Serent Snapshot: Donny Wyatt, Founder and CEO of CoConstruct
Meet Donny Wyatt, founder and CEO of CoConstruct. We sat down with him to learn more about how he founded the #1 highest-rated software for custom home builders and remodelers, as tallied by Gartner’s SoftwareAdvice.com.
“It all started in 2004 when my wife and I moved to Charlottesville, Virginia to escape D.C. traffic,” said Donny. “When we arrived, we hired a homebuilder. We had a typical, yet not-so-great home building experience. Soon after, we learned that our homebuilder also had a terrible experience! It wasn’t just us, it was just the nature of homebuilding. It was a clear opportunity to make his business better—and our lives better. That was the idea for the company.”
As a bootstrapped startup, Donny slowly built his company over a dozen years, refining his product and refining features for his customers along the way. “We do a lot at CoConstruct. We take care of all of the project, financial, and client management functions. From the time somebody decides they want to build a house, to figuring out what it costs, to all the stuff they pick out, to the building process, all the way through warranty—plus all the communication that happens in between—all of it happens on our platform.”
Over time, CoConstruct began to scale, making the INC 5000 list year after year. And that is when the calls from investors started. For a long time, Donny had zero interest in partnering with an outside firm. For him, it was never about money. But after several years, he started to feel a lack of support. “I had always been in CEO groups, learning from others. We’ve been really fortunate to grow over the years, but I’d kind of grown out of those networks. I didn’t have that intellectual give and take from others to challenge what I was doing.”
“In my case, I found that instead of playing to win, in some cases I was just playing not to lose. And I realized that I don’t want to wake up every morning playing not to lose.”
Donny knew he was missing the personal fulfillment of having someone strategically challenge and engage with him as CoConstruct continued to grow. “For us to get to where we needed to go, where I wanted us to go, I needed some really smart people that I could push back on who could back push on me. I realized that the private equity community—if I picked the right one—could give me what I was looking for. CoConstruct needed that.”
“In my case, I found that instead of playing to win, in some cases I was just playing not to lose. And I realized that I don’t want to wake up every morning playing not to lose. So by partnering with the right private equity firm, I believed I could have that smart network of people around me so together we could make bigger, more aggressive decisions with less risk because it was going to be well-thought-out.”
From first contact, Donny could see there was something noticeably different about Serent. “They understood the market, understood founders—and the fears of founders—and really just how to partner on a values level. It was a clear fit.”
Shifting to “Play to Win”
High Engagement and Support
A huge resource that now helps Donny play to win is Serent’s in-house Growth Team, a group comprised of experienced operators and consultants that partner closely with management teams.
“Engagement from the growth team can mean different things. For instance, one day we had a 10 am meeting with one of the Growth Team members. I logged onto Zoom, thinking it was a conference call, but there was no dial-in information. I look up and the Growth Team member walks in my office door. To be clear, he doesn’t live here. He says, ‘Well, I thought it was important to come down.’ And he was exactly right. This meeting warranted an in-person conversation. Sometimes it’s that level of engagement.”
Reflecting on intellectual fit, Donny added, “There’s a lot of strategic initiatives that we’re pursuing now that we probably would not have even considered if the growth team members hadn’t been there. It’s been a huge value-creation for us and for our customers as well. It’s been an amazing experience.”
Recruiting Top-Level Executive Talent
“In six months, I’ve gone from having no executive team to having a Head of Sales, Head of Tech, Head of Customer Success and Head of Marketing,” said Donny.
“Nicole and the other Serent Human Capital team members were great about helping us think through, ‘What is it you really want from this new role? What do the specs and responsibilities need to look like? What are the trade-offs?’ They brought in some analytical tools to assess candidates that we couldn’t have accessed otherwise.”
Finding Seasoned Board Members
The move from being completely bootstrapped to backing by outside capital also means big changes in way of reporting—especially the addition of a board.
“First of all, for me, having a board was a big change,” said Donny. “I’ve never had anybody to report to. But they’ve really helped guide me through the process.”
“Serent folks and I have a similar mentality, which is great; that’s why I signed up with them. But in order to counterbalance a groupthink mentality, having independent board members has been really helpful. I think this brings a great diversity of thought to our board.”
One particular independent board member has been a meaningful addition. “He’s been really helpful to me as a kind of executive coach to help me learn how to run board meetings and how to use our board members. I feel like he’s really in my corner.”
“Serent is different. They’ve been a really good fit for me and CoConstruct because they are incredibly analytical, yet still people people.”
Setting a Foundation for the Next Stage of Growth
In the past two years, Donny has worked with Serent to establish the board, hire four C-level executives in Charlottesville, and focus on a wide variety of strategic initiatives including modernizing their pricing and product packaging structure. “The combination of all of those things has been super valuable to me as we grow,” said Donny.
Today, custom home builders and remodelers rate CoConstruct as the #1 resource for coordinating projects, communicating with clients and crews, and managing their finances. Since our partnership kickoff in early 2018, CoConstruct has doubled its monthly revenue. With a new executive management team in place, CoConstruct anticipates continued growth and service to their 40,000+ hardworking customers.
Donny reflected on his journey since deciding to partnership saying, “Serent is different. They’ve been a really good fit for me and CoConstruct because they are incredibly analytical, yet still people people. Oftentimes those two things don’t fit together—I’m amazed that you can actually get both of those in one package. It was a great fit for what I wanted for the vision of the company. Working together I know, for me, our employees, and our customers, we will create far more value in the long run.”