BuilderTREND weathers hit to housing market, reaps rewards

In 2006, when Omaha-based BuilderTREND started offering its software to its target market – homebuilders – the residential construction industry was at an all-time high. Two years later, it hit an all-time low. “There were certain things that were lucky …

BuilderTREND’s web-based software that allows homebuilders and remodelers to organize and manage their construction business. 

In 2006, when Omaha-based BuilderTREND started offering its software to its target market – homebuilders – the residential construction industry was at an all-time high. 

Two years later, it hit an all-time low.

“There were certain things that were lucky about our timing,” said Jeff Dugger (far left), 33, who founded the company with his brother, Steve Dugger (middle left), and friend Dan Houghton (near left), both 30.

If they had the idea in 2008 or 2009, Jeff Dugger said, they wouldn’t have pursued it. As it was, they had enough time to get the BuilderTREND name and product out there before the downturn. “At least,” he said, “we were in control of our own destiny.”

As Houghton explained it, the industry contraction had two good effects for their business: many of BuilderTREND’s competitors threw in the towel, and many of their customers were looking for ways to increase efficiency and stand out. BuilderTREND’s software allows homebuilders to do just that, by organizing and communicating about their projects with client-homeowners, subcontractors, bankers and others.

And, Hougton said, because the recession roughly coincided with the social media revolution, people wanted to transition toward web-based software and other “new school” technologies. “We were in the cloud before it was cool,” Houghton said.

In early 2006, the Duggers were building custom software from their basement home office. After they built a website for a building materials supplier in Omaha, homebuilders started to request similar products. Although the requests varied, homebuilders generally wanted about 80 percent of the same things, Dugger said.

“Dan had software sales experience and just convinced us that this was marketable on a large scale,” Jeff Dugger said. The idea of a turnkey or software as a service model of building once but selling multiple times was “inspiring,” he said.

They made their first sale in June 2006, when the software was barely ready. Although they raised about $100,000 from private investors, they spent only about half and worked side jobs to bootstrap the rest of their way.

“I think you can get so caught up in the details early on, like caught up in the details of raising money,” Houghton said. “People forget they really have to get a product to market, get started, get a foot in the door.”

Within three months, they had about a dozen clients in and around Omaha. By December 2006, their software was in 20 states and the company had begun to turn a profit.

Two years ago, the company purchased a building near 108th and Q streets and renovated it for their offices, complete with ping pong, foosball and two keg taps. “It was a good jumpstart to grow our company and take it to the next step,” Houghton said. “It feels good to go to work someplace you enjoy going.”

Today, after five years of 30 percent annual growth, BuilderTREND has more than 1,000 customers across all 50 states and six countries. Customers pays between $199 and $1,500 per month based on their volume and type of projects. BuilderTREND now employs 14 people – most longtime friends of the founders – with plans to add two or three more in 2012.

To celebrate meeting all of the company’s 2011 goals, all 14 employees – plus spouses – went to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, for a five-day retreat in early January (left). Up next, Houghton said, is vertically integrating BuilderTREND’s software into some other areas of the construction industry.

“If someone had said five years ago that we were going to Mexico to celebrate our business and we’d be in this great office, I think we would have thought that’s cool,” Houghton said. “But now we just want even more.”


Image credits: Screenshot of software from Photos of Jeff Dugger, Steve Dugger and Dan Houghton courtesy of Houghton. Photo of BuilderTREND team from BuilderTREND on Facebook.


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