By Erica Swallow
This article appeared in New Hampshire Innovators, a special publication of the New Hampshire Union Leader on September 18, 2020. Photos by Allegra Boverman.
When B2W Software Founder and CEO Paul McKeon started the company in 1993, he was just looking to survive.
Over the years, he built a team of innovators around a vision of powering the heavy construction industry on a single, seamless platform that does everything from estimating and bidding to scheduling, dispatching, equipment maintenance and safety.
“My first vision was buying groceries and finding a way to pay my mortgage,” McKeon says with a laugh. “I was working from my home, in a 10-by-12-foot den on a computer, by myself. I just instinctively knew there was a market for the program I had designed.”
That first program was a DOS-based bidding tool built specifically for paving construction work. McKeon had put himself through college at the University of New Hampshire by running his own small construction company and building it to annual revenues of around $5 million. Unlike leaders at most other construction companies in the mid-1980s, McKeon had embraced the computer for running his business. His openness to using technology to improve his construction business was what ultimately led him down the path to found B2W Software.
After graduation, he went to work for Middlesex Corp., one of the larger heavy civil construction companies in New England. He worked in bidding and got company sign-off to automate the bidding process using software, as he had done at his own company. The program was so successful, he decided to go solo and get into the business of building construction software.
For a few years, it was just McKeon, gigging as a traveling salesman around the New England area. After bringing on a dozen or so clients, he started to think bigger than groceries and mortgage payments — he had customers who were giving him insights into how to improve the product, and he had been keeping an eye on technology trends. His vision grew, and so did his team, starting first with a couple of UNH engineers who transitioned the company from DOS to Windows. They set up shop in Portsmouth, where the company is still based today.
Fast-forward two decades, and the company has grown from Windows to multiple operating systems, from serving only paving construction to incorporating all heavy construction, from desktop-only to web-based and mobile-friendly, and from just a single product to many offerings on a single platform, called ONE Platform.
Even as the B2W Software team grows, its members maintain a key trait instilled by McKeon: evolution.
Bihari Srinivasan, chief technical officer and vice president of engineering, joined the company nearly seven years ago to lead up technology. He was brought on for his own penchant for continuous improvement.
“Technology changes rapidly. It gets cheaper, faster, better. Just because something works, doesn’t mean we let it be,” Srinivasan says. “By the time you learn something, it’s obsolete. By the time you implement and ship something, it’s already obsolete. Being complacent in software means someone else is going to eat your lunch.”
Srinivasan says his team monitors the technology landscape to keep an eye on developments and constantly refactor products.
“Products are a continuum,” he says. “They’re never done. We’re not just adding features. We’re making the platform better. Every time we do something, we aim to make one small change to make it better. It’s not about finding the next new thing — it’s about evolving, changing the car’s tires while we’re driving it.”
With incremental evolution, though, comes complexity. McKeon says that’s how he knew it was time to find an enterprise technology leader to steer the ship.
“We really needed to make sure we had somebody in the (technology) leadership role who could help us build and manage high-quality enterprise-class tools,” McKeon says. “We ultimately found Bihari — he is incredibly bright and has the right background and skills set to really know how to direct the team to do the things that are meaningful and get us the kind of results we need to continue to have high-performing, scalable software.”
Srinivasan’s well-rounded background and skills set was developed over 40 years in engineering — first in electrical engineering, then hardware engineering, and finally software engineering.
“Being a hardware engineer and an electrical engineer,” says Srinivasan, “gives me the perspective to design software that runs fast, has a very small footprint, and is reliable. Most coders just write code — it works, but it isn’t the best. I take the perspective that what we build must not only function, but it must function well.”
Nothing speaks louder than a glowing customer testimonial, though, and B2W certainly has those. One Candia-based customer who’s been with the company since the beginning says McKeon, Srinivasan and the B2W team are all about getting it right.
“They streamline the process for us,” says Ron Severino, founder and president of Severino Trucking Company, a heavy highway construction company. Severino is a long-time customer of B2W Software, having first participated in a focus group when McKeon was just starting up the company, before becoming a customer roughly 20 years ago.
“It has saved a lot of paperwork that we don’t do now, such as employee time cards for our 160-plus employees," he said. "A lot of it’s just done electronically. Everything goes right from the field and ends up in our accounting system, into the payroll system, without a lot of paperwork. It saves a lot of hours in the office as well.”
Severino says that, above all, B2W Software excels at customer service and problem-solving.
“We use quite a few different software products, and I would say B2W’s support team is second to none,” says Severino. “You always get someone on the phone, and boy, if they don't solve your problem right then and there, they’re getting back to you. And not only the support team, but the design team, software writers, they all get involved. If there’s an issue, it just runs down the line until they get it figured out.”
Across two decades of customership, Severino has seen B2W Software evolve as a company. He was there when McKeon founded the company, and he was there when Srinivasan came on to lead technology.
“Starting out, (B2W was) mainly doing estimating programs,” says Severino. “Then, when they switched to include their field operations, they really opened up a whole new avenue for us for keeping track of a lot of our hours and costs and tracking things out in the field. At that point, Bihari had come on board and really helped make the whole integrated system work, from estimating to the field. To have one place to go for everything, it’s been really helpful for us.”
“Over time, the more we had in that platform, the more potent it became competitively,” says McKeon. “People realized it was just one platform, not a whole bunch of disparate products that are hard to install and connect. Everyone is using the same data at the same time.”
Srinivasan says the company will only continue to evolve and expand, with the ONE Platform at the center of its offering, regardless of the challenges that may come.
“Every company in every discipline will have challenges,” Srinivasan says. “The mindset that we need to have — and I wish everybody had — is that a challenge is not an obstacle to turn away from. It’s an opportunity to do better. It makes you stronger, your team stronger, the company stronger. That’s how we grow.”
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