Ever feel like you’re constantly playing catch-up with your to-do list?
You’re definitely not alone. A staggering one in two SMEs say they’re worried about lost time and productivity in their business.
This rings even more true for maintenance businesses that have teams constantly on the road and need to process high volumes of invoices, day in and day out. As you scale, the task becomes more monumental with an increasing number of clients, staff…and dreaded paperwork.
With only so many hours in the day, you have to really work smart to get things done while your business grows.
That’s where having the right tech stack makes all the difference.
A tech stack is a collection of digital tools, platforms, apps and software that businesses use to build products, manage day-to-day operations, communicate with customers, and process payments and admin.
The right tech stack maximises efficiency, reduces costs, and frees up your time to spend on the areas of your business that generate revenue.
Thanks to COVID, you’ve probably already started building your tech stack to enable more digital and virtual ways of working. Now it’s time to kick it up a notch and embrace technology as an enabler to streamline your workflows, automate pesky admin, and grow your business.
Start by considering your business model and goals
How you integrate technology into your company will depend largely on your existing business model, and where you want to go in the future. That’s why the first step is to evaluate how your business operates before bringing on different platforms or apps.
Think about your day-to-day workflows:
- What eats up the most time for you and your team?
- Is there anything blocking you from taking new jobs or scaling up?
- What are the biggest pain points in your operations?
For example, most maintenance businesses typically work with an office team that’s responsible for booking jobs, scheduling, and managing the books; and a field team that goes out and actually does the jobs. When it comes time to scale, this typically becomes a bottleneck because the volume of paperwork just compounds and you need more hands-on-deck to get the job done. If you can use technology to reduce the workload for different functions, such as accounting or admin, you’ll be able to free up the team’s time to focus on more important tasks that make you money.
That’s exactly the advice Andrew from Digit gives businesses he works with. As a cloud-based bookkeeping and accounting advisory, Andrew’s team connects people with technology to help businesses save time and make better decisions.
“Admin is just an overhead. If you can reduce how much time you spend on stuff that isn’t actually generating income and the cost associated with the admin stuff, that’s what helps you become a really profitable business,” says Andrew.
Plus, the more you can automate your work using your tech stack, the more opportunities you have to grow, he adds.
“When you have a lot of tasks that require manual intervention or people to do things in order for the whole system to work, you’re limited by the number of people you have doing those things, needing to train new people and getting caught out when someone leaves. If you can automate the process and automate the payment side of things, you remove this bottleneck entirely.”
Build technology in from the beginning
If you’ve ever tried to retrofit anything, whether it’s a plumbing system or wiring in an old house, you’ll know just how tough it can be.
The same goes for your tech stack.
It’s tempting to start signing up for nifty-looking tools right off the bat. But without the right framework, your new tech could end up costing more time, money and trouble than it’s worth. When you think about how you’ll build technology into your business model from the outset, it’s far easier to build a stack that works for you and your team.
“You need to have gone down the path of digitizing as much of the business as possible before you can get to the point of considering automation tools,” Andrew warns.
Start out by bringing on systems that support your fundamental business efforts, like an ops platform for job tracking and scheduling, and a really good digital accounting system. With these, you’ll pull the curtain back on valuable information like job profitability or customer lifecycles — all of which you may not have had access to otherwise.
After you’ve laid the foundations, you can start making incremental improvements with apps that automate processes within these systems.
Layer your tech stack to support your business growth
Building your tech stack is like building up your toolkit as a tradie. You need to have the basics before you start buying specialised tools
to make the job easier.
Here’s the fundamental technology every maintenance business should have in 2022:
Operations: With a specialised job management system like PoolTracker
or a generalist option like ServiceM8, your field team can easily allocate jobs while they’re on the move. You’ll also be able
to track jobs, monitor productivity across your team, and manage important files like job contracts or supplier documents.
Accounting: A robust accounting tool like Xero takes care of a lot of the time-consuming
financial functions for your team, like issuing job quotes, sending out invoices, managing purchase orders, expense reporting, and filing
Payments: Once you have a solid accounting platform in place you can kick your productivity into high gear. Payment
automation software like Pinch puts the entire customer payment process on autopilot, from
auto-reconciliation into Xero to managing subscription and recurring payments.
The key with any tech platform is to make sure that it’s cloud-based, so it supports your office team and your field team while they’re out on jobs. Cloud-based apps are also more cost-effective, can run updates automatically, and are easier to scale as your business grows.
Other tools to consider will depend on your workflows but could include timesheet and rostering tools, inventory management tools to keep track of equipment, or CRM tools like HubSpot to manage your relationships with your customers.
Another tip from Andrew? Integrate, integrate, integrate.
"Connect [your ops system and accounting system] together and integrate them. That way, you have the invoices being raised and the financial transactions from the job system flowing into the accounts system, and you can start to get good metrics from that,” he said.
Over to you
Technology should be an essential part of every maintenance business’ toolbox. By combining job scheduling and tracking apps, accounting software and payment automation, every part of your operations will run more smoothly — from the moment you take on a job to the minute you get paid, and even come tax time.
Get the right tech stack in place, and the rest will follow. With your newfound digital smarts, you’ll have more time to say yes to new jobs, expand your business, and best of all, win your evenings and weekends back.