Jake Eilermann of McBride & Son
Image courtesy of McBride & Son Jake Eilermann of McBride & Son

McBride & Son is currently the largest builder in Missouri but the firm came from humble beginnings. The company was founded in 1946 by Joseph C. McBride, a carpenter who began building homes for veterans returning home from World War II. McBride is now helmed by John Eilermann who came on board in 1987 after graduating from college. He became CEO in 2005 and then bought out the employee-owned ESOP firm in 2017. His son Jake, now serves as vice president and has been there for two years.

Annual closes are around 850 with the company working a 60 mile radius around St. Louis. The firm—No. 63 on the 2018 Builder 100 list--had already been using a software system for sales but wanted to upgrade. As it turns out the answer was right across the parking lot.

“We share our corporate parking lot with MiTek, so we’ve always had a connection with them,” says Jake. “Both being from St. Louis and big in the industry helped, but the sales tool was what really sold us and it’s integrated from the sale all the way to the warranty.”

MiTek’s Sapphire tool which is designed for homebuilders is working like a charm for McBride & Son. The business operations system offers modules for sales, invoicing, service requests, and purchasing. Although the idea of builders adopting emerging technology may seem like a foreign concept to some, Eilermann sees change on the horizon.

“We were just at the Builders Exchange event in Boca Raton, with all the national builders,” says Jake. “We were talking to them about the system and it’s actually shocking – some of the builders are still working off Excel spread sheets while some are trying to develop proprietary software with their own developers on staff. Right now, there’s a changing of the guard.”

McBride’s switch was aided by a collaborative partnership with the software developer’s staff, who were willing to take suggestions from the builder about getting the system fine-tuned. “It’s a great partnership that makes the MiTek Sapphire software better for both sides. We tend to be their leader in trying new systems,” says Jake. “With our relationship we both understand the importance of getting better, we are constantly working with their top developers to make the software the absolute best for builders.”

The system is now being used in concert with the company’s 10,000-square-foot design studio, which opened in August. The design studio offers easy access to all those little decisions that go into finishing a home. “We used to send our customers all over the place,” says Jake. “They had to go to the flooring store, they had to go to the lighting store, they had to go look at low voltage. The design studio centralized all that. It allows us to do the selections and set the price, it’s all in our system.”

The centralized system allowed McBride to get their arms around the whole process and lower costs by striking deals with the major players in the home accessories markets. Recent partnerships include deals with Mohawk, Kohler, Moen, Aristokraft Cabinets, Kichler, Sherwin Williams and GE. Sales cycle times contracted dramatically. “We were at a three week to a month cycle time,” says Jake. “Now we’re down to a week or two. We’re getting more starts in the ground.”

The system automatically keeps cost and pricing up to date – another plus for going electronic. “There’s no more gimmicks and the customer experience is better too. We know what our consultants are telling them. They’re not going to a third party. There’s less change orders, it’s streamlined, the whole process is lean and mean,” says Jake.

Becoming more streamlined is a key concept running through McBride’s pattern of success. In addition to picking out finishes, the system also helps design the house and limits options – in a good way. “We revamped all our plans and got rid of hundreds of options,” says Jake. “We know our efficiencies and if we break those rules we know we’re creating a headache for everybody in the office. We’ll now risk losing the sale if somebody wants to add a window to the basement.”

At the same time, using the software has also opened up possibilities for converting what used to be upgrades to standard features. “We used to have bay windows on the back of the house as an option – it was plan specific,” says Jake. “We took a lot of those options and made them global, for example a three-window bay can now fit on every plan.”

Builders in Missouri are facing the same challenges that everybody else is. McBride & Son is a reliable employer who works mostly with union trades so the labor shortage hasn’t been much of a factor. The company works with area unions to source their carpenters, plumbers, electricians, laborers, and more.

Tariffs bumped up prices and rising interest rates are always a cause for concern. But weathering any storms may be easier by adding the right technology. “I would recommend it to anybody,” says Jake. “But you have to be committed. You’re either all in or you’re not. We started this process two or three years ago and we’re still not 100% done with it. We still have to put new plans in.”