This week’s episode of the Work Done Right podcast is a collaboration with The Site Visit podcast, where host Wes Edmiston interviews James Faulkner and Christian Hamm, the CEO and COO of SiteMax Systems. In their conversation, they explore the evolving landscape of work and provide invaluable insights into driving organizational change and leveraging emerging technologies to stay ahead of the curve.
Together, Faulkner and Hamm dissect the art of fostering a culture of innovation within organizations, highlighting strategies for success and the vital skills needed to thrive in today’s professional arena. This collaborative podcast episode promises practical tips, profound reflections, and a fresh perspective on work and leadership. Tune in for a conversation that will inspire, inform, and transform the way you approach your professional journey.
About The Site Visit Podcast
The Site Visit is a podcast created by SiteMax Systems that showcases leadership in construction with perspective from the job site. Construction professionals, General Contractors, Sub trade Contractors, and Specialty Contractors audiences will be engaged by the discussions between the hosts and their guests on topics and stories.
The Site Visit is co-hosted by our guests today, James Faulkner and Christian Hamm.
Top 3 Episode Takeaways
- Evolution of SiteMax Systems: After diving into the hosts’ backgrounds, the conversation shifts to the evolution of construction technology. The discuss SiteMax Systems as an example, a field management platform for the construction industry. It started as a simple solution for daily reports and photo uploads and gradually expanded to include various modules based on customer feedback and needs.
- Resistance to Technological Adoption: The hosts mention that there is resistance to adopting technology in the construction industry, citing reasons such as cultural barriers, skepticism about the benefits, and the complexity of implementing technology for specific construction processes like tracking time. However, they also note that the industry has been adapting more rapidly, especially in recent years, due to changing conditions and executive sponsorship.
- Importance of Corporate Culture: The conversation emphasizes the significance of corporate culture in driving technological adoption. The hosts discuss the role of strong leadership and fostering a culture that embraces change and adaptation. They highlight the need for companies to recognize the value of technology in maintaining competitiveness, fulfilling project backlogs, and ensuring visibility and data management, particularly in the post-pandemic era.
James, Christian. Welcome to the Work Done Right podcast. Pleasure having you guys here.
Thanks for joining me. You guys are the hosts of The Site Visit podcast, and you both also work for SiteMax Solutions.
I see Christian there repping the hat. Nice hat. I’ll be waiting for one in the mail after the show.
We got new ones coming, so could probably make that happen for you, Wes.
Well, I’ll be looking forward to two hats, then. How about that? All right, make a note. Yeah, that’s it. So guys, just real quick, would you mind if anything, James, would you mind starting off and just kind of giving us a little bit of background about what SiteMax Systems is, what it is that you all do and kind of how the solution got started?
Sure. Well, let’s just go to I mean, originally back in in the sort of mid 2010, 2011, I kind of did a rebrand for a company that was a general contractor, and it started off with hey. Can we on our website, can we log in and do our daily report and upload some photos from digital cameras?
So essentially, what is today a field management platform which does a whole bunch of things. It started off with just a daily report, basically the superintendent saying who was on site, what was the weather like, division, delays, all those kinds of things.
And then the photos attached to that. So it started off as, can I log into a website? And then it evolved from getting an iPad application to get rid of the digital cameras, and then yeah, then we sort of, I wouldn’t say fumbled our way along.
I was still working with the construction company doing some brand stuff. And then when we went out to get our first outside seed investment, that’s when I met Christian. And Christian came on and put some of his own money in, and we sort of went hard and commercialized it and got a pretty good vision for the company of what we could do.
And with Nikolai, our lead engineer, we all kind of just dug in and made modules for what our customers are saying and continued on from there, and we’ve scaled to where we are today.
So in the development of the product, you actually kind of went a little bit piece by piece and through this.
So as you were hearing about more of kind of what’s out there in some of these areas where really the construction industry was still pretty dang deficient, especially, like you said, this was the mid 2010s.
You guys were way ahead of most people at that point. So it was just kind of as it was coming in, you, yeah, we can do that too.
Yeah. I had meetings with construction companies and say, well, why would I want to do this digitally?
Like, we got a clipboard. I don’t need this on our phone. We don’t need this on the iPad. I was like, okay, well, you’re going to at some point. So, yeah, it is kind of weird being on the forefront of it.
You know, I look at some of our competitors, and we were around before them, but, you know, when you’re in Canada and, you know, you don’t have the I don’t know. I’m going to say the it’s one thing being in the United States and being in Canada, the breadth of being an American and the sort of brotherhood thing of being an American and spreading it through that way.
And it’s a bit different in Canada. Canada is a very interesting market and are in the West Coast here. It was good in some ways because we got a lot of development here, so we got some good customers right away.
But, yeah, being in America, you’ve got some multinational companies. You get in with those, and you’re in multistates instantly. So everything we’ve done, we have had some customers that are nationwide, some that have gone into the United States, but typically it’s been Canada, Canada, Canada, West Coast.
Interesting. Yeah. I definitely want to get back into some more of these kind of issues that you have through what you’ve seen with the development of the product and even what you have right now, interacting with potential customers, some of the challenges you face.
But I wanted to, before we carry on too much into that, you had said you had referenced how you met Christian along the way and how Christian got involved into this. So would you mind tell me a bit about how that story kind of took place and how you started working with Christian as well?
Yeah. Okay. So my mom, she’s amazing. Okay. Yeah. When James was saying that in the mid 2010s, well, this had been SiteMax was kind of incubated inside of this is one of Canada’s largest general contractors and still kind of customer number one officially or number two officially and had been that way for a number of years as they were kind of feeling out the product and everything like that.
But along the way. I guess at some point, you guys felt it necessary to put out some promotion, some PR for the product. Yeah, we did. Wasn’t just internal. It was kind of like, you know what? This thing could probably do pretty well if it was put out to the marketplace.
So in our local newspaper, the Vancouver Sun National Post which one was it? Or Global Mail?
National Financial post.
Financial Post. Okay, so a national newspaper put out this I know put out a news clipping that said, hey, you know, we’re building this tool.
It’s pretty ahead of its time. Check it out. And there’s, like, a slick picture of James sitting in the boardroom of the original SiteMax office. Anyway, my mom, she happened to clip this thing up because I was working in project management for a general contracting business and kind of getting my I did a decade or so of that, getting my cutting my teeth and learning everything coming out of the field into the project management realm.
And she slides this over and says, hey, this is at breakfast one Saturday morning. You should really check these guys out. They’re local. They’re here in town. And I think you know who one of the other guys is because it was this prominent general contractor.
And I was like, yeah, I totally do. And I can’t remember if it was like a cold reach outreach or crossing a path after that, but I had cut it out. I still have it. I do. And we just got started on conversation from there.
I was like, you know what? Ever since growing up, my dad had issue never won a fast company on the coffee table in 94. I always wanted to get into tech, and he was in construction, my father still is, and always wanted to blend those two together.
And everything just kind of was marrying up there in terms of the storyline, and so we got to building a relationship there. Yeah.
Yeah. Because the general contractor, Christian, worked at it at the time.
They piloted the software. And I would go in and him and his team would beat me up over the fact that some modules didn’t do some things. It was an interesting time for me going out there and sort of being the account executive founder guy, trying to get everyone on side.
But, yeah, I would say that we’ve seen a lot of sort of upstarts of technology companies doing the things that they do. Some of them dipping their toe into, let’s just say I’ll give you an example, like time, for instance, time cards.
There’s the big guys who are into it, for instance, has T sheets. And the subtleties of being able to track time on a construction site are so detailed and so nuanced that someone can say, yeah, we do time.
Yeah, let’s see you do time in construction time in a factory. You’re not doing cost codes, you’re not swapping cost code hot swapping them. Like saying, I’m working on this now. Now I’m working. And then attaching well, I use this piece of equipment for this time.
I mean, it’s crazy. And then you’ve got union rules and overtime rules and all the stuff to be able to do payroll. So we have continued to dial in in the complexity of everything we have.
Do you see more often that it’s by discipline or by job, those people that are going to be resistant to actually implementing the solution?
Or are you seeing like an age dynamic? How is it typically that you guys see that kind of barrier for entry or that level of resistance since well.
I’ll let Christian talk about the per industry thing, but one thing that would be a parallel is the culture of the company.
The culture of the company is everything when it comes to that, because there are and we’re seeing this a lot now with, um. This new era we’re in and this post pandemic era where people didn’t have to work and got paid.
So we’re in this Laziness kind of era now where it’s like, how do I do as little as possible and get paid the most? With that, you end up with a very strange mix of culture in companies, and you can have a few bad apples come and wreck the bottom end of the culture of the company.
So it takes strong leadership to impose anything new on your people, and it takes strong leadership for them to see it through and understand the reason why it’s important to cooperate. And so that one through line there, I would say, is that it is a definite reflection of culture on how we see things roll out.
Yeah, and I’d say, too, we’ll always tip our hat to the men and women in construction through especially the last three years. Everyone moved really quickly to deal with whatever it happened to be, whatever parameters in different parts of North America or the world that you were in.
Obviously, slight differences and nuances to that. But in general, construction moved really fast and adapted really well to changing conditions. With that, um, did come different levels of adoption.
You know, pre pandemic, I’d say adoption, there was always an adoption issue with technology and construction. Yes, age did play a part in that, but I think as apps and stuff like that get into, like, we all see it with our parents or the generation above us or whatever it happens to be, they’ve got their phone blown up two times, so they can just read all their emails and stuff like that.
Right? But everyone’s being exposed to using apps of some sort, right? So it’s not like it’s okay, fine, it’s inevitable. All right, we’ll do this. Well, we’ve talked about it before. You’ve got like, four generations of people working in construction.
You have a big spread of people, which is really cool in a lot of ways because there’s a fair bit of there’s tons of experience there to be passing down. But back to the technological point in the last couple of years, I think the way that construction adapted, I think that they got to adopting things better.
Yes, things permeate still with ages and stuff like that. But I really do think that companies that just pushed forward and to your point, James, built cultures around, hey, we adapted really well. We strive to be a certain type of company.
We’re going to break through some of these norms of whatever it is, the cultural issues that lead to labor challenges and workforce issues and stuff like that. And I think that we’ve seen a greater adoption of tech spread across companies.
More people are willing to do that. You’re always going to have your champions, like we said. But I do think that there is definitely an uptick in people’s willingness to use a certain solution. Yeah.
Even if it’s minor. Even if it’s minor, there’s an uptick. Do you think it’s because there’s more…We’ll say executive sponsorship for that, especially since, as you were saying, post pandemic, a lot of people kind of recognized, and I don’t know how it was on projects in Canada, but there’s a lot of potential to lose information, lose data.
You have no visibility to what is happening on project. If you’re having to quarantine. They’re all essential employees. Maybe you’re not right. I think there’s been a lot more. Again, executive sponsorship to the implementation of these technologies.
Do you think that has something to do with it?
Yeah, for sure. I mean, again, that’s back to the point of corporate culture in terms of saying like, hey, this is what we have to do to maintain remain with the times that we’re in.
If we’re going to keep driving forward and fulfilling the project backlog that we have, we want to stay on these jobs. We have to do things a certain way. So, yes, there’s the pressures of that that kind of were, in a way, drivers for executive level to say, this is what we now must do.
But I think in general, a sense of those around that kind of want to keep working, we’re we’re willing to get behind those initiatives.
This idea of corporate culture keeps coming up, and I really like that, especially.
James, with your background, I’d like to ask, as CEO of the company, with your extensive background, how do you foster a good culture within your organization? And and also, I guess, while we’re at it, could you tell both of y’all, could you tell me a little bit more about your background, about what it is that you did before joining SiteMax and before your mom clipped out the newspaper?
One contributing factor we have at SiteMax is we got a lot of generation differences. I’m the oldest. I’m a Gen Xer, and Gen X is like I don’t know if you’ve read like it’s. We were left to ourselves.
We didn’t get any awards for losing. There were no, like it was like, you’re an idiot if you lose, and. You’Re better off for it. Right? Yeah. So it was a school of hard knocks, for sure. But to sort of go very quickly, I’ll just give you the very slim background.
When I did a bunch of mindless jobs, like, I worked in a restaurant when I was in my teens and then got my insurance license, I hated that I was selling insurance, like auto plan, license plates and all that kind of stuff.
Who were you working for?
I worked for, like, three of them.
Oh, they were terrible. My wife did that for a very brief period of time and hated it.
Wasn’t really my thing. And then when I was, like, 15, I had this clothing brand.
Like, I was an entrepreneur at car washing business. Anyway, so I started this clothing brand when I was, like, 16. And I went to get these stickers made, which is, like, stickers that would and I went to this sign place, and they had, like, these vinyl cutter that made these vinyl little stickers.
And I said, So how much for 50 stickers? They’re like, $50. I’m like, how much for 100? They’re like, $100. I’m like, yeah, I know, but you just set this up, and then you made the machine keep going.
Like, how come they’re all a buck? Anyway? So I’m like, when I was in my 20s, after the insurance thing, I was like, you know what? Those sign machines are kind of cool. So my parents wouldn’t lend me the money to buy a sign system.
So I had to partner with my friend and his grandfather co signed for a loan for us to get this computer system sticking my parents basement. So we started a sign business, and I went handed out flyers and sold signs and made signs for people made logos.
And I learned how to design because they’d give me crappy photocopies of the logo. And I had to remake it so it could cut it on the cutter. So I learned vector graphics that way. But from there, I had the sign thing to design.
And then I had a web company. In 1994, I had the West Van Web, which was selling website space s. Yeah, I should be way richer than I am today, but I ended up designing some signage for a cosmetic company that came to Canada from England called Lush Cosmetics.
It’s like a bath bomb company. Anyway, I ended up being the brand manager for Canada for they said, Sell your company and. It. So I did that. For that. No. All right. No, I mean, you can only really kick yourself if you are really pissed off where you are today.
And I’m not. So there you go.
That’s a heck of a story. There are a couple of points I’d like to come back to, but I’d like to give Christian you an opportunity in order to answer. Do you mind going over a bit of your story how it is you got into construction and what all you did there.
Kind of as I was saying earlier, I grew up in construction family. My father had bought and sold a number of businesses and specialty contracting and did work a lot with pulp and paper and oil. So he was in northern Alberta also down in Texas a fair bit.
And so kind of got exposed that way and just got started on the tools right in high school, out of high school, building multifamily homes, forming and framing and then did an undergrad of business. And so thought, okay, how do you take a little bit of unticketed trade experience with a business degree and what do you go and do?
And it’s like I could go work for one of the family businesses or no, I’m going to go figure this one out and actually yeah, then took another ten years of paid education in working for some of Canada’s best real estate development companies and yeah, I wouldn’t trade that experience for the world.
Got to work for one of or actually Canada’s fastest growing hospitality businesses. They are all over the place now. And then one of Canada’s largest industrial real estate developers as well. And got to get exposed to all of that and work all the way from the tools all the way up to project management into some corporate development stuff as well.
And then yeah, just wanted to always keep building on that. A career that compounded on itself from one stage of construction to another. And so. Leading into construction tech. I don’t think that’s the culmination of it all.
I think that’s just maybe the last stepping stone to some real estate development stuff and going full circle again, getting right back on to the tools, maybe, who knows? Build something again, I imagine.
So how many of those years from whenever you’re working with those different organizations, how many of those years were in direct project management? How many years were you on your tools?
Yeah, so, well, I did a five year degree, university degree.
My time, yeah, might have been five and a half, can’t remember, but was on the tools that whole time and even a little bit in grade twelve as well. So, yeah, I was a number of years doing that and then jumped right into assistant project managing and then was doing that for the better part of a decade until jumping in with James.
Yeah, man, I mean, 15 years of solid industry experience, very relevant to what it is that you’re doing now. Again, I can only see that that brings a lot of value to what you all are doing over at SiteMax.
That’s awesome. James, I wanted to ask again, so taking this idea of how companies can improve their internal culture, so what is it that you all do at SiteMax in order to strengthen internal company culture and really thinking about our audience, what can construction companies do to improve their company culture?
What can companies do in order to make sure they’re not only attracting people in order to come work with them, but also retaining people? Because I think you all both well know that pretty common in construction for people to jump from one company to another, right?
What can these companies do in order to make sure that they’re retaining these people as well?
Culture is one of those words which is similar to the word brand. People talk about what a brand is. The brand exists in the minds of the audience, the reality of the brand.
So when we talk about culture, I can say, oh, the culture of SiteMax is X but it’s what everyone says it is and feels it is. That is the reality. I can only steer it and I could be delusional on what that culture is, could say come in and say hey, we’re this and that and tell everybody externally what we are.
And then people look at each other in their eyes in the office and go, yeah, that’s not what we are. So I have to be always mindful of the fact I have to sort of have my ear to the ground all the time and make sure I’m communicating with all the people who I value in the business and the business values and our investors value and everybody is contributing to that.
It also is the culture is the net sentiment of what everybody feels about working for the company. So I can only be in so much control of that. So it takes a combination of a couple of things. It takes a combination of people who are willing to be open enough to accept that and have enough vision that we provide as a company for them to make it make sense for their time, to spend their time and their life at the company.
Because time is the only thing when any of us can’t get back. So we have to make sure that we are making it worthwhile to be here. So that’s the first thing. Secondly it is, is we have to show something of a feeling that tomorrow is going to be better, the next day is going to be even better, that we’re growing and that they’re going to have some sort of a positive uptick from being here.
I mean tech. Sort of puts a magnifying glass on that because everyone’s like, well, I could just work for Google or Amazon or whatever it is, and we’re stuck in that paradigm, which is a losing race in terms of resources, but it’s a small group of people.
I would say that the people who have left here, who we always invite back and have beer and at Beer on Tap here, we have people that used to work for us come back and is that what I always hear is, I learned so much at that company because we’re pretty open.
Christian…I don’t think I’ve met anybody with as much drive as he has. And then mixed with me pushing and Julian pushing and Nikolai pushing, we all push. And I think that there’s this like feeling of I want to grab onto a part of that because it’s pretty rare.
So when you’re experiencing something rare that people really care about what they’re doing. And I’ll give you an example of some culture stuff. During when COVID hit, we had some every company went through this where people had different political views on what we should be doing.
And we took the stance that one day this is going to be over and we’re all going to have to look at each other and I don’t want any scars. So whatever Buddy wants to believe I had people coming to me saying, James, make a decision, say what we’re supposed to do.
I’m like, I’m not going to do that because none of us have the information we all really need. And I’m going to lose people, meaningful people. I’m going to lose the plot if I push my agenda, which is personal health on somebody else.
So as a company, we’re like, listen, we’re going to support whatever you decide and make it as least painful as possible. And for those who don’t understand, we’re going to have to explain that.
And we came out of it with everybody saying, that was good. Yeah. There were no scars. None. None at all. I think one thing that James was really throwing out there and then just hearing him talk through the whole cultural thing is that something that he’s always emulated and that everyone has kind of picked up on is that there’s always is this creating a sense of ownership.
And some of that is left where people have to connect the dots themselves, right. Where you kind of throw out there, hey, this is the vision of something. This is where we’re going. You can’t hand hold people through that, but if you can kind of create enough of a picture that people can see and people can grasp that and take ownership for it, it’s a pretty powerful thing because you get a lot of driven people in your culture, but people that actually care and that will have someone else’s back.
And that’s a perfect example of through COVID, how culture definitely carried us through.
Yeah, that’s a great addition on there. I like this idea that, as you very well put it, James, and obviously you did read every book that was out there on the matter.
The culture, it’s not something that you control that you necessarily push. It’s this net collective idea. So it’s basically what resources you put out there and provide to them to allow other people to get to an idea where they want to be there, because that’s really ultimately what it is that you’re going for.
Right? You want people that want to be at work. You want people that are happy to be at work. I really like that you touched on basically giving people an opportunity to learn and grow. That’s something that I worked for multiple contractors back in my time, especially as a younger guy, whenever I was doing all of this.
That was like the thing that I was starving for the most. The companies that I worked with, that I was really happy at are the companies that I felt were invested in me in some aspect. And the way that they do that, that I see is by teaching, by developing, by helping people to grow and to learn.
So I think that’s phenomenal ways of encapsulating how people need to address their own company culture. Is there anything else that you would add as far as maybe some ways that you’ve helped some of these companies in the past in order to improve that perspective from their employees?
The hard part about leadership is that when you are trying to drive a culture and even talking about, like, mentoring other people, I look at everyone at SiteMax and I go, am I even equipped to mentor these people?
I mean, I need to be mentored myself half the time. So the fact that somebody might even look up to me is very bizarre because to me, I go like, why? We haven’t even scratched a surface on where SiteMax will be in a number of years from now.
Even though, like, one of the top performing portfolio companies in our investors portfolio now, which is shocking, which is amazing. We got there, it’s all so good, that’s cool, but we sort of like driving that through.
It’s hard to bifurcate confidence and arrogance. You definitely have to split between that. You have to be confident enough to know that everyone feels safe spending their time in your company, but you don’t want to be arrogant to the point where they kind of want to prove you wrong all the time because they think you’re a bit of a jerk.
So I think a lot of companies there’s a lot of that arrogance in top level management. So and that can have a slow rotting effect on the culture. Yeah. So that’s what I would say to that, is to just sort of keep the ego in check.
James has I mean, having been together a number of years yeah, really, definitely grown a lot. Everyone’s really grown a lot. But it’s it’s really cool to even hear that because yeah, like, you’re probably sitting on that end going, oh, those are good nuggets.
I’m doing the same thing.
Yeah, absolutely. Even if we don’t record more episodes, I want to, if anything, just call James more often. This is really good information.
One thing I will say in the span of James knowing us, I would look forward to him.
And this is before even SiteMax is that when we would engage or go for a drink or whatever, all these things that he’s done in the past, it’s all experience, right, that you can take and you can glean from and you can learn and have those nuggets and you can pass them on.
And whether you knew it or not, I mean, like, we’d have loads of conversations where it would just be like, holy smoke. And he loves he’s got really good metaphors and it would be like one after the other after the other.
And I’d be like, Man, I really do enjoy those conversations because you can learn so much from them and yeah, we had a lot of those.
You’ve become the metaphor master now, though.
I’m learning. I’m the young grasshopper.
Rapid Fire Questions
All right, so in the last minute of our show, we typically do some rapid fire questions to get to know you as persons rather than you as the professionals. So, however, whoever wants to answer first, where’s the favorite place that you all have traveled to?
I’ve been lucky enough to go to Europe a number of times and got family back there, I’d say. Yeah, italy. Germany. That was probably one of the nicest times I’ve been able to have.
Well, it’s memory.
So the closest thing was Tokyo. I just came back from that was mind blowing.
Whenever it is that you guys need to get amped up and motivated, what is it that you listen to that gets me amped up?
I would say two things that get me going is definitely, whatever the late.
I’ll go through periods of time where I’ll listen to the same thing for literally, like, six months. James got me on to listening to this group called the Cannons. I’ve been digging that a lot, so when it’s like, hey, stop getting the groove, throw that on.
And it just kind of like, refocuses me. Or I’ll just throw on one of the Daily Listener podcasts that I’ll go into, and it just sets me in gear for the day and get firing away on that. Yeah. In terms of getting fired up, I mean, to do our projections and spreadsheets and stuff like that.
Sometimes I’ll put on, like, old 80s Def Leopard. It’s like pyromania or whatever. Or whatever. That whatever. That I don’t know. Something about the heavy stuff, but it’s really coming through the weekend.
Listening to the All In podcast this week in Startups, Sam Harris, Rogan, all those guys, depending. I’m not really interested in the MMA stuff, but I like all the intellectual stuff that’s on there, so yeah, I mean, that’s really the stuff that gives you you you’re sort of pre, kind of it’s like flexing a muscle without actually working out.
They they flex your mind for you.
Yeah, definitely. What’s what’s your favorite podcast?
It would be the All In podcast for me.
What about you, Christian?
Yeah, we’re both pretty. That’s like my Saturday morning run.
Listen to the All In and then James and I debrief after that. Yeah, that’s kind of the go to right now. Yeah.
Do you ever listen to the Huberman Lab podcast?
Oh, yeah, we listen to that one. Love that.
That is my number one all day, every day. Fantastic one. Yeah. The alcohol one. You’ll never drink again.
Oh, yeah, absolutely. Yeah.
There’s zero benefit to it whatsoever. I had a guest on, and we were talking after the show one time, and she was saying she literally quit drinking for six months there.
You’re not alone. Love that show. I’ve gotten several dozen people hooked on that show already. What’s your dream jobs? What do you want to do?
I always wanted to do the tech company thing, and I’m getting a taste for that now.
So I don’t know. Live in the dream. Living the dream. But I definitely want to do building again.