On our Behind the Build blog series, we’ve interviewed a variety of contractors, trades and construction roles. We’ve learned from superintendents, project managers, architects, project engineers and more about their journey within the industry and strategies integral to their success. This week, we switch things up a bit and speak to Jerad Ferrell, CMO at PeerAssist.
While Jerad no longer works for a contractor, he joined PeerAssist to help build tools for them. Below, he shares how his construction background has helped him to understand the pain points that PeerAssist can help solve as well how the next generation of contractors can use technology to improve profitability. Read on to learn more.
How did you get where you are today?
For the majority of my professional career, I’ve been marketing and selling construction technology. That being said, I also have a hands-on construction background, so I understand the industry and who I’m marketing to very well. My degree is in construction management, and I was a CIO for two very large contractors. During my time as a CIO, I got trial by fire experience working shoulder-to-shoulder with my project teams and those in the field who were using technology solutions deployed by my team. I understand their pain points and what impacts their bottom line.
I joined PeerAssist about a year ago. It’s been fun working at a young and growing company but being able to service contractors’ needs. Our biggest challenge is mostly just building awareness for contractors to know a solution like ours even exists. When people see it, they understand it and see the value immediately.
Our vision is to provide a tool that is so affordable and valuable that contractors don’t envision doing a project without it.
Tell us more about the benefits of PeerAssist for the construction industry.
PeerAssist was created to address the needs of subcontractors and general contractors around out-of-scope work. Typically, with an out-of-scope process, most project management software doesn’t generally provide the depth of functionality that’s needed. Instead, a lot of companies will shoehorn in functionality to accommodate the out-of-scope work process. Often, they end up reverting to paper and costly spreadsheets, which leads to cumbersome processes with a high probability for leaking profit.
Typically, out-of-scope work is assigned on the fly by those in the field–meaning it usually doesn’t come through a formal channel like RFIs. Instead of using paper where things are likely to get lost, misread, delayed, and even rekeyed into other project management systems, PeerAssist allows for those in the field to quickly capture a photo of the out-of-scope work requested by the general contractor and generate a field work authorization straight from a mobile device. Subcontractors can then send it off to the general contractor for authorization to ensure it’s approved before starting the work, which streamlines and better documents the process.
PeerAssist also creates a new level of transparency for the process. It includes pricing, labor, and material details, so no one is blindsided by the information when the change order request is sent to the general contractor. Everything is well documented and approved before the work is started, which strengthens the relationship between the general contractor and the subcontractors, and improves the likelihood of getting paid without conflict. General contractors are also looking to PeerAssist to achieve consistency with subcontractors submitting field work authorizations and change order requests in a uniform format. Prior to PeerAssist, there end up being 20+ different formats coming at the general contractor from all the subcontractors submitting change order requests.
What gets you excited to wake up in the morning?
We have a team that’s super passionate about construction–it’s in our DNA.
Helping contractors do their jobs better and more efficiently really gets us up in the morning. When we are out in the field meeting with our customers, and we hear, “PeerAssist is a no brainer,” that’s what gets our fire burning.
In general, what’s the most challenging aspect of building construction technology?
From when I started in construction, contractors had typically been lagging in their adoption of technology. But over the last 5-10 years, there’s been a huge rush of technology adoption and almost app addiction in a way. However, the industry is at a crucial point where companies are beginning to be more aware of the necessity of integration and interoperability of the different technologies they are using.
Cutting through all the noise can be challenging. Once again, for PeerAssist right now, our biggest challenge is awareness. Once we can sit down with a contractor and see how the contractor is managing and tracking their out-of-scope work, we show them “how we can accelerate their process 10-20 times and best of all, drive more profit to their bottom line,” that gets their attention.
Why do you partner with PlanGrid?
Year after year, technology keeps adapting better to the field’s needs. At PeerAssist, we believe in partnering with the best in class tools where anyone in the field can pick them up. This includes PlanGrid where the field can just quickly pull up all their drawings and documents. With the integration to PeerAssist, they can easily create a link directly to fill a work order. Together, it’s a tightly integrated and seamless product experience for contractors.
Best yet, there’s a continuity between the two applications. Teams aren’t creating disconnected silos of data. It’s all connected and useable from both applications.
What advice would you have for the next generation of construction workers?
We’re exiting the point where you hear a construction director or operations manager say something like, “My field team just can’t use technology.” As new and younger continues to join the workforce, workers are a lot more adept in technology use. Many of them have grown up with it, they expect it, they want to use it, and they see the value from it. In fact, contractors who lag, now are becoming less desirable for younger workers who crave more efficient processes.
Now, the workers and companies that will emerge as winners are the ones who understand what’s happening out in the field. It’s where data is being collected and where many times information slips through the cracks. Contractors who can use field technology actually to improve profitability or efficiency will be the most successful.