Let’s face it, a lot has changed since you first hung your shingle and landed that first big job. Depending on your experience in this business you might not have even been using a cell phone back then but today it has become as essential as a reliable vehicle or supplier. For the majority of contractors the daily connection to emails, texts and phone conversations on the spot and instantly are what keeps us on top of our game. But are you using everything you can to reach peak efficiency on the job? Here is a short list and brief description of five things today’s contractors can benefit by having at their ready. Please comment below with any questions or to share your thoughts/experiences on the subject.
1. Smart Phone
If you’re using a flip-phone or a Blackberry your days are numbered. Neither one is capable of supplying you with the most up to date tools to help you do more on a moment’s notice. Android devices along with Apple’s iO system arm you with the best possible tools for quick communication and information sharing. Blackberry, while once a powerhouse, has been on a steady decline with only one clear destination as of right now so upgrading to the latest Android or iOS operating platform is in your best interest.
Smartphones are great for checking email, accepting credit cards, looking up information, using some apps, and of course, calling or texting. But when you’re trying to do work, the screen is a bit small.
Some obvious assets of a smart phone are email connectivity, texting or instant messaging but tools such as the camera and calculator are very useful on the job. Don’t overlook the capability of using your phone as a router to access the internet from a laptop or tablet either.
2. Tablet with Internet Capability
While most tablets won’t replace a computer for you, they work amazing well as an extension of one. Software suites for contractors typically have mobile applications that operate on tablets, connecting you to your work database while you’re on the go.
I us an iPhone and iPad together when needed for a customer proposal/meeting. By connecting my iPad to the internet via “Personal Hotspot” I am able to run cloud-based apps like Quickbooks and email on a full sized screen. This configuration of devices also allows me to utilize some very cool apps, I’ll get into that further down the list.
The versatility and overall portability of a laptop is what launched the pintsized computers into orbit over the last two decades but they can be rather cumbersome to haul around from site to site. You might already have a laptop so starting with it can save you some money and help acclimate you to taking full advantage of the available technology.
When comparing the convenience of a tablet to a laptop consider the cords and power needs. The more powerful the laptop is, the worse the battery tends to be. Having to constantly find a power source defeats the purpose of a portable laptop. Unfortunately, the more portable and efficient it is, the more money it will probably cost. Also, regardless of power or battery life, you’ll typically have to find a place to set your laptop to use it. When you’re working on site, it’s nice if you can simply carry something around.
Also See: Cyber Mondays, For Contractors? for more about modernizing your business.
4. Mobile Apps/Software
Whether you’re in the plumbing, HVAC or hydronics business “there is an app for that”. Most major manufacturers already have or are developing mobile apps to help you better access their products. There are more than a handful of apps to help you calculate a quick heat loss or check the size of an expansion tank. You can have the app do the math for you if you’re stuck on triple line offsets or duct sizing. Most all of these apps are available to both the Apple and Android users with little or no fee attached. Check out Google play and Apple’s App Store for all the available apps to make your job easier.
On the software front is the where you can take full advantage of business management and function. I have been using popular accounting software since day one of my business and now I keep my books on the cloud. By storing all of my business book keeping info online I can access it from anywhere. This allows me to write up an invoice on the job, make a change order or build an estimate all while keeping everything in sync back at the office. It really doesn’t matter where I office from because everything is now cloud-based and backed up.
Also See Mobile Apps for Contractors on The Hub for recent app releases.
5. Mobile Printing
If you have to chop trees to keep things moving then mobile printing is the last piece to this short list on modernizing your service offering. I get it, sometimes you just need to have a paper copy in hand and having a simple compact office printer in your truck will make that possible.
Buy yourself a simple D/C power inverter from just about anywhere that will satisfy the power needs of a small inkjet or laser printer and voila, you’re in business! If you’ve just spent an hour or two face to face with a potential client there’s nothing worse than having to go back to the office for a updated/complete contract and scheduling a return trip for a signature. If you’ve got a laptop of tablet with access to your estimating/accounting software in the truck you can have a signed contract in hand before you know it. Your competitors, the really busy ones, are doing this and its impressive to those ready to buy so hop on over to the nearest office supply store and get started.