For small businesses that built their technology infrastructure on legacy systems, it can be overwhelming to adopt new software solutions — even when they know the investment will be worthwhile. Trade businesses in particular (such as electricians, plumbers and HVAC contractors) often work in disparate systems, from Google Sheets to pen and paper, and the tedious manual process involved with managing different systems can cause unnecessary headaches and limit growth.
When you take the plunge to deploy a new technology solution, it can work wonders for your business: think increased efficiency, enhanced customer relationships, and time back for employees to focus on their actual work. While there might be obstacles holding you back from adopting new technology, the effort it takes to implement a new tool can pay off.
I talk to customers every day about how they can streamline their businesses and embrace change. Most trade organizations face a few roadblocks when deciding whether a new software product is worth the cost and time to implement. Here’s how to overcome three common barriers to entry.
#1: You’re not fully convinced new technology will result in a solid ROI
This is valid. If you haven’t experimented with technology solutions, how will you understand the payoff? Turn to other leaders to get their perspective. It’s important to hear success stories from peers and other decision makers to know if an investment is worthwhile.
You can also use a cost-benefit analysis, which essentially requires tallying up all costs for bringing in a new tech tool and then subtracting the amount from the anticipated benefits of the project. Sometimes it’s difficult to assign a dollar amount to intangible benefits (like increased customer interest and improved employee morale), but you can find online resources like calculators and explainer articles to help determine those less obvious gains.
Another way to approach the decision: Think about what you want your company to look like a year from now. Can a specific software solution help you get there? You can create a clearer path by identifying your business goals and mapping out your needs from there. For example, if you’re trying to be more profitable, think about how you can reduce overhead by streamlining processes or become more opportunistic with current customers.
An example I like to reference involves a contractor who saved 300 labor hours per year (or $6,000) just by turning on an integration that removed some manual data entry with one of the company’s lead providers. A small technological upgrade that resulted in a huge payoff!
You should also think about how employees will be impacted by new tools and technology. The most important step here is to simply talk to your employees about where they struggle on the job and about their suggestions for improvement. This will help you identify if there is a technology solution to help solve common issues. Ultimately, you want to remove roadblocks and empower your employees to do their job more efficiently, which will benefit your business in the long-run.
#2: There’s just not enough time in the day to get new technology up and running
Contractors work around the clock to ensure their businesses operate smoothly. When you’re leading and growing a smaller company, you’re laser-focused on keeping your customers satisfied and can’t afford to waste time on a new software product that just doesn’t cut it. It’s easy to want to invest in simpler, less costly solutions – but oftentimes, business leaders realize those solutions don’t meet their needs, so they have to start the search all over again to find what works. By doing a bit more research upfront and fully understanding what solution is needed, it can save time and money down the line. The quick, cheap fix is more often than not neither sustainable nor durable.
And once again, it comes back to the people. Find your internal champions. Usually, there’s at least one person in the organization who is excited about improving processes and flagging new tools. Embrace their enthusiasm and empower them to take the lead in rolling out your new software.
#3: You’re worried and second-guessing that you’re making the right decision
So, you’ve carved out time to weigh your software options. You have the internal buy-in you need from stakeholders, and you’ve got the right people on your team to implement the new tool. The real challenge might be actually picking the solution you think will work best for your team and your business. Does it integrate seamlessly into your existing processes and workflows? How much time will it take for employees to learn and use it? Will there be any hurdles to adoption? With many questions to consider and technology choices to think about, decision paralysis becomes real for many trade business leaders.
At this point, you’ve hopefully already identified your business needs. A good next step is to list out the features that will help you achieve your goals and prioritize them, delineating between a requirement versus a nice-to-have. Then, you can get to the good stuff, evaluating vendors based on your prioritized requirements – and bring in that new technology to transform your business.
Implementing new technology is also not a task that business owners need to take on alone. Technology vendors are there to guide you and help along the way. Some things to discuss with a vendor, once you’ve chosen the technology: IT support offered, requirements to implement, an implementation timeline, and resources needed to hit milestones. If time is constrained, consider creating an implementation schedule that frontloads adoption of the must-have features you identified – and then stagger those nice-to-haves afterwards.
While it does take time, energy, and money to bring on new technology solutions, the payoffs cannot be overstated. The right technology for your trade business is no longer a recommendation – it’s an essential component to empower your employees and business to succeed.
Leslie Gildea is the VP, Social Impact at ServiceTitan.