As remodelers struggle to integrate the hardware and software they already have, they ponder the role of new technology in their businesses.
Despite the role of technology in improved communication, design, and all types of documentation, most remodeling contractors are still challenged by computer hardware and software. Problems include keeping current and finding time and money for training, but the biggest need is for someone to help them keep up with the tech avalanche and to connect the gadgets they already have.
Remodelers admit they're reluctant to adopt technology for fear of getting burned, and most have no dedicated technology budget. Many stockpile "shelfware" (technology that ends up sitting on a shelf somewhere), reporting hundreds of dollars -- and in some cases as much as $10,000 -- worth of useless or obsolete technology.
Still, remodelers are being pushed into the future by customers, and most say they lead their suppliers and subcontractors on the technology front.
In one area where it's easier to see a return on a tech investment -- from a Web site -- nearly half of remodelers report they don't have one. Yet more than half of those who do have sites report sales from them. Leo Meerman of PROMEER Builders amp; Remodelers, Sugar Land, Texas, had more than 16 Web-related sales last year. The mostly handyman jobs were worth about $140,000. His site, www.promeer.com, is a template offered by QuickBooks Web Site Solutions for $19.95 a month.
Web Site Leads-To-Sales
Percentage of remodelers whose Web site leads have led to sales
- No Sales: 46%
- 1-5 sales: 37%
- 6-10 sales: 7%
- 11-15 sales: 5%
- 16+ sales: 5%
By the Numbers
- 67% of remodelers surveyed don't have a dedicated technology budget. Of those who do, 85% budget 1% or less of revenues for technology improvements.
- Just over 42% of remodelers surveyed have no Web site.
- 48% agree their company will greatly increase reliance on, and use of, the Internet in the next six months.
- 27% say they're unsure as to whether they'll increase Internet use.
- 39% say they have a clear Internet strategy for their companies; 41% say they don't.
- 78% use the Internet for business from one to six hours a week. Just 3% don't use it at all.
The 5 Most-Used Tech Tools
In the field
In the office
cell phone 85% fax 91% digital camera 63% cell phone 81% PDA 56% digital camera 69% laptop 41% scanner 62% fax 29% laptop 60%
How has technology changed the way you work with suppliers, subcontractors, and customers?
"The change isn't as great as I would like it to be. Our customers are mostly technologically advanced, but our subs and suppliers are the least."
Michael Menn, Design Construction Concepts, Northbrook, Ill.
"Technology gives us the means to communicate visually, instead of verbally, which helps eliminate misunderstandings -- or gives us a way to review when misunderstandings do happen."
Brad Arthur, Bradford Builders, Greenfield, Ind.
How much "shelfware" do you own?
"About the only thing I've purchased that hasn't worked has been Palm Pilots. I was going to put them in the field and they just never really worked. Even I don't really like my Palm, because it can't integrate with ACT! and Xactimate like I wanted it to. It hasn't worked with a networked system and multiple Palms in the field."
Mark Labourdette, Golden Gate Home Repair, Novato, Calif.
"We fortunately have used all the products we've purchased. We do have quite a supply of free software from dot-com companies that were trying to be everything to everybody. They just didn't work out.
Tom Tweddle, Tweddle Construction Co., Abington, Pa.
What is your major technology challenge?
"Keeping current on updates, especially on CAD software."
Shirley Landels, Landels Remodeling and Design, Aloha, Ore.
"Trying to get an integrated system that duplicates entries. What we're trying to do is just enter the client information once and then have everything entered throughout the system on accounting, estimating, and everything else."
Dave Dunlap, Consolidated Construction Group, St. Louis
"We don't have time to play with the technology in order to learn it, and I think that's absolutely mandatory. If you've got something you use every day, you'll tweak it better and work with it."
Max Isley, Hampton Kitchens of Raleigh, Raleigh, N.C.