Chris Lehmann has operated Brisbane electrical services company Tradesmen on Time since 2010 and offers electrical and data services to the light commercial and domestic extension and renovation markets.
The business’s entire administration structure is now on cloud based system i-man, after a tactical migration from paper-based admin and billing.
Chris says his admin, job management and accounting workflow has been revolutionised by the change and that he’d ‘never go back’.
“When I started my business we had triplicate quote books and invoice books – everything was paper based,” says Chris. “You’d go out and write a quote and come back home and file it. Today, that’s all digital.”
Chris says Tradesmen on Time’s digital migration was managed incrementally and warned against moving too many processes online in a hurry.
“The shift has to be incremental and you have to have a strategy in place as to how you’re going to implement the change,” he says.
“If you’ve got an admin process that works, you can’t just cut over from one system to another. You go step-by-step and that way you can go back if it’s too hard for your staff.”
He says with competing workflow software packages on the market, individual businesses should investigate the right software platform to fit their budget.
When Chris started Tradesmen on Time, jobs were scheduled from a hard copy diary. His first move to scheduling on an LCD-screen PalmPilot was, he laughs, ‘really cutting edge’.
“Then Google Calendars allowed me to show multiple tradesmen in different colours on the one screen,” says.
“I could visually map out the week and schedule jobs from a laptop in the car.”
At the time, Tradesmen on Time was still invoicing manually while using digital tools for bookings and customer relations, with Chris logging job histories and clients details in the system.
Staff were given time to adapt to the digital calendar (which they access from their smartphones); the first phase of training involved basics such as logging in, reading jobs and entering parts and labour and task notes. From there, phasing out paper invoicing took about 12 months, leaving Tradesmen on Time ‘fully reliant’ on a digital calendar and invoicing system, with a subsequent 12 months to go completely paperless.
“Now I don’t go out with a quote book in hand, I go out and quote from my phone and take photos and attach them to the job,” says Chris.
Chris says training staff up for the switch to digital has been one of the easiest aspects of the process, with most of his team young enough to have grown up with digital devices firmly on their hip. At orientation, he sits new staff down in front of the computer and their phone (to get staff familiar with i-man’s device-responsive calendar), and shows them the interface.
“All my staff are younger than me,” he laughs. “I’m 47, my oldest staff member is 28.
“When I started working, mobile phones were bricks and fairly basic, whereas these guys have always dealt with smartphones.”
The challenge comes, he says, in managing staff and ensuring they stay compliant with Tradesmen on Time’s digital procedures and policies, especially data input. Chris’s staff have, through regular use and a bit of exploration, also shown him new functionality in the software.
“The more they play with it, they’ve actually picked up features that I didn’t know were there,” he says.
Staff are also trained to access the firm’s could-based document directory on i-man, which includes PDFs of Energex’s standards and documents, safe work method statements, public liability insurance and the latest AS 3000 documentation.
“Basically anything that could keep us off a job site or make us compliant, we’ve got on the cloud,” says Chris. “Just last week I needed to know dimensions of an exclusion zone in a wet area and accessed the document on the laptop, we can’t keep all that stuff in our heads.
“Going digital just gives you the tools to do everything more efficiently.”
Find out more about Tradesmen on Time via their website.