BY MICHAEL MCCORD
When Paul McKeon founded Portsmouth-based B2W Software in 1993, he was the sole employee, and business was conducted on a $12 card table in the den of his home. “I knew there was a lot of opportunity in the heavy construction industry,” said McKeon who had extensive experience in the construction industry. The goal at the beginning was simple but ambitious: transform the way that owners, estimators, operations and financial leaders calculate and manage project profitability.
Fast-forward to 2019, and McKeon’s company is a leading provider of heavy construction software with specialized applications used by tens of thousands of estimators to create competitive bids and manage complex projects. B2W now has more than 100 employees with a regional office in Atlanta to serve its growing client base across North America.
B2W clients range from mid-size paving, excavating and site construction contractors to larger companies with large-scale bridge, highway, energy, utility and specialized infrastructure projects.
McKeon has also focused on keeping his private company debt-free and has leveraged constant innovation to attain a six-year growth spurt of 22 percent to 27 percent annually. It was no accident. The company has grown organically, McKeon explained, and “this has given us the stability and the autonomy to reinvest heavily in our products and support capabilities according to the requirements of our clients.”
Q. What has surprised you about the company’s journey of 25 years?
A. The technology changes and the opportunities they provide have been so significant. When I started, we were living in a DOS world. Then we transitioned to Windows, followed by browsers which were revolutionary at the time. Now we have a digital transformation with tablets, smartphones and the cloud.
Q. What has been the most important technology change?
A. The single biggest change in technology is the use of the smartphone and tablet for foremen in the field. Before, they used laptops that required connectivity, but we have invested a lot to create sophisticated Android and iOS applications. What separates us from our few competitors is that we focus on building the best technology and that
is attracting more and larger customers. Another huge differentiator is our one-platform approach with a single database that supports all operational work.
Q. What has been an important customer service innovation?
A. We hold an annual user conference which gives us a unique opportunity. We can listen to our customers and be highly responsive to their needs, such as their individual work flows. We held the first one in Florida, and we estimate more than 500 will attend our next conference in March in San Antonio.
Q. Have you been approached to sell or merge?
A. There’s an understanding that the construction industry is the last bastion of enterprise software. I have generally and deliberately shied away from the pieces of the puzzle where we don’t fit. If you lose absolute control of your
data and product, it can be very risky. We’ve been approached many, many times (to sell), but we keep charging forward and building. We’ve had a few small acquisitions, but they were focused on flipping their customer bases to use our technology.
If your strategy is mergers and acquisitions, it takes you away from the core values of listening to your market and continuing to create new innovations for it.
Q. Has it been challenging to stay in Portsmouth?
A. The challenge to find quality sales and programming staff is true for all software companies. It’s very difficult to get the best technical staff. We have an outsourced team for development that has allowed us to scale in ways we otherwise could not have done. As for Portsmouth, we love the quality of life and it’s an incredible place to live and work.
Q. What’s the best part of your job?
A. There’s a lot to love. I’ve been very fortunate to have a great team to serve our clients. Over the past 25 years I’ve learned so much about marketing, sales and vision, and what works and doesn’t work. Setting the vision, where we are going and why, has been important for the value and growth of B2W. We have a great market and I love being able to show clients the return on investment they can have from our tools.