Intranet and Online Estimator Streamline Processes

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Remodelers wanting to use more technology in their business functions can look to these platforms from Foster Remodeling Solutions as examples.

August 01, 2003

 

Remodelers wanting to use more technology in their business functions can look to these platforms from Foster Remodeling Solutions as examples.

David Foster, CR, president of Foster Remodeling Solutions in Lorton, Va., always looks to technology to accomplish tasks and be more efficient. Here are some of his most impressive applications:

 

 

 

 

  • He recently added an intranet, a private network accessed via login for internal use only, to the company's Web site as a resource for his 22 employees. It houses forms, the employee manual and other shared documents that are accessible and available for downloading 24 hours a day. Foster has found it to be especially helpful for field workers who aren't in the office frequently and lose time having to come into the office for basic information.

     

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  • The Foster Remodeling Solutions Internet site features a do-it-yourself estimator for prospects who have small jobs, know what they want and don't want to go through the company's typical design/build process. Potential clients log on, enter their room's dimensions and select a plan that is similar to their project. Then they pick products, add options and price out the project.

    If they're happy with the plans, they submit a $50 payment via credit card, and within 24 hours the company visits the home, verifies the measurements and details, and plans to start the job within three weeks from the sell date and finish within three weeks once construction is started (if possible). Currently, the DIY estimator features only bathroom projects, but later this year Foster will add screened porches, attached and detached garages and single-room additions such as family rooms and sun rooms. He hopes to work toward simple "pull and replace" kitchens and perhaps decks.

    "We wanted to sell remodeling online, a way for homeowners to design a bathroom, decide if they can afford it and make their selections," Foster says. "The idea for our business is to do this with products we're familiar with and are available in stock, thereby saving the consumer 20-25% over our design/build process that we usually use."

     

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  • With a partner, Foster developed ImproveBuild Remodeler's Business Solution software, which is available for demo or purchase at www.improvebuild.com. The software includes an activity calendar, change orders, a contract proposal, a cost database, invoicing, time tracking and integration with Microsoft Outlook and Intuit's QuickBooks. Fifteen remodelers currently use the software.

    Foster also plans to sell his Web portal, a template for building Web pages that will include an area for an intranet and a DIY estimator (if desired) later in the year. He even will offer to host other companies' Web portals for a monthly fee. Having invested $50,000 to develop the Web portal, he is eager to share his technological advances with others in the industry.

    "Our industry has been ignored by a lot of technology companies, and the stuff that has been developed is not specific enough for us to really work efficiently or didn't have some of the functions that we would have liked," Foster says. "That frustration is what led me to start developing our own things, and we've taken it further than I could have ever originally dreamed.

    "It feels like a waste if we can't share the things that we've accomplished in our company with other remodelers who want to embrace technology because it's extremely expensive to do that in a one-man operation. Our products make the cost more reasonable for everyone along the way."

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