Kevin Baker Plumbing is a family-owned and operated plumbing business that has been servicing the Canterbury region in New Zealand since 1999. Originally started by Kevin Baker (hence the name), the business baton has recently been passed on to his son-in-law, Chris Forrest.
Chris went through his apprenticeship with Kevin and has been working with him ever since. When Kevin decided it was time to hang up his work boots, Chris was the obvious choice.
As in most long-standing businesses, Chris has held on to the things that make Kevin Baker Plumbing a success – top-notch service, hard work, integrity. But when he took over in March, there was one thing he knew he needed to change.
“I wanted to have an easier way of doing my invoicing,” he says.
Chris hasn’t always been a plumber. Before starting his trade, he worked in logistics. And even though he didn’t have experience running his own business, he quickly realised that the two skill sets go hand in hand.
“When I worked in logistics, I was running 10,000-pallet warehouses, so I’m quite used to juggling paperwork. And I would watch my father-in-law spend almost every night doing his invoicing, and I thought, there just had to be a quicker, easier way.”
1. Hard to keep up with price changes
Before taking over the business, Chris didn’t have a lot to do with the daily admin – but he’d been paying close attention.
He watched his father-in-law meticulously, manually, go line-by-line through his invoices, pricing materials that had been used. While he understood that it was part-and-parcel of running the show, he also saw an opportunity to improve the efficiency of the process.
“I could see from the outside he always seemed to be doing invoicing,” Chris adds.
2. Tradify ‘straightforward and easy to use’
Initially, Chris decided to try the system “that we’re all told to use as plumbers – Fergus.” He says he muddled around with it for a couple of weeks but struggled to get the information that he needed.
So, he did a Google search and came across Tradify.
“I found it, trialled it and was popping out invoices that same evening.”
“I just wanted something that helps me punch out an invoice in five minutes. And that’s exactly what Tradify can do.”
3. Importing price lists keeps a lock on costs
Before Tradify, Chris’s biggest admin bugbear was getting a handle on the cost of materials. His father-in-law would do this line item by line item, but with materials shortages and increasing freight charges, prices are constantly fluctuating.
If Chris couldn’t get on top of them, he risked invoicing his customers the wrong amount or losing money.
With Tradify, he’s able to import his 42,000-line price list from Plumbing World once a month in 20 minutes. Then when it comes time to do his invoicing, all his prices are pre-loaded and ready to go.
“It means when I’m out on the road, I can quickly search the price of something in the app, and give customers an estimate there and then,” he explains.
It also means he’s got his invoicing down to a fine art.
“I can sit down once a week and nail my invoices in an evening,” Chris says. “I don’t have to waste time searching and checking prices – I just know they’re right.”
4. Accessible database of customer details
A bonus for Chris is he now has somewhere to store customer details. No more overflowing filing cabinets or searching through mass emails – when he needs to call a customer or send an invoice, he’s got everything he needs in the palm of his hand.
“That’s quite handy being able to look up a customer’s details in the Tradify app.”
Chris might only be six months into running the Kevin Baker Plumbing show, but he’s working towards future growth. In the long term, he’d like to take on an apprentice and to do that, he needs to have good systems in place.
“I’m working on my own now and it’s been busy. We’ve managed, but I’ve also had to say no to some work because we weren’t set up to manage it all. We’re getting there now with Tradify,” he says.
5. Chris says Tradify’s a royal flush
- Importing: supplier price lists takes 20 minutes
- Accurate invoicing: material costs preloaded
- Cloud-based: job and customer info stored digitally
- Customer details: easily accessible from app
- Room to scale: Chris can use other functions as the business grows