The Cleary Way: How an HCSS Customer Tripled Their Annual Bids by Implementing Tech

“Before HCSS, we were probably getting out maybe 100 bids annually, if we were lucky, and that was a stretch. We had to beef up our ability to estimate. Since incorporating HCSS, it has made it much easier for us to put out more bids.”

- Darren Cleary, President and CEO

When HCSS visits the campus of Cleary Construction in the beautiful small town of Tompkinsville, Kentucky (roughly 90 miles outside of Nashville), Darren Cleary is generous with his time as he shares both the origin and evolution of their company over nearly 40 years of business.

“Technology has not always been around in my career here at Cleary,” he points out with a chuckle. In fact, the business began in 1985, a time long before cell phones, tablets, and even the internet. When Darren Cleary took over for his father as President in 2008, that is when he knew the organization would need to keep on changing with the times to be successful.

“Once we got past the pen and paper days, we got into Excel spreadsheets which was so much easier,” Darren says. “And then you all came along, and we purchased HeavyBid which was a big deal because we could roll right into HeavyBid and HeavyJob to track all our work. We no longer have to go to the file room to pull reports. We have it all at our fingertips now.”

darren cleary
Darren Cleary, President of Cleary Construction, shares their journey of implementing technology.

Problem: Communication From the Office to the Field

It is no secret office-to-field communication is one of the greatest pain points in construction, especially with a single company juggling multiple jobsites across multiple states. Cleary has worked hard to integrate solutions which combat this distinct problem area.

“It is very important for estimating to know what is happening in the field. Something we have done recently in the last couple of years is we started bringing more project managers into the estimating process,” Darren explains. “Before, we probably didn’t communicate very well, but now since we have HCSS HeavyBid and HeavyJob, it makes the communication challenge easier. There is so much more than meets the eye which we do between the office and the field, and communicating effectively is critical to our success. We share a lot of information and feedback from the superintendent level back to the corporate office and the appropriate departments. It is just unimaginable what all this software can do for us. If something is going off track, off the rails, we communicate that between the two departments.”

vanderbilt stadium construction cleary
A full two-hour drive from their HQ, Cleary works on the Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville, TN.

Solution: Speeding Up Operations

Now Vice President of Southern Utility Division at Cleary Construction, Dan Bryant was previously their Director of Field Operations. Having been with the company for 19 years, he has witnessed their digital transformation over the past decade.

“We were a paper-driven, gut-driven company,” he says. “Since we incorporated HeavyBid and HeavyJob in 2014, we have become much more analytical and data-driven which has allowed us to grow immensely.”

As Darren Cleary touched on earlier, there is a huge obstacle faced by nearly everyone in this industry: distance.

“As we have grown, that new development for us – being more technology-driven and able to make more timely decisions – has allowed us to expand our footprint, and we are often far away from our work,” Dan admits. “It is very important engagement still be at a high level and we be intimately involved with projects hundreds of miles away. The ability to look at what a job has done which you may be hundreds of miles away from – HCSS allows you that opportunity.”

One of numerous benefits Cleary has been able to champion is speeding up operations, especially making sure they are never waiting around for a response while productivity suffers.

“It is cliche to say this, but time is money,” Dan adds. “We all know it, and we have said it hundreds of times. HCSS gives us an opportunity to communicate with our field guys, much more efficiently than phone calls and emails. You can access real-time data, and we often work with HCSS to develop custom reports. We use it for incident reporting, equipment issues – all those things must be seamlessly communicated for us to be a successful company.”

cleary construction safety sign office
Cleary proudly counts the days since one of their workers was last injured on a jobsite.

“We were a paper-driven, gut-driven company. Since we incorporated HeavyBid and HeavyJob in 2014, we have become much more analytical and data-driven which has allowed us to grow immensely.”

- Dan Bryant, Vice President of Southern Utility Division

Solution: Bidding More to Win More

These days, Cleary can get out over 300 bids per year, but this wasn’t always the case.

“Before HCSS, we were probably getting out maybe 100 bids annually, if we were lucky, and that was a stretch,” Darren Cleary says. “We had to beef up our ability to estimate. Since incorporating HCSS, it has made it much easier for us to put out more bids. And when we win, I think for some companies that would be the end of the story regarding estimating, but we continue to communicate until we have ensured the project is bid properly and handed off to the build team.”

Of course, this all ties into the mentality which fuels Cleary Construction from top to bottom, which is to never stop improving.

“Quality information and communication is required if we are going to get better,” he says. “Our goal is to get better every day, every week, every year, to get more accurate on our bids and our builds. HeavyBid and HeavyJob have really brought that all together for us, and the technology and the growth we have endured is amazing. Through HCSS, we have been able to achieve our goals.”

Ryan Cornwell is the Estimating Director for Cleary Construction, and over the years, he has not only witnessed the transformation but also been a key contributor to the change.

“When I started at Cleary, we were doing all of our bids by spreadsheets,” Ryan says. “We needed that extra step to take us to the next level. That is when we found HCSS and the HeavyBid software program.”

Always forthright by nature, Ryan can attest he was highly skeptical about the transition, but after adapting, the rewards have been plentiful.

“It was hard to make the move even after we purchased it,” Ryan says. “Our management was like, ‘We have got to start using it, and you have got to get more bids out.’ When you are familiar with the way you are doing it, it is hard to make that leap, but once I took that step to do the first bid, I was like, ‘This is really easy! Why are we scared to reinvent the wheel when it makes things easier and faster?’ We have been able to increase capacity, grow the company, and just make everything flow a lot smoother than the way we did when I began.”

the cleary way office sign
This mantra “The Cleary Way” is a testament to how their company operates.

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HCSS Only Helps the Great Workers Who Make It Happen

When all is said and done, the use of HCSS software is only a fraction of what has helped Cleary get to where they are today, and Darren Cleary is not one to take credit but rather praises the phenomenal staff in his company who make it happen day after day.

“When you look back from where we were to where we are today,” Darren says, “it’s all due to the employees we have. They are gritty people who want more in life. They are never satisfied, which makes us different from other contractors. I think we have a great story based on great employees who are willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done on time, within budget, and make the owners, engineers, and clients appreciate their finished product.”

Seemingly unstoppable at this point in time, we can only imagine how much more Cleary will have grown in another 10 years. We all look forward to checking in again then and seeing for ourselves.

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