Editor’s note: This content is sponsored by LaunchKC but independently produced by Startland News.
Entrepreneurship is often attractive to personalities that don’t mind dealing with uncertainty.
And though Ben Schultz never envisioned himself an entrepreneur, his experience as an electrical contractor forced him to embrace a myriad of unknowns in the construction industry.
“Construction is a unique beast,” Schultz said. “In this industry, you can only make schedules out one week at a time — that’s all you can plan for. You are readjusting and moving people around daily and you’re living in a constant state of flux. It’s a tough thing to get your arms around if you haven’t lived it.”
Schultz has lived it.
If you’re familiar with construction in Kansas City, you may recognize the name Schultz from Schultz Brothers Electric, an electrical engineering construction company. Since middle school, Schultz has had his hand in the family business, and in 2003 he was hired full time.
“I’ve held basically every role in a construction company that there is,” Schultz said. “We’re definitely behind the rest of the world when it comes to technology. Most contractors are literally trying to manage and schedule field crews using either a spreadsheet or a whiteboard. It’s not the most sophisticated means of tracking and managing.”
After spending a couple years searching for a way to bring order to the construction chaos, Schultz decided he needed to solve this problem on his own. Though it would’ve been more comfortable to build the solution within his family business, Schultz stepped out of his comfort zone and brought the product to market.
In 2014 he launched LaborChart, a subscription based software-as-a-service that helps construction crews with scheduling, tracking of various projects and group communication.
The software also allows administrators to view data that can help them forecast what to expect from on-site workers in weeks to come, Schultz said. The application notifies workers when new, changed or canceled assignments come up to help with ever-evolving projects.
“If you’re going to be paying each guy eight hours a day, let’s make sure that we’re getting the most out of him,” Schultz said. “It’s about knowing where you could get the most output and getting your people in the right job and project.”
Schultz said that although he believes applications like LaborChart are “the future” for construction, some industries are slower to change. For the construction industry, he said there is a tendency for workers to get caught up in the “hamster wheel” of day-to-day work.
“People come into work and basically do the same thing they did yesterday,” Schultz said. “With competition and tight margins, it’s a reactive industry. People don’t spend a whole lot of time evaluating how they can do things better.”
With LaborChart, Schultz encourages the industry to stop spinning, zoom out and realize they can do better.
LaborChart was a recent winner of a $50,000 LaunchKC grant, which came as a shock for Schultz. The firm participated in 2015 and despite making it to the top 20, it didn’t come out with a win. In 2016, however, it failed to crack the top 20 until being called up as a reserve when another competitor dropped out.
“We kind of came in through the backdoor last minute,” Schultz said. “We were pretty pumped about it, because we already counted it out mentally, so it was great to even be present. Winning was a pleasant surprise for us.”
A Digital Sandbox KC graduate, Schultz said LaborChart has survived by means of bootstrapping. The firm plans to use the LaunchKC money toward expanding its tech team.