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Blog: Tech Tools of the Trade

In the remodeling industry, not all “tools” are kept in a toolbox or on a belt. Software and technology are crucial business tools. The Internet has been a game changer for many industries, and remodeling is no exception. There are many software programs and websites that can assist remodeling companies in many ways. Each department—accounting, marketing, sales and production—can find help with today’s technology. For some smaller companies, these departments may be compromised of just one or two people who wear multiple hats.

Years ago, when I was a carpenter in the field, the newest technology was a pager. You can probably guess how old I am! At the time, the thought of improved access and communication was exciting. That was until I received numerous pages, seemingly each time I was at the top of a ladder.

Smartphones are now a staple of most people’s lives at both home and work. But they really are much more than just a phone. Smartphones combine the uses of many different electronics into a compact device. Smartphones are mini computers that provide Internet access, a calendar, a camera and, oh yes, a pager to send text messages. Having a smartphone with Internet access allows someone to download dozens of useful business apps. The word “app” is the commonly used, shortened term for application. It is an application of a software program available via the Internet. Most apps are free to download, but the service that the app provides may have a fee for its use.

I believe a “must have” app for a remodeling company is one for credit card processing. There are many companies that offer credit card merchant services with an app and swipe attachment for a smartphone. The attachment allows you to swipe the credit card, process the charge, and have the client sign on the phone’s touchscreen! Two popular service providers are PayPal and Square. This convenient tool provides several advantages for different departments.

The sales staff can speed up the sales cycle by taking a credit card payment on the spot. Waiting for a check or financing can slow the process down. Sometimes the additional time will cause clients to change their mind about the remodeler or even the project. Furthermore, when a sales rep asks homeowners for a deposit and they do not have the funds available, they may balk and stall for no other reason than not wanting to share that information. The ability to accept a credit card payment makes it much easier for a client to say “yes” and move forward.

The accounting department gets an organized, electronic itemization of payments collected for analysis, reports and transfer to the company’s financial tracking program, such as QuickBooks or an Excel spreadsheet. These apps and websites also allow a company to create invoices for clients. Additionally, funds are typically available faster as opposed to endorsing and depositing a check in the bank and then waiting for it to clear.

As a result, production has the ability to present a change order and collect a payment immediately in the field. Chasing money is an all-too-common dilemma for many remodelers. 

The processing fees for credit card transactions will vary, but they are typically below 3 percent. Yes, this is an added expense; however, in my opinion, the values greatly outweigh the cost. We suggest that you limit the amount you will accept by credit card. A good practice is to offer a credit card payment for deposits and change orders. Collect checks for the scheduled progress payments during the project. Have your contracts reflect these terms or something similar.

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Neil Parsons is CEO of Design Build Pros, which provides in-home sales services throughout New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania, and remote design services nationally. Visit www.DesignBuildPros.com for more information. 

Be sure to join the Lowe’s ProServices LinkedIn Group to read additional content and interact with other Construction/Trade and MRO professionals.

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