17th March, 2021
Digital tech for trades businesses is on the rise as tradies challenge stereotypes by adopting new tools in a bid to improve efficiency and get paid faster.
Tradies are fast realising that they need more than just a smartphone to run their business, adopting a growing number of digital tools available specifically for trade-related small businesses.
And the difference between the success stories and the strugglers is increasingly coming down to the use of technology to help them win more work and invoice faster. While opening your tradie business up to new digital opportunities may seem daunting, it can lead to a huge shift within a business and lead to greater earning potential.
Tradies represent a large sector of the small business fraternity. Research by hipages reveals that there are more than 250,000 Australian residential trade businesses, with the residential trade sector a significant player in the nation’s economy, contributing almost six percent to the nation’s GDP.
Tradies utilising tech leading the way, earning more and getting paid faster. The hipages research reveals they’re moving beyond the smartphone, entering the digital economy and benefitting from cloud accounting programs, data analytics, online booking systems and other work management tools.
The research found that on average, creating invoices, sending out quotes and other paperwork-related tasks eat up to 14 hours of a tradie’s time each week.
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And while 70 percent believe that technology would free up some of their time and make their business more efficient, the fact is that tradies miss the opportunity to earn more because paperwork is bogging them down.
Survey respondents also say that receiving payments (37 percent) and preparing quotes (33 percent) were difficult parts of the job.
Meanwhile, the MYOB Business Monitor reveals that trades are lagging behind when it comes to tech. It found that tradies are holding off investing in tech solutions, with just 23 percent citing the costs of tech platforms as a source of pressure.
Instead, 41 percent say they’re more worried about late payments from clients – an issue that can only be improved by technological solutions.
These platforms enable tradies to bid and accept work on quieter days, and build their business along the way.
Fergus is a job management platform for tradies, and chief executive David Holmes says he’s seen tradies embrace technology in record numbers to save time and money.
This save tradies from spending hours a day visiting sites, meaning teams can be briefed remotely, with images attached to each job within the Fergus platform. Pre-made forms, invoices, GPS tracking, messaging and integration with MYOB has been helping tradies save hours of time in a week, making their business more profitable.
Malady Electrical operations manager Rick Jones is based in Warragul, Victoria. He implemented Fergus to help manage his 25 staff more efficiently.
“Instead of having staff go to 15 sites every day to explain what needs to be done, we can brief everyone by explaining through the site images on our touch screen TV before they head off for the day,” said Jones.
Queensland plumber Tony Bonehill says the pandemic impacted his commercial plumbing business overnight, with a large amount of work lost overnight.
“Switching from our previous software provider to Fergus has probably saved me between one and two hours every single day. For a small business like me, that’s huge,” he said.
There’s been a huge push to ensure that payment terms are reduced to a maximum of 30 days across the corporate landscape, particularly for small business owners.
The push has been led in part by Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Kate Carnell, who is a vocal critic of delayed payments due to poor invoicing processes.
She estimates that 1.2 million invoices are sent in Australia each year, at a cost of about $30.80 for processing a paper invoice, or $27.97 for a PDF invoice. This contrasts to $9.18 for e-invoicing.
Carnell encourages small businesses to adopt e-invoicing and make the most of the benefits that flow from that, including reduced administration costs and fewer processing and handling errors.
“Around 20 percent of traditional invoices are sent to the wrong person and about 30 percent contain incorrect information – delaying payment,” she said.
An app that stores records of all your tools is enabling tradies to run their business more efficiently. The Tool Protect app enables tradies to store serial numbers and generate police and insurance reports in just a few clicks if tools are stolen. Available in Australia, the app increases your chances of getting tools back and catching the thieves.
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Drones with cameras are proving extremely useful for tradies where access is an issue to assess a job, which can help improve quoting times
Drones are increasingly being utilised by sparkies to inspect hard to reach areas, which provides obvious safety benefits and real-time data.
It’s important to make sure you adhere to the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) regulations, including registration requirements.
Virtual reality is predicted to have a huge impact on tradies and the construction sector in the next few years, with the technology already utilised by some sectors of the architectural and job planning area.
This technology will enable tradies to show clients what a finished job will look like, with virtual walk-throughs helping tradies to get a quote across the line.
Other tools include training organisation TradiePad, which assesses a tradie business, current workflows and future aspirations, and recommends apps to revolutionise the way tradies work. From sole traders to large companies, it helps construction, trades and service businesses reach their potential.
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