Using technology to get your evenings back

The following article examines the way that plumbers and electricians can get their evenings back with the help of technology, even if technology turns them off!

The mobile revolution

Looking back, it took a surprisingly long time for mobile phones to get to saturation. In fact, it took twenty years. During that long period, lots of people rubbished the phones and said they would never catch on. Every new technology that eventually becomes ubiquitous still goes through a period of disbelief.

In contrast to mobiles, smartphone penetration has been much quicker and the comparison should teach us some lessons.

When you think about it carefully it is obvious smartphones will bring in a revolution. After all, you can now get an affordable device in your pocket that has the power of a supercomputer of twenty years ago. It is connected to all of the world’s knowledge and is pretty aware of its own surroundings - it knows where it is and how it moves. If something like this doesn’t end up having a profound impact on life generally, including the way trade businesses are organised, that will be surprising.

Can old dogs learn new tricks?

Despite some views of the young, older people are not too dumb to master new technology. Sure, people that have grown up with smartphones find them particularly easy to use, but there is nothing any more difficult than learning to drive. We all managed that.

Of course, it is true that the older you are the more resistant you tend to be to change. My guess is that this is down to a combination of factors, including that older people have found ways that work for them, so usually the marginal benefit of changing is smaller. That then leads to less practise at picking up new tricks.

That’s why it’s good to think back to what our parents told us would never catch on. They were sometimes right, but certainly not always. Can we learn from this?

Giving the new stuff a try

I must admit that I love technology. As soon as a new important gadget comes out, I must have it. But my 60 year old business partner isn’t the same. He often chants the mantra “never be first and never be biggest”. He doesn’t start using a new technology until all the problems have been ironed out. Probably somewhere between the two of us is the way to get the best out of new stuff.

Of course, being careful about what’s being peddled is a useful defence and being sceptical of what salesmen tell us is no bad thing. But if that turns into an automatic rejection of anything new, it becomes damaging. In the plumbing trade I don’t think we would be better without pipe detectors, vans and mobile phones. But all of these represented new technology in the past.

Don’t reject first then think second

My company, called Powered Now, has set up a dedicated page on Facebook. We like to show videos of people using our technology and talking about its benefits.

Lots of people point friends at the page. There are also a predictable set of negative comments, particularly criticising whatever work is being done in the videos. One example was two guys doing a small plastering job. Many people said it only needed one person. Being so negative, it obviously didn’t occur that the staff wanted to be in the video and that it was part of a bigger job, which was true. The knee jerk reaction was to reject the message, which was a shame. Of course I should emphasise that we aren’t the only app that can help plumbers, there’s a good choice out there.

Mobility has arrived!

Trade businesses are mobile, particularly smaller businesses where you won’t find anything interesting happening in the office. That’s why the mobile revolution has so much potential to help trade businesses including plumbers. And it’s particularly true if you don’t have any admin staff and the paperwork has to be done by the people who do the real work.

And it’s well worth looking into because new mobile technology could give you your evenings back.

The printer (or email) not the pen

It’s pretty rare now to find hand-written paperwork. Even little pubs and restaurants often have people wandering around with iPhones taking orders. Of course, the reason is because computers end up needing less effort to produce better results. Small businesses don’t adopt computers because they are fashionable or because they are carried along with the crowd. They do it for hard business reasons. If they didn’t, they would be out of work.

In my experience, plumbers hate paperwork. Again in my experience, they would rather not talk or even think about it except when they have to. It’s ironic then that mobile solutions that can really help are only used by thousands, not the tens of thousands that you might expect.

It makes sense to invest and change if there’s more benefit than the time and cost of that change. Think about buying professional tools. Everyone knows that having the right tools and training mean being more productive and saving time and money in the long run.

What’s next?

My business partner remembers back to his youth when plumbers would demonstrate their skill with a blow torch when fixing the old lead plumbing. No doubt many plumbers thought that the new copper piping was inferior and would never catch on. That didn’t turn out to be a good business decision.

It’s a bit of a salutary lesson. Each generation feels it has found the solution to life’s riddles and isn’t too open to the next generation telling them they are wrong. In business, caution is a good approach, but carries the risk of missing good opportunities. Of course, I am not an unbiased observer. But I trust that I haven’t pushed the point so hard and that you can’t find some thought-provoking ideas to consider. Good luck.

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