This article ran in the August 15, 2017 edition of the Dallas Business Journal and is authored by Shawn Shinneman, DBJ staff writer.
When it comes to adopting the latest technologies, construction companies haven’t exactly been ahead of the curve.
But persistence has paid off for Dallas-based Beck Technology, a spin-off of the long-running construction and architecture company The Beck Group. Current Chief Technology Officer Michael Boren has seen the company through its various stages – from a secret Beck division built to give the company a competitive advantage to its own company, with a suite of construction software products and boasting 100-percent growth over the last three years. Beck Technology started selling products commercially in 2006.
“Initially, it was like, ‘You’re new,’” Boren said. “Nobody wants to buy the new thing.”
Boren had enrolled in the Navy straight out of high school, and when he joined the working world thereafter, it was in a low-totem-pole position with The Beck Group. He was a rodman with the team tasked with building Southlake’s town square.
When he went back to college at the University of Texas at Arlington, he chose software engineering mainly because it was an area the school said was heralded. He always figured he’d eventually move to electrical or mechanical engineering, but Beck caught wind of his studies and directed him to the then-private operation.
Boren would work his way up from intern to software engineer to senior software engineer before he was tapped for management. He directed research and development efforts for several years. Then, in late 2015, the company promoted him to CTO.
Boren talks about his new role and about selling technology to customers that tend to be reluctant:
How has your role changed as CTO?
It’s much more strategic and it’s much more client-facing. … The only thing I do on the product side is I work with our product managers and project managers on creating the story boards and then relaying the information I get back from the advisory board.
What are you excited about with regard to development as the business continues to grow?
It seems like it’s limitless. I feel like there’s nobody that really gets it. The thing that’s really nice is that a lot of these companies that have been on the same platforms for 30 or 40 years are having to make changes, and there’s just no one else out there that understands where the markets going very well. So for us, the future is bright. Our sales are great.
What challenges did you encounter as Beck Technology was getting up and running?
Construction people in general, the industry is not apt to use leading edge tech. They’re the sort of guys who say, ‘Hey, I want to do something that my dad did, that my grandfather did.’ And if you show up and you’re like, ‘Oh, yeah, I’ve got this new software,’ and you start talking about all this tech, it really scares them. Especially when it has to do with their costing data and all the stuff they feel makes their company their company. That’s what gives them their competitive advantage. To say that you’re going to take that over is a little bit scary.
How do you get around that?
I will say, we had a nice card in our hand, so to speak. Beck Technology carries the Beck company name. Beck Group is a design-build firm, and we’ve been around for over 100 years. So to be able to say that this came from a construction company, that the people that are working in this software piece are actually construction professionals. They were estimators, project management, architects. That gives you the credibility because you’ve done the job and you’re with a company that’s been around for 100 years.
That helped. That definitely helped. ‘Hey, we’ve been here, we’ve done this.’ We don’t have any loans, we’re not cash poor. We’re in a good financial position and we’re backed by a very large company. Of course, it spawned new worries, like, ‘Hey, we compete against Beck and I don’t want to give you my money.’ That was a whole different challenge.