Starting a trade business is hard. Not only do you have to be able to do the work personally, but you must run the business too.
How to be a winner using tech
To start up an installation business, you need to be great at the job as well as having a good business head. But if ...
To start up an installation business, you need to be great at the job as well as having a good business head. But if you are to grow your business, the key skills needed change.
Back in the 90s there was a lot of excitement about the internet and this was followed by the “dotcom boom”. The dotcom bust quickly followed and generated an equal amount of cynicism.
In May 1997 a little-known company called Amazon floated on the US Nasdaq stock exchange at a price of $18. The Amazon share price reached a high of $2,012 last year, when it became the most valuable company in world.
Amazon, above all else, has been taking advantage of the business benefits that technology can bring. They started just selling books and then added CDs. Today they are not only responsible for 50% of all ecommerce sales in the USA. They are also the biggest supplier of technical “cloud” infrastructure in the world. They have left many of the giants, including Microsoft and IBM, wallowing in the dust behind them.
The point of this story is simple. Technology may have fits and starts but ultimately can make a huge difference to entire industries. Those that ignore it end up missing out.
Is there a lesson here for installers? The answer is yes. While installers can look to the boiler manufacturers and others for smart thermostats, self-diagnosing boilers and more, there is another direction to look in order to grow your business and beat the competition.
Where technology can help
Historically, word of mouth has been a huge factor in getting business. Today, that is complemented by social media and business web sites. But this is no longer at the cutting edge. And any impact in using technology for marketing is blunted by the amount of business that still comes from recommendations.
A more important area for technology is both winning and retaining business. Research has shown just how irritated consumers are by the effort to get quotes from installers and other trade businesses. Producing good looking quotes fast is a classic application of technology. You can dictate notes into your phone which can be automatically turned into text and then go onto your quote. Quotes can be emailed or sent at the touch of a button and acceptance received electronically. This can all scratch just where your customer itches.
Then there is complying with regulation, whether it be Gas Safe, Health and Safety or Making Tax Digital (MTD). These are increasingly forcing computerisation on the industry and HMRC have even more far-reaching plans for MTD in the works. The great thing about today’s technology is that keeping information secure can be guaranteed and means that the same information that is used to raise quotes, jobs and invoices can also be used to comply with regulation.
In fact, probably the biggest area where technology can help is simply keeping you in control of your growing business, scheduling staff and raising all paperwork. Everything held in one place electronically. It can then quickly be accessed from the smartphone in your pocket as well as any desktop computer or tablet. There’s no faffing around with paper copies and no duplication of effort. It’s not surprising that the fastest growing companies all use systems to keep on top of their work.
Historically installers didn’t use systems maybe because they were technology averse, and definitely because the solutions weren’t mobile and didn’t do anything special for the trade. In the last few years there has been an enormous change. This has come from many new tablet and smartphone-based apps.
The field trade industry has probably had proportionately less computer systems deployed than almost any other business area. Although there were good reasons for this, those reasons are now gone. Installers finally have the chance to share in the benefits that other businesses have been enjoying for years.
The bottom line
Technology drives business. The arrival of printing changed the world. Now there is new technology that allows everything about your business to be available in your pocket. The risk of not getting on the bandwagon is rising, just as the benefits are becoming clearer.