At Buildertrend, a construction-management software company in Omaha, Nebraska, co-founders Dan Houghton, Jeff Dugger, and Steve Dugger are known as "the Bobs." A reference to Office Space, it's an inside joke, as Houghton and the Dugger brothers are nothing like the cost-cutting consultants of that 1999 film. Buildertrend employees have access to a long list of activities, an onsite gym and yoga studio, live music events, and sports tournaments. The company also holds monthly life-skills sessions that cover topics ranging from financial fitness to stress management to wine tasting.
There's even a company bar, where Buildertrend offers free snacks, wine and beer, and a lift home. "If you've had too much and take an Uber, we've never asked questions about that," Houghton says.
You could say beer was foundational. Prior to starting Buildertrend, Houghton and the Duggers were high school best friends. In 2006, the recent college graduates were back working in their hometown. Houghton sold insurance software while the Duggers took consulting jobs building websites for local businesses. Then--over beers--the brothers told Houghton that homebuilder clients were asking for tools to manage their projects. Steve Dugger suggested the three of them quit their jobs and start a company. It wasn't just the beer talking.
"I said, 'Wow, this is a huge market--great idea,' " Houghton recalls. Within two months, the trio had a basic software product and a $4,000 check from their first customer--although they lacked a company bank account. Today, Buildertrend's cloud-based software is the gold standard for builders, remodelers, and specialty contractors. Fifteen percent of new single-family homes in the U.S. are built on it--that amounts to 713,075 jobs worth $147 billion in 2019 alone.
The co-founders say their greatest source of pride is a culture that puts life over work for the company's 550 employees. One of Buildertrend's mantras is "Life outside these four walls is more important." Another: "No assholes allowed." That means supporting employees with flexible work policies and benefits. Using employee feedback, the company created a Pick Your Perk policy that reimburses $1,000 of personal expenses per year for things like travel, a down payment on a house, and child care costs. Want more time off? Get reimbursed by additional personal days. Legal fees, adoption, and infertility assistance also qualify.
Eric Fischer, a vice president of customer success who's worked at Buildertrend since 2014, chose to be reimbursed for a family ski trip to Colorado. The vacation would have been his children's first time skiing, but Covid-19 forced ski resorts to close. In his case, it will have to be the thought that counts. "Caring about people and putting them and their families first creates more motivation to show up and work your butt off every day," he says. "It makes people want to stick around."