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November 17, 2014
Sometimes a good idea is born out of necessity. Just ask Scott Jennings, who runs construction businesses in Washington and Hawaii.
A few years ago, Jennings was using Oracle's Primavera to manage daily construction documents, but he found it to be difficult to use and expensive.
“Most of the systems out there do too much — wash your dishes and fold your clothes,” he said. “Most people want seven things when the (programs) do 100 things. Most of the systems out there are Cadillac programs.”
Unhappy with Oracle's product and the ongoing fees, Jennings decided it wouldn't be that hard to create a system that would work better for him.
Or, so he thought.
What was supposed to be a one-month project ended up taking nearly three years.
Jennings, who lives in Hawaii, found a programmer on the local Craigslist to develop software for his company. Jennings said the programmer worked for a few months and then disappeared.
After spending months trying to locate the first programmer, Jennings gave up and hired a woman who designed the website for his companies.
She used a team of programmers in India, which Jennings said wasn't a good idea because communication was difficult.
Months later, Jennings broke off ties with that team and hired a man in Hawaii to finish the software. “It made a big difference having a guy in my office,” he said.
So last spring — after nearly three years of late nights and working on Sundays — Jennings finally rolled out his software called Runjob.
Jennings said he was careful not to let software development hurt his construction businesses.
“I guess it affected my sleeping habits, but not work,” he said. Jennings said he isn't married and doesn't have kids, so he considers Runjob to be his kid.
He has three companies — Jennings Pacific, Jennings Northwest and Jennings Engineering — and they tested a beta version of Runjob before it was offered to the public.
Jennings said the testing turned up hundreds of bugs in the software, but they have been fixed and a few enhancements have been added. Runjob is running smoothly now, he said.
Jennings said he always thought he would sell Runjob to other contractors as well as use the software himself.
“There is a million Jennings out there, so I thought it would be great if I could make a successful business out of it,” he said.
Runjob tracks the basics of construction communication and documentation by producing submittals and requests for information, as well as letters, change-order tracking and logs.
Jennings said Runjob is simple. Users don't need an IT manager, software updates or special training — just a computer and a printer.
“We cater to a more keep-it-simple-stupid client,” he said.
Jennings said it's easy to mess up daily documents by forgetting to change the date or the subject of a letter. Runjob takes care of that.
“It sounds silly but it's very simplistic,” he said.
Runjob costs $1,949 upfront and then $49 a month per user. Primavera and similar products can cost $7,500 initially and about $1,300 in yearly maintenance fees, Jennings said.
In addition to Runjob's basic communication module, Jennings said he is working on a module that covers construction company management, but he didn't want to elaborate.
Runjob is gaining traction with firms in Hawaii, Jennings said, and he has recently started advertising it in the Seattle-Tacoma area.
Jennings worked for other construction companies prior to starting his own company in 2007. One employer, RCI Construction Group, brought him from Texas to the West Coast in 1998.
At RCI, Jennings said he found a mentor in CEO Mark Robison and stayed with the company until 2005 when it was sold to Parsons. While he was employed at RCI, Jennings transferred to the Hawaii office and made that state his home.
Jennings is a licensed engineer in Washington, California and Hawaii. He holds a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from Drexel University and a master's degree in civil engineering from University of Texas at Austin.
Jennings said he applied his experience in creating Runjob, including dealing with lawyers.
“Most of the time you are in there with a lawyer because you didn't document yourself well,” he said.
Benjamin Minnick can be reached by email or by phone at (206) 622-8272.