Eric Fortenberry: There Is a Talented Pool of Software Developers in Texas, Which Is Critical to Our Growth Plans

Eric Fortenberry of JobTread Software.

Tell us about yourself?

Eric Fortenberry is a passionate entrepreneur who founded JobTread in 2019. This is Eric’s second venture with the first being OrgSync, which he sold in 2015 to Leed’s Equity.

After a successful exit from OrgSync, Eric was approached to serve as interim CEO for a local Dallas General Contracting company in the hopes that he could help streamline and remedy their broken processes.

Eric did a comprehensive search to find software that would meet the company’s needs, but quickly discovered the existing products were either slow and clunky, not customizable, or didn’t have the functionality they needed.

He also found that most products catered to just one aspect of the market and were not flexible enough to accommodate a variety of needs. “I realized all the software out there was either outdated or wasn’t able to be tailored to our business so I decided to build something myself,” states Fortenberry.

“The new product not only helped the company get organized and stay on top of our financials, but it also helped us increase our gross profit by 43%! Once I saw the results, I knew we had built something great.” After successfully implementing the platform and substantially increasing the company’s sales and gross profits, Eric knew this was too good to leave with just this one company.

So he spent two years rehiring many of his former employees, building out the platform, and making it ready for the broader market.

Eric brings a rare combination of residential and commercial construction, financial services, and software development experience that position his company perfectly as an emerging leader in the construction management software market.

The Company plans to continue optimizing its products and services and delivering the latest and greatest technology to a market that is asking for a better solution.

Growth Figures: JobTread officially launched in January 2021 and signed up more than 200 businesses in the first year to help them more effectively run their business. By December 2022 they have nearly 900 active businesses and expect to reach 1,000 by the end of the year.

What lessons has being an entrepreneur taught you? 

Below are a few of my takeaways and lessons learned from my experiences that demonstrate how I have gotten to where I am today.

These lessons have become the set of values we created for our team. I hope that they, in addition to my story, will help you understand why I should be chosen for this award.

Hire the Right People. People are a company’s most important asset and it is important to get the right people on the bus, the wrong people off, and make sure everyone is sitting in the right seat, as Jim Collins wrote in the book Good to Great.

We seek highly motivated self-starters that always strive to deliver exceptional results for the people and companies we serve. Focus on Culture. JobTread is not just a Company; we are a team of people passionate about technology and making the lives of construction professionals easier.

We have a work-hard, play-hard mindset and treat each other like family. Building a strong culture takes work, and we focus each and every day on making JobTread the best place to work. Customer Service is Paramount to Success.

JobTread has become the Company we are today because of our intense focus on our customers. We are available around the clock to help solve any problem or issue and do our best to go above and beyond for our customers wherever possible.

We continue to receive praise about our customer service and that is a huge differentiator between us and other competitors. Outwork Our Competition. We did not get JobTread to where it is today by working from 9:00-5:00.

We are constantly analyzing every aspect of the business and looking for ways to continuously improve. It is our dedication to JobTread that has helped us become a major player in the construction software industry.

Be Passionate About Our Work. Passion is what drives us to deliver amazing results. We believe in the work we do and trust in our team to execute on their goals. We applaud people kicking ass and recognize individual and team contributions.

We rally around our mission and when everyone is excited and working together towards the same goal, the results are amazing. Listen to Our Customers. The development of our product has been guided, in large part, by our customers.

They continue to feed us ideas, and we listen. We take all their ideas, discuss them as a team, and execute on the ones that make the most sense for the most amount of users. We view our customers as partners working collaboratively to deliver the best product possible.

Never Stop Learning. We believe in continuous improvement and seek to always be growing both as individuals and as a team. There are always new skills to learn and techniques for us to adopt to perform our work more efficiently and with better results.

You Can’t Boil the Ocean. Every day at JobTread we see endless opportunities to improve the way the construction industry operates.

Building a business is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s the blocking and tackling day to day that makes us successful and we understand that proper focus is necessary to achieving our goals. Under-Promise and Over-Deliver.

Our reputation in the marketplace is everything. The worst thing we can do is promise something and then fail to deliver. It’s the quickest way to jeopardize our reputation and lose customers.

We are very focused on setting expectations we are confident we can deliver on while delivering some unexpected surprises along the way. Embrace Change.

Change is the only thing you can be certain will occur and we embrace it. Change is what moves us forward. We have to be agile and responsive across all areas of the team and that happens through strong communication and collaboration.

We continuously look for new ways of approaching problems to find solutions. May The Best Idea Always Win Our team believes in collaboration and working together to find the best solutions.

We encourage healthy communication and debate so all viewpoints are heard and we’re always looking for ideas that are in the best interest for our customers, partners, and team as a whole. We understand that the best ideas can come from anywhere and that timing is key to success.

If you could go back in time to when you first started your business, what piece of advice would you give yourself?

When I reflect on the differences between this venture and my previous venture, there are a few major differences that I’ve implemented.

First and foremost, my biggest takeaway from my last company was that I chose the wrong market. We sold software into higher education and when I started the company I was 23 years old and didn’t realize how small of a market it was.

There are only approximately 5,000 colleges and universities in the US and another 5 to 10k worldwide. In retrospect, this represented an extremely small market.

We ended up selling our software to over 500 universities in 13 countries and had over 20 million users, but our customer was the university and there just weren’t that many of them.

My second biggest takeaway was the importance of selling to decision makers. In higher ed, everything was “decision by committee” and all purchases needed to be budgeted for and required various approvals.

So ultimately the sale cycle was extremely long and could take months to years. With JobTread, we can frequently get the customer to pull out their credit card and sign up by the end of our first meeting when we demo the product.

Lastly, with my first company, our solution was often looked at as a luxury and not a need. It was also harder to quantify the impact and results our product delivered, so that could also make it harder for customers to justify the cost.

With JobTread, we are undoubtedly solving real business problems and can directly quantify our impact on our customers’ profit. That coupled with an extremely affordable price makes the purchase a no brainer.

A lot of entrepreneurs find it difficult to balance their work and personal lives. How have you found that?

For me, that’s 100% true. I’m an extremely focused and driven person who greatly struggles to find balance. During my first startup I basically considered myself married to the business. I saw myself as the business.

I bootstrapped that company out of a five bedroom house and recruited people to join me in living the venture. We literally ate, slept, and breathed the company. If you have seen the movie The Social Network, that was also our story.

With my current company, and now that I have a family and two young kids, I try to make sure I’m able to spend time with them at the beginning and the end of the day, and on the weekends.

I still find myself working extreme hours, and even when I’m not physically at my computer or on my phone, I am always thinking about the business.

I really can’t help it, but I also think it’s part of what makes me uniquely qualified to lead this company. My wife has found that taking family vacations has been a good way to get me to disconnect from work and focus on keeping my relationship with my family strong.

Give us a bit of an insight into the influences behind the company?

At the beginning of my last company I read Sarah Lacy’s book “Once You’re Lucky, Twice You’re Good.” This has been a motivation for me to do it all over again to prove that I wasn’t just lucky, but that I can do it again.

I’d say our customers and helping them succeed is also a huge driving force for me and my entire team. We believe if we help everyone else around us succeed then it will in turn help us succeed as well.

Lastly, my Dad is our CFO and his experience at nine different ventures has helped us stay focused on our numbers as we work to reach profitability. He is extremely disciplined and helps us think about each and every expense and the value it will bring.

My Dad truly has been the best influence I could have asked for and this is the second company he has worked with me to build.

When we disagree about expenses, we hash it out and what’s great about our team is we have the mindset of “may the best idea win”. This helps keep everyone’s emotions in check and helps keep the dialog healthy even in the most challenging discussions.

What do you think is your magic sauce? What sets you apart from the competitors?

I’d say the thing that sets JobTread apart from the competition is that my team and I have both experience working in construction as business owners, as well as experience developing software to solve real problems.

We aren’t just construction guys trying to build a software app and we aren’t just software guys trying to deliver solutions where we don’t fully understand the problems.

We literally built JobTread out of a needs basis. The other thing our customers frequently point out as a difference between us and any other company they’ve seen is our keen interest in listening to and collecting feedback from our customers about how we can continue to improve our product.

We literally track every single piece of feedback and feature requests that we hear from customers. And we use that data to prioritize our development roadmap based on the features that will make the biggest impact.

Our experience building and selling a company has been tremendously valuable too. Many people on our team worked with us at the previous company.

We’re a well oiled machine and able to leverage our nearly a decade of experience previously working together.

Our teams, and especially our leadership team, has an unparalleled work ethic. We often work around the clock and do whatever it takes to be successful. And our work ethic is driven by our passion and determination.

How have you found sales so far? Do you have any lessons you could pass on to other founders in the same market as you just starting out?

Track everything! You need to make sure you understand and qualify the effort and cost of all your efforts so you can measure the return on your investments.

This will help you figure out what’s working and what’s not. Do more of what’s working and less of what’s not. And remember, just because it doesn’t work today, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try it again later.

You can only do so many things though, so make sure you focus on the highest value activities. For us, having an inside sales team has been huge.

Until we were able to afford to hire sales people, I focused as much of my time as I could on sales. I cold called, I did product demos via Zoom, I knocked on doors, I attended events. Now that I’ve got sales people, they are able to focus 100% of their time on sales.

At the end the day, you must have someone focused on sales. Pick up the phone and call people. Sales is a volume game and the law of large numbers says the more calls you make, the more sales you will make.

We found that advertising didn’t work as well for us early on because our customer acquisition costs were extremely high.

And when someone did sign up from an ad, their chances of renewing weren’t nearly as high as from someone we called and built a relationship with on the front end. We will inevitably return to advertising, but for the time being we’re investing our limited marketing dollars more strategically.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced so far in your business, and how did you overcome it?

Finding the right people to hire. We are well behind on our hiring needs and that is because we refuse to fill seats. We only want “A” players on our team or people that have the potential to become “A” players.

Being slow to hire has forced us to be as efficient as possible across every area of the business and we are always looking for new ways to create new and improve existing processes.

Scaling with poor processes can cause businesses to waste a ton of money and that is not something we can afford to do.

Additionally, we are looking for positive media stories to help get our name and brand out there. Fortunately, we were recently named the #2 Best Places to Work in our category by the Dallas Business Journal.. We have a great story to tell and just need to keep getting the word out there.

What do you consider are the main strengths of operating your business in Texas over other states in the US?

Both the cheaper cost of living and no state income tax make Texas an attractive state for people to live and work in.

There is a talented pool of software developers in Texas, which is critical to our growth plans. Texas’ central U.S. location along with major transportation hubs such as DFW Airport allow for easy travel to all parts of the country.

Are there any disadvantages of operating our business in Texas?

As I said above, Texas has a talented pool of software developers, but it could be a deeper pool of talent.

For example, California leads in depth of technical talent, but I’m seeing that dynamic shift in recent years as more and more tech companies and technical people continue to relocate to Texas given the cheaper cost of living and corporate tax advantages.

Texas has a pretty diverse population. How have you found the quickly changing demographics have impacted your business? Have you got new opportunities? Managed to expand your business into new areas?

Since our customers are located across the country (and some international customers), our customer base already represents a broad demographic.

We are fortunate to have ready access in Texas to employ bilingual speakers since Spanish is frequently used in the construction industry.

It is often reported that, in Texas, politics and business are intertwined. Have you noticed this? Has it impacted your business?

Initiatives that drive, support, and fund additional construction are always helpful to our business.

Also, helping more people embrace and seek training in the construction trades is very valuable to our business and our customers. Encouraging entrepreneurship for trades people can be a growth engine for the Texas economy.

With rising prices across Texas (and the US as a whole) have you been impacted? Do you have a plan for dealing with inflation going forward?

Up to this point, I don’t believe our business has been adversely affected.

In fact, I believe we may be benefiting from it because most of our competitors’ products are substantially more expensive which is driving more of their customers to look elsewhere for cheaper alternatives.

I have seen the rising prices to be a frequent concern for our customers because they worry that their customers’ spending will slow down.

From what we’ve been seeing though, there is still tremendous demand for contractors and construction work, and many of our customers are staying booked for multiple months into the future.

And for the contractors who are sticking to their profit margins, they are actually making more money with the rising prices because their gross profits are also increasing.

What do you want to accomplish in the next 5 years with your business?

Over the next 5 years we plan to continue building out our team in order to manage our exponential growth.

We’d like to grow our customer base to several thousand customers and eventually I hope we can internationalize our application so that we can better support a global customer base.

Eventually if we can grow large enough and/or decide to take on capital partners, then we may consider making strategic acquisitions that could further expand our product offering and customer base.

And finally, if people want to get involved and learn more about your business, how should they do that?

There’s a ton of information on our websites, so I’d suggest starting there.

For people interested in joining our team, I’d point them to the careers section on our website where they can learn more about our open positions and apply.

For prospects interested in our services, I’d suggest watching the videos on our website and scheduling a demo to speak to someone on our sales team.

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