As every business grows, it experiences pain points in scaling workforces to the increased burden that managing a larger team causes. One of the easiest methods of overcoming these growing pains is to use software to simplify your processes and connect your office team up with your teams on site.
One of the most difficult businesses to simplify is that of construction contractors working for the UK’s major house builders.
Many of these businesses from Carpenters, Plumbers and Electricians were founded from tradespeople who started out on the tools. Growing exponentially, in some cases from a team of 2 or 3, to 20 or even 250 is difficult – but there are many examples in the UK of trades people doing exactly that. So how did they achieve it?
Talking to Ryan Jones, Operations Director from LJ Construction, Ryan explains, “The last 15 years has seen us grow by an additional 100+ sub-contractors on site. We couldn’t have kept the business functioning without a solid software solution in place. Thankfully we partnered with a software specialist who helped us design and build a custom solution that met the needs of the business.”
Custom software requires significant investment of resources – both time and money from the contracting firm seeking it. With the average bespoke solution costing typically from £100,000, Ryan goes on to say “We started looking for the right software 15 years ago, and unlike today there was no alternative other than building your own solution. Whilst we’ve invested in excess of £500,000 over the last 15 years, we’ve reaped the benefit from both reducing our office wage bill and increasing our ability ‘to do more with less’. Sales revenues are at an all time high and we can still take on more work, more sub-contractors, win more sites and our business isn’t creaking. The business simply could not have coped without our software – it’s the backbone of the company.”
What are the alternatives of building a bespoke software solution for your business?
Thankfully, the last decade has seen a whole myriad of software solutions being built for the construction industry.
Unfortunately most of these are aimed at either the ‘big players’ such as Taylor Wimpey and Barratt Homes, so they don’t necessarily fit smaller sub-contracting companies. The other issue that is apparent explains Stephen Clark from contractor management software provider Site Manager Pro, is “most software companies aren’t trade contractors so they don’t tend to build the software in a way that makes sense to a contractors’ or sub- contractors business. We’ve seen first hand how unique working on site is. You’ve a mix of sub contractors, site managers, commercial directors and the end client – the house builder – who all have different priorities that cause many different issues from forever changing schedules, quality management, health & safety to list just a few.” Stephen goes on to say “to any contractors that are working on building sites and are looking for software to help manage their business, my advice would be to seek out the smaller apps and software solutions that your competitors are using. The problems you face have already been solved – it’s just that you’re not yet aware of the solution!”
But how do you know which software’s right for your contracting business?
Here are some factors to consider when making your decision:
- The type of business you have – If you run a construction contracting company, for example, you will need management software that is specific to the construction industry. If you’re UK based then seek out a UK based software as they’re more likely to be fit for purpose.
- Try to find niche software – For example, if you’re a Carpentry contractor seek out software that’s been designed for your type of business niche. Google searching “Carpentry contracting software” should get the results you’re looking for. This same search logic applies to property restoration contractors, customer care contractors, plastering contractors etc.
- Try to find software that solves your specific problem – For example, if you’ve got a large workforce and your difficulties are centred on sub-contractors ‘double booking in’ or applying for more than the fix’ budget is for a plot, then you’re probably looking for wages software or budget planning software, so try Google searching for “sub- contractors wages software”. Whereas, if your problem is health and safety management then try Google searches for “H&S contractor management software”.
- The size of your business – The number of employees and sites you have will determine how much functionality you need from your contractor management software. There’s a term called “Saas” which simply means Software as a service. Saas is usually quick to obtain and costs a fraction of developing your own custom software solution. Saas also should allow you to scale your software solution as your business grows.
- Your budget – There is a wide range of prices for contractor management software, so it’s important to find one that fits within your budget. Most Saas software is priced per user per month. This is a great model for scaling businesses as the business will only pay for new users as their company grows. Expect to pay at least £10-100 per user seat.
- The software’s features – Take some time to familiarise yourself with the various features offered by different software programs. This will help you make sure you’re getting the most bang for your buck, but don’t also be tempted to go for an enterprise (large all encompassing solution) when you don’t need to. Don’t use a hammer to crack a nut. The most likely outcome of trying to implement a large change to the business will be that it causes problems with ‘change management’. Smaller solutions are easier to manage and deploy.
- The software’s ease of use – You’ll want to choose a management software that is super easy to use and understand for the most frequent users of the system – and that’s likely your employed or sub-contracted team that’s out on site. Make sure it’s mobile optimised too – most of your team on site will need it to be accessible via 4G or 5G (when that’s rolled out the UK), so mobile connectivity is essential and not just a nice to have.
- Customer support – In the event that you have questions or run into problems with the software, it’s important to have access to customer support. Make sure the company you’re considering offers appropriate customer support or even better ask for a free month’s trial before making your purchase.
Following these tips will help you choose the most effective contractor management system for your business. By taking the time to select the best software for your needs, you’ll be able to streamline your business operations, start tracking software issues and solve your pain points.