For Darren Smithson, plumbing has always been the job of choice. After leaving school, he got an apprenticeship which involved catching multiple taxis and buses from 5am. Darren worked for two more companies after that, before deciding to go out on his own.
When it was just Darren working as a solo operator, DMS Plumbing was a simple plumbing maintenance business. Today the focus is still on plumbing, but they’ve expanded into the commercial sector as well.
“We’re currently doing a revamp of a high-rise building in the Johannesburg CBD and a new hospital in the Northwest Province.”
Despite running a company with 16 plumbers, five vehicles, an operations manager and an administrative assistant, Darren often still catches himself referring to DMS Plumbing as a small business, but his wife Nicolette is quick to correct him. They’ve both learned a lot over 20+ years in the trade, including that the right technology can give you a much-needed competitive edge.
Items missing off invoices, spending too much on stock
Like many self-employed tradespeople, Darren started out using paper and pen to run his business. As things got busier and he took on additional staff, he noticed that some materials or time on the tools wasn’t being recorded. That meant when it came to invoicing, there was a portion of material costs and labour that was never invoiced for.
He was also experiencing issues with his stock management. Purchase orders weren’t being raised correctly for each job, which resulted in a huge overspend towards the end of the year.
These errors were costing the business time and money. Darren knew that if he didn’t make a change, his business would be left behind.
“Sometimes my wife and I are sitting there, processing invoices, and she’ll look at me and say, ‘I don’t know what we did before we had Tradify – how did we manage all this information?!’”
Tradify way ahead of its competitors
Darren happily admits that he is by no means “an IT individual”. But when he came across Tradify a few years ago, he knew the system could give them a competitive edge. Since then, he’s been approached by locally-based app developers, but, "Nobody has been able to offer me anything near what Tradify can do," he says.
“I can’t live without it!” - Darren Smithson
Accurate purchase orders, faster invoice processing
One of the biggest challenges for Darren’s growing business was purchase-order control. He used to spend hours processing invoices, and flipping between job cards, timesheets and supplier invoices to match everything up.
Now with a job management system, Darren’s team can raise a purchase order directly into a job and add pre-populated product items. Darren doesn’t need to manually check every job before processing an invoice because all the information he needs is in Tradify.
“I’m able to process the invoicing a lot quicker and we’ve got more control over what we’re spending – and charging for,” Darren says.
The system has also helped the team increase their billable hours because they can accurately record their time on the tools.
“For many of our employees, they get paid for the hours of work they do, and we use Tradify to record those hours. So, what’s happening now is we’ve seen an increase in billable hours too.”
A better customer experience
According to Darren, the trades landscape in South Africa is a little different. There’s a big labour force and many people still require or expect paperwork. But Darren has always seen the value in going digital, and he believes the industry is slowly coming around.
With Tradify, Darren says they’ve become ridiculously good at documenting – something which has had a huge impact on customer experience. The notes and photos that are added to each job straight from the work-site mean Darren can provide clients with a full service report in real-time.
“We can send our job service reports on the move which means clients get them almost instantly after we’ve finished a job.”
He says they’ve gotten so good at record-keeping that their clients now come to him to check their paperwork.
“When we load the job cards, we use order numbers in the reference. A lot of times, our clients come and ask us for stuff because all we have to do is type in the order number, and we can pull everything up for a job that was done six months ago.”
Being digital has also been a blessing throughout the global pandemic. The team can take photos of important compliance documents and upload them directly to the relevant job – reducing any paper-handling and minimising the risk of infection. Tradify also includes a Contact Tracing Report feature. This report lets you see which customers and staff any member of your team has been in contact with.
Streamlined processes help business grow
Darren says the beauty of using Tradify is every job follows the same process. In the past, his job management was reactive and manual – there were bits of paper everywhere. Now, it doesn’t matter how busy the team gets, every job follows the same workflow.
A job gets created in Tradify, staff are assigned to it and any purchase orders and notes are stored within the job. When the work is done, the job gets moved to the completed pile for invoicing. Darren says the process has been battened down and they all follow it. No matter how busy they get, they never lose anything.
“Tradify has really allowed us to scale our business – and now, we can’t live without it!”
Darren says Tradify is the best app on the market
- Cloud-based, so his team can issue job reports while on the move.
- Accurate invoicing means no materials or labour time missing.
- Job files stored digitally and easily accessible when required.
- Purchase order management reduces overspending.
- Streamlined job tracking helps his business grow.