Owned and operated by two veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces, Armed Forces Construction Group works through Internet connections to get contracts for its construction crews staffed by military veterans. But the massive reach of the Internet hasn’t always made it easy to find business, co-founder and chief operating officer Sam Crawford says.
The company manages dozens of construction crews—all comprised of military veterans—in about 60 cities across a dozen states, with specialties in such areas as cement work, drywall installation and landscaping. Many of its crews are certified to modify commercial and institutional buildings according to specifications of the Americans with Disabilities Act for accommodating access by handicapped people. It’s done extensive work for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
But with a widely dispersed network of crews and a wide range of construction services, it has been difficult to land new contracts by matching each crew with the available contracts in each location. The company’s mix of online exposure through its own web site, online marketplaces and Internet search simply hasn’t been a productive way to match jobs with available crews, Crawford says. The problem was that the company didn’t have a good way to identify the job opportunities that match the skills of Armed Forces Construction Group’s available crews in each city. “We’d get a lot of calls, but we’d have to through 50 to find one that fit what we do,” he says.
In September 2014, Crawford and his cofounder, CEO Tony Muriel, took a new approach. They signed up as a supplier on the Ariba Network, a unit of business software company SAP SE, and that’s reduced the hassle of finding the right kind of contracts, Crawford says.
“With Ariba, they break the bids down according to our specifications,” he says. “So we’re only seeing bids we’re qualified to do. It eliminates the petty things we’d see on Craigslist or Bing search and the calls asking us to do things we never heard of.”
Now, instead of sifting through dozens of overtures to find appropriate leads, and then winning about one of every six bids, Armed Forces Construction is receiving far more offers and winning about four out of six bids, Crawford says. He adds that exposure on Ariba appears to help Armed Forces Construction get leads and offers from companies that probably would have never connected with it otherwise. He notes as an example an oil company in Pennsylvania that invited his company to bid on a contract to maintain a “massive amount” of electric equipment. “We won the bid, and it took less than two weeks to get the job,” he says.
Leads from Ariba come to his personal email address, and after checking the status of his crews, he’ll email a reply to place a bid if it’s a good fit.
Armed Forces Construction expects to do nearly $12 million in revenue this year, Crawford says. “I’d say about a third of that is through Ariba,” he adds. He declines to say what his company pays Ariba as an annual subscription, but says “one winning bid can pay for far more than the annual fee.”
Crawford says he expects his company to continue growing and to eventually do business in all of the 48 contiguous states.
Aside from the expected growth in revenue, Crawford, a veteran of the Vietnam War, says the increased number of business connections has made his job more enjoyable. “Talking to vets and getting them work on one of my crews is the most fun I’ve ever had,” he says.
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