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Top tips for trades working in a post-covid environment

Small Business Guides | 3 min read

Getting back in the field

After a time of uncertainty from covid-19, trade and construction businesses are starting to get back to work. The new work environment comes with added health and safety requirements and physical distancing measures. Whether attending call-outs in people's homes or visiting job sites, adhering to the new health and safety practices is important to ensure yourself and your team are protected. This includes keeping a safe distance from others and wearing personal protective equipment (PPE), and disinfecting surfaces when a job is completed.

These new requirements do take a toll on the way trades people operate. Nikolas Webb from Shocked Electrical says, “the ways in which we need to work now creates a massive barrier in terms of the interpersonal relationships with customers. You have to smile pretty hard behind the mask to show customers you’re friendly!”

1. Taking the pain out of healthy and safety

Communication is key, for instance telling your customers before you arrive that you’ll be wearing PPE as a precaution. It puts customers at ease when booking work and having tradies come around, as well as protecting team members and business continuity. ServiceM8’s ‘on-the-way’ texts notify customers when you’re en-route to their job. Adding a message about health and safety helps manage expectations. 

For on-the-job safety, Tradify have released new features to make health and safety easy, including adding a health and safety policy to quotes and invoices, and embedding a checklist for safe processes into smart job templates. 

Contact tracing is another important change to health and safety for tradies. Tradify’s contact tracing report tracks the customers and staff you’ve been in contact with, and their contact details are available if needed. Check out the Tradify safe and sound hub for resources and advice on health and safety.

Payroll apps like WagePoint can solve many of these challenges, while also simplifying tax paperwork and reducing IT costs. And because they share information seamlessly with Xero, they are fast and easy to update, keeping you ahead of the curve. 

2. Use this opportunity to improve your business operations

Many trade businesses will be making up for lost time and lost dollars, so it’s the perfect opportunity to set up new efficiencies in your business. Xero does the heavy lifting for you, so you can work faster and smarter. With Xero you can invoice online, check on cash flow at any time on your dashboard, and store all your documents online in one secure and easy-to-access place.

If you’re not already using a job management tool, now is a good time to evaluate the benefits. The Xero Projects add-on gives you a real-time view of profitability, creates professional quotes online, and tracks time and cost via the mobile app. Xero syncs with a wide range of third-party apps for inventory management, project management, time tracking and more.

While jobs are quieter, Clinton Cowin from Tradiepad, a cloud integrator, says take the opportunity to implement some tools into your business. “What we’re hearing from trade businesses is that they’ve now got the time to do what they’ve been meaning to do for years in terms of technology”.

3. Managing cash flow with accurate tools

Keeping a close eye on your cash flow and learning how to predict it is crucial for trade businesses. One of the most important things for trades right now is getting paid quickly - the key is billing accurately and efficiently. You want to be invoicing as soon as possible, and with a cloud-based system like Xero, you can fill out the job details on-site and send out the invoice in a few clicks. Tradify makes it easy to invoice immediately, and offer alternative payment options to give your customers a reason to pay on time. It also does the chasing for you with automated invoice reminders. 

To help forecast for further uncertainty, trade businesses should look at multiple cash flow scenarios, such as what their balance sheet looks like at 75% or 50% of current output. You can use Tradify’s cash flow forecast template for this to help you make decisions around reducing or delaying costs. If you need to really tighten up your cash flow, simPRO’s robust reporting functionality can be used to identify ways to reduce overheads, material costs and ensure work is being invoiced and paid in a timely manner.

4. Communicating with new and existing customers

It’s likely you’ll have lots of enquiries as people will have been waiting to get things fixed. Nikolas Webb from Shocked Electrical gained a number of new customers when New Zealand came out of lockdown. “Most of the work I’ve had in the last couple of weeks has been all new customers. There’s been a really good pick up of people wanting to support local. I posted my business on the local pages online and that gave me enough work to get through.”

Responding to enquiries fast will win you new customers. If you can’t respond in detail straight away, try setting up an automated response until you can. Get quotes out quickly with Xero Projects or if you’re using Tradify, an all-in-one tool that syncs bills, payments, suppliers and contacts to Xero automatically.

5. Optimizing workflows

In this new way of working, we recommend reviewing your workflows and looking for ways to optimise these. It can be hard to stay on top of different spreadsheets for different jobs, and when you don’t have accurate information to go off, you can end up undercharging. For project-based businesses wanting to manage their resources better in one integrated system, try Xero’s WorkflowMax. It helps you maximise project profitability, improve project budgeting and gain critical insights into your business. 

To minimise physical contact under the new requirements, why not try remote quoting? You can create customised quotes in Xero, using the contact, inventory and pricing information you’ve set up. You can check whether the quote has been viewed online, and once they’ve been accepted it’s easy to turn it into an invoice. With ServiceM8 you can set up an email template or even an online booking page tailored to certain jobs that mean you can conduct reliable remote quotes. The customer provides information on what they require, along with photos and videos to enable you to quote the job without physically going to the site.

6. Keeping a close eye on stock

Right now, you want to be tracking your inventory pretty closely, with uncertainty around what materials will be available and when.  Keeping on top of stock is essential to Nik’s work at Shocked Electrical. He uses reports in Xero to identify which products he is using and selling the most and therefore what to reorder to have enough stock in the van.

Inventory tracking ultimately means you can be more strategic in assigning materials to jobs, and helps reduce the number of times staff need to restock materials and maintain physical distancing guidelines. To help keep track, the Stock Value report in simPRO gives you visibility of the value of your inventory in stock, on order or assigned to a job at a specific date and with an assigned value.

7. Keep the team connected during remote working

Working effectively and staying connected as a team is important for trades and is made easier with the cloud. People in trades and services are already used to working remotely, often moving from site to site throughout the day and communicating with managers based at the office. But like other sectors, more trades people are working from home and need to rely on their cloud systems more than ever to stay connected and efficient. 

Remote meetings for instance, are probably not something tradies thought they’d need, but it’s becoming more important for them to embrace it. Clinton Cowin from Tradiepad says, “It’s useful for sales and business development, but also for managing client projects and workers on site. If you can’t be at a job, doing a video call with them means you get your eyes on site. You can look at what’s going on, answer questions, provide input without being there.”

To find out more about which apps can help you run your business more efficiently, visit the Xero App Marketplace.

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