James Taylor, James D Taylor QS Ltd
Company: James D Taylor QS Ltd
- Take-off & Estimate Kit
Hi James, tell us a bit more about who you are and what it is that you do?
Mainly from a commercial QS background, I consider myself quite set in my ways using my Excel spreadsheet, spending 4 to 5 days on every job which gave me a sense of confidence that the price was right using my methods. However it was a ‘Eureka!’ moment when I could see that EstimatorXpress does things very similarly to what I do but in a fraction of the time (I know it will be much faster soon as I have only just started using the software and haven’t yet started using the Quick Quote). EstimatorXpress also automatically takes into consideration things that I may overlook or may not even consider, so I thoroughly interrogated the software and because it came out in the same ballpark as I was expecting so I have a lot of confidence in the numbers.
You not only have EstimatorXpress but also the PlansXpress (a.k.a. the Take-off & Estimate Kit), how have you found PlansXpress by itself so far?
Well I started on a job 3 weeks ago, rather complicated including loads of different types of roofs, extensions, renovating existing structure etc. I was back and forth with Josh and Tom in the tech team to understand the best way to do it, and I’ll say it again that they are a credit to your business! They really helped me; the support structure was there the whole time.
I used to use American based CAD software before, more commercial and I had to use it in conjunction with my Excel spreadsheets. PlansXpress means I can do detailed drawings myself and I enjoy the visual side of it, it gives you a confidence that allows you to visually see what you are pricing. The 3D viewer allowed me to periodically review what I was doing as well, as well as show the customer what the end result would be. Plus it works with EstimatorXpress, so far less time spent moving things across.
I have to admit that it was a bit daunting at first, not because I thought it was difficult but because it was immense. I can’t imagine myself getting to know all of this in the space of two or three weeks. However I got to know what I needed to know in a short time and that immediately gave me this confidence platform to work from and not worry too much about the rest until I got to it. I could look forward to the next stage at my own pace, learning the more advanced features whilst still being able to start using the PlansXpress in conjunction with EstimatorXpress . I can’t wait to get on it again for the next job because I now know what I have to look out for this time.
I did know there would be a learning curve so I set aside a good week to knuckle down to it. I spent the first half a day watching videos whilst still taking calls, then the second day using what I’d learned and starting a fresh drawing of the main property with a few more construction lines (setting them as non-estimated reference points). The third day I started the extension. After those 3 days I had to focus a bit more on work, so in the evening after the little one had gone to sleep, I did a 4 to 5 hour shift on the software. Whilst it was too late to call in to technical support, if I had any questions I would fire off an email to them and they would answer the next day. Then that evening, again after the baby was put to bed, I would then tackle PlansXpress using those answers and then send over some more queries. I always knew I would have the answers sitting there the next day for me to tackle in the evening, and it worked out really well. Took me about a week to get it all marked up!
As a self-confessed someone who’s set in their ways, what made you decide to start having a look around for estimating software?
It was a big risk to take myself away from the way I do things and try something new, but I have really taken to this software. I wanted to be able to have some sort of lifestyle outside of work, and coming from a commercial background it is easy to spend 70 hours weeks and all of a sudden you realise you aren’t spending any time with your family at home. I work 3 days a week, my wife another 3, and we look after our baby daughter.
Spending all that time on it as well, afterwards you end up going through the numbers with the surveyor and you both want to know where exactly all those numbers come from and where there is scope to handle variations. My nature is that I can’t work with vague budgets.
I did some online research and HBXL really stood out for me. After watching the Take-Off & Estimate Kit and the Quick Quote demonstration videos I thought to myself that it would be fantastic if I could do something like that, churn out a lot of prices and then focus more of my time elsewhere. I checked all the different add-ons, wanting to move into a more domestic market myself. HBXL seems to me to be the market leader, I think you have ring fenced the major market for extensions, renovations and new builds. I really think that you’ve got what people need and are top of the pack by far! The larger software’s out there for commercial use are good but they can’t do what you do when it comes to domestic projects.
You have really jumped into using this software with both feet, really tailoring it in depth for your business to get the maximum out of it, how have you found that?
Again, I went into this aware that I had to put some initial setup into it. I have started reordering my workbooks, I have thoroughly interrogated the figures, studied my pricebooks, the specifications, the mini-specs, the whole lot.
With EstimatorXpress I can adjust my profit margins and I can also value engineer the materials, the software allows me to go into that level of detail that gives me full control.
I am a bit of an excitable kid at the moment, I know that I am taking roughly 2 to 3 days to complete a job but in about a month I will be able to do this in about a day. I have been down to my roofing supplier and my civil supplier to get generic schedule of rates from them (such as roof tiles and drainage), so I can create more specs to my liking. Also Yorkshire stone, which we use a lot of where we are, things like that build up my price books and allow for what I come across often. The saying stands, you have got to put good in to get good out!
If you can think of any way that we can improve the software do let us know, we rely on customer feedback to improve our software and their experience. It’s one of the reasons why we offer free uncapped software support and updates for the first free 12 months.
Absolutely! I read that HBXL pump about 25% of their revenue back into software development so I know I have bought something that is going to evolve and grow with the market, and I feel valued as a customer because I can make notes and send them over. Suggestions to make my estimating easier, help HBXL improve its software, and my recommendations will be given serious consideration.
So what do you have planned next James?
Using HBXL has actually gotten my wife (a.k.a. eBay selling Queen) thinking about joining me! She doesn’t have any experience directly in the construction industry but she has had a look through the HBXL software and is impressed. We also have the ContractsXpert, which provides fair contracts that don’t just protect us but also the customer. I have been in construction for about 20 years; this is the first time I have really gotten excited about something. Depending on the future and what direction we decide to take, we will 100% be looking at the Health & Safety Xpert as well because too few realise how much liability and responsibility there is on site to ensure that an accident doesn’t happen, and what to do if they unavoidably do.
However now it is time for me to head off to go watch the rugby. It’s been good talking to you.
And you James, have a super weekend!