How many of you have heard, “This [shiny new object] will make things easier [better, faster, more efficient, insert adjective],” come down from corporate headquarters? In a smaller company, a similar directive is issued when a manager returns from an industry event or webinar. The message is the same, X-item is going to immediately impact Y-issue and everyone better get on board; it’s going to be awesome. In this article, we will review some of the foundational elements that will help your team better incorporate technology and software to improve your organizational systems.
The funny thing about being a person in a position of leadership is that once you get there you often find yourself repeating those same mindset and habits that frustrated you when you were on the “lower” rungs of the management ladder. The issue is not whether X-item is good or not, it’s often the haphazard implementation associated with the quest to quickly solve Y-issue. Innovation and technology are helpful elements in improving systems by making them more efficient, but if you do not do the hard work of identifying issues and testing creative solutions from within, you will constantly be chasing the more-better-er next thing.
The Purpose and Function of Technology
Technology is a wonderful thing when it serves its purpose. The purpose of technology for a business owner is to simplify an existing function of your process. This goal is in line with the developmental steps to success at the core of The DYOJO Chart, which are:
- First, learn to Do It Right
- Then, learn to Do It Efficiently
- Always be intentional in learning to Do It Excellently
The function of technology, often software and/or automation, should serve to help you make your systems more efficient. One key element related to staffing challenges is the reduction of labor dependence. Customer, job or business management software systems, whatever you want to call them, are process enhancers. When you know what your process is, because you have worked through it and tweaked it, you will be better equipped to ask good questions that will help you identify the right resources for your team.
Restoration Software Terminology
Let me preface this article with two declarations,
- These opinions are my own and they are based upon my personal experiences. Please read them as one restorer sharing with another restorer what has and has not worked for me.
- I am a fan of using the least cumbersome solution possible. I am conservative (aka stubborn) to a fault, so I tend to power through an existing system until the last minute.
At a point in my career, while working with a large national restorer (prior to their internal development of an all-encompassing system), my team and I tried several of the leading web-based software systems available to contractors. At that time there weren’t as many restoration-specific options. What I found was that many of these programs added more labor to input and manage data, rather than reducing this burden. We were able to utilize existing tools that helped us track and share information. One of my earliest videos outlines elements of the system that we used.
Before we go further, let us make a few definitions:
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM) — Software designed to help you thoroughly collect prospective or new client data so that you can track your efforts to acquire and retain customers. This can be interchangeable with job or business management if the software platform is incorporating marketing and sales into the broader picture.
- Job Management — Data related to an individual client and/or project. Often this is incorporated into CRM or business management. Tools such as project management software may be project-specific and then feed data into a broader system if they are compatible.
- Business Management — This software is much broader in that it is designed to help an owner oversee all elements of their business which likely will include financial information.
Restoration Systems Development
Before you ask, “Who or what can help me improve my process,” shouldn’t you be able to clearly define what your process is? I find many owners and restorers are looking for software because they think they should rather than thinking through and spelling out their unique system of business. It may be a long journey to record, document, define and train on your process, but it is a worthwhile one.
Before you can standardize your operations (SOP), you need to operate your standards.
Your business is unique, and the process of developing your standard operation procedures (SOP) should reflect that reality. It may be helpful to discuss what other restorers are doing and the lessons that they have learned in building out their systems, but these conversations should serve to help you shorten your DANG learning curve rather than to replace it. Shortcuts in this area will not be to your benefit in the long run.
Those software and management systems that have been developed by and for restorers will have a better chance of assisting you with the nuances of our industry. Most of these platforms are responsive to the input and needs of their fellow restorers and adapt their system as they receive this data. But you may also find that systems for a broader application or something developed outside of our immediate industry work much better for your organization.
Three Software/Technology Questions
1. What elements of my business could I reduce unnecessary duplication, reduce labor burden, and/or automate?
Before you can or should delegate or automate responsibilities, you should take the time to record your SOPs for that function. The process of analyzing, documenting and training on your existing process is important for discovering inefficiencies in your systems. Researching software before you have taken this step is putting the cart before the horse. Once you decide on a system, you will revise your SOPs to incorporate that resource. SOPs are a living document and you will update them as you adapt to new challenges and innovations.
2. What resources are companies of similar size, structure and goals using for their business?
While there are many similarities in what we do as restorers, no two companies are the same. There are several good software options on the market made by and for restorers. Depending on your approach to business and what your vision is, the best solution may not be the most obvious one. If you take the previous steps to deep dive into your processes, I believe you will be better equipped to identify where your needs are and what you are looking for when you explore technological enhancements.
3. What integrations are most important to your organization?
I believe using free tools such as Google Drive or Slack is a great place to start, especially for a smaller business. As an owner, you have to set aside time to develop and document your process. Key integrations may include what carriers and/or programs you work with as well as what platforms you are most familiar with. As you grow, you will need to expand and adapt your process to the addition of new team members. No matter how small you are, key data should be available remotely from any device by all relevant persons on your team. If Technician A starts a project, Technician B should have immediate access to the prior documentation when they go to follow up on the project, and the project manager should have access in real-time to the same.
Resistance is Futile
Resistance to change and innovation is futile, but innovation without a foundation is obfuscation. I want to be clear, this article is not intended to be in opposition to the great tools and innovations available to the property restoration contractor. Rather, many people in a position of leadership are looking for shortcuts rather than to shorten their DANG learning curve. As such, they often complain that a particular technology wasn’t as helpful as they thought it would be. At the core of this issue is not a fault with the software but, first, not laying a foundation by defining their unique SOPs and, second, a rush to implementation rather than working diligently through the process.