Sooner or later, most small business owners begin to feel the strain that comes with increased growth. Often, this strain comes from a lack of resources, whether that’s time, money, or people. Sound familiar?
The solution to these growing pains is most often found internally through the adoption of software in order to improve efficiency and increase profitability.
With a seemingly endless amount of software options available that serve countless purposes, the process of selecting and implementing new software into your existing business structure may seem intimidating. Despite this, successful software implementation is possible for any small business–it’s achieved when owners carefully consider an adoption path that will be most beneficial for their business.
Bottom line—merging a business’s existing day-to-day operations with new software can be a challenge.
Business owners need to take into consideration everything from the software’s learning curve and usability to potential pushback from employees. From an owner’s point of view, growing their business requires them to think about what that means for hiring—how many employees can I afford to meet the demands for new projects or customers? Am I operating at the most efficient level possible? Will implementing software streamline hiring and operations, or is a DIY approach more cost-effective? How can I best manage the time and materials to increase profits?
While time and materials are the lifeblood for profits in a construction or field service business of any size, small business owners’ personal income is typically reflective of the profits of their business. For this reason, small business owners need to prioritize simple integration, efficient scheduling of employees, keeping tabs on materials, the cost of outsourcing on profits, and inclusivity of business needs. A successful software adoption path addresses these concerns, ultimately increasing efficiency, profitability, and business growth.
We’ll cover the typical path local construction and field services tend to purchase software, and some keys to look for on that route.
The first step in promoting growth through software implementation should always include establishing a strong foundation to build upon. Accounting software does just that, by automating redundant tasks, overseeing cash flow, and cutting costs.
By taking it a step further with cloud-based accounting software, accessibility is far-reaching—a huge benefit to businesses in the construction and field services sector, whose employees are not necessarily in one centralized location. Cloud-based software is easier to tailor to fit specific business needs, a huge benefit for small business owners. Additionally, cloud-based systems tend to be more cost-efficient, resulting in higher profits for the company and creating more opportunity for growth. Connection to the cloud also allows the software to receive updates that are instant and constant, optimizing business operations in real-time.
From an owner’s perspective, the devil is truly in the proverbial details; if accounting software saves hard dollars and cents and saves time by automating manual tasks, it is beneficial to the structure and function of the business. For example, the time and energy spent balancing the books can now be used to grow and develop the business and serve its clientele with greater efficiency.
Construction businesses are project-based; therefore their accounting requires two components: 1. a general ledger–to track the business’s overall finances, and 2. a job-costing feature to track project data and expenses. Job-costing benefits increase growth by allowing project managers to accurately supervise costs of production for each project the business takes on. This, in turn, better serves clientele by providing an accurate breakdown of their cost for service.
Some programs, such as ZipBooks, include a time-saving feature that displays how many business transactions are uncategorized and provides an estimated time to completion—decreasing the probability that the uncategorized transactions pile up until they become a cumbersome task or the bookkeeper cannot accurately recall what the transactions were.
Pro tip: when looking at accounting software, make sure it’s simple to use and operate. A few conversations with either a bookkeeper or CPA can make a huge difference in getting the right software.
Payment and invoice processing software is essential to fast and timely payments from customers. Writing invoices and sending them out in a timely manner and issuing outstanding balance reminders to customers helps maintain steady cash flow, avoid client delinquency, and keep business active.
A notable small business solution is Square, offering services such as payroll to businesses that may want an all-inclusive software. Some accounting software products offer payroll, processing, accounting, and payment processing and invoice solutions all in one–making it a viable option to a growing local business, as it fulfills many needs in one system.
Processing fees and annual fees are both factors business owners need to take into consideration when selecting an invoice and payment system, with 1.5-3.5% being the average competitive processing fee with most providers. As with any software, small business owners need to take the cost of implementation into consideration and determine if the benefits justify the cost.
It’s prudent to pay attention to the details, and don’t hesitate to negotiate on pricing and terms.
One of the most valuable assets in any business—but especially construction and field service businesses—are the employees. They provide the skill set and service that make up the core of the company, making human resources and payroll software implementation crucial in a software adoption path. Once the foundation of accounting software has been laid and cash flow is streamlined through an invoice and payment system, business owners should set their sights on efficient and accurate payroll and human resources systems that ensure their employees are fairly compensated, and protects their business from liability by keeping it up-to-date and compliant with labor laws and regulations.
In a nutshell–let’s stop manually writing paychecks for our crew and offer automatic deposit. This will not only save you time but offer a nice benefit to your hard-working employees.
Ideally, HR software should track the life cycle of an employee from hire, to on-the-job performance, to benefits and payroll. Again, business owners taking advantage of a cloud-based software provides them with the added benefit of portability.
In addition to managing materials, implementing time tracking software that manages time and attendance increases profitability and efficiency by monitoring how employees spend their time and how long it takes to complete projects. This benefits the business by keeping an accurate record of when employees clock in and out, how long projects and routine tasks take from start to finish and finding areas where time could be managed more efficiently. This also translates to a more efficient bill for customers, potentially saving them money when it comes to construction projects.
Timekeeping features that eliminate rounding, such as the one provided by ClockShark, a GPS time tracking app, increase job-costing accuracy by eliminating rounding errors and other inefficiencies.
Once a solid framework is in place that optimizes efficiency by way of time and materials, business owners should consider ways they can keep the momentum going by utilizing growth tools. There is an endless market of tools that can build a brand, make a message reach further, and analyze how much attention a company is generating. Google analytics, for example, collects data about a website’s visitors and their interactions on your website—what links they click, how long they stay on the page, etc. It also tracks new and returning users, providing valuable insight into how many potential new customers a business might be attracting.
Programs such as this are beneficial in targeting what a business can do differently in order to attract new clients and retain current ones. A user-friendly website, recognizable branding, positive online reviews, and social media marketing tools are all ways in which business owners can utilize in growing their business. For smaller businesses, buying ad space on Google and Facebook may not be an option—but search engine optimization can be a great (sometimes free!) tool to generate further awareness of what a business has to offer.
Chances are as you start down the path of introducing software into your local construction and field service business, you’ll follow this pathway.
Start with accounting software to make sure the books and taxes get done right and done quickly. Then, make that payroll chore easier by adding HR and payroll solutions, but make sure that time tracking is easy and accurate. Finally, make growth happen with tools that enrich your online presence and give confidence to all those new customers!
Tim is Founder and CEO of ZipBooks. He keeps his desk really nice and neat.