We at Carey Bros will soon celebrate our 40th anniversary in the home remodeling business. Our business has changed dramatically over the course of almost four decades. We suspect that the same holds true for your business.
It goes without saying that there have been tremendous advances in building products that offer our customers more choices and, at the same time, a better, more efficient installed product. That’s a good thing.
Similarly, incredible advances have been made in management resources for small businesses, which were formerly available primarily to big businesses with big budgets.
It has been amazing to witness how communication, the exchange of information, and access to a host of digital solutions has provided small business with power like never before. And there appears to be no end in sight.
In addition to increased efficiency and productivity for our entire team, technology and operating in a digital environment has improved accuracy and provided regular access to our clients, crew, vendors, prospects, and more. It has allowed us to streamline overhead and improve our bottom line.
Our love affair with technology began in 1981 with an IBM 8086 microcomputer with twin floppy drives, an amber monitor, and a dot matrix printer. Shortly thereafter we added additional computers, more sophisticated printers and peripherals, and lots of software.
In short order, we were doing word processing, spreadsheets, accounting, and estimating on computer. We even created programs to manage other aspects of our business such as a customer relations management program, customer service management, and we automated contracts, subcontracts, and change orders – to name a few.
Since those early days, teems of digital solutions have been created that not only perform the tasks outlined, they continue to both simplify and take business management to entirely new heights. And thanks to smart phones, tablets and notebook computers, we no longer need to be strapped to a desk to be peak performers. In fact, just the opposite is true. Portability and access to information “on-the-fly” offers the freedom to be “on the job” and interface with clients and crew without missing a beat.
Here are a few examples of how technology has evolved and changed the way we do business.
We began with clip-to-the-hip pagers, which required finding a payphone or using the customer’s phone. We graduated to “2-way” FM radios—an improvement, but very pricey. Then, ta-da, along came cellular technology – a total game changer! And now video calls and videoconferencing have cut down on behind-the-wheel time, lowering stress and improving performance.
Smart phones are the bomb! In addition to making and receiving calls and videoconferencing, texting has increasingly become the preferred means of communicating with crew and vendors. Customers are gradually jumping on the texting bandwagon, too.
Smart phones have smart apps that will identify roof pitch, help cut a roof, convert measurements, figure the amount of concrete needed for a foundation – and that’s just scratching the surface.
Correspondence that once took several days to get to the recipient via “snail-mail” suddenly could be in their hands the following day when overnight mail arrived on the scene. Then, along came the fax, which made overnight mail look silly. With e-mail, letters, documents, photos, progress billings, and other important data can now be turned around in an instant.
In the old days when making a sales call we couldn’t find our way there without our trusty Thomas Guide Map Book. Today we use digital navigation that provides a map, tells us the time we should arrive and gives us audible instructions. How cool is that?
A Polaroid camera was essential when making a sales call. Today, our smart phone or digital camera does a better, faster job and, using cloud-based data storage and sharing, the design department can access the photos (and other project information) even before the salesperson pulls away from the project.
The drafting table, mechanical arm and pencil have been replaced by CAD systems that are increasingly more user-friendly and that create detailed elevations, perspectives, and 3-D modeling. These benefits enhance communication among all parties, reduce errors, manage client expectations, and, when married to an estimating module, produce material lists and pricing in one fell swoop. Incredible!
Paper timesheets have been replaced by digital time tracking (by project and work category). Payroll checks are now direct deposit, and all state and federal forms are filed electronically. Paper invoices, paper checks to vendors, file folders, and file cabinets are all a distant memory. Everything that was formerly paper is now digital and lives in the cloud. The need to have stacks of banker’s boxes to store seven years of records – and the precious space they take up – are resources not required or better utilized.
Finally, the World Wide Web has opened an infinite number of doors to access information. No more searching technical manuals, pricing books, or material catalogues. Everything is now a click away.
If you have an aversion to computers, smart phones or technology, we suggest that you reconsider or find someone in your operation who will take the lead. Your business, your crew, your vendors, and customers will all benefit and thank you for it. If you are already a technocrat and can’t wait for the next digital “solution” to arrive, stay tuned because Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence will make an already good thing simply unbelievable