By Erich Litch, CEO of eSUB Construction Software “Change is not a four-letter word… but often your reaction to it is!” These words from author Jeffrey Gitomer ring true in the world of commercial trade contractors these days who are under growing pressure to do more labor with fewer workers. Thanks in part to a Read more
By Erich Litch, CEO of eSUB Construction Software
“Change is not a four-letter word… but often your reaction to it is!” These words from author Jeffrey Gitomer ring true in the world of commercial trade contractors these days who are under growing pressure to do more labor with fewer workers.
Thanks in part to a $1 trillion infrastructure bill, U.S. spending on commercial construction in 2023 will be robust, and commercial construction is projected to grow consistently over the next five years. However, the labor shortage within construction is also projected to be significant. The pandemic, the Great Resignation and an aging workforce have all contributed to a worker crunch, putting trade contractors on the back foot and making it even more important to create labor efficiencies wherever possible.
One of the best ways to gain greater efficiency is by using digital tools to speed up administrative processes and allow workers to access information more quickly and easily. In addition, you are protecting your company by documenting tasks more consistently and effectively so you can maximize revenue and substantially reduce financial risks.
Change can be hard, and you may not know where or how to start. Let’s fix that problem. Below is a four-step guide for using cloud software to automate processes and move information from boxes and file cabinets to anytime access at your fingertips on any device.
Walk Before You Run
Don’t try to start with everything. Instead, pick some high-value areas where you can get quick and significant returns, and focus on new document creation rather than digitizing previous paper documents. When creating new processes for document creation, Deloitte researchers, Jurrien Veldhuizen, Ilse Habraken, Peter Sanders and Rogier de Jong, recommend starting with processes that aren’t business-critical. Pick two or three processes (e.g. worksite photos and reporting hours) and try those in your new software. This lets you see what works and what doesn’t without disrupting normal business operations.
Some of the most valuable document types trade contractors get quick and significant returns on are field notes, daily reports, change orders, purchase orders, RFI’s and submittals. But you do not need to start with all of these. Start with basics like field notes and daily reports to make sure you document important job site developments and get your field workers comfortable with these tools. Then, add in the document types that are the most difficult to manage via paper and transfer all your project documents into one cohesive and easily accessible place. Gradually, you can begin moving other processes over to the software.
As you do so, be sure to document all these changes to your processes, DocuWare’s Joan Honig advises. “Then if issues arise in testing, you can determine whether they are due to the new platform or the new process.”
Select Software that is Tailored to Your Business and Easy to Use
Ensure the solutions you choose are designed for your users and your type of business. Many companies try to get their employees to use solutions that were designed for other types of companies or generically designed for other industries. This makes it much harder for employees to incorporate the technology into their daily work.
Also, organize training sessions to make sure users understand how to use the tools to do their work. Always look for ways to make the training accessible on-demand within their schedules, and give employees a way to learn at their own pace. A library of on-demand training videos and webinars can be a powerful tool to get your employees on board with your digital transformation.
Incorporate Other Document Types into Your Digital Processes
You will always encounter other sources of documents or files that are either paper or from digital platforms that are not part of your ideal cloud document management system. Make sure to identify these files and sources and develop processes to incorporate them into your digital strategy. Some important questions to consider are:
- Should paper documents be converted to digital formats and then uploaded to a single cloud storage solution?
- If you have multiple systems of digital document storage, can the systems be integrated to enable document sharing between systems?
- Does your cloud document management system allow uploading of different file types and provide unlimited storage of these types, or do they charge by usage?
If you are converting paper files to digital files or downloading digital files for uploading to another system, you need to create a standardized convention for naming each of those files and having a consistent file folder structure.
“This is incredibly important because records can then be stored logically, retrieved easily or browsed efficiently, saving time and minimizing frustration,” writes Steven Voight, knowledge development manager at InfinityQS International.
Voight has specific tips for creating those naming conventions:
- Make sure file names are meaningful but short (e.g. 012022Payroll).
- Don’t make file names unnecessarily repetitive or redundant.
- Don’t use spaces or underscores.
Once the files are sorted and named, they are ready for migration to wherever you plan to store them. Ideally, that would be in a cloud environment that is easily accessible to everyone on your team.
Be thorough during this step. You probably have lots of institutional wisdom tucked away in those paper documents. In an industry where talented people retire by the thousands annually, trades businesses need to preserve what they’ve learned over the years, according to National Fire Protection Association President and CEO Jim Pauley.
“In the fire, electrical and life safety industries, there’s a lot of ongoing conversation about how to preserve veteran wisdom,” he writes in Forbes. “With traditional communications methods, older generations are typically sharing information via email or in the margins of code books … Save for digging through the retiree’s email for any important lessons learned throughout their time, it’s almost impossible to ensure that their industry-specific knowledge is preserved for the use of future generations.”
Guide and Manage Your Team Through the Change
As we noted earlier, change is hard in any business. People tend to focus on the work that’s right in front of them, and asking them to change how they work can lead to resistance.
Support that change by doing three things:
- Make the change mandatory. Once the process is proven, make it an essential part of how you operate. A single employee might not understand how something they do impacts the organization as a whole. Don’t listen to the squeaky wheels and remember that the real value comes from widespread adoption and utilization.
- Educate and train your team. Host training sessions, and do what it takes to make sure every person understands the new workflow. But most importantly, ensure they fully understand why it is so important to use these tools.
- Hold people accountable. Set clear expectations for how and when you need people to adopt and begin using the new process, and hold your teams to them.
Learn More About Cloud-Based Construction Software
This guide is a broad overview of several complicated projects. Moving paper documents to the cloud and then creating new processes is a huge amount of work.
We built eSUB Cloud to be the software that supports that change in trades businesses. If you have any questions about how eSUB can support your company’s move from paper to software, contact us today to schedule a demo.
Erich Litch is the Chief Executive Officer at eSUB Construction Software. He brings more than 20 years of executive leadership experience from positions in public and private software companies to this role.
The heat-resistant and insulating properties of asbestos led to its widespread usage in the building industry for quite some time. However, it poses serious health hazards when its fibers become airborne and are inhaled, causing lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis. This article will explore what asbestos is, where it can be found, and the dangers Read more
The heat-resistant and insulating properties of asbestos led to its widespread usage in the building industry for quite some time. However, it poses serious health hazards when its fibers become airborne and are inhaled, causing lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis. This article will explore what asbestos is, where it can be found, and the dangers associated with it.
What is Asbestos:
Properties of Asbestos
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral composed of thin, fibrous crystals. It is durable and has high tensile strength, resistant to heat, fire, and chemicals, making it attractive for insulation, roofing, flooring, and other construction materials.
Different Types of Asbestos
There are six types of asbestos, each with unique properties and characteristics. The three most commonly used types of asbestos in building materials are chrysotile, amosite, and crocidolite. The other three less commonly used types are tremolite, anthophyllite, and actinolite.
Where Can Asbestos Be Found?
Asbestos can be found in various building materials, including insulation, roofing shingles, floor tiles, and cement. It can also be found in automotive parts, such as brakes and clutches, as well as certain consumer products like hair dryers.
The Dangers of Being Exposed to Asbestos:
Lung cancer is one of the most well-known health hazards associated with asbestos exposure. Asbestos fibers that are inhaled can get stuck in the lung tissue, causing inflammation and scarring, leading to cancer. Symptoms of lung cancer can include coughing, chest pain, and shortness of breath, among others.
Another serious health problem associated with asbestos exposure is mesothelioma. This is a rare form of cancer that affects the lining of the lungs, abdomen, or heart. Mesothelioma can take years or even decades to develop after exposure. Symptoms of mesothelioma can include chest pain, shortness of breath, abdominal swelling, and more.
Asbestosis is a chronic lung disease that can occur after prolonged exposure to asbestos. It is caused by the inhalation of asbestos fibers, which can cause inflammation and scarring in the lungs. Similarly, symptoms of asbestosis can include shortness of breath, chest pain, and a persistent cough. There is no cure for asbestosis, and treatment options are limited.
Other Health Hazards
Several other health hazards are linked to asbestos exposure, including a buildup of fluid in and thickening of the lining of the lungs. These conditions cause similar respiratory issues.
Asbestos exposure is especially dangerous for those who have worked in industries where it was or still is commonly used such as the construction and manufacturing industries. For example, in Massachusetts, asbestos at job sites such as shipyards, power plants, and factories created heightened exposure due to the widespread use of asbestos-containing materials in these industries.
Asbestos Regulations and Remediation:
Asbestos Regulations in the United States
The use of asbestos has been heavily regulated in the United States since the 1970s when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began to study its health effects. Today, the EPA and other regulatory agencies have established strict guidelines for the handling and disposal of asbestos-containing materials.
Asbestos Remediation and Removal
If asbestos-containing materials are found in your home or workplace, hiring a licensed asbestos professional is important to remove them safely and effectively. This may involve sealing off the affected area, using specialized equipment to prevent the release of asbestos fibers, and properly disposing of the materials.
Asbestos Awareness and Education
Finally, raising awareness about the dangers of asbestos exposure is important in preventing future cases of asbestos-related illnesses. Many people are still unaware of the dangers of asbestos exposure and may unknowingly be at risk. Therefore, it is important to spread awareness and educate the public about the risks associated with asbestos to help protect future generations’ health and well-being.
In conclusion, asbestos is a dangerous material with serious health consequences for those exposed to its fibers. The best way to protect yourself from asbestos is to prevent exposure in the first place and to seek medical attention if you believe you may have been exposed. Asbestos regulations and remediation efforts can also help prevent future cases of asbestos-related illnesses. By staying informed and taking the necessary precautions, we can protect ourselves and our loved ones from the dangers of asbestos.
A few months into the new year, the landscape of the HVACR industry continues to evolve and change in new ways. Expected shifts come from new innovations in technology, market needs for greener products, an unpredictable global economy, supply chain issues and shifting energy demands—all of which promise to make 2023 a very exciting year Read more
A few months into the new year, the landscape of the HVACR industry continues to evolve and change in new ways. Expected shifts come from new innovations in technology, market needs for greener products, an unpredictable global economy, supply chain issues and shifting energy demands—all of which promise to make 2023 a very exciting year.
Let’s start with inflation, a global recession and a supply chain that continues to struggle after the pandemic. Hopefully, as the pace of inflation eases throughout the year and the job market continues to be robust, this should help the economy continue its upward movement, improving construction numbers and the HVACR industry in general. However, even if the economy dips, existing systems will still need maintenance, so service and maintenance calls are going to continue to drive the growth of our business.
Something else driving our industry is decarbonization. This push accelerating throughout the world of HVACR is driven by climate change, the insecurity of world energy supplies and new legislation, like the Inflation Reduction Act. New heat pump technology could help customers move away from using fossil fuels to heat their homes – and big tax incentives are driving their implementation. This movement also encourages homeowners and businesses to retrofit existing systems to meet new standards. As HVACR technicians, staying current with these advances is critical.
Residential and commercial customers are asking for healthier, energy-efficient homes and buildings. They care about the comfort of their homes and their businesses, but they’re also focused on the well-being of the planet. As a result, they’re investing in systems and technologies that optimize energy use. In addition, the pandemic brought wellness, ventilation, air quality, thermal health and humidity to the forefront. All of this is going to shape our industry over the coming year.
As we move towards using more sustainable components and refrigerants in our systems, technology and innovation are both going to be key drivers. Throughout the last decade, we’ve witnessed the segment’s most significant technological revolution. We’re seeing new electronic tools, cloud-based solutions, higher efficiency ratings, mini-splits systems, new codes and new control strategies driving product development and helping HVACR systems deliver new solutions for customers. As HVACR technicians, we need to stay ahead of these advances which have the potential to transform how HVACR professionals are trained and how we do our jobs.
Welcome to the new HVACR industry
It’s an exciting time to be part of an industry that benefits so many people every day. At Fieldpiece, we’re looking forward to developing the new tools that help HVACR techs install, diagnose and repair these evolving and ever more innovative systems. We’ll keep current of all the latest trends and help ensure that your tools are ready for the jobs to come!
The reality is it can be daunting to choose business management software. There are numerous options available in the marketplace today and many facets to consider. Having the ability to effectively dispatch your teams in the field, streamline your accounting data flow and access your business metrics at the touch of a button are all Read more
The reality is it can be daunting to choose business management software. There are numerous options available in the marketplace today and many facets to consider. Having the ability to effectively dispatch your teams in the field, streamline your accounting data flow and access your business metrics at the touch of a button are all valuable features you may want to set your team up for success. It can take time to properly evaluate the needs of your business and feel confident that you are making the best selection, but starting with these three areas will help you begin narrowing down your choices:
Features: Sure, there are many tasks you are probably looking to manage in the daily operations of your team, but which ones are the most important to your business? Consider separating your list into features that are an absolute must and those you would enjoy but could run your business successfully without. If one platform checks more of those “must have” boxes, then you will have identified a leading candidate.
Processes: Think through the current process you use for job management and make note of the positives and negatives that come to mind. What is working well, and what could use a new approach? Sometimes writing down the steps in your current process can help you visualize how it could be improved in a new system. For instance, some software systems may have more automation than you currently do, making it easier to get the job done.
Stakeholders: Anyone on your team who will be using the platform should have a say in this evaluation process. They know what is needed to make things run smoothly. You will want to include all relevant team members in brainstorming exercises and any meetings you have with vendors to demo the product. Don’t forget your IT team so they can ask any hosting, data conversion, or implementation questions.
Now that you’ve taken some initial steps to evaluate the features you need and want, the processes you’re trying to improve and the feedback of your team members, it’s time to ask some more in-depth questions to make sure you’re finding the right business management software for you. Here are the top questions to consider:
What features does the software have?
You already thought through your must-have and nice-to-have features, so go back to that list and see how many boxes you can check off. If you have already identified that you absolutely must have a user-friendly dispatch board, a top-notch accounting module or a management system to keep your agreements and maintenance visits flowing, then you know those are non-negotiable features.
Don’t forget the ones on your nice-to-have wish list either. Once you weigh all your options, you may decide having key performance indicators and business metrics available at the touch of a button is a feature you really do want to add to your toolkit.
Another important thing to consider when evaluating features is how many are built directly in the software and what would you have to purchase separately – whether that be from another vendor that could potentially integrate with the software or add-on features from the software you choose.
Even if you know you won’t use all the features right away, it may be worth it to go with a field service management software that has numerous options built into the software, so you have those options down the line.
Is there accounting built in?
Do you want your service data to be connected to your financial information without the need to sync data or enter it into two different platforms? Or do you have an existing accounting software system that you want to make sure will integrate with your new platform? Whichever camp you are in, accounting is an important area you want to consider.
Think of it this way – you have two options. You can go with a standard accounting software and then purchase dispatch tools that sit on top of that software, or you can look for an all-in-one platform that has accounting built-in, eliminating the need for an additional payment to an additional software company.
Does it integrate with any other vendors?
Speaking of integrating…you may be using other existing vendors for things like your pricebook, online reputation management and document storage. Finding a software system that makes integration seamless with these other vendors will help you continue with business as usual.
Is the Customer Service team responsive?
You are guaranteed to have questions during migration and as you get deeper into the software. Many of these will be pressing questions that can be the difference between increased or lost revenue. There’s a lot on the line for your business, so whatever system you go with, make sure the provider has a responsive customer service team that will get back to you promptly.
Is the software hosted on a physical server, or is it hosted in the cloud?
The safety of your data is a top priority. The cloud typically offers more security benefits – data backup, disaster recovery, increased performance and more – than traditional hosting on a server.
You should also ask yourself if the ability to work from anywhere is important to you. If you answered yes, then a cloud-hosted software system is the way to go. With traditional servers, you can only access your files from the location of the physical server.
How easy is it to migrate my current data over to the new platform?
Data migration can be a nerve-wracking time for a business owner, but moving into a new platform should be easy and secure. Make sure your new provider is available to walk you through every step of the process, ensuring all your important data is captured as it is being imported into the new software.
How easy is the system to learn and use?
The ease-of-use to a new software platform can make or break your transition. Ideally, you want the system to be user-friendly and intuitive for your office staff and techs to pick up and learn. If they need significant training or have more questions than answers, you will need to factor in whether or not there are resources provided to give extra help adapting to the new software. Extra help from the software provider might look like a dedicated Customer Success Manager or online training courses available on demand.
What is the cost?
Last, but certainly not least, cost is a significant factor when considering a new business management software. No one wants to break the bank, so look for something that can grow and scale with your business at a reasonable price.
Don’t let the magnitude of your business management software decision keep you from pushing forward to a better way. Yes, it will take some time and consideration to find the right fit that will have your business humming along at its most streamlined and efficient, but working through these steps and questions will help you move beyond analysis paralysis and into success.
Chris O’Grady has been in sales for 30 years, focusing on software sales for the last 20. Chris has been leading and growing sales teams for most of his career, with his most recent positions at FinancialForce and CBORD, where he led high-performing sales teams and was able to help drive tremendous growth for each company. In April 2022, Chris joined Successware as the Chief Sales Officer. He brought with him a proven history of business growth and increased sales performance. In his current role, Chris leads sales, sales operations, and customer success and is responsible for driving sales strategy.
December is a time for closing out the books and putting a bow on all of your accomplishments over the past year, but it’s also an important month to set business goals and intentions for what’s to come. Good or bad, the year behind us has been a learning experience. It’s crucial to evaluate successes Read more
December is a time for closing out the books and putting a bow on all of your accomplishments over the past year, but it’s also an important month to set business goals and intentions for what’s to come. Good or bad, the year behind us has been a learning experience. It’s crucial to evaluate successes and take stock of shortcomings so you can continue to build your business and grow in the right direction for the future.
No one likes to dwell on failures, but it’s essential to identify and learn from them if you want to avoid repeating the same mistakes. What flopped for you this year? What do you wish you had done differently? These things should all be taken into account when you think of the year ahead.
Now, take the same inventory of what went well for your business. Was there a standout marketing campaign you might want to expand on next year? Did your team improve in any key areas that you want to keep focusing on?
Once you have a good handle on what’s in your rearview, there are four main areas to consider as you plan for the year ahead. Consider them New Year’s Resolutions for your business.
Resolution #1 – Review and update your business plan
You’ve probably heard the famous quote about failing to plan is planning to fail. It’s a classic for a reason – planning is key to continued growth and success for your business. All those decisions you encounter in the course of daily work will be resolved much more easily if you have a solid business plan leading the way.
Now is the time to take stock of your plan. Hopefully, you have already thought through what worked and what didn’t work over the course of the last year. Make sure your business plan is updated to reflect those key learnings. Moreover, the plan should reflect the mission, vision and goals you have laid out for your team.
Most business plans follow a similar outline. Review the following sections and update them as needed:
- Executive Summary and Company Description – What is it that your company does at its core? This will help guide the rest of your business plan and strategy.
- Market Analysis – What is at the forefront of your consumer’s mind? What are your competitors doing? Use this information to help you determine what markets you should focus on.
- Services Offered – Have you expanded your list of services? Focused more on some services and less on others? Writing these out gives clarity to your technicians and sales team to know where they should focus their efforts and help you prioritize what you want to be promoting and selling.
- Marketing & Sales Plan – What marketing campaigns have brought in the most leads for your business? Do you want to try new tactics next year? A clear marketing and sales strategy is critical; see Resolution #2 below for more information.
- Financial Projections – Did you come in over budget? Under budget? Use data from your current year to determine how much you think your business will grow; more on this in Resolution #3.
Resolution #2 – Give your marketing plan a refresh
Increased revenue comes from a clear marketing and sales strategy that helps you attract and keep customers both old and new. A robust marketing plan is essential, so you’ll want to spend some time refreshing yours for the new year.
Again, start with a look at the current year in review, making note of any marketing campaigns that brought about results or fell short of expectations. When you see something that worked – a healthy number of leads from a social media channel or direct mail, for instance – allocate more money in that direction next year.
Do you have a calendar of promotions/deals you want to highlight throughout the year? Consider creating a social media strategy to support them. Promoting one deal each month could be a good rule of thumb, and you’ll want to set a plan for the content you want to post and when you want to post it.
If you don’t already have a monthly email newsletter in your toolbox, consider adding one as a cost-effective way to reach your customers with your marketing messages – deals/special offers, new products or services or any content that will further convey all that your business has to offer.
Resolution #3 – Set realistic growth goals
If you set a business growth goal that is too high, you run the risk of unrealistic expectations that can lead to demotivation and ultimately failure. Use your financial metrics from the current year to root yourself in reality.
Did you meet the numbers you forecasted this year? Are you coming in way over or under budget? Look at the goals you did not achieve this year and think about what roadblocks you encountered. What might it take to reach those goals next year? Maybe you need to add services or products, or you may want to consider beefing up your team with an additional technician or truck. All of these can lead to additional revenue that you should include in your forecast.
Sometimes your goals have changed, and your updated plan needs to reflect that. Defining your sales, marketing and revenue goals will help tremendously when updating your business plan and budget for the new year.
Another benefit of clearly defined goals is helping your team know where their efforts need to be focused. They can also help you identify any tools or training they need to help reach those goals.
Resolution #4 – Focus on building a great company culture
Demand for skilled trades workers continues to increase as the number of qualified applicants decreases. Your company needs to up its recruitment and retention game if you want to thrive. One of your biggest goals for the new year should be to build the kind of positive work environment and culture that employees don’t want to leave.
In order to create that great company culture, resolve to:
- Communicate with your employees. Be open about what’s going on with the business and any upcoming changes that may affect them.
- Be open to feedback. Employees often have great ideas on how to solve the problems with systems or processes they encounter on a daily basis, so listen to what they have to say and work with them to find solutions
- Invest in their growth with additional training or help in obtaining needed certifications or licenses. When you believe in them and help them reach their goals, they will be more inclined to help you reach yours.
Now that you and your employees have a clear direction to follow throughout the year ahead, you can enjoy ringing in 2023 knowing you have a solid plan for operating and growing your business. You’ll be ready for the highs, lows and everything in between that makes business ownership such a rewarding adventure. Happy New Year!
Paul Carmody has over 20 years of experience as a senior executive in Software-as-a-Service, technology-enabled services, internet infrastructure, and supply chain/manufacturing industries. He has served as a key executive in five successful exits and one IPO. He is currently President of Successware, an Authority Brands company. He previously served as COO of Nicus Software in the Information Technology Financial Management industry. He was also General Manager (GM) of a business unit at E2open, a provider of cloud-based, on-demand software for supply chains. Before that Paul was GM of Strategic Businesses at Change Healthcare, a $1.2 billion company backed by Blackrock that merged with McKesson Technology Solutions.
Prior to that experience, Paul was CEO of AchieveIt, a SaaS business that provided a results management and strategic planning software platform to hundreds of businesses across the globe. He has held senior executive roles at Internap, Cbeyond, Rackspace, and Broadlane. He began his career as a consultant at McKinsey & Company.
When not ensuring that things are thriving at Successware, Paul is spending time with his wonderful family – wife Teresa and two daughters.