Construction, as we all know, is hyper-local. For our Industry Spotlight series, we’ll focus on cities in the U.S. with influential construction sectors, as well as what experts in those key areas are saying about their market and the industry at large. This time, Pam Hummel, Executive VP of Marketing & Industry at Briq, is joined by Christian Geismann, CFO of Schuchart Construction, recent speaker at AGC and recently published in Building Profits Magazine.
These two industry friends chat about construction in Seattle and surrounding regions, how to utilize tech for better business success, the business improvements Schuchart has been able to make using Briq, and a whole lot more. (Don’t worry, we’ve summarized the interview with timestamps, so you can easily find what interests you the most.)
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Get to the point with these topic time stamps:
Pam Hummel kicks off our Industry Spotlight by introducing Christian Geismann, former CPA and current CFO of Schuchart Construction in Seattle. Christian gives a brief background on himself and how he began in accounting, as well as a bit of background on Schuchart, who has doubled in size in the time that Geismann has been there. He discusses their entrepreneurial spirit and their support of one another as a company culture.
The Seattle Construction Market (~5:00)
Hummel opens by discussing the thriving Seattle construction market before 2020 and the events that have occurred since, that ultimately affected the market. Geismann talks about what’s been happening in Seattle in the past 6-9 months. He explains that Seattle was one of the hottest construction markets in the world. After February, when everyone was required to work from home, there was a lot of fear and disbelief. Schuchart’s main clients are a big aerospace company, and tech companies. So, they had concerns at the beginning of COVID. Christian explains how they’ve adapted and become nimble.
Utilizing Tech for Success (~14:00)
Due to the volatile nature of the market and the unpredictable nature of the current world, Hummel asks what technology Schucart is utilizing to stay successful as a contractor. Geismann talks about the importance of having data in your hands quickly, to make efficient and effective financial decisions. He talks about how although many financial managers know this, they don’t have the systems to make it happen. He says accurate data and good forecasts are key. Scenario planning, he says, is also a major strategy they used at Schuchart to better navigate their business health. He also talks about certain tools they’ve used to support their financial forecasts and reports.
Business Improvements with Briq (~17:30)
Our panelists discuss how Schuchart has turned their business operations into smart operations with Briq. Geismann says that he considers Briq to be an essential partner in allowing them to operate as intelligently as possible.
“It includes utilizing data that you have and crunching it in a way that I’m not able to do it. That’s where Briq comes in. They do the heavy lifting that we don’t have in-house. Briq allows you to have this data analysis without employing a full-time person. We’re able to do great analytics. It’s not intimidating because Briq is there to look at all the data and understand the correlations, to get insights. Briq is able to develop automations for us that make us more efficient. Briq takes away the ‘button-pushing’ and says ‘hey, that’s not value added, take that time and spend it analyzing how we can make more money or be more efficient.’ It puts folks' brains to better use.”
2021 Outlook and Beyond (~21:30)
Christian explains that they are seeing a positive trend for 2021 in the Seattle market. Many new projects are opening up or going back online, not all in Schuchart’s wheelhouse, but the projects are there nonetheless. He also mentions that Amazon is looking to construct some new factories, and buildings are changing hands by buyers. Downtown Seattle looks like it will be flooded with office employees again one day.
“It doesn’t necessarily relate to us or mean construction activity, but it feels like we’re coming around the corner. People want to go back to the office.”
Geismann also talks about what they plan to do with their office space layout at Schuchart when employees are able to come back to work as well as the hybrid work-from-home & work-from-office model.
“For employees, to be honest, I think they’re going to be happier.”
Words of Wisdom (~28:30)
Hummel asks if Christian can give some words of wisdom about something that he and Schuchart have been so successful at- adopting financial management platforms.
“I got this advice from someone and I think this is key. Find something easy and tackle that. People always think how do I get going or where do I start? Think about your business, the problems that you have, and the problems that you’re trying to solve. Start easy.”
He talks about process automation, big data, and how to tackle simple issues that make a big difference in efficiency. These are big topics that can be scary for some contractors, but Christian urges his fellow financial managers not to be intimidated. He also hammers home the notion of starting small with tech adoption and building off of that.
“It doesn’t matter if it works or fails, it’s going to ultimately succeed.”
The Briq team would like to thank Christian Geismann for chatting with us, and Schuchart for their ongoing partnership. Come back for the next Industry Spotlight, where we’ll bring more construction education and thought leadership from a new industry expert.
Briq is a financial intelligence and management platform built specifically for construction financial professionals.
We join modern technology, with hundreds of years of combined construction experience to give you deep insights into your business. Briq unifies your financial workflows, making them more efficient, accurate and timely. By automating workflows, consolidating financial data, and enabling real-time reporting, we allow contractors to make efficient and effective financial decisions.