How busy are you? When you look at your schedule and plan out your day, does the number of tasks seem overwhelming? In other words, are you getting the help you need in the back office, or are you dropping all of the work you’re the most qualified to do in order to help complete the backlog of tasks accumulating in the back office?
Most contracting companies have a fairly extensive back office routine, one that seemingly requires the hiring of an administrative assistant or an estimator to keep in order. But another hire adds another expense to your books. Adding fixed costs to tight budgets, especially when you’re in your first few years, can be scary and uncomfortable. So what’s the alternative? Have the Owner spend his early mornings and late evenings cleaning up QuickBooks, reviewing bids, sending warranties, cleaning up build schedules, and all the other tedious things he never got into this business to do?
This is where automations can bridge the gap. Simply put, automations are a series of small, repeatable processes that save time and create consistency in administrative tasks. Automations create a workflow that reduces the time it takes to perform and follow-up on the actions and tasks you do over and over with each job. Typically, automations require a software platform – a project management tool that ties in with your customer database. It may sound technical and perhaps a little intimidating. But hell, if I can do it, so can you!
Workflows, Processes and The Automated Office
Here’s an example of automation in the sales process. In my office, we use a series of automated reminders that go out to each Sales Rep when they move their jobs through the CRM (Customer Relationship Management platform. Don’t have one? Then we need to talk). When the job is moved to “Proposal Accepted,” for example, they receive a notification email that lets them know what information is needed from them by the office before the job is able to be Approved. This saves my admin from calling ten separate sales reps every time a proposal is accepted.
This automated process allows the sales rep to link to an online form where they enter the needed information. Once the information is complete, the CRM is automatically updated and sends an email to our administrative person and the Sales Manager. Using this automated process, my back office and management team is only looking at actionable items, rather than wasting time reviewing incomplete records. Remember, the job approval request isn’t in front of the Manager until it’s complete. This is also an instrumental process in prioritizing tasks.
Here’s an example of automations in the back office. When a job is finished, we require our project managers to complete a walkthrough with the customer. So we created an automation that triggers when the job is moved in the CRM to “All Work Complete” that provides the project manager with the link to the online form used in this task. This form captures customer signatures, provides the walkthrough checklist, and all the other necessary action items. Once the form is submitted, the automation sends a copy back to the CRM for record keeping and then alerts the administrative person to generate and mail the warranty, closing letter and link to the online review. As you can no doubt tell, this automated process saves a ton of time by reducing the need to manually complete these tasks.
Automate Everywhere, Not Everything
Now, take a look at your office and your workflow and ask yourself, what could be automated? Again the key is to think of which tasks are performed in the exact same way with every job. Of course, you can’t automate a bid – a person needs to be on the potential job site, examining the property, building a relationship with the client. But you can create automated workflows for the process of sending the bid through your back office. Almost any repeatable task can be automated.
In my office, we have a series of small automations built into every one of our systems: front office, back office, sales, supply chain – everywhere. Some of them are simple reminders via email or desktop notifications, while others are significant connections between sales, production, back office and accounting. All of these automations save time by reducing data entry, eliminating phone calls, streamlining workflow and more. This adds up to a significant savings in time, creates workflow discipline through consistency, and reduces overhead.
Where do you and your team get hung up in your workflow? Where’s the disorganization in your office? By identifying these inefficiencies and applying an automated workflow process, you’ll end the aggravation and save time, allowing you to bid on and land more jobs!