With a small rapidly expanding contractor services business, I had a big problem. We were growing the business on the top line and losing money on the bottom.
The employees were in many different job categories: Sales, Estimating, Marketing, Administration, Accounting, Management, Supervision, Crew Leaders, Foreman and Technicians. Their time was extremely customer focused, either winning new business or servicing the business we had.They all had valuable information that needed to be shared with the rest of the team.
The business generated three files on every job, Sales/Estimating, Production, Administration / Accounting. When a job ended, the files were combined and placed in the warehouse. If I needed information, I had two choices: I could either find the person I thought knew the answer or track down the file and locate the hand written notes. (Which file was that anyway?)
If I needed a document, I had to hope that it made it into the file. (And too many times it wasn’t there.)This approach was not working. I knew this because the busier we got the less money we were making and the less effective we were at serving customers, billing work and managing our people. I began to search for a solution.
We had an accounting system that worked OK and didn’t really want to change it. We had an estimating system that worked OK. We used all the Microsoft products, such as Word and Excel, and even had email before it was fashionable. I tried many options and realized that none of them were going to cut it. I looked hard for a solution that needed to meet these requirements:
- It had to be easy to use so that everyone in the organization, from the President to the Technician, would make it a part of his or her daily routine without fussing.
- It had to bring the customer’s file to the computer desktop quickly, complete with all of the detailed project information, including the status of the job, assigned staff and subcontractors, and the notes staff had added to the file.
- Anyone who was reviewing the file needed to have the ability to communicate right from the file using email, fax or print/mail, with a complete record of that communication being maintained.
- The financial status for any account including billing history, payments and current balance needed to be pulled from the accounting system and presented as part of the project file.
- I had to be able to review and sort project information based on other criteria, such as by department, by sales person, by subcontractor or for the business as a whole.
- No single piece of data should need to be entered twice, such as a customer name, a subcontractor phone number or a cost code.
- To realize our goal of becoming a paperless operation, we needed to be able to store and link to individual project files scanned versions of paper documents and photos.
- The system needed to be Web based so that anyone with security rights could log on via the Internet from anywhere, anytime and access project information.
- We wanted to consolidate as many of my non-accounting based work processes into one system as possible, which meant, for example, that we could eliminate the need for a separate contact management system.
- It had to work with all or most of our existing software and most importantly it had to integrate with our accounting system.
I looked around and I couldn’t find a system that would deliver this level of integrated functionality, so I built it!
We fully implemented the Chronicle Software system in 1998. At that time our revenues were $ 2.9 million and our gross margin was 35%. After having Chronicle now for 12 years, our revenues have climbed to, in excess of $15 million and the gross margin for the business has grown to a whopping 50%!
In addition, our labor/total revenue percentage dropped from 27% to less than 15%, and our average revenue per employee is at $230,000 in 2010 from $96,000 in 1998.
We have happier customers, more referrals, a relaxed staff and all the tools we need to continue expanding the business profitably. Similar results have been realized by hundreds of other businesses that have embraced Chronicle as their enterprise management tool. Chronicle is a tool built by and for service based contractor businesses.