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3 ways to help tradespeople save time and improve efficiency

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Tradespeople are some of the busiest workers around. Tradespeople that run their own businesses, even more so.

Not only do they spend time working on and completing jobs, they also have to find time to manage the admin side of their business.

That includes:

  • Dealing with enquiries
  • Putting together quotes or estimates
  • Scheduling each job
  • Managing the job as it happens
  • Invoicing on completion
  • Chasing payments.

Then on top of all that, they have to supervise any staff or subcontractors they hire, market their business, manage their inventory – and a whole bunch of other tasks that help keep the lights on and the business running smoothly.

A recent report that surveyed UK trade business owners showed tradespeople average 13.9 hours per week on admin tasks – that’s the equivalent of a part-time job.

There’s no shortage of demand for tradespeople’s skills and often the biggest thing holding them back is simply a lack of time.

Any tradesperson – or accountant working with a tradesperson – knows there’s room for improvement in the way they do business.

If a tradesperson falls behind on quoting, invoicing or chasing payments, it means they don’t get paid on time. An overworked, time-poor tradesperson could miss invoicing materials, labour, or even entire jobs.

In short: a lot of work for not a lot of money.

“You could spend 10 minutes writing something and then lose it. Because we’re so busy, the directors and I would have to give up our evenings – and that got frustrating when you’re sitting there at 10 at night still working.”
Mike Humphries, Green Hawk Construction

Tradespeople can make more money by finding ways to save time and improve efficiency.

In this article, we’ll show you how to do just that.

1. Driving efficiency

Driving to jobs is one of the biggest inefficiencies for tradespeople, especially if it isn’t actively managed.

Some trade businesses will still get all the workers together each morning to print daily job sheets or distribute work. Then each worker has to travel again to get to their first job.

Think about the hours spent on this process per worker, per week. That’s a lot of time to be saved.

There are plenty of tools out there that can help you track jobs and manage staff efficiently. The right software on your phone and computer can help you plan travel in advance, and even schedule jobs and trips to suppliers automatically around the shortest distances.

With the right job management software, your team can jump in the van already knowing where they’re going and what they’ll need for the job.

No more morning meetings or endless phone calls during the day.

All the information for every job sits right there in the associated job management app, accessible by everyone.

With this holistic view, staff become far more likely to have all the materials and tools they need on hand to complete the job to spec.

When a new job comes in, it’s fast and easy to enter all the details, assign a team member, and schedule it in. Staff can then get notified from their own phones or tablets.

If you’re riding along to a job, you can use travel time to read or make job notes, send quotes, and even issue invoices from your phone.

Manage staff on the move

If anything changes during the day, job management software can be used to notify each individual worker through the app. All your updates sit against the relevant job, meaning everyone knows what’s going on, at any time.

Once installed on your employees’ work phones or tablets, job management software can also track their location in real-time.

This comes in handy when you get an urgent job request and need to assign it to the closest person, or when clients want to know exactly when their jobs will start.

2. Cut down on supplier visits

Visiting suppliers is another unpaid task that can be streamlined with job management software.

Of course, it’s not all bad – building relationships and catching up with suppliers can be a nice break from the workday, as well as being beneficial to the business.

This time quickly adds up though, especially if you forget the broken part you’re replacing, have to query the order list, or make multiple trips after not getting enough the first time.

With a bit of forward planning, you can develop weekly, monthly or job-based ‘Startup Kits’ that contain a purchase order for the materials you are likely to need.

Through your job management software, this can be automatically emailed to the supplier regularly so your business has just enough materials to get a job underway while you figure out the exact requirements.

Become a proactive professional

Efficiency in planning through job management software has multiple benefits:

  • A better customer experience, as your customers see you are organised and able to start the job straight away.
  • Cuts down on supplier visits and simplifies inventory and payments processes.
  • Gives you a greater feeling of control over your business, helping you to become more proactive and less reactive.
  • Templated quotes, invoices and emails give your business a more professional appearance – as does the ability for your customers to accept quotes or pay online.

With job tracking software, you can email purchase orders to suppliers as soon as quotes are won so that supplies can be delivered straight to the site or the workshop.

You’ll be able to track materials down to the job level – making allocation, invoicing, and job profitability analysis faster and easier.

“Once I get an email alert that a quote has been accepted, within 10 minutes I’ve nailed when I’ll be doing the job in the job tracking software. When I go to the wholesalers to pick up parts, I can open the app and know exactly what we’ve agreed to – not taking the wrong piece or not picking up enough stock.”
Brent Riley-Beckett, Plush Electrical

3. Automate as much as possible

The whole point of office admin is to keep a trade business running smoothly.

But the more tasks you can automate with cloud-based products, the more time there will be for higher-value tasks such as marketing and looking at job profitability.

For most businesses, many hours are spent per month collecting timesheet entries to ensure staff get paid on time and customers are kept informed.

Job management software saves time here as well, empowering staff to enter and track time entries in real-time.

Forget about trying to remember a day or even a week of timesheet entries, sort it out from your phone as you go.

Getting the rest of your team on board with a job management app will help with inventory and supplier management, job allocation, communication and notifications, and time tracking.

With all this information coming through to the software, tradespeople can save hours of chasing up information or searching through files/paperwork.

Plug into your accounting software

Choosing a job management platform that integrates seamlessly with your accounting software will save you even more time.

You can automatically transfer information between the two systems. Sync invoices, bills, payments, suppliers and customer contacts to your accounting software automatically.

Double-entry across systems is a huge waste of time. Fortunately, this can become a thing of the past. With live syncing, you can update both platforms at once, saving you both time and money.

“It manages everything from the point of enquiry – which comes straight into my app – right through to invoices being generated. Quotes, materials used, work hours – everything is in one place.”
Darren Buntin, Lime Tree Properties

Final thoughts

Doing more online and less on paper saves tradespeople hours every day. This effect is compounded when it comes to growing the team.

If a tradesperson employs staff then they become a manager too – just without the suit and tie.

More staff means more paperwork, more organisation requirements, more phone calls, and more admin in general — but that doesn’t mean you need to be slowed down by the added responsibilities.

Whether it’s an existing trade business feeling the pressure, or a new trade business just starting out, the most effective way to save time and improve efficiency is with the right job management software.

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