Most window and door fitters, from one-man bands to multi team operations, are flat out at the moment. And it’s when under pressure, says Kurt Antwort, that cracks in any system will be revealed. His advice is: “Deal with it! It will only get worse…”
Surely there cannot be a window installer, company or individual that isn’t rushed off its feet presently. After months of lockdown, homeowners that had more than enough time to consider every little blemish on the frame, misted unit, floppy handle and, actually, even just thinking the windows looked a tad dull after the house had been totally repainted…decided in their thousands that they wanted new windows, and garden and resi doors and conservatories fitted – and right now!
So business is buzzing…happy days…but perhaps the pressure is actually taking its toll…you and your team are flat out…your systems are being stretched - maybe the project planning board is a little behind because the phone rang again and Harry forgot to switch Mrs’ B’s install to next Tuesday and a few other cock ups are creeping in. And Kenny’s handwriting should go on a museum wall next to the Egyptian hieroglyphics !
But you’re making money so you can soak up a few extra costs….and there’s loads more customers where they came from….not a worry.
Except, at the risk of being a doom-monger, we all know it has to end. And the stacking overheads, customers lost, rebates and call backs all add up…and then you will think…I wish I could have done things differently. Well the truth is, you should have and now is the time to bite the bullet.
There are literally hundreds of adaptable standard ‘project management’ tools and systems out there, both manual and some online and mobile smartphone and tablet-based systems - and many are very worthy. But the vast majority of them have been developed for users to adapt to their businesses.
In my travels I have found that many, perhaps even most, window and door installation companies continue to use a hotchpotch of manual and digital (computerised) systems. Orders may well be recorded on a standard proprietary order acknowledgement system with a feature that allows notes to be added, which might well connect to another proprietary invoicing and accounts package.
But installations will then be posted on one of the dozens of colour-coded, inter-changeable wall boards, updated manually and as new installs are booked in or changed and with the surveyors’ notes tucked into a job folder. And for many this has worked OK for many years. But such systems are a/ constantly prone to human error b/ they require multiple updates at each point of the system and c/ they hide what can sometimes be huge added and unnecessary costs and actually, losses (although for some, this might be an advantage!).
There are alternatives, including a system that began life more than 20 years ago and written specifically for window installation companies. That system, called AdminBase, now has more than 3,000 users throughout the UK that use it daily. It is of course computer based so taking it on might actually require the scrapping of the job board on the wall (God forbid!) and it is also an antidote to Kenny’s appalling handwriting and scrappy notes.
One of the key benefits of using a system like AdminBase is that any and all entries appear throughout the system, having only been added the once.
Everyone can see the status of every job, right through from initial customer contact, sales, survey, fitting and even any post installation snagging and sign off, including electronic customer signatures.
Crucially, human error is absolutely minimised, any entries are automatically communicated throughout the system; and ultimately whilst human error will be minimised simply by the nature of the system, each job will be analysed for profitability - and loss. At a glance, users can see just what is making them money. AdminBase really is a one-stop shop for window and door installers.
“BUT” I hear you say. “I am so bloody busy I don’t have the time to make such a monumental change now!” The truth is that if you have read this far then you clearly recognise the need to make that change. And the people at AdminBase understand that, as Rhonda Ridge, the brains behind AdminBase, explained when I asked her about the impact that changing systems must have on a business: “We have installed systems in hundreds of companies over the 23 years since I introduced AdminBase, into small firms with a single user and larger firms with as many as 120,” said Rhonda. “So we understand the issues – and of course the fears – regarding changing over whilst minimising the impact on a business.”
The easy bit, she says, is actually installing it. The customer’s needs are assessed, recommendations are given and costs are agreed, although as it is costed on a per user base (and for what I thought was amazing value for money!), charges are very transparent. And then everything is done remotely, not because of Covid-19 but actually because that’s the way it has been done for many years.
“We have handled hundreds of changeovers and what we usually do is run both systems in parallel over a couple of weeks depending upon the volumes and number of people involved, and then make a switch whenever everyone feels confident. The crucial thing that we need is commitment from the customer, that everyone will commit to working with us to make it happen. We know what we are doing…we want our customer to accept that.”
Rhonda says that a key issue was communicating the features and benefits of what may appear to be a very complex system when explained verbally or through the written word, so earlier this year the company released a video to explain AdminBase. And it does so admirably, quite literally in just 2 minutes.
I have watched it several times now and it is that rarest of things: an explainer video that gets to the point and talks in jargon-free language.
Give it a try….The worst thing that can happen is you will realise you should have made the change years ago.