Supporting Contractors’ Businesses with the Business Part
Pivot Solutions LLC handles the details to enhance company productivity
For many contractors, the challenge in running their own business is the actual business part, says Bobbie Romo, Founder and Partner at Pivot Solutions LLC, an Arizona-based company established in 2019 to provide financial and construction management support to contractors and subcontractors.
“We work with a lot of small contractors who are very successful industry performers but don’t have the administrative experience or back office knowledge and support their businesses need,” Bobbie says. “For those clients, we are their office, providing accounting, bookkeeping and supplemental business services.”
At the same time, Pivot Solutions works with larger general contractors to augment their operations with specific analytic skills, like assessing cost estimates, reviewing bids or qualifying subcontractors
“For them,” says Founder and Partner Cindy Rodriguez, “we’re set up to step in and provide the services they need when they need it, while they need it, instantaneously and seamlessly.”
She adds: “We work one-on-one with owners and construction managers at companies big and small to help them with time-consuming management issues so they can focus on what they do best—work leanly and productively. We work on projects as small as additions to residences and as large as commercial jobs involving millions of dollars.”
Outsourcing functions like accounting and bookkeeping may sound routine but Pivot Solutions’ role goes far beyond simply being a vendor performing a task, Bobbie says. “We become part of each client’s team, keeping them on budget, showing them the best way to operate while saving them time and money. We stay abreast of industry trends and give them forecasts focused on their fields. We give them business intelligence that helps their companies prosper.”
Strong Backgrounds in Construction Support
Bobbie has worked in the construction industry in a variety of roles for more than 28 years, Cindy for more than 20. Long before they started Pivot Solutions, they worked together at another construction-related company, Bobbie specializing in accounting and budgeting processes and Cindy in cost estimating and project management.
Over the years, they talked of the allure of working on their own, with both eventually leaving to work as solo practitioners concentrating on their own areas of interest.
“We each worked independently for a time,” Bobbie says, “but we ended up doing things for each other’s clients, complementing each other’s services as the clients needed. Finally, we said ‘Let’s stop doing this and work together.’ ” They established Pivot Solutions, based in Tempe, in the spring of 2019.
Pivoting to Success
The co-founders named the company Pivot Solutions to emphasize that it offers clients an opportunity to “pivot” in a new direction, away from the challenging path that most businesses go through to become established and successful.
As established by the company, Bobbie and Cindy say, the “Pivot” can take many forms:
- As outside consultants, they can take on clients’ administrative tasks more cost-effectively than full-time in-house staffs.
- They can be called on to supplement a workforce when business is brisk, or to step back when it is slow.
- As construction industry professionals, they can help their contractor clients deal with highly detailed plans, cost analyses and time-consuming details.
- They help clients stay abreast of industry developments and trends and educate them about new capabilities.
“We’re here to do whatever clients need to help them deliver high-quality, cost-effective work and to grow their businesses,” Cindy says.
Construction Management by the Numbers
At present, the two-year-old company has more than 200 clients that use either ongoing accounting or estimating services on a project-to-project basis. The owners estimate that they’ve completed more than 700 projects since the firm’s inception. Trustworthiness, they say, is one of Pivot Solution’s core values, so they don’t identify their clients publicly. Since they deal in sensitive information for each company, they’re bound to confidentiality commitments.
Many of the businesses they serve with financial oversight are in the 20- to 25-employee range: small- to medium-sized general contractors and subcontractors in specialties like insulation, drywall, painting, flooring, stucco, remodeling and other vertical construction specialties.
“Typically,” Bobbie says, “these are talented tradesmen who are inexperienced or under-resourced to proficiently run the accounting or bookkeeping side, so we undertake those roles. But the work needed often develops beyond that. Some clients initially think they want basic accounting help but end up needing more than that, something more inclusive.” When a company needs the financial oversight of a CFO or Controller, Pivot Solutions can and will fulfill that role.
“Often,” she says, “they don’t understand business law, the intricacies of sales and payroll taxes and the like. Sometimes, they’ll pick up a proposal for a project that isn’t right for them. They may not possess the capabilities or the financial resources to produce a positive financial or business outcome, and we offer the knowledge base and experience to call and confidentially caution them from moving forward on it.”
Bobbie cites a common confusion small companies experience regarding employees versus contract workers. “Sometimes, I have to explain to them that they can’t just put 20 guys on their staff who they manage as employees but who aren’t payroll employees. There are legal implications tied to that process.
“For one thing, both the state and federal government will say they’re trying to avoid payroll taxes. For another, if you’re a contractor and hire an unlicensed contractor, then you, too, are open to being considered an unlicensed contractor.”
Bobbie notes that accounting for employees legitimately proves beneficial. She points to the case of one client during 2020’s summer of COVID-19 who had problems getting a Paycheck Protection Program loan (PPP) for its workforce because of the status they held as contract workers. Once she was able to get them squared away as legitimate payroll employees, the company was able to qualify and get government relief through a PPP loan.
Construction Management by the Project
Cost estimating is an essential element of any successful construction project, Cindy says, but not one that’s emphasized in college construction management programs. Most four-year programs offer only one course in estimating, and most estimators learn the skill through on-the-job training.
“A good estimator,” she says, “has strong math, organizational, communication and data-management skills, is detail-oriented and understands the construction process from start to finish. We’ll perform the cost analysis on all components of indefinite project differentials.
“We’ll take a blueprint and break it down and estimate the materials needed and the current associated costs. Then we’ll work with the owner and contractor to help them find the best value for their needs,” she continues. Depending on the client and the project, Pivot Solutions may help with collecting bids, coordinating paperwork, preparing requests for information (RFIs), filing for insurance, preparing legal notices or assisting with almost any document or record- keeping applicable to the project.
“In a cost analysis,” Cindy says, “we may break down a budget by overall building cost, by individual floor cost, specific cost code or other classifying criteria. We look at projected costs, identify deficiencies, work with the client in considering design adjustments and help prepare change orders, finding and recommending the right subcontractors at the right cost.”
In working through a budget analysis, she adds, they emphasize the concept of value engineering, seeking to increase the value-to-cost ratio of a project. If, for example, a project’s plans indicate a specific flooring material that entails a long lead time, they work to help the contractor find comparable suppliers with comparable materials at the same or lower price—and with much quicker availability.
“Through careful research, analysis and planning, we can help contractors optimize their costs, timetable and quality,” she says.
Beyond Augmenting: Educating
Contractors seeking assistance from Pivot Solutions are generally in search of outside help with supplemental support. Often, they also get something else: industry insights and training.
“A big part of what Bobbie and Cindy do is education,” notes Michael Shetlar, a Phoenix-area Franchise Owner with The Blue Book Building & Construction Network®.
“Through training and education, they help their clients at least understand the processes involved, even if they don’t end up taking on those processes themselves. And, they help them keep up with industry trends. It all builds trust, serves their clients’ bottom line and strengthens their relationships,” he says.
Education takes various forms. The company began conducting programs several times a year at their offices in Tempe, with one this spring on reading architectural and structural plans. But a lot of their teaching is one-on-one with individual clients.
“We may go in and find that the client has a general knowledge of a topic but isn’t up to date on the latest advances,” Bobbie says. “We see a lot of contractors whose technology—and technology skills—are significantly outdated. We can help them update their proficiencies. We can show them how to do things, or we can do it for them. Sometimes we go in and train a staff but end up having them ask us to do it for them anyway.
“We don’t do actual construction but we’re intimately involved in every step of the construction process, and we help companies that do the construction to grow and prosper. That’s our job.”