Australia’s trades are among the many businesses that have rapidly embraced digital tools during COVID to ensure they are maintaining social distancing and reducing face-to-face contact. At the same time, this has allowed them to streamline and professionalise their operations.
Clinton Cowin, who is managing director for software training specialists TradiePad, says many businesses have used any downtime this year as an opportunity to look at how they can improve their digital tools and online systems to get ready for the “tradie-led recovery”.
“For a lot of people, it’s given them a chance to do things they’ve been meaning to do for years but haven’t had the time,” Cowin says. “Technology has been in the spotlight and people have seen mobile working and things like video meetings aren’t scary.
“This has been the nudge some people have needed to get out of their comfort zone and look at how tools like Xero and an integrated job management system can completely change the way they do business.”
While the big end of town has been accelerating its digital transformation, the same opportunity is also readily available today for tradies to enjoy more seamless admin. Where once a business owner would have had a face-to-face conversation with a customer to get them to sign a contract, hand over a cheque, take a cash payment or tap their credit card, tradies using digital no longer have to hand over a paper invoice.
Additionally, Cowin says some tradies have used this time to apply for government grants to start their digital transformation. “This has been a financial motivator to try new tools,” he says.
Xero’s head of ecosystem and marketplace Bryan Williams says tradies should consider how to use apps to make business admin easier and reduce friction in day to day running.
“By using the right suite of apps, trade businesses can gain efficiencies and unlock insights needed to make decisions that will support them in growing the business,” Williams says.
“Tradies are no strangers to using tools on the job – this tool belt just looks a little different.”
The latest Xero Small Business Insights data shows that small businesses that engaged more heavily in the use of apps experienced revenue falls one-third smaller and job losses 40 per cent lower than other businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Apex Signage director Nick Greally, whose business comprises a 16-strong team of specialist designers, project managers and installers, values being able to bring disparate software solutions like this together easily through the cloud.
“My wife Kadie is a chartered accountant, so we integrated Xero early on. Being a cloud-based solution, it was a step ahead of other platforms. We use it to manage our accounts, for time sheets and to process payroll. It integrates with ServiceM8, which we use to produce quotes for our projects, send invoices and project manage our jobs.
“Once a project is complete, we approve an invoice and send it through to Xero. We use Stripe to take payments, this automatically registers with Xero and records the payment, reducing administrative time.”
Another Xero user Matt Jones, founder of Tradie Web Guys, says one of the software’s main advantages is its ability to streamline operations and processes and reduce accounting costs. “It gives you a clear understanding of your numbers because you can easily see and access the profit and loss statement and the balance sheet and generate insights into their costs.”
Ferrari Constructions managing director David Ferrari says his business, which specialises in quality residential renovations and extensions, uses Xero for bookkeeping, payroll, superannuation, BAS, profit and loss reports and more.
He also relies on digital marketing tools in his kit such as social media to generate new business and raise awareness of his company. “We have Instagram and Facebook pages to showcase what we do and tell the world our story. People always search for information online and if you want to be seen you need to invest time creating content. Your website should be a showcase of your work and tell the story of how you help clients.”
For Ferrari, the value of the digital world in building a business is clear. And the professional tools he uses are there to ensure the online presence of his business matches up with just as much ease and efficiency as completing a job on a physical site for Australia’s tradies.
“Get comfortable learning to read your numbers,” he says. “It’s amazing what savings you can make from going through them for anomalies.”
This content was brought to you by Xero. Whether you lead a small team or are going it alone, Xero is online accounting made for your business. For a limited time you can get 50% off new Xero plans for the first three months when you purchase before January 31st, 2021. T&Cs apply.