Angelo Castelli is President of On Center Software. He is only the third president in the history of the company established in 1988. He joined On Center as sales manager in 2003 after 10 years as chief estimator and project manager with a major construction company in Ohio. This is a quick Q&A that tells the story of an estimator who became president of a global construction software company.
You were a project manager and chief estimator with Western Reserve Interiors of Cleveland, Ohio in the 1990s, during the beginning of the digital transformation of the construction industry. Tell us about that.
AC: I learned the ropes of estimating using paper blueprints, markers, and rulers. The president and chief estimator at Western Reserve used a DOS-based estimating system with a scroll wheel to measure plans. While I was being trained he upgraded to a Windows platform and digitizer board, which calculated and counted the measurements between point A and B. We made an incredible investment for the system. It wasn’t much later when we were asked to review On Center Software’s solution by our software provider.
When I first saw how On-Screen Takeoff was able to measure the plan directly on the screen without a digitizer board and just a click and drag of a mouse, I knew it would change the industry. The ability to quickly change labor production on the fly within Quick Bid and instantly see the impact on the price made the system very efficient and flexible. The system was so advanced; we were able to quadruple the number of projects we could bid. We doubled our revenue and increased our profitability in the first year using the software.
You quickly became a power user of On-Screen Takeoff and have an impressive success story. Tell us more.
AC: There was a renovation project I had bid that required quite a bit of plaster repair. The plans had just called for repair as needed. We used On-Screen Takeoff to quantify and display where we figured the plaster repair work was needed. We provided color-coded plans showing exactly where we identified the plaster patching to occur as part of our scope review with the contractor, owner, and architect.
Our bid for the project was $1.4 million; the low bidder was at $1 million along with another bid at $1.1 million. The owner and architect determined that our estimate was less risk for costly change orders since they could identify what we included for plaster patching compared to our competitors. In the end, we didn’t have any issues for approval of additional plaster patching that was required and we completed the job 10 percent less than the estimated labor budget.
What motivated you to leave a major construction business for a software startup? On the surface, that appeared to be a risky move.
AC: I have always been interested in technology. Over time, I had built a relationship with Leonard Buzz, the founder of On Center. I contributed quite a few feature requests over time and I was a huge fan. It’s always great to see a feature request that you personally submitted implemented into On-Screen Takeoff and/or Quick Bid. Leonard had pursued me to come to work for On Center multiple times over the years. I decided to leave a comfortable position because I saw a great opportunity to help advance the way contractors estimate and manage projects.
What are the innovative technology trends you see coming online to construction?
AC: I see great advances in construction software, mobility, and data sharing through the cloud. Cloud computing removes most of the IT burden on small- to medium-size companies. With cloud computing, companies no longer have to maintain their own servers, pay for IT security and expensive equipment replacement for systems they use only a fraction of the time. When a company switches to the cloud, they can concentrate on their core business. Their plans, project data, applications, and email systems are in the cloud, available virtually everywhere, including job sites. Contractors use the cloud to link job sites and the office with applications and real-time data. Two or three team members can look at the same digital plans at the same time. They are no longer constrained by a local server at the office.
The construction industry is slow to adopt new technology. The market is very busy and contractors are having issues finding labor. We have construction startups that are investing in our software solutions, but we have slower growth with existing clients since they have plenty of backlog. They are too busy to automate if that makes sense.
Do you have advice for the millennials entering the industry?
AC: Never stop learning, growing and expanding your knowledge. The future is bright for construction management. Our software is used in construction management curriculum in over 300 institutions. Don’t be afraid to take risks. Follow your passion and keep up with technology.
2016 was a milestone year for you, promoted to President and historic seasons for your favorite sports teams. What do you predict for 2017?
AC: Okay, anyone who knows me knows I am an Ohio sports super fan. Go Browns, Indians, Cavs, and Ohio State Buckeyes! I sponsored an office tailgate party for the World Series, my Indians lost in extra innings in game seven. The Cub’s got lucky, we will be back!
You worked with both On Center founder, Leonard Buzz, and Cecilia Padilla, what advice (if any) did they give you to prepare you for your role as president?
AC: Always remember, the client comes first. Our focus remains to listen to and take care of our customers. We get tremendous satisfaction from hearing how we have helped their businesses and we gain real-world advice from them to improve our software. We are on the same team.