves forward as such to the community as they bid work.
Using STACK’s proposals, complete with their logo and custom breakdown of pricing, scope, and terms, Construct is able to present their company as a credible, knowledgeable business. STACK’s professional, bid-ready proposals have gone a long way toward helping Construct to market themselves as a quality contractor that also has a social purpose.
Quantifiable Results and Intrinsic Value
Scott says in the very early days, he had done some manual calculations, and the time savings with STACK is self-explanatory. Items and assemblies are a huge time saver, and calculation time is cut by at least two-thirds.
But in addition to the time savings, the ability to compartmentalize each component of a job allows Scott to think through the full project more thoroughly, and that’s a really powerful thing, he says.
By ensuring the accuracy of estimates, along with visually appealing proposals, Construct has been able to establish a reputation as a trusted contractor, and they’ve secured a position as contractor of choice for a few local agencies. They’re also planning on growing Construct into an additional Durham Region in the next year.
Since launching in September 2020, Construct has generated approximately 150 quotes and completed over 40 jobs, earning over $150,000 in revenue, and supporting over 40 program graduates.
The Immeasurable Benefits of STACK
Scott says as Construct is still in its first year, one thing that’s especially helpful is being able to look at a job in different ways in STACK. He might look at a project from a material and labor cost perspective and a unit cost perspective, so he can compare the two and make informed decisions.
The platform is also helpful for jobs that don’t require a takeoff. Scott says that sometimes, in the case of smaller jobs like installing sun sails for shade or installing a ceiling fan, he can use STACK instead of Excel to create an estimate and generate that professional proposal all in one place.
While some contractors might be content to send off a quick email with a guesstimate price for jobs like this, Construct is committed to consistency in their documentation, so that they keep control of their branding, their professional presentation, and their positive reputation.
Flexibility and Clarity
On the majority of jobs, something tends to change from the original quote – a client might want to remove one piece of the project or change material types. Because Scott has already completed the takeoff and estimate in STACK, it’s simple to make those adjustments and justify them to the client, rather than having to come up with a number.
Pricing stays consistent with Construct’s model, and customers are generally content with the explanation. “Having the answers when the client has questions is 99% of the battle,” Scott says. “At the end of the day, the quote is the first impression. And we’re really well-positioned there with STACK.”
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