When Sean Barnett, Spohn Associates’ Chief Financial Officer, joined the Indianapolis company 15 years ago, it was a manufacturer’s rep – a sales organization – of products used by construction firms to build ornamental railings, architectural wall panels, canopies, and walkways. Installation of those specialty construction products in schools, higher education, and medical facilities in Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky was a mere 20 percent of Spohn’s total sales.
Over the years, Spohn added project management and installation to its list of services and developed a large dedicated group of subcontractors who installed the architectural specialty products. Eventually, the company transformed into a full-service specialty contractor.
“Because the work was custom and often needed us to provide very detailed installation instructions, over 90 percent of our work now is installation,” Barnett says. “Our mix has definitely flipped, which has allowed us to grow and do things you don’t normally do as a manufacturer’s rep.”
Barnett likes to position the company’s work as installing “all the pretty things on a building.” For example, when the City of Blue Ash, Ohio decided to erect a 180′ observation tower, Spohn provided the entire exterior skin, including the perforated and ACM panels, the point supported glass, and the ornamental railing.
In the past decade, Spohn Associates’ business has shifted to larger and more commercial projects. The company has multiple crews working on large buildings and corporate campuses, and has some 40 to 50 projects running concurrently. They typically handle 350 projects a year.
Legacy Sage plus Access Database Untenable
Spohn Associates operated on legacy Sage Mas 90 then Sage 100 for many years. When Barnett joined, he built an Access database to improve the financial reporting Sage lacked. Soon after, project managers asked for their custom databases to be included. “We kept adding and adding to it until soon it had more than 450 reports and views,” says Barnett, who has a technical background. “It was great for a while, but we outgrew it, and it started to crash.”
The company’s challenges were primarily reporting based. When the team wanted to write checks, it took 10 minutes to write two checks, Barnett says. “That’s because you had to print four reports before you wrote a check, and each report took at least a minute to print. Then you had to print four more reports after you cut the check. You’d do one bill, and print four reports, and then you had to go back and do all the manual updates.”
The financial operation spans five internal companies; each had to be manually updated in the old system. “We were always out of balance and we wasted hours a week when doing all of the intercompany transfers,” Barnett says. “We had a lot of manual steps to remember because the system had been cobbled together over time.”
After building a new database and having it crash, Barnett realized they needed a better reporting system connected to the company’s financial system.
Since most of their work is performed at a customer’s site, the team searched for a project management platform that had a robust mobile application that included document management, storage and search capabilities.
“One of our biggest frustrations when we were outside the office was having to remote in via VPN, which was clunky,” says Jeremy Sturgeon, director of operations. “It wasn’t conducive to use on a tablet or iPhone, and that’s where the industry has gone, specifically with employees out in the field.”
Spohn Associates wanted a solution that would help it consistently achieve its core values of adding value to a client and delivering projects on-time.