Despite the disruption wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 looks like it will end up being a reasonable year for Aussie tradies and trade business owners. The well-documented slump in economic activity doesn’t appear to have filtered through to those on the tools. In fact, two-thirds of tradies say it’s had little or no impact on their business to date, according to Tradify’s August 2020 Pulse Survey.
But life holds no guarantees. It’s possible today’s healthy activity will be followed by a significant slump, as pipeline projects are finalised and investment in building dwindles.
In these uncertain times, it’s important for tradies to make hay while the sun shines and to ensure they’re well placed to respond to changing conditions. Here are three ways trade business owners can prepare themselves for tomorrow’s opportunities and challenges.
Become more responsive
The old saying “the early bird catches the worm” holds truer than ever these days. Online behemoths like Amazon and eBay have conditioned consumers to expect lightning-fast service, instant responses to enquiries and swift resolution to issues. Increasingly, they’re demanding the same high standards from all the businesses they deal with – tradespeople included.
If you’re still operating in the analogue era and relying on word of mouth to generate new business, some changes to your approach may be in order. Yes, personal recommendations remain powerful but a strong digital presence can have a similar effect. Being visible on an array of channels – think Facebook, HiPages and your own website – will keep the enquiries coming in while you’re busy on the tools.
When they do, it’s essential you respond quickly, ideally with a quote. That’s a challenge if you’re using pen and paper but a cinch if there’s a template on your phone that allows you to compile a comprehensive estimate of materials, labour and other costs within minutes.
Following up on quotes via email or SMS and enabling customers to approve them online makes it more likely they’ll move from intention to action.
A worker is only as good as their tools but, when it comes to admin matters, many tradies aren’t using professional-grade equipment. As a result, they’re spending up to 12 hours a week on paperwork; time that could be better spent onsite and earning.
A digital job management app can help you claw back those hours, by streamlining your quoting, scheduling and invoicing processes. Using one will help you to organise your time efficiently, by ensuring you have the tools and team you need for jobs and are able to track their progress. Invoicing is made faster and more efficient; a boon for cashflow and profitability. And you’ll have the payments flowing even faster if you link your system to a credit card payment service and set up automated reminders for tardy payers.
Communicate with customers and stay COVID safe
COVID-19 has made 2020 an anxious year for all Australians. Overcommunicating – about how you’ll complete their job while keeping them and your team safe – is key to allaying their fears. Digital technology can help you do so, via messaging systems and alerts that advise customers when you’ve arrived, how you’re progressing and when you’re ready to depart.
Meanwhile, the enforcement of on-site safety measures, such as regular equipment cleaning and the use of PPE, if appropriate, demonstrates you’re serious about minimising health and safety risks.
Building a brighter future
Whether you’re currently rushed off your feet or working double speed to generate a pipeline of work to get you and your crew through a slow patch, optimising your operations will give your trade business the best shot at surviving whatever 2021 has in store.
Michael Steckler, CEO, Tradify