The business: Weatherguard Metal Construction Inc.

5065 E. Buffalo Soldier Trail, Sierra Vista; (800)678-3853

The owners:
 Lynn and Jerilee Mattingly.

The products:
Metal roof and metal building construction.

Annual revenue:
$2.5 million.

The challenge: Computerize to increase efficiency and profits.
Computerizing makes it easier
Arizona Daily Star; Tucson, Ariz.; Oct 2, 2000; Charlie Rochman; Copyright The Arizona Daily Star Oct 2, 2000
Lynn Mattingly built his metal construction business piece by piece. As the business grew, Mattingly found it increasingly difficult to stay organized and keep his finger on the pulse of the business.

Needing help, he called the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) and got hooked up with Don McArthur, a former oil company executive and a graduate of the Harvard Business School's MBA program. McArthur is now chairman of SCORE's Tucson chapter.

The story

Lynn Mattingly worked 15 years in Buffalo, N.Y., as foreman for a metal building construction company. When work in Buffalo became scarce in the winter of 1977, Mattingly came to Tucson and was given an assignment in Bisbee. He returned to Buffalo in the spring but never forgot Arizona. In 1986, he moved to Sierra Vista.

At first, Mattingly earned a living from home improvement work but soon realized there was demand in Sierra Vista and the surrounding area for the type of metal roofing and construction work he'd done in New York.

In July 1990, Mattingly and his wife, Jerilee, formed Weatherguard Metal Construction and set up a home office. Lynn Mattingly did estimates, materials purchasing and job supervision. A graphic designer by trade, Jerilee became the bookkeeper and office manager.

"I worked from dawn to dusk, six and a half days per week," says Lynn Mattingly.

Mattingly's bootstrap-built business is no longer run from a home office. Weatherguard serves a market that extends across Southern Arizona. Business has been good, and the company now employs more than 20 people.

But all that growth stretched Mattingly's ability to keep his company moving forward. His experience as a foreman had not provided him with general business skills. He was computer-illiterate and candidly admits, "I wasn't smart enough to know I was winging it."

The advice

Don McArthur recognized right away that Lynn Mattingly's tight control of his business was the reason for success. Mattingly was expert at the critical tasks of the business: estimating, pricing, ordering and job troubleshooting.

However, rapid growth made it difficult for Mattingly to attend to critical tasks and details of each job on a timely basis, says McArthur. Another barrier to efficiency was the manner in which Mattingly did job estimates - the old fashioned way, pencil on paper.

At their first meeting, McArthur recommended a personal time management system he hoped would organize Mattingly's priorities and allow him to spend 20 percent more time on long-term business issues. Mattingly immediately got on the phone and ordered the Franklin Covey planner system. He uses the system on a daily basis and says he does a better job of tracking priorities, planning activities, and delegating and tracking assigned work.

At the same meeting, McArthur showed Mattingly the spreadsheet program already installed on his wife's computer. McArthur pointed out that standard job estimates could be simplified and made more accurate by using a computer.

Despite resistance to computers in the past, Mattingly readily understood the speed and accuracy potential of the spreadsheets.

Mattingly says he had a hidden inclination for spreadsheets, and McArthur agrees. It wasn't long before he automated his standard estimates and had a number of office computers networked to facilitate sharing of information with other members of the construction teams.

Mattingly also uses the spreadsheets to facilitate ordering materials. A metal roofing estimate spreadsheet he created will account for 25 separate roof types, identifying materials and parts by number and estimating direct labor and administrative costs, Mattingly says.

Another homemade spreadsheet accounts for individual construction jobs using the percentage of completion method, an accounting method used in the construction business.

In subsequent meetings, McArthur recommended use of spreadsheets to track the status of materials purchases. Mattingly is enthusiastic about this idea and plans to track purchase orders in a way that ties material shipments to job scheduling. That will improve cash flow, Mattingly says.

Mattingly also conceived an incentive system for his employees. He consulted with McArthur, who helped him refine the idea. Using spreadsheets he'd developed to estimate the cost of jobs, he calculates variances that compare actual labor hours to estimates. Mattingly combines favorable labor variances with safety and quality guidelines to derive pay incentives for jobs completed under budget.

McArthur recommends the use of hand-held computer technology to gain time management capabilities in the field. By having his schedule in the palm of his hand, Mattingly can keep top priorities at his fingertips, input entries in the field and synchronize the data with the desk top computer.

Thanks to newly discovered computer literacy, the company now transfers "blueprints," or computer-assisted design files, over the Internet. The company has enthusiasm for learning new software tools, says Mattingly. Most important, Weatherguard's refinement of estimating and tracking tools has resulted in consistent profitability of jobs and higher overall profit.

Photos by Aaron J. Latham / Staff: Shining up their business: Jerilee, left,and Lynn Mattingly are reflected in a copper roof element made by Weatherguard Metal Construction. The consultant: Don McArthur is a business consultant and chairman of the Tucson chapter of the Service Corps of Retired Executives. SCORE is a not-for- profit business consulting group made up of volunteer retired executives who offer advice to businesses at no fee. McArthur can be reached at (520)670-5008 or (520)792-4737.

Weatherguard Metal Construction, Inc.
Commercial Residential Industrial Agricultural
5065 E. Buffalo Soldier Trail Sierra Vista, AZ 85650
Toll-Free: (800) 678-3853 Phone: (520) 378-3221 Fax: (520) 378-0405
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