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Coping with COVID - How to make your trade business more efficient and resilient

April 20, 2020

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Work efficiently, bill accurately, get paid quickly

As some clients decide to delay or forego projects due to the impact of COVID-19, it may become a tougher and more competitive environment for a lot of trade businesses for a while. Trade businesses will be competing for fewer jobs and those who have seen a decline in their business will be wanting to make up for lost time and lost dollars. But that doesn’t mean your trade business can’t come out of this intact, and maybe even more efficient and resilient than it was before the COVID-19 chaos hit. 

Now more than ever, most trade businesses will focus on forecasting and managing cash flow very carefully to keep their business afloat. But there’s a bigger opportunity here – when times are tough it’s the efficient businesses, the ones that keep clients happy and the ones who bill for every minute, who’ll come out on top. 

So, now’s a good time to take a good hard look at your trade business and think about how you can improve the efficiency of your business so that you’re prepared for a more competitive environment. Here are 3 areas you’ll need to focus on. 

 

1. Get your cash flowing 

For most trade businesses, the top priority will be keeping cash-flow issues to a minimum. That includes getting clients to pay their bills as quickly as possible, but there’s a lot more to the cash flow puzzle.  

First, if you’re not already using job management software. Start now. Job management software like Tradify makes it easy to:

Invoice immediately
You can fill out all the job details on-site, so any changes are updated immediately. You can often invoice there and then, while you’re still on-site or if you need to head back to the office, it’ll take just a few clicks to complete. And the faster you invoice, the faster you’ll get paid.

“Customers get invoices straight away – well, that’s because I want to get paid straight away!” says Nick Foley from NDF Electrical.

Offer alternative payment options
Online credit card payments are a quick, convenient and secure way to pay invoices, giving your customers less reason to delay payment. The easier you make it for your customers to pay your invoices, the faster you’re going to see your cash. If you don’t already provide your customers with the option to pay your invoices by credit card, take a look at adding this option.

Chase clients for payment
Not sure when to follow up with clients to follow up on an outstanding invoice? Send invoices from Tradify, and you’ll have a sort of x-ray vision. You’ll be able to see if clients have opened your invoices or not – so you know when to chase them up for payment.  

Send automated payment reminders
By enabling the automated payment reminder setting in Tradify, you won’t need to manually chase overdue invoices. Based on when the invoice was sent and opened, you can send automated reminders so your bill doesn’t get forgotten, you get more cash in the bank, faster, and you can spend your time doing better things, like booking or working on more jobs. 

 

2. Win more business

When things eventually start to return to normal there’ll still be those maintenance and repair jobs floating around, but the large upgrades and additions might not be as common. That means that, depending on your trade, things might be a bit slower than normal for a while so you’ll have to make sure you’re doing your best to turn every enquiry you can into a paying customer. Here’s how. 

Get back to people first 
Being the first to respond to an enquiry can often win you the business. Tradify’s enquiries feature can help you reduce your response times by sending all the enquiry details you need right into the system. You can also set it to send an automatic reply to the customer, so they know when to expect to hear from you.  This is really important, especially if you can’t respond immediately. 

Get quotes out fast 
Again, getting back to people fast with a quote puts you out in front. Trade software makes it easy to create and send quotes fast – even from your phone when you’re out and about. 

“With Tradify, it’s so easy to quote that, within 10 minutes of the customer ringing you, boom – the quote’s done. Emailing it straight back to them – that will win business. If it takes you a week to get back to the customer, they will have gone elsewhere,” says Dan Walters from Keystones Electrical

 

3. Make more money on each job

Getting through leaner times is about maximising your efficiency, so you end up with as much money in your pocket as possible. Here are a few things you can do to ensure you’re making the most of every job.

Sense-check your hourly rates
Charge too much and you’ll lose work; charge too little and you’ll end up basically working for free. Use Tradify’s billable rate calculator to see if you’re on the right track and to make sure your billable rate really is covering all of your costs, and giving you a bit of profit, even in tough times.  

Schedule your time more efficiently
Time is money. If you can’t bill for it (like the time you spend driving between jobs or doing admin), you’re losing money. If you manage a team, job management software makes it easy for you to make the most of your team by scheduling everyone’s day, tracking job progress, giving the team easy access to up to date (even last minute) job info – and keeping the reins tight on timesheets. 

Using Tradify, Luuk Hermens of Motueka Electrical has learned to use his time more efficiently. 

“If someone rings up when I’m out and about, I can schedule a job on the spot, look at whether we’re available to take on the work, and give people answers on the phone.”

Work out which jobs make you money
Do you know which jobs are your best jobs? Which jobs give you the most profit? You might be surprised – some jobs could be earning you a good profit, and others could actually be costing you. With job management software like Tradify, you can get a clear idea of what you’re making on each job. This means when you’re quoting next, you’ll know you’re charging enough. And you’ll know which jobs to say no to - the ones that might actually be costing you time and money.

“I can work out our gross profit on every single job at quote and invoice so I know I’m hitting targets. Being able to see where you’re at with time, the cost of labour versus sell price – that’s a massive advantage,” says Dan Walters from Keystones Electrical

Never miss invoicing for time or materials
Recording job details like time and materials on bits of paper (or wood!) is a recipe for inaccurate or missed invoices and lost money. When all of your time and materials are tracked in a job management app like Tradify, they’ll be included in the invoice automatically – so you’ll bill your customers for every minute and for every cent. Now’s not the time to leave money on the table.

Minimise paperwork
Paperwork is an inevitable part of running a business, but it’s work that you don’t get paid to do. Job tracking software can take a lot of that paperwork headache away by keeping everything in one place, reducing double entry, and tracking and storing job records. 

“It’s a lot quicker now, with Tradify,” Eddy Kendall from Kendall Electrical says. “Quotes are done in half the time. I think I save about five hours a week on admin.”

 

Put your business in the best position

So why would you invest in a job management app when you’re probably trying to keep expenses low? Well, we may not know a lot about what’s going to happen in the next few months but one thing we know for sure is that your trade business won’t be efficient or resilient if you’re overwhelmed by admin. The key to your trade business survival – and success – will be fast quoting, efficient scheduling and accurate invoicing – so you can win more jobs and get paid quickly. 

So go ahead and try a 14-day trial of Tradify for free. Then when things pick up again properly, you’ll be ready. In fact, despite the COVID-19 chaos, with Tradify by your side, your business might be in an even better place than it was before. 

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