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Crazy for ConTech with Sarah Buchner, Trunk Tools


Welcome to ‘Crazy for ConTech’ with Romey Oulton, a Q&A focused on the Construction Technology Industry. 

This Q&A series is an opportunity for our North American Consultant Romey Oulton to discuss all things construction technology with key players who are championing innovation and digitalisation in the construction space. 

This week we have been in touch with Sarah Buchner, Founder and CEO of Trunk Tools.

Trunk Tools is an innovative construction fintech startup solving the skilled labor shortage by enabling project leaders to increase workforce productivity, safety and profitability by aligning incentives from top to bottom, encouraging efficiency and positively motivating the workforce.

What led you to the AEC space and construction technology?

Growing up in Austria, it was the family business. I started as a young apprentice on construction sites, working my way up to a Project Superintendent over a decade.  I began formally studying construction management, architecture, and technology use while continuing to gain experience on-site. After a tragic and fatal mishap on one of my projects, I wanted to find ways to leverage technology to improve my employer’s business practices. Seeing the success of those efforts, I chose to pursue an industry-wide impact, starting Trunk Tools.


Can you describe the inspiration behind being a founder and CEO? What motivated you to choose this path and found Trunk Tools?

Seeing the real-time impact of the tools we developed back in Austria showed me that technology could improve old business processes, change lives, and make construction better for everyone involved. After speaking with hundreds of business leaders, top CEOs, and experienced construction managers, we identified the labor shortage and construction productivity gaps as a critical problem that needed a thoughtful solution. As we thought of ways to help address this, we saw immediate success with an early version of Trunk Tools, and the rest is history!


In your opinion, how do different geographical markets differ in terms of resisting or embracing construction technology? Why do you think that is? 

The upcoming decline in construction labor availability and familiarity with new tools like ChatGPT have created an industry-wide desire for innovation. The only variation is the appetite or ability to deploy certain solutions into different regions based on the laws, norms, and agreements affecting each region, and the companies within them. Different regions have unique cultures that make them more or less willing to embrace construction technology. Some of the factors contributing to these unique climates are right-to-work versus union states and the associated master labor agreements, state privacy legislation and regulation, seasonal impacts on work, types of projects done within the region, sophistication of local contractors, and climate driven engineering requirements.  Highly complex government projects in the northeast are managed completely differently than a private, commercial build in the south for example.


Imagine you have the ability to predict the future of construction technology. What breakthrough innovation do you think will completely change the industry in the next 10 years?

I think generative AI may begin to replace elements of design, VDC, and BIM.  Combining this data with improved management practices may lead to substantial improvements in construction planning, resource allocation, utilization, and tracking to increase productivity, cost efficacy, and design quality.


What learnings did you take from working with your boots on the ground (e.g. as a carpenter), to the world of tech start-ups? Were there any unexpected obstacles along the way, and how did you navigate them?

The most important lessons I learned being on the job-site was the imperative of bridging the gap between the corporate office and jobsite trailers. Field management and project management are two sides of the same coin that can frequently suffer costly breakdowns.  This helped sharpen the focus of Trunk Tools’ products to benefit the superintendents, foremen, project engineers, and others who help the rubber meet the road.  The hardest obstacle to navigate was realizing the number of other stakeholders impacted by the deployment of new tools and ensuring we helped make their lives easier as well. Solutions need to help the whole team, not just one office.


What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs or innovators who are looking to make a positive impact through technology-driven solutions to construction?

Do it! Now is the time to take the chance. With major demographic changes in industry and a domestic pivot towards increasing self-sufficiency, it’s increasingly imperative that we develop new ways to improve old businesses. The world needs good construction companies, and the hard-working people in this industry need great tools to continue delivering the infrastructure that makes our modern lives possible.


Growth plans for Trunk Tools: 6 months, 1 year, 3 years (i.e: geographies, products, verticals, hiring, funding)

We hope to continue expanding over the coming months and years into adjacent domestic industries, launch products that add increased usability for back-office personnel, and sign customers in all 50 states.  3 years from now, I’d like Trunk Tools to begin opening international operations, have nearly 100 employees, and be a top 20 construction software platform.


What does diversity, equity, and inclusion mean to you? What value does it bring to you and your team?

Trunk Tools’ commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives stands as a cornerstone of our company’s success, fostering a workplace where a rich variety of experiences converges to propel our team’s effectiveness to new heights. By embracing diversity in our workforce, we ensure a mosaic of perspectives that enables us to approach challenges with a multifaceted lens, ultimately leading to innovative solutions and a maximally beneficial product. This inclusivity not only fortifies our internal dynamics but also positions Trunk Tools as a socially responsible entity poised to make a significant impact in the world. Through DEI, we not only celebrate our differences but harness them to create a workplace that is not only reflective of the world’s diversity but also dedicated to creating positive change on a global scale.


Tell us about Trunk Tools’ approach to talent acquisition and culture? Has it changed since you first founded the company?

We look to hire people that embody three core values – effort, humility, and candor. This has been the type of people we’ve sought to hire from the outset. Much like the industry we serve, Trunk Tools prides itself on having a strong sense of camaraderie, working hard, and being honest.  These elements are what makes Trunk Tools great and I don’t see us changing these core values any time soon.


What is your guilty pleasure? And favorite song?

I love lowering the roof on a convertible and driving fast down the highway on a sunny day (you could say I miss the autobahn back home!). Pairing that with my favorite song, “Everybody’s Free” by Baz Luhrmann, is the definition of my happy place.

LMRE are specialist PropTech recruiters, if you need help growing your business or making any key hires please get in touch via the form below!

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