Anyone who’s ever worked in trades and services would be familiar with the administrative problems associated with handling many small jobs with multiple clients. Luckily, modern solution providers like ServiceM8 have created a solution with job management software.
Whether you’re a sole trader offering handyman services or a specialty, family-owned plastering business, chances are your familiar with the challenges that are caused by managing multiple jobs with multiple customers.
For many smaller operators in trades and services, it’s not cost effective to employ full-time administration staff, and that’s left many business owners trying to juggle their book work, customer admin work and actual work.
The team at ServiceM8 are all-too familiar with this scenario and have been striving to develop the ideal solution to remove the burden of job management with mobile, user-friendly software that connects seamlessly with your online accounting package.
To learn a little more about how ServiceM8 cures headaches for tradespeople, as well as how the company came to be, we recently caught up with Skye Taylor, partner manager for ServiceM8.
How did the initial concept for ServiceM8 come about?
ServiceM8’s beginning is a very grassroots, family story.
One of our co-founders, Kim Ford, bought a small locksmith business, and immediately ran into the wall of issues experienced when trying to run a field-based operation with paper-based systems — manual and time-consuming administration, inefficient communication, losing track of job details and history, poor visibility on job status and field staff, and all the flow-on effects these issues have on productivity, cash flow and professionalism.
This was around the time the first iPhone was making waves and changing what was possible with mobile and cloud technology. Seeing the opportunity for a better way, Kim convinced his son, Ben Ford, already a successful software engineer, to start working on a cloud-based job management solution, not just for the locksmithing business, but for all small trades and services businesses. From there, the first version of ServiceM8 was released in 2010.
Do you have a personal connection to the trades and construction market?
Small businesses in the trades and services mean everything to us — it’s the sector ServiceM8 is designed for. Our customers are pretty inspiring kinds of people, whether they’re a sole trader ‘man-in-a-van’, a husband and wife team with a few staff, or they’ve grown into a larger outfit. Like all small business owners, they’re entrepreneurs at heart, so it’s easy to get behind them and want them to succeed.
Before the cloud, this sector was ill-equipped for the realities of managing a business with jobs and staff in the field all day, every day (I personally can’t imagine how a field service business can run efficiently without a job management solution).
So for us, to work on cloud-based software that helps our customers run a better, more enjoyable business, and get back in touch with the reasons why they started their business in the first place, makes this a very rewarding space to work in.
Has your product, brand or business in general changed in any way since you started?
ServiceM8’s focus as a company hasn’t changed, but our product has definitely grown and evolved since launching back in 2010 — adding functionality for different industry requirements, eliminating administration throughout what we call “the life of a job”, supporting new iOS features as soon as they’re released, and so on.
We’re lucky to have a very thoughtful and progressive customer base, and their feedback is invaluable in developing new solutions.
We’re also constantly monitoring developments in mobile and cloud technologies which we might apply to help our customers work smarter.
Now, we have a proven track record of continuous improvement and innovation.
Today, what’s the biggest problem you’re solving for field service businesses?
The biggest problem ServiceM8 solves would have to be administration and paperwork.
The trades and services businesses that ServiceM8 is designed for generally manage a high volume of smaller, shorter jobs. The thing is, each and every job is surrounded by administrative tasks — communicating with clients, quoting, scheduling, documenting the job, invoicing, payments and so on. Further, the amount of administration for a job can often be disproportionate to its size, duration and value.
So when you combine this amount of admin with the high volume of jobs coming through the business, and a working environment where field staff are separated from the office and constantly on the go, it causes all kinds of issues which impact efficiency, productivity, professionalism, and particularly, the business owners’ lifestyle.
A high job and administration volume in a business with a mobile workforce is a situation which demands a fit-for-purpose, cloud-based solution offering systemisation and great communication.
What challenges did ServiceM8 have to overcome in order to become what it is today?
Awareness of ‘job management software’ as a concept has been a challenge. We still hear stories from customers about their search for a job management solution, with people finding ServiceM8 and saying things like: “Wow, this kind of thing exists?” Others start out thinking they’d need to pay to have a custom app developed from scratch.
Nowadays, there’s pretty good awareness of job management apps, but there’s always room for better understanding of what job management software is and the breadth of what it can do.
Of course there have been other challenges too, like:
How has the market changed since you first launched and what role has ServiceM8 potentially had in these changes?
Yes, the market has changed since ServiceM8 was first launched. Job management software is not ‘new’ anymore, or only used by early adopters — it’s well-established and its benefits are proven. Cloud and mobile technology is seeing great uptake and acceptance in business, and more and more field service businesses are implementing job management solutions to streamline operations and keep ahead of the competition.
As time goes on, we’re also seeing some generational change in the market as people who have grown up with apps and smartphones are entering business management and ownership. Apps and the cloud are part of their norm and they naturally expect there to be “an app for that”.
As a pioneer in this space, we think ServiceM8 has definitely played a role in these changes, helping establish the job management category and introducing this new way of working to trades and services businesses.
Can you share any anecdotes from your clients about their experience of using ServiceM8 with MYOB?
We hear from a lot of customers and talk to our partners regularly, especially at events like MYOB Partner Connect.
At a recent event, a partner spoke with our co-founder, Kim Ford, about how they’d just finished implementing ServiceM8 for a customer who also used MYOB.
The customer was delighted about how easy ServiceM8 was to use, and how easy it was for a job to be transferred to MYOB. The point they emphasised was how the customer could genuinely feel that things were getting better in her business — an administrative load had been lifted right across their workflows from start to finish, and that if this was the start then more good things were to follow. There was a real lift in the customer about working in their business. We hear the same sort of story a lot and it never gets old.
Describe the ‘tradie of the future’ for us. What will the field service small business owner look like in 5-10 years’ time?
What will the tradie of the future look like? The short answer is: we don’t know.
If you think about how the world has changed since the first iPhone was released, a lot can change in the tech space within five to ten years.
Still, at ServiceM8 we have a vision for what the tradie of the future will look like, where the only work they do is what they’re being paid to do. Everything else is administration. And we’re not interested in making new ways of doing the same administration — we want to eliminate it.
We’ll need to see where technology takes us to find out what that looks like.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) tech will play a big role, advances in speech recognition will be very relevant, Augmented Reality (AR) tools like smart glasses could aid in providing hands-free and real-time info, and self-driving cars will make transfer times between jobs much more productive.