How software changed a Hertfordshire builder’s business for the better

How software changed a Hertfordshire builder’s business for the better

Neil Groom, Director of NJG Building Solutions in Hertfordshire, gives his first-hand account of how software has fundamentally changed his business. 

Residential construction is hugely competitive. No one knows this better than Neil Groom. He’s been in the industry for well over 25 years. NJG Building Solutions offers consultancy, design, estimating, planning permission and building services. Business is going well. The order book is full. Somehow, Neil seems to successfully withstand the ups and downs of the economy. How does he do it? And has it always been the case? 

The challenges 

“Nothing quite prepares you for running your own business. It was a brutal introduction to cowboy customers, labour shortages, material delays, price fluctuations, red tape, paperwork, form-filling, balancing the books… It wasn’t easy. And to be clear, none of that has gone away. It’s how I handle it that has changed. If you take one thing away from my story, it should be that. 

“Winning projects in the first place was my initial concern. How was I going to differentiate myself from the competition? How would I convey why my business was better than the rest? And how was I going to make any money!? 

“And money is a conversation all of its own. I found that giving a price to a customer that I thought was the going rate or ‘winnable’, didn’t equate to a profit at the end of it. I spent hours quoting and either not winning the job or winning on slim margins. I was literally bank-rolling customers’ projects just so that we stayed in work. Fortunately, I realised very quickly that I had to find another way.”

A new mindset  

“I took advice from business coaches and experts and I researched a load of admin and management software. I may sound like I’m preaching but I really do believe that if you are prepared to learn new processes, work – and life – becomes so much easier. The construction itself is just part of the job. You need to get the finances and job management absolutely right. So, when I discovered HBXL Building Software, everything changed. I bought EstimatorXpress, PlansXpress and Health & Safety Xpert. They all sync with each other which is a huge time-saver. It’s been a revelation. The fire-fighting stopped. The quality of jobs improved. Money started coming in. Sleepless nights disappeared.” 

The solution: Software!  

“Naturally HBXL’s software was a learning curve. It didn’t click into place overnight. I had to devote some time to it, I asked the support team lots of questions. But between us I got there. And then it was honestly plain-sailing.” 


“If I have existing plans from the customer I trace them in PlansXpress to create a 3D model of their dream project. They see their project coming to life. They get a sense of the size and scale. I literally walk them through their project – front, back, inside, and a drone shot from above. I put the re-digitised drawing – which has captured all the job information – into EstimatorXpress. The estimating software asks me a few questions before producing a full estimate and customer quotation – in minutes. It’s a compelling argument for the customer – they can see that I’ve gone the extra mile, the presentation is professional, the costs are detailed, and they know how long the job is going to take. Importantly, this level of transparency makes quibbling the price that much harder…! 


“From the traced drawing which took me no time at all to produce, I put the CAD file into EstimatorXpress. I answer a few questions and then it gives me a full breakdown of all the costs. I know what plant, materials and labour are needed when thanks to the Build Programme. I know my ‘order by’ dates, when to book in sub-contractors and so on. All these valuable reports; Gantt Chart, Materials Schedule, Cashflow analysis etc – they’re all the product of that traced drawing in PlansXpress, and details like ‘start date’, keyed into EstimatorXpress.  

“PlansXpress makes designing extensions, loft conversions and new builds easy and that’s because of the simple drawing tools. The drawings are architect-level quality. I don’t have to worry about the specification notes, the software writes it for me. As I draw the floor plan, it’s using the information to automatically create the elevation, joist layout and so on. Block paving, tile styling, concrete effects – they’re all built into the software. 

“The software’s straightforward enough to learn but I did also attend HBXL’s free CAD for Construction Skills Bootcamp, run in conjunction with the Department for Education. The short online course is a deep dive into CAD. I learnt about becoming a Design & Build business, charging customers for drawings, and much more and I’d recommend it to any builder or would-be designer. 

Health & Safety Xpert 

“And then there’s one other bit of kit that helps me sleep at night. I drop the estimate file from EstimatorXpress into Health & Safety Xpert. The software reads the details of the job. It sees that it’s say, a double storey extension, so I’ll need the Risk Assessment, Toolbox Talks etc for scaffolding. That’s just one random example. The software sifts through all the documents, both advisory and required by law, and presents them in a complete package. The premium version also tells you at what point in the job they’ll be needed.” 

The results 

“The construction industry is tough. The economic landscape is forever shifting. I can’t let outside forces dictate the success of my business. That’s why I’m determined to be in control. By managing my business with the help of practical, intelligent software, I’m giving myself every chance to win decent, quality projects, to run them efficiently and enjoy a proper profit at the end – each and every time – for years to come.” 

You can put HBXL’s software to the test during a free 14-day trial – download it instantly from the HBXL website at Try HBXL Building Software for Free – HBXL Building Software.

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