It might be painful to say, but staffing is the biggest expense for most remodeling companies. What if you could reduce employee costs and improve operations at the same time? By using technology at my remodeling business, we determined that we could grow revenue from $2 million a year to almost $3.5 million without any additional office staff or salespeople.
Until recently, remodelers had two main choices for managing their business information. One, you could try to keep it in your head and on paper. Challenges: your “personal hard drive” may not have enough storage space, and other employees may not be able to access needed information. Two, you could cobble together “off-the-shelf” software options. But this option requires that you enter information multiple times into multiple programs, which can be expensive and, because some programs do not speak to others, still requires you to manually collect and manipulate data to interpret results.
Both of these options absorb your and your staff’s time, require expertise in several software programs, and come with major risk of human error. They eat away at gross profit dollars and require employees with advanced training and therefore higher salaries.
The easy alternative is one of many business management “suites,” or software packages, built specifically for remodelers. Covering everything from lead-generation to “re-marketing” to customers after their projects are complete, they can save you time and money. Those savings, in turn, will free you and your team to actually use the information — to make more money.
Know your options before you buy. Do you want a program that has preset “best business practices” or one that will support your existing business practices?
If you choose the preset option, be sure that the software is supported by a credible publisher that knows the industry, and that it has user-friendly training materials. Also think ahead to be sure that the employees who actually use the software have the cognitive abilities and desire to learn and adapt to a new way of doing business.
If you are considering the customized best-practices approach, first consider whether your practices and systems really work and/or if you have any holes that need to be plugged. Your systems work for you now? Evaluate if you and your team are prepared to advance them as your business grows. And, of course, be sure that you and your staff can articulate and explain these practices. That’s critical for setting up the program, which will require some time.
For many remodelers, of course, technology has been integral to their business for years. For others, starting with technology can be like starting a flywheel: that is, it requires hard work in the beginning. Both new ventures take time to get up to speed and require maintenance to operate smoothly and continually. But once the wheel is spinning, it’s hard to stop.
And, because remodeling practices, regulations, and consumers evolve, any technologies you embrace will need to evolve as well. Be sure that the option you choose can be upgraded — or, if not, that you will have the ability to maintain and upgrade it yourself.
What comes first, the chicken or the egg? Ideally, you should get the technology working before you need it. Whether yours is a small, ambitious business or is already up there in volume, be sure to set aside adequate time and resources to establish and master the technology.
Most importantly, be sure that you, as business owner, are part of the evolution. You wouldn’t be setting much of an example if you stuck to your yellow pad for estimating, after all.
—Shawn McCadden founded, operated, and sold a successful design/build remodeling business. A co-founder of the Residential Design/Build Institute and former director of education for a national K&B remodeling franchise, he frequently speaks at industry events and consults with remodeling companies. firstname.lastname@example.org.