Constructed Futures

Ron Nussbaum: Improving Customer to Contractor Communications at Nuttnest

Episode Summary

How do you organize communications between contractors and customers/owners? With project schedules getting pushed faster and faster, and project teams managing an ever increasing amount of items & issues, sometimes critical communications can get lost, leading to bad relationships and bad outcomes. Nuttnest was created to solve these issues, and improve project delivery in the process. Ron Nussbaum, founder of Nuttnest, walks us through the platform and the problems it solves.

Episode Notes

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Episode Transcription

Hugh Seaton: Welcome to Constructed Futures. I'm Hugh Seaton. Today, I'm here with Ron Nussbaum CEO and, and co-founder of Nuttnest. Ron, welcome to the podcast. 

Ron Nussbaum: Hey, great to be here today. I'm glad we're going to be able to have this conversation. 

Hugh Seaton: Me too. Me too. So let's start with what Nuttnest does. 

Ron Nussbaum: So what I, what I like to do is just kind of tell the story about Nuttnest and how we got here is I spent over a decade in the construction industry as sales, field work, as a foreman, in operations management and leadership.

And what I heard all too often was, Hey, we love you. We love the work. You do. We love your guys, but your communication is lackluster at best. So that gave me a desire to figure out how I could fix that, not just for myself, but for the entire industry and Nuttnest was born from that. That leads us down the road to where now we have completely reimagined what that customer communication piece looks like from that homeowner speaking to that contractor or that home service provider on every project and what I'm out to do, and my mission is to help 5 million contractors with this and completely disrupt the industry and change the status quo that we have let be that contractors are bad communicators. 

Hugh Seaton: What an interesting approach and, and how are you getting it going? How are you getting it off the ground? Five million's a big number. It implies that you're, you're really kind of covering a range from pretty small outfits to potentially slightly larger. So what's your way of getting out there? 

Ron Nussbaum: So absolutely. We go from anywhere from your, your mom and pops to hundred million dollar construction companies.

We, we have a wide range there and you know, it's about taking little bites of that apple or so that 5 million is my goal in what my mission is. But you gotta start with 50, 500, 5000, what that looks like and what that's, what like, for. It's just working those networks, being in the construction industry for the last decade, I've made a lot of connections and know a lot of people within the network and a lot of influence around that.

So reaching out to them, sharing what I'm doing. Meeting with you here today. Getting the word out there. Cause one of the biggest things we face as being new technology in the construction industry is no one knowing about us or what we do. And that's why I'm here today, talking with you and why I talk and take meetings all the time with people.

It's just about getting the word out. 

Hugh Seaton: Now I love this. You know, one of the things that contractors often struggle with is that people want to call 'em when they're focused on something else. So on the other side of it is the, the, the homeowner or the owner gets frustrated that they can't call their, their person and get, you know, get an immediate answer.

So I think your, your running interference between the two of them is, is a great idea. 

Ron Nussbaum: Yeah, that's absolutely correct. And you know, I, I'm a firm believer the construction industry is one of the greatest industries in the world, and it's got the best people and they're really, really good at doing what they do and that, that creates environments where they have stuff that falls off.

And unfortunately, in the construction industry, communication is one of those things that falls off on just about every project out there. When I, when I was out managing and leading in a construction company, I was able to track back 90% of my escalated customers to a singular point where that communication fell off, or they felt like there wasn't a question answered or they, no one got back to 'em.

And for me, that is how we get to the root of this and we start to solve from an industry's perspective, what people say is unacceptable. 

Hugh Seaton: And what is that, that key moment like? So what have you identified or is your point that, there's always a moment and, and you guys want to be there wherever that moment is.

Ron Nussbaum: Yeah. 

So when, when I was running in management and I had to deal with upset customers, that took me away from doing what I was supposed to be doing. And that, that was growing. Bringing on other people and developing other leadership throughout the company. I can't do that if I'm at a customer's house, putting out a fire.

So I had to look at this from a thousand foot perspective on what exactly is the reason. Cause it it's not because of the final invoice or a change order or something. There has to be something else. Because people don't go from zero to a hundred over one thing. And that all came back to, at some point in time in that project, they asked somebody a question or inquired about something, whether it is a paint color or a flooring color, or what time's somebody going to be at my house, or who's going to be at my house.

And they didn't get that answer in a timely fashion. And then that starts creating that snowball. Where next thing, there's something little that happens and they get even more fired up about it. I like to say that we had, you know, a little pile of kindling there and then a spark and then some wind.

And then next thing will fully engulfed and we have a fire and it could have all been nipped in the bud at the very beginning, if that customer just felt like they had that communication that they desired. 

Hugh Seaton: Well, it feels like there's some level of disrespect that is, is felt even if it's not intended.

Right. That's what really gets folks wound up often is they feel like they're not being respected or. Or, you know, treated like they should be treated. And I think what you're saying is by, by automating or at least augmenting this communications, you can avoid that. So little problems stay little. 

Ron Nussbaum: Yeah, absolutely. And, and. It's not intentional. It's just what happens. Yeah. People get busy. Yeah. Cause they don't have a way to be able to track this or bring it into a singular point where they know where all that traffic's going. We live in a world today where there's so many different forms of communication.

It's hard for say me and you to be on the same page with how we're going to communicate. Even if we're talking, let alone having customers and employees and running a business being able to control that communication as well. So it, like I had said it, the construction industry has the best people in it, and they're really, really good at what they do.

They just need some help with the stuff. And what, what Nuttnest is there to do is to say, Hey, this is how you take care of your communication. I want contractors to be able to leave their customers with the Nuttnest platform, and then they can go do what they're really, really good at. And that's build houses. Do renovations, put , on, do siding plumbing, electric, or whatever their specialty is. I want them to be able to go out there and do that every day and not have to worry about, Hey, I'm dropping the ball with communication because they know that that communication aspect is being handled. 

Hugh Seaton: Yeah. I love that. So I have to ask, what is the origin of the name? 

Ron Nussbaum: So the Nuttnest. And once again, we'll tell, I'll tell the story about it, because it, it really is a crazy story. You know, in my mind I was coming up with all these great things that I thought, man, they, these names are, are just great. They, they, no one can even pronounce 'em, but they're great.

They just look great. And I was talking with my wife and she's like, I think it should have our name somewhere. And Nussbaum means nut tree in German. So that's where nut came from. And I. Going around a nest, because I feel like for the homeowner that customer, this is the nest. This is where your projects are kept.

This is how you communicate with those contractors. So Nuttnest made its way onto the list. I sent it over to our marketing team and it was unanimous. They sent me an email back going, it has to be Nuttnest. Everybody loves it. It's it's very catchy and it'll stick. So that's where the name came from. 

Hugh Seaton: I love that, you know, Blackstone comes from from the founder's name.

There's a people do that. Bridgestone does too, actually. So you're in, you're in good company, you know, incorporating your name in a, in a, the company's name. It also makes it a little easier to own, doesn't it? 

Ron Nussbaum: Yeah, absolutely. 

Hugh Seaton: So in terms of how this works, how Nuttnest works, how does it work? What, what does somebody do?

So, obviously it's the contractor who signs up. how do they sign up and, and what, what happens? 

Ron Nussbaum: So we, we make it super easy. You can go right on our website, sign up, I'll do a demo with you, show you exactly how the software and everything works. So you're familiar with all of that. If we decide it's a good fit for you.

We get you on the books. We get, you signed up, we do some onboarding where we get all your information and everything loaded in there. And then we just start having your customers as projects, move along, downloading the Nuttnest app and whoever those points of contact at your company are, that's who's going to start receiving the important calls, and messages back and forth with your customers. So you don't ever have John who doesn't know anything about the installation process, answering questions about the installation process. Those questions say, go right over to Sam who has all that knowledge in that Part of your business.

It's same with scheduling, accounting, billing, sales, any of that. So I like to say we work as air traffic controllers for those contractors. Once they're on the nut net platform, we help move that information to the right people. And it also allows owners and managers to start to see what are some of those frequently asked questions, because now this is trackable on every project.

Every project has its own feed. So think of like a Facebook or Instagram feed, but for your project at your house. So you can see exactly what the last communication was. When are people showing up at my house? What is the exact colors and everything that's being used? All that information's right there for the homeowner to look at, as well as the contractor.

And be able to see in real time, whether you're in the room or you're across the country because it's a rental property or your last contracting experience was so bad, you can't even be in the same state that the project's happening. So we allow that transparency right there. We allow the contractors to dictate exactly where that communication's going.

So they can have a pulse on that. They have a decision on who exactly is answering what questions in my company. So you don't have somebody that doesn't have any knowledge answering a question that's then creating hot water later for you and your company. 

Hugh Seaton: I love that. And what, how does the control work? So how does the, the, the control over who answers?

What, how, what does that look like? How does that work? 

Ron Nussbaum: So on the contractors' end of everything, it's all web based. So it's accessible from anywhere from tablets to being on a computer and it's all controls are set up right in there. It's just admin setting. So it's as easy as going in there and saying, Hey, Mike is our guy for this, putting in Mike building his profile there.

And then that communications then directed to Mike. It's as easy as doing. 

Hugh Seaton: That's great. And if they don't do that, does it just go to everybody or does it kind of default to the, to the...

Ron Nussbaum: no, no, we, we require there to be somebody and if there's going to be nobody, a lot of times from just using my past industry being around the construction industries, I say it might be a good time for the owner to take some of these calls so he can, if you're not 100% sure.

Take the calls. Figure out what your customers are saying. And then that'll also give you a pause on who is the best person to answer these questions for this specific field. And then a lot of times what we want to do is be able to see some trends, because if you have a bunch of people taking different phone calls and there's no way to really be able to track, Hey, this is what I'm hearing all I'm in the sales department, and these are the questions I hear all the time. Once you can start tracking some of that because you are only taking those calls, you can then be proactive in saying, Hey, we need to start doing this on the front end to stop these calls from coming in later to provide some more clarity or answer the questions up front.

So we want to be able to create an environment where we're proactively solving these problems, as well as answering the questions as they come in live. 

Hugh Seaton: Yeah, I love this idea that it kind of defaults to the, to the boss until the boss figures out who else to... that just makes a lot of sense, especially if you're scaling from smaller companies to larger companies.

Ron Nussbaum: Yeah. Yeah. And that's, you know, one of the questions that I get is, Hey, we have a receptionist that's really good at doing this in getting that traffic where it needs to go, but my, my answer to that is your receptionist isn't scalable, right? Would you need, you need to be able to continue to scale your company unless you are content being the size you are.

You have to have a way to be able to continue to grow this and Nuttnest is scalable with you. As you continue to grow, we are going to be right there and be able to grow with the company and allow you to continue having great communication, because it's not typically the ones and twos that have bad communication because they're there on every project. They're, they're the ones selling it, doing the work, closing out the jobs. The communication's awesome. It's when the ones and twos decide they're going to become the fives and tens and then the tens and hundreds, and then into the thousands that we start to see these breakdowns. And that's what Nuttnest is here to do, is to bridge that gap in communication and continue to scale with that company as it grows.

Hugh Seaton: That makes a lot of sense. And, and also I have to assume that people who aren't experts, don't love getting the question. So sending it to reception or sending it to an assistant or sending it to someone who's general purpose is probably pretty stressful because they don't necessarily know the answer, but they gotta figure it out and they'll route it for you.

So the fact that you're making this easier and more well managed will, will probably retain and, manage people that are in a support role better as opposed to putting it all on them. Because again, they probably do it because they're getting paid to, but I they're not experts.

So they're probably not given the best answer, but B they probably hate it. 

Ron Nussbaum: yeah. I, I can, I completely relate with what you're saying about that stress of you're on a you're on a call and you want to answer the question because that that's in our nature. It's to be a problem solver. We wouldn't be in to fix it business if we weren't.

So we want to give an answer. And a lot of times we're trying to figure out what we should say. And then we say something, we put our foot in our mouth because we're not the person that should have been taken that phone call, but you don't just want to let the customer go. And then we get into times where we let the customer go, we put it down on a sticky note. We go try, we go to find the person that's in charge of that. And then we run into somebody at the coffee pot and we leave the sticky note there. And then next thing you know, that customer never gets a phone call back. That's when that spark happens and the project can start to unravel right there.

Hugh Seaton: And I love your, your, your, you know, referencing the fact that sticky notes are one of the things you're competing against. And I totally get that right. Is, is we, we think we can rely on notes at the time because it's like, here's the note, of course, I'm going to find it later. And. Two hours later and five other problems have gone by and you're like, where was that note again?

Or you forgot? There even was a note. 

Ron Nussbaum: Yeah, absolutely. I have burned all my sticky notes. I I'm I'm on a mission to get rid of those in the construction industry and how we're going to do that is by having one call closes when it comes to questions from homeowners. 

Hugh Seaton: Interesting. So as you think about where this is most useful you know, when you're, you're talking about really changing a lot of the industry.

So do you think speaking of homeowners that, that this is going to make the most sense on the smaller side of things to begin with? Or is it the opposite? You think it's actually going to be larger, you know, sort of midsize folks that are going to find this most useful? 

Ron Nussbaum: To be honest, we are having great success with all and even some in, in the commercial industry as well.

I've had multiple people reach out to me about how we could start to use the Nuttnest platform from a commercial standpoint to actually run job sites for big construction projects from a communication perspective, because one of the great things about the Nuttnest platform is we are what we are. We're not an Angie's list.

We're not a CRM. We are a communication platform. We are here to help customers and contractors communicate better. And that's what we do. And we're sticking to doing that. That's not, there's not a lot of bells and whistles when it comes to that. We want to be really, really good at what we do.

We just don't want to have a bunch of add-ons that are trying to add value. We want to add value by doing exactly what we say we're going to.

Hugh Seaton: Got it. And when people are sending these effectively, these tickets forward what's in it, is it mostly voice? Is it, is it text? Is it, what, how does it, how does it get communicated?

Ron Nussbaum: So that's up to the customer on is how they feel best communicating. We are going to push everything to a, more of a messaging. because we want to have that record. If that messaging, it's not what that customer is going to want to do. We have the access in there to be able to call somebody direct. That's put in place to answer those questions. Our goal is to have everything transparent right out there in front of everybody. So the contractor and the homeowner, so we want to push as much stuff to messaging as we possibly can within the platform. So then it's tracked. So if somebody is mad because you're not there at 10 o'clock, but you're not expecting them to, to be there until three, but they thought they, you heard, they thought you said you'll be there in three hours, but you said you'll be there in 3:00 PM. We want to be able to have records of all of that. So in an ideal world, everything's done through our messaging channels that we have created.

If not, we still allow that direct outreach, because we know some homeowners still want to reach out and talk to somebody in person. 

Hugh Seaton: Yeah, that's great. You talk about tracking a lot. What does that look like? So, I mean, where are you now and where do you see it going in terms of the analytics? Because I gotta imagine there's a lot that you can do with that.

Ron Nussbaum: Yeah. So what we're doing with it now is we're just keeping the database for the contractors. Now, is it down the future? Is there going to be, you know, there's going to be able to be ways to utilize that, to help companies move their communication forward. We're just not there with that technology right now.

But it does allow that owner or manager to go into each project and look at what that communication looks like. What's that dialogue. How are my employees talking with my customers? What does that look like on every project? Because as you're continuing to grow, you can't always be there, but this gives you a way to say you have a customer that's very escalated and you're like, what happened?

What was the problem? Why are we here? Now? You can go back and look at all the communication throughout that entire project from, you know, the point of sale to when the installation crew is out there and see exactly what that looked like and who might have said what, or was there a miscommunication? The homeowner thought something differently, and then you can take that data.

And continue to train and make your guys better and make your company better. 

Hugh Seaton: Yeah, this is great. I mean, you think about what, one of the reasons why larger contractors have been using things like Procore for, for so many years is the ability to point at history and say, this is where it went wrong.

And it wasn't our fault. Now often that's a lawsuit in the larger, and it may be, you know, smaller job as well. But here it's more about the relationship. Probably getting paid in some other things. So the ability to point to something and say, no, actually here's where it went wrong. Or, you know, we thought you said this, because it read like that is huge.

And, and you think about from a smaller contractor standpoint who can't afford some of the bigger platforms, the ability to have that has gotta be huge. Right? It's it's for the first time you're able to say, it's not whether I remembered you or not. Here it is, which I think is huge. 

Ron Nussbaum: Yeah. And to what you're saying right there is we want to create lifelong customers yeah.

And create a referral base. And one of the things that's built into a platform is because that customers going to have it. And a lot of times customers forget who they did business with. So they lose the phone number. They lose their phone. They, they forget who it was. This is going to allow them to be able to go right in there.

And I had the kitchen project. I had that kitchen renovation click on the project. Right. Here's that contractor reach out to 'em and now that contractor has a history of what that looked like that communication. So they can be like, Hey, I hope you're enjoying those great cabinets we did. We really loved that project.

How can I help you today? 

Hugh Seaton: That's so cool. And the fact that Nuttnest stays on, or at least can stay on the, the user, the, the homeowner or whoever the, the customer is that it can stay on their system is really great also. Right. Cause to the point you're making, they can go back and say, who was that again?

And oh, wow. I really liked that communication. I really liked how they, how they got that done. So there's an interesting way of, of reminding people that you've done business with them. That is hard to do any other way. Right. Because the only other way there is, if somebody comes across an old invoice. 

Ron Nussbaum: And we're doing the same thing with being able to refer directly through the app. So then that, that project's tied to that referrer. So that contractor knows this is the project that I did for John over here. And he just referred me to Dan. So he kind of has some context for what Dan might be looking for.

Hugh Seaton: That's fantastic. So, you know, listeners will be people who will be interested in learning more about this. What's the right way for them to, to learn more about what you do and, and kind of get engaged with you as a company. 

Ron Nussbaum: Yeah, you can go right on set up a demo with me so we can go over exactly what we do.

And you can see the software live and see what that looks like. And we can talk about exactly what we do. 

Hugh Seaton: So where do you see all this going? So we've talked a little bit about maybe we're maybe analytics or something else, but what's your vision for this platform going forward?

Ron Nussbaum: My vision is like I said, to help 5 million contractors and I want to move the construction industry to the 21st century. Change the mindset around it. Because I think as an industry, we let the past affect us when we shouldn't. We, we should be who we are be the great people that we are. And continue to push forward and say, Hey, I understand there's some shortcomings, but we're addressing those.

And we want to be here and give you an amazing experience. And that's my mission and purpose is I want to see the, the construction industry just elevate itself and move into the 21st century. 

Hugh Seaton: Awesome vision. Well, Ron, thank you for being on the podcast. I'm really excited about what you've built. I think it's going to help a lot of folks run their businesses better and build better communications and relationships with their customers.

Ron Nussbaum: Hey, thanks for having me today. I really enjoyed it. And anytime you need anything, feel free to reach out.