Satisfied STACK customer, Aaron Cochran of Watson & Cochran, Inc., talks about business beginnings, growing pains of a scaling Architectural Millwork company and how STACK continues to alleviate workflow pain-points for estimating, project takeoffs and plan viewing.
Who Started the business and when did they get started?
Kyle Cochran and his partner Stan Watson started the business back in January 1986 in Dallas / Fort Worth.
What was the business like in the beginning?
They started out doing commercial millwork for car dealerships, hotels and banks.
In the beginning they were bidding on side work while they continued their day jobs and quickly built it into a full time business.
Things were a lot different than they are today, there were no computers and all estimating was done with paper plans and hand written takeoffs. Lots of pen and paper work, they used to drive out to the contractors office to pickup plans to bring back to the office or sometimes they'd do the estimate right in the plan room.
When did you join the business, what was your first job there?
I'm Aaron Cochran; Kyle's my dad. I'm 26 now, but I first started working here back when I was in high school pushing a broom and cleaning bathrooms.
Eventually, I moved up to building cabinets in the shop and driving a truck by the time I was in college. After college I left for a while to try other things but ended up coming back a couple of years ago. Now I work here full time as an estimator.
How have things changes over time?
My dad turned 56 this year but he and his partner are still very active in running the business. The company has grown a lot over the years. It's a small family owned business, so we've had our struggles when the economy was tight, but right now things are going really well and we're growing.
Who are some of your customers?
We've done work for Winstar World Casino, Hyatt Hotels, Park Place Dealership (multiple locations), Colonial Country Club, and Brookhollow Country Club.
How many employees do you have today?
How did you find out about STACK Takeoff?
It was about a year ago; the old ways just wouldn't cut it any more. I needed to find a more efficient way of doing estimates so I just decided to make researching a better solution my #1 priority.
Before we switched to STACK we were getting bogged down printing drawings. Finding the right pages and getting them in order was really time consuming. Plans would get lost; paper was piled-up everywhere around the office. Buying paper and ink was getting really expensive.
We had a few problems early on trying to use the old Cloud Takeoff. It turned out to be a slow internet connect, so we switched to a faster connection.
The biggest problem was finding time to do the research and run trials on the different programs. My dad and I wanted to find a solution that we could both use. He understands computers but he's not what you'd call an IT guy. I used computers in high school and college all the time so it was much easier for me to do this.
I looked at 5 or 6 programs before I finally found STACK, but back then it was still called Cloud Takeoff. The other programs I looked at were hard to use; they were too complicated and difficult to learn and some of them charge for training. I didn't think they would be a good fit for our business and training on the new software would have been time consuming and expensive.
STACK was simpler, but what I especially liked was the free customer support. They also offer free online training. When I first started I loved to talk to Luke and Troy on the phone. Since STACK is cloud based I can do a go-to-meeting screen share with one of them, he can look at what I'm working on, and show me the solution right on my computer.
How has STACK helped your business?
Using digital tools has really sped up the estimating process. Every project we bid is different so we need a flexible solution.
We really like the conditions and color coordination of the takeoffs. We need to be able to measure in linear footage, square footage and counts. Using reports to get running totals are really nice to have and we really like the bid calendar feature. Being able to go back and see old jobs is very helpful. Now we can find drawings from 6 or 7 months ago with no trouble.
When we submit a bid, we're committed to our numbers and do the work for whatever we quote so it's important to be accurate. In the old days we might have done 5 or 6 bids per week, today we do about 10. We've double the estimate output and increased our opportunities to land work.
Would you recommend STACK to other estimators?
Yes. We do custom architectural millwork but we have another business we work with that specializes in stone work (like countertops). They've come by a few times to look at how we do our estimates, and they're interested in switching to STACK as well.