(This article first appeared in the Spring 2012 issue of National LICA Contractor Magazine.)
By Bari Faye Siegel
Time is money. You’ve heard that. Hey, you’ve probably said that. More than once. But, for some reason, when it comes to searching for jobs to bid on, you or your estimator spends – or perhaps even wastes – a lot of time hunting and pecking on the Internet, reading legal notices in the papers, and hoping for return phone calls.
The question is: why?
Why, especially in this economy when every moment leading up to a deadline is critical to being able to delivering the most complete and competitive bid, would you waste your time with outdated methods of lead generation?
“CIS is a project lead service that allows users to find out about projects faster than if they were to do it on their own or via another service,” explained Chris Colabella, president of CIS, Northeast-based parent company of CIS Leads and C-Source. “We have a team of reporters that saturate the area visiting architects, engineers and owners to make sure we have every job.”
Recently, CIS added New York, Delaware and Pennsylvania jobs to its private project listings, offering even more contractors opportunities to find work in ways they may not be able to find on their own.
Phil Spitz, project manager/excavator at Recchia Contractors, said the construction business has changed in the past few years. “It wasn’t so bad when the economy was good. But, when the economy starting going south, we needed an edge.”
Recchia found the edge it needed more than two years ago when the company, which specializes in sitework, paving, concrete footings and more, signed up for CIS Leads. “We found immediately that CIS had very current information, weeks before the newspapers have it. Public notices in the papers often come out just days before the bid is due. When we relied on that, we were scrambling to get copies of the plans, making estimates and getting quotes from vendors.”
Spitz admits that kind of chasing-your-tail strategy fell far short of Recchia’s standards. “We knew we weren’t able to offer the most competitive bids because our information wasn’t as accurate as it needed to be. We just didn’t have enough time to do it well. I know we lost jobs because of the way we were going about finding our leads.”
The best part is: CIS Leads works. Recchia has gotten at least eight jobs off of CIS Leads in the last two years. Those jobs are valued at about $800-$900,000. For a company that does $3.2 million a year, that’s a lot of business.
One of the best things about CIS Leads, Spitz added, is that it saves countless hours of manpower and dollars, as well. “I have to be selective on what I bid on in these times,” he said. “Think about it this way: on a million dollar job, you could spend 40 to 56 hours estimating. I don’t know about the other guys, but before I spend all that overhead, I want to make sure I have a good shot at winning the bid.”
Joe Ruvolo, sales and marketing executive at Selco Manufacturing, is no stranger to technology. Prior to joining the company in the fall of 2011, he was in Internet marketing. So using a lead service like CIS Leads made perfect sense when he started his new career – and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Instead of trying to be a reactive company, I want Selco to be proactive. I’m on CIS Leads all the time, looking for jobs that are listed early. I want to get the plans and get estimators involved in the process early on. I want to qualify contractors so I can quote accurately. Using CIS Leads gives me the opportunity and time to offer pricing on all aspects of a job, instead of maybe one or two.”
Selco offers steel fabrication services and performs electrical work, he said, and often a job requires both. Without the lead time offered by CIS Leads, Selco might only be able to bid competitively on a portion of the actual work it could provide.
How It Works
Sometimes the construction business can seem like a daily grind if you spend your days in search of work, instead of doing what you do best – whether it’s paving or excavating or electrical work. It’s likely that your team stays on top of the most advanced tools of your trade, hires the best, and prides itself on performance on the job. Keeping clients happy is Priority No. 1.
The team at CIS Leads has the same commitment to its work and strives to keep the lead service as up-to-date as possible, scouring the region for job leads, entering only the highest quality information into the system every day and forging relationships with architects, engineers, project owners and government agencies to make sure that information is received as soon as it becomes available.
Sometimes, even faster than that. “We have people who physically attend bid openings to get and post results faster than anyone else. Sometimes our clients don’t know that they have won a project before we let them know,” Colabella said.
CIS Leads brings general contractors, subs, material suppliers, equipment dealers and professional service companies together to do business smarter, better and faster. The founder of the company, Don Colabella, was a civil engineer who was frustrated by the fact that information was too slow in coming. “I realized that I was not getting project information quickly enough, so I figured out a way to get results much faster.”
For more than 20 years, CIS has been providing the industry with a way to get information electronically, giving them more time to bid on jobs. CIS has evolved over time-adding new territories and features designed to make contractors’ jobs easier than ever. “CIS provides unmatched information as well as excellent customer service,” the founder said.
If you can surf the Internet, you can quickly get up to speed on CIS Leads. Clients subscribe to the service and have round-the-clock access to job lead information. A few clicks and you can:
•Easily access bid information
•Review jobs on a daily basis
•Track projects and contractors
•Get personalized alerts when something changes on information you are tracking
•Create customized reports to access the exact information you need
•Spend less time looking for work
•Access a construction community of over 18,000 listings
•Browse (and post) sub requests directly from GCs
Additionally, the company has evolved and expanded its offerings to including C-Source, the only construction directory that not only links the industry together in a way that users say they cannot live without. It provides great information about anything and everything clients need to get the job done well. New features include the ability to help contractors drill down regionally or within specific areas of expertise to find M/W/DBEs, specialized subcontractors, material suppliers, equipment dealers and more.
Information Is Power
Selco’s Ruvolo says he spends a lot of time on CIS Leads – not only to find jobs. It’s the best networking tool he has found.
“People want to do business with people they like. I look at the lists and see the usual suspects all the time. But when I see companies I don’t know, people who don’t know Selco, those are the ones I reach out to. I can build our companies’ visibility in the market, share our capabilities with companies that don’t know us,” Ruvolo said. “I know that this kind of relationship-building brings in more work in the end.”
On the other side of the coin, he added, CIS Leads is great not only for giving users a jump on jobs, but also on the competition. “I use it to see what the other contractors are bidding on. This is the most effective technology that you can use to get ahead in the construction business. It’s just a great source of very valuable information.”
Recchia’s Spitz uses CIS Leads in the same way, with a twist. He likes to see who else is bidding so he knows who to contact and offer Recchia’s services as a contractor. Especially on the bigger public works jobs, like a school, he said, “it’s great to have the lead time to be able to approach the general contractors and get them to know who we are.”
And, keeping an eye on the competition is a critical component of the bidding process. “If I see that there are really hungry people bidding for a job, I may want to stay away from it because I know they are going to go in really low. But if I see there are three companies bidding and two have tons of work, I know I have a great shot.”
No More Guess Work – Just the Facts.
CIS offers another unique product in addition to its popular CIS-Leads service. C-Source is an online directory that allows users to access details and descriptions on over 18,000 subcontractors, material suppliers, equipment dealers and other professional services.
Think of it from the Prime’s point of view: Sifting through lists of subcontractors in an effort to narrow down the field of possible go-to firms can be a labor intensive, time consuming task. What if it was easy to find the exact subcontractor they need for a job?
What if that subcontractor was YOU?
“Of course, if prime contractors have the time and energy, they can obtain a list of the applicable unions in the region, get their list of subcontractors, and start making phone calls,” Colabella said. “If they are lucky, some of the options may have websites and/or email addresses listed; this could cut down on the cold calling.”
However, there is a better way. C-Source is free, easy and takes a lot of the guesswork out of finding the best subcontractors out there to meet project needs. As a subcontractor working in the NY Metro Area, you need to be listed on C-Source – no question about it.
Just ask Digby Ferrara of Top One Maintenance in Staten Island. Top One was getting most of its work through word of mouth until Ferrara found out about CIS. CIS-Leads give Ferrara’s company an advantage when it comes to getting first in line with Prime Contractors on NYC Parks jobs. His free listing and paid advertisement on C-Source has been worth every penny, as well.
Ferrara checks out CIS-Leads every day and looks at the updated bidders’ listings. “If I see there is a contractor who has picked up plans, I can call them and find out if they are truly bidding it and ask if I can shoot them a number.”
Prior Proper Planning…
You’ve heard the old adage, “measure twice, cut once?” That’s because in the construction business, success comes from planning.
CIS offers information about projects in the early stages, which users say offers them ultimate planning tool. “This is incredibly helpful because we can start tracking projects and making contacts with owners and engineers and architects far in advance of deadlines,” Spitz said.
At the end of the day, especially when work is hard to come by, if you find something that works for you, make the most out of it. “I love recommending CIS Leads to other companies because I want to work with the best,” Spitz said. “I believe, in this business, if you have something that is really valuable, you are nuts not to use it to get ahead. Sure, there are other services out there. None like this one. CIS Leads works.”
Top One Maintenance’s Ferrara couldn’t agree more. “This is a numbers game and you are not going to get every job. So you have to talk to people to build your business. If you don’t have access to CIS, you are feeling around in the dark.”
Find out more about CIS Leads and C-Source, at http://www.cisleads.com. Or call 800-247-1727 for a more information or a free demonstration on how the products can work for your company.