Is your trade business doing as well as it could be in the pandemic renovation rush?

Do you keep reading about how Australia has entered a major economic downturn and wonder why, if that’s the case, your phone continues to ring off the hook? You’re not alone. While the COVID crisis has created a world of economic pain for Australians working in the tourism, hospitality and retail sectors, the country’s army of hardworking tradies appears to have been spared the worst of it, thus far.

Our recent poll of trade-business owners found that many were busy on the tools during lockdown, helping stuck-at-home homeowners catch up on maintenance jobs and get started on renovation projects. Respondents included builders, plumbers, chippies, sparkies and gas fitters. Sixty per cent of Australian respondents said COVID had low or no impact on their businesses.

Official figures support this anecdotal evidence of healthy activity: according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the seasonally adjusted estimate of total building work fell by less than four per cent to $28,416.7 million, in the June 2020 quarter.

Things are likely to heat up further when major home building and renovation projects get going under the federal government’s HomeBuilder stimulus program. Unveiled in June, the $680 million scheme provides a $25,000 grant to owner-occupiers building a new home or substantially renovating an existing one, who meet the eligibility criteria.

Struggling to stay on top of the paperwork

All in all, it’s a pretty decent outlook – but is your trade business doing as well for itself as it could be in these surprisingly positive times? For too many Aussie owners, the honest answer to that question would have to be “no”.

Paper-based management systems and shoebox accounting continue to put a dent in productivity by absorbing a significant slab of the working week which could be better spent on the tools.

More than a third of The Pulse survey respondents reported spending a whopping 12 hours a week on administration tasks, while a further 24 per cent devoted between eight and 11 hours a week to the activity. Time is money and, at a charge out rate of $80 an hour, that’s between $640 and $960 a week of potential earnings foregone.

And while they may be all over the most challenging aspects of their chosen trades, many self-employed tradies find the commercial aspects of running their own show – finding work, managing jobs, billing customers and managing the money – a trickier proposition. Many struggle, neglecting to return calls or send quotes to potential customers if they’re flat out, putting off invoicing until the weekend and failing to keep an eye on payments and cash flow.

There’s an app for that: getting digital technology into your toolbox

A tradesperson is only as good as their tools. Going digital will help you take back many of those admin hours and make your trade business look more professional in the process.

Using an end-to-end job management app can help you to respond more quickly to customer enquiries, generate detailed quotes within minutes, track your time and materials on jobs and get an invoice into every customer’s inbox, even before you’ve left their site. Faster billing generally means faster payments and fewer bad debts; a boon for cashflow and profitability.

Working hard – and smarter

Tradies have been the backbone of Australia’s economy for generations and their toil is helping keep the country ticking over through the current economic crisis. Embracing tools that enable you to work smarter as well as harder will help your trades business make the most of the current renovation rush and ensure it’s well placed to remain competitive and profitable in the years to come.

Michael Steckler, CEO, Tradify

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