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HR Question of the Month

Posted By Federated Insurance, Monday, June 12, 2017

Position Changed. What do we do with the Employee?

Question: We hired an employee last year. The company was looking for someone with a certain background. However, since then, our company has changed directions and will no longer require someone of this caliber. We will be keeping the position but changing the rate and experience to less than what the current employee is at. Can we terminate for these reasons? If not is there another way that we can handle this?

Response: The employer is well within its rights to restructure any one or more positions within the organization to better meet the needs of the company. You indicate that although the employer hired an employee last year with a certain background, since then the company has changed directions and will no longer require someone of that caliber. Essentially, you advise that the employer is looking to lower the requirements of the position, and with it, the rate of pay. There is no law that prohibits the employer from proceeding with this course of action if there are legitimate business justifications for its decision. If the incumbent is employed at will, there is no law that requires the employer to retain him or her if the position has been downgraded and the employee is now over-qualified (and overpaid) for the newly-revised role. To this end, absent a contract that governs otherwise and assuming no policy or past practice is to the contrary, the employer can seek to terminate the employment relationship on these grounds and then seek to hire someone with lower qualifications, to be paid less.

That said, to minimize adverse employee relations issues and/or a potential claim, the employer may want to consider giving the employee the right of first refusal; presumably he or she is still qualified for the new role (if, perhaps, over-qualified). If so, we recommend explaining to the employee the reason for the employer's decision to downgrade the position and describe the employer's vision for the new role and new direction, along with its new and lower rate of pay. If the employee is amenable to the arrangement, the employer should be clear what is expected of him or her in the new role, and what the rate of pay will be. If he or she is not (or if there is a legitimate business reason why the employer is not amenable to offering the incumbent the opportunity to remain employed, albeit at a lower rate of pay), the employer should candidly let the employee know that it will terminate the employment relationship. The employer can then seek to recruit a candidate who better meets the new criteria for the revised position.

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Head in the Cloud

Posted By Estimate Rocket, Monday, April 17, 2017

Talk of “the cloud” is everywhere nowadays, but what is it, why is it important, and how can you benefit from it?

 

At its most basic level, cloud computing is storing your data on the internet, rather than locally on your computer or hard drive.

 

You may already be using the cloud without realizing it, by using a service like Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, or Apple iCloud to store photos, files, documents, and music.

 

There’s a high chance that all of your emails are also already in the cloud. Many of the most popular email servers are cloud-based, including Gmail, Yahoo, and Outlook, just to name a few. In fact, unless you have an email server in your office, your email is probably in the cloud.

 

“When you update your Facebook status, you’re using cloud computing. Checking your bank balance on your phone? You’re in the cloud again. Chances are you rely on cloud computing to solve the challenges faced by small businesses, whether you’re firing off emails on the move or using a bunch of apps to help you manage your workload.” - Salesforce

 

Here are some advantages of using cloud computing over storing all your information locally.

Lower cost

If you save all your data locally on your own hard drive, there’s the initial purchase costs and maintenance costs, plus the cost of hiring an IT person when something goes wrong. When your data is stored in the cloud, none of those costs exist. That’s not to say that storing your data in the cloud is always free, but Google Drive, for example, offers 15GB of storage space at no cost, and you can upgrade to 1TB of space for just $10 per month.

Flexible storage space

When you store your data locally, you need to be aware of the amount of storage space you have so you don’t try to store more data than you have room for. If you don’t have enough or have too much space to begin with, it can be difficult and expensive to scale up or down depending on the amount you need. As mentioned above, storing your data in the cloud makes it easy to upgrade to more storage space if you need it, and remove some if you don’t.

Accessibility

Because it’s stored on the cloud and not on your local hardware or a filing cabinet, you can access your information from your phone, tablet, laptop, or desktop computer. It’s easy to stay organized and get your data when you need to, from whatever device you have available. You aren’t tethered to your home network or out of luck because you forgot those paper documents at home or at the office.

Security and Disaster Recovery

Storing data in the cloud may seem less secure than using your own server, but cloud services stay up to date with the latest and most reliable hardware, to make sure your information is safe. It’s easily accessible to you, and many services, like Google, use encryption to make sure your data doesn’t end up in the wrong hands. You also don’t run the risk of losing your information because of physical disasters, like a flood or theft, that you may face if you stored your information in paper form or locally on a personal hard drive.

Less work for you

If you stored your own data, you’d want to make sure that all components of your computer (hardware and software) were up to date. You’d want to have back ups in case of emergencies. You’d need to know what to do if something went wrong. Cloud service platforms, like Amazon Web Services, are constantly maintaining and updating their hardware and servers so you don’t have to.

Environmentally friendly

Larger data centers often have the ability to focus more on sustainability and the resources available to use energy-saving equipment, which would be difficult to do in a home or small office environment. Many cloud services like Microsoft work hard to provide cloud storage, while also reducing carbon emissions and conserving energy.

 

As with most things, there are some risks related to storing your data in the cloud, however, the advantages far outweigh the time, money, and energy you’d spend setting up and maintaining your own “personal cloud” or keeping hard copies of all your information.

 

What cloud services do you use? Let us know in the comments, Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn!

 

Kayla Suhm
Logical Engine, Estimate Rocket
April 12, 2017

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Green Products Your Customers Want

Posted By Estimate Rocket, Friday, March 24, 2017

We’ve talked in the past about going paperless, but that’s not the only way your contracting business can be eco-friendly.

Offering your customers more sustainable, energy-efficient products and services is another easy way to go green.

Many products, like water saving faucets and motion sensor lighting, help reduce water, electricity, and maintenance costs for home and business owners. Reducing the amount of chemicals by using eco-friendly materials also lowers the amount of indoor pollution, which means healthier living.

You may associate the costs of building or remodeling with green materials to be high, and until recently they were. Thankfully, recent interest in homeowners and businesses becoming more eco-friendly has made prices for these materials more reasonable and comparable to traditional materials.

Also, according to the US. Green Building Council, "73% of single-family builders and 68% of multifamily builders say consumers will pay more for green homes." and a Harris Interactive poll of over 2,000 Americans "found that nearly half (49%) consider eco-friendly features more important than luxury items in a home (31%)"

So, why choose between making a profit and protecting the environment? You can do both.

Here are just a few examples of sustainable products and services you can offer that show you care about both the environment and your customer’s well-being.

Zero VOC paint

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are chemicals emitted from many household products and building materials. VOCs include a variety of chemicals, some of which may have short- and long-term adverse health effects, according to the EPA. Benjamin Moore Natura, Sherwin Williams’ ProMar 200 Zero VOC Interior Latex, and Behr Premium Plus are just a few Zero VOC paint options. If you’re already using low VOC paints, don’t forget to let your customers know.

Cool roofing

Cool roofs are designed to reflect more sunlight than a typical roof, keeping the building cooler, and saving money by using less electricity to cool with air conditioning. Even if a roof isn’t designed that way initially, you can offer customers the option to make their roofs cooler. This article from energy.gov lists different types of roofs and ways they can be made cool.

Soy foam insulation

Warm and cool air can leak into and out of a poorly insulated building, costing a substantial amount of energy and money on heating and cooling. Spray foam insulation fills in gaps, reducing leakage and saving money. Soy foam insulation partially replaces the petroleum ingredients in traditional spray foam with soybean oil and in many cases is sprayed on using water. It also has many of the benefits of spray foam, including mold resistance, and lowering heating and cooling costs, but doesn’t contain formaldehyde or other dangerous chemicals.

Water-efficient fixtures

According to the USGS, the average person uses 80-100 gallons of water per day. Between taking showers or baths, brushing teeth, washing dishes, and flushing the toilet, there’s a lot of water that can be saved. That’s where water-efficient fixtures, like those with the WaterSense label, come in. Fixtures like sink faucets, shower heads, and toilets that have this label help reduce water usage, saving time, energy, and money.

Energy-efficient windows

If you’ve ever seen the heating bill for a drafty house after a cold, windy winter, you know that windows can have a drastic impact on a home’s energy efficiency and electricity costs. Energy-efficient windows can pay for themselves by reducing heating, cooling, and lighting costs. NFRC Energy Performance labels on windows and doors help determine their efficiency. You’ll generally want to see a low number for U-Factor, Solar Heat Gain Coefficient, and Air Leakage, and a higher number for Visible Transmittance.

LED lighting

Older incandescent light bulbs don’t just light your home, they give off a substantial amount of heat as well, boosting your electricity bill with no benefit to you. LEDs (light-emitting diodes) and other energy-efficient lighting emit very little heat in comparison, reducing your electricity bill, but also decreasing the chance of home fires. Energy Star rated LEDs also use at least 75% less energy, and last 25 times longer, than incandescent lighting, according to energy.gov.

Sustainable flooring materials

Contrary to popular belief, you can still get beautiful hardwood flooring and remain eco-friendly. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) promotes responsible forest management, growth, and harvest for the long-term health of the forest without the use of harmful chemicals. Companies like EcoTimber provide FSC certified wood flooring, but also offer other sustainable flooring materials including bamboo and cork.

This is only a fraction of the products you can offer to make customer’s homes and businesses more eco-friendly. What other sustainable products and services do you use?

Let us know in the comments, Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. We’d love to hear from you!

 

Kayla Suhm
Logical Engine, Estimate Rocket
March 15, 2017

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Automate your business with a Zap!

Posted By Estimate Rocket, Monday, March 6, 2017


We’re always looking for ways to make life easier. Apps like Wunderlist and Todoist help us keep track of our to-dos; metered parking apps help us reserve a parking spot in advance; flight trackers help us keep tabs on our travel plans, and password managers like LastPass keep us secure by allowing us to have a different password for every site we visit.


The problem with using so many different apps is that it can be tedious to move information from one app to another. What if apps could send information back and forth, simplifying our lives even more? APIs make it possible to do just that.


APIs have opened up a world of possibilities for our favorite apps to communicate with each other, which is why we developed one at Estimate Rocket. Generally, you need to be a developer to use an API, but a service called Zapier makes it easy for anyone to get into automation.


Using Zapier, we can link our favorite apps and automate our most time-consuming tasks. Here are just a few possibilities:

Customer Booking

How many times have you had to go back and forth with a customer just to schedule an appointment? Make scheduling quick and easy by using a service like YouCanBook.Me or Calendly on your website. Just set your availability and let your customer do the rest.


Once a customer has booked an appointment using one of these services, you can use a Zap to enter that information directly into an app like Estimate Rocket.


Check out some other Zaps for YouCanBook.Me and Calendly.

Maintaining Schedules

With a schedule full of customer appointments, reminders, and personal events, staying organized and juggling calendars can seem like an impossible task.

Rather than looking for your appointments in multiple places, just subscribe to all your calendars in one place, like Google Calendar or iCal. Here’s how to do that with Estimate Rocket.


Here are a few recommended Zaps for Google Calendar.


Accounting

Keeping your finances in order can be overwhelming, and things get even more complicated when you’re dealing with invoicing.


We make invoice and payment information available in our API, so it’s easy to send your invoices and payments to an accounting service like QuickBooks Online or Xero. If you receive a payment in your accounting program, it’s also possible to automatically send that payment information back to Estimate Rocket and complete the job!


Make your life even easier with these other Zaps for QuickBooks Online and Xero.

Marketing

Marketing is important to grow your business, but with everything else competing for your attention, it can be hard to find the time to stay on top of it.


Using an online marketing service like MailChimp, Hubspot, or Infusionsoft helps automate your marketing and makes it easy to send out email blasts to all your customers. Set up a few marketing campaigns in the marketing platform of your choice and set up a Zap to automatically add clients to your marketing campaigns as they’re added to a system like Estimate Rocket,


Take a look at these other Zaps for MailChimp, HubSpot, and Infusionsoft.

Team Communication

We’ve talked before about how team communication is important. If your communication is lacking, fortunately there are some easy ways to get everyone on the same page.


Chat apps like Slack and Campfire allow you to have everything in one place. Talk instantly with your team, share files, and save transcripts so no information is lost. To help you stay even more organized, set up Zaps to send your emails, calendar events, and social media notifications to Slack or Campfire so you track all your important information in one place!


Automate some more with these Zaps for Campfire and Slack.


Zapier’s Zapbook lets you search over 750 apps, filter by app type, and shows you recommended Zaps for each app. See if the apps you use are available on Zapier and start setting up Zaps to save you time and automate your business!


If you’d like to set up any of these Zaps for your own Estimate Rocket account, email us at support@estimaterocket.com. If you use any integrations that we didn’t mention, let us know about them in the comments, Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn!



Kayla Suhm
Logical Engine, Estimate Rocket
February 15, 2017


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Turning Strangers into Loyal Customers

Posted By Estimate Rocket, Tuesday, January 17, 2017

There are many strangers desperately looking for the product or service you provide. While that sounds like a great problem to have, the real issue is that many have never even heard of you! How do you get in front of these people, and once you do, how do you convince them you’re the right person for the job?

Getting in front of your Target Market

Your target market is anyone who may be interested in your product or service, but may have never heard of you. In order to get your name out there you need to start marketing.

Ask your past clients how they heard about you and how they went about looking for the type of work that you do. If they used review services like Angie’s List, make sure you have a presence there by asking clients to review your company. If they use Google or another search engine to find services in their area, use search engine optimization (SEO) to make sure potential customers can find your website.

Do many of your customers and potential customers have Facebook accounts? Let social media and referrals work for you by asking clients to review your business on your page and setting up a Facebook Ad or two. Ads are reasonably priced and you can make sure yours are shown to the right audience. For example, you could target ads to people within 25 miles of your address that identify themselves as homeowners.

5 Ways to Generate More Business Online

Nuturing Leads

Once someone from your target market has shown an interest in your service they become a lead.

Even though they’ve shown an interest, they may or may not be ready to make a purchase. Provide the information they need whether they’re ready to buy or not. Have your services and pricing listed for those just beginning their research, and more detailed information including why your lead should choose you over your competition for those ready to buy.

 If you’re not sure how you differ from your competition, a simple web search for similar services in your area, and a look through your competitors’ websites and social media should give you a good idea of what they offer and how to differentiate yourself.

Have an open line of communication with your lead. If they have already contacted you, you have a phone number or email address. Give them a quick call or send an email to see what they need help with. They may be hesitant about the price or unsure about what services they need. Whatever it is, show them how you can help!

One of the best experiences I’ve had with a contractor involved a busted sump pump in the middle of winter. A string of single degree days lead to an abundance of frozen pipes, so it was impossible to find anyone to come out on short notice. Fortunately for me, one plumber called me back, even though he was booked solid for weeks, and walked me through a temporary fix for my situation. He may have not gotten a sale right then and there, but you can be sure he will be at the top of my list for all my future plumbing needs.

Building Loyal Customers

Just because you’ve landed the job and your lead is now a customer doesn’t mean you stop caring. Cultivating a relationship with existing customers is just as important as making them a customer in the first place.

An open line of communication isn’t just important in the lead stage. Take the time to really listen to your customer’s wants and needs and build their trust. Trust makes people want to do business with you again and makes it likely they’ll refer you to others.

Show that you know what you’re doing and that you have the customer’s best interests in mind even after the job is done. Write a few blog posts on your website or send a newsletter with info on things your customers care about, like tips on care and maintenance, or ideas for related projects.

7 Tips to Stand out with Amazing Customer Service

The common thread here is communication. Communicate with your past customers to find out the best places to market your business. Communicate the value of your business to your leads. And communicate with your current customers to find out what they need and want, to build trust, and to ask for referrals.

 

Communicate with us! What are some things you do to convert your target audience into clients? or on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn!

 

Kayla Suhm
Logical Engine, Estimate Rocket

January 16, 2017

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Three Major Google AdWords Changes Painting Businesses Need To Make In 2017

Posted By AltaVista Strategic Partners, Wednesday, January 11, 2017
 
For many seasonal painters, January represents a slow time of the year resulting in lowering or cutting off advertising on Google AdWords. This is also a great time to make account updates in preparation for the coming busy season in early spring. Before cranking your Google AdWords budget into high gear, here are three major changes that will save you money and drive more leads this spring:
 
Converting Entirely To Expanded Text Ads:
 
This one is huge for painters. Expanded text ads allow for more information in ads and are proven to increase click through rates and decrease average cost per click. Translation, they save your painting business money while increasing the number of leads. More importantly, Google will disable the ability to edit or create new standard text ads effective January 31, 2017. If you have not already converted your Google Ads to expanded text ads, now is the time.
 
Broader Mobile Bid Adjustments:
 
It is now possible to bid up to 300% more for clicks on mobile devices than desktop devices. Do not let the number scare you – think $10 increasing to $30. Pairing this with Google’s call only ads is a great way to drive phone leads for painting services. If your painting business is using Google AdWords, it is important that your bids are adjusted by device to accommodate Google’s mobile first perspective.
 
Local Search Ads on Google Maps:
 
With Google’s adoption of a mobile first perspective and the value it is placing on local results, this new ad offering is a great opportunity for painting contractors. Running local ads requires multiple adjustments in your Google AdWords account and syncing it with Google My Business account. It can be a challenging process, but the reward is worth it because local search ads are a great way to drive leads. Here is an example of a local search ad: 

 

What are the next steps?

For painters who manage their Google AdWords in-house, reworking the expanded text ads is crucially important. Your account performance is likely suffering if your ads are not taking advantage of the additional real estate made available by this update. For painters using an outside agency, they should have already made these adjustments to your account. If they have not addressed these topics, now is an important time to contact them and find out what their plans are for 2017.

If your painting business needs help with its Google AdWords campaign, the team at AltaVista Strategic Partners is available to answer any questions and offer an initial consultation at no charge. To schedule a consultation, please call Aaron Hockel at 443-960-4004 or email him at aaron@altavistasp.com.

 

Tags:  Alta Vista  Google AdWords  Hockel 

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Family Succession Planning

Posted By Federated Insurance, Wednesday, December 21, 2016

 

 

Family Succession Planning with Trusts

Parents want to see their children and grandchildren succeed. But, if the parents die, will that goal be met? Family succession planning using trusts can effectively help the next generation succeed by properly protecting their assets.

Minor children

It is generally not advised to give an inheritance to an 18-year-old, but this is what could happen with no planning. If a child is under 18 when the parent dies, the court will impose a guardianship. Generally, the inherited assets must be turned over to the child when he or she reaches legal age. To avoid this, a trust is required. The trust can be designed to do what you would have done if you were still alive: meet the child’s needs; pay for college, a wedding, a house; help start a business; etc. Additionally, it can be designed to make lump sum distributions at certain ages.

Special needs children

As long as one parent is living, a special needs child’s necessities can be met. But what happens when both parents are gone? Many of these individuals are eligible for public assistance of some type. If they inherit outright from their parents, they will likely not be eligible for the assistance until the inheritance is spent. Parents should consider setting up a trust that will supplement the child’s needs without disqualifying him or her from assistance.

Children with chemical, gambling, creditor, motivation problems

Children with issues that a sudden influx of money could exacerbate may need protection from themselves and from their creditors and predators. For these children, parents should consider putting their share of inheritance into a trust. The trustee could have the discretion to make partial distributions if the child reaches certain milestones (becoming chemical free, getting credit under control, etc.), or for accomplishing certain goals, such as graduation from college, or legally earning an income, which could be matched dollar for dollar.

Children’s spouses

Sometimes, parents are concerned about a child’s spouse, marriage stability, or debt issues. Parents with these types of concerns should consider putting that child’s inheritance into a trust that provides lifetime income to the child, but with an ultimate distribution to the grandchildren (bloodline trust).

Blended families

Things can get complicated when a parent remarries and has children from a previous marriage or relationship. Without proper planning, the parent may inadvertently disinherit his/her own children. This would happen if the bulk of the estate passes primarily to the new spouse. Before remarrying, it is strongly suggested that parents with significant assets consider a prenuptial agreement and trusts to protect assets for their “bloodline” heirs.

A qualified, experienced estate planning attorney can help you work through your concerns and put together a plan that provides appropriately for your children after you’re gone.

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Planning For Success

Posted By Estimate Rocket, Tuesday, December 20, 2016

 

 

No matter where you operate, you’ll have dips in business throughout the year. Take advantage of the extra time to analyze how your business performed in the past and set yourself up for success in the future. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

How did my plans and budget from last year compare with reality?

 

Look at your revenue, expenses, and profits from last season and see how they compare to previous seasons.

 

If your records aren’t in tip-top shape yet don’t worry, you still have ways to find this information. Go through the jobs you’ve done and compare the income with the costs for material and labor to see which jobs were the most and least profitable.

 

You can calculate your total profit by subtracting all of your expenses from your sales. To calculate your profit margin divide your profit by your revenue and multiply by 100 to get a percentage.

 

You can calculate the profit margin for individual jobs using this method as well. Analyze the jobs below your profit margin and figure out what can be improved, and analyze the jobs above your profit margin to see what type of work is your most profitable.

Was my team communicating well?

 

Successfully completing projects is a good indicator of effective communication. If you had any projects that ended poorly, figure out if the issue was poor communication with the client or poor communication with or between your workers. There will always be a few misunderstandings, but if you find those misunderstandings happening often or projects are being delayed or ending with unhappy customers, your team communication may need some tweaking.

 

If team communication is the issue, make sure everyone is on the same page. Decide on a platform that all communications will be sent through. Whether that’s text, email, a phone call, or an app, choose what works best for your team and stick to it. Your team needs to know where to find the information they need and where to go to ask a question or communicate a problem. Having your communication go through a single channel will ensure that import information won’t be missed.

Was my team doing quality work?

 

Make sure you’re up to date on best practices, and do some research on ways you can refine and do the best work possible for your customers. If you belong to a trade association, like the PDCA for Painters, that can be a great source of information on best practices for your trade.

 

Are there any new products or services you can use to help your business? Testing them in the off season will ensure that you’re ready to reap the benefits once you become busy.

Were my marketing efforts successful and where could I increase or decrease my marketing budget?

 

It can be difficult to tell whether or not your marketing is having an impact on business. Keep track of how much you’re spending on ads in different channels like Angie’s List, Houzz, or Facebook, and then note where each new job is coming from. This not only ensures that you know where your money is going, but sheds light on the value of your marketing efforts. Take a look at which channels you’re spending the most time, money, and effort in and compare it with your sales sources. From there, increase your budget in valuable channels, and decrease it in less valuable channels.

 

You don’t need a large budget to start marketing. Utilizing things like social media, email marketing, and customer referrals effectively can be a low cost way to start generating new leads for your business.

Was I effective at generating leads and repeat business from past customers?

 

Stay top of mind with potential and past customers using email and social media. Get to know them and share valuable information like blog articles or guides. This will establish you as an expert in your field while increasing the odds that they’ll choose you for future jobs and recommend you to their family and friends. Be sure to post referrals and testimonials from your past customers as well, because the words of a happy customer can be really effective at selling your business to others.

What was my competition doing and how did that compare to what I was doing?

 

Know what other businesses in your field are offering and how they communicate with their customers. It may sound like a big job, but can be as easy as staying up to date on social media. You can also set up Google Alerts for specific keywords like your name, competitors names, and your industry, and be alerted when they’re mentioned.

 

Follow up on sales you lost to a competitor. It may seem intimidating, but your prospect may give you some valuable information when you ask why they decided to go with the other service.

Are there any processes I could simplify or automate to save time?

 

If you found yourself in chaos this season, it’s time to pinpoint the issues and streamline some processes. Here are a few ideas to get started:

 

Create product and service lists if you don’t already have them. If you do, review your lists and update pricing and labor rates. Updating your product and service list in the off season will ensure that you’ll be giving accurate proposals next season.

 

How many times have you forgotten to follow up with a customer because you had too many other things on your mind? Automate your customer follow up process by setting up email campaigns. Write some emails in advance and use your campaigns to reach out to your customer automatically, regardless of whether you have the time or energy.

 

When you’re busy, cleaning and organizing gets pushed to the backburner. Making a point to get your truck, office, and business organized during slow periods will make everything simpler when you’re pressed for time. One way to organize your office is by reducing your paper usage or by going paperless all together. Don’t know where to get started? We wrote a post to help you do just that.

Do I want to increase my business during the off-season?

 

Reaching out to customers that you have sent estimates to but have never accepted, offering them off-season discounts can give your business a boost when it’s slow.

 

You may also consider diversifying your services to things related to your main business. For example: A landscaping business may offer shoveling or snowplowing in winter. Expanding your service list widens your audience and allows you to make money all year.


If you need help with any of the tasks mentioned here, such as reporting, maintaining your product and services list, or setting up automated email follow ups, we’ve designed Estimate Rocket for you. If you would like to know how Estimate Rocket can help eliminate the boring parts of your business just let us know and we’d be happy to help you get started!

 

Are there any other questions you ask yourself to reflect on past seasons? Let us know in the comments, Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn!

 

 

Kayla Suhm

Logical Engine, Estimate Rocket

December 15, 2016

Tags:  estimate rocket  planning for success 

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2016 Contractor Gadget Gift Guide

Posted By Estimate Rocket, Monday, November 21, 2016


If you’re looking for the perfect gift for your favorite contractor, look no further! We’ve gathered some of the best gadgets to make their lives easier and help them get more done on-the-go.

Magnetic WristBand

Never lose a screw or nail again with a Magnetic WristBand. The MagnoGrip is inexpensive, made of durable 1680D ballistic polyester, and will keep metal screws and other small tools on your wrist where you can always find them.

MagnoGrip 311-090 Magnetic Wristband $13

Hands Free Light

Free up your hands from carrying a flashlight and see and be seen by others if you’re working in the dark.

Halo Light $149

E-SMART Super Bright Wrist LED Light $18

USB Battery Pack

Keep your devices charged with a USB battery pack. If you’re on the go and don’t have access to an outlet, there are some great affordable options to keep you connected. The Jackery Bolt fits in your pocket and is great for when you’re in a pinch and your phone needs a boost at the end of the day, while the RAVPower Ace Series 22000 Power Bank is larger but can charge your phone every night for about a week.

Jackery Bolt $22

RAVPower 22000 mAh Ace Series Portable Charger $40

Tablet

A tablet is tough to beat when it comes to mobile work, and the iPad Air 2 is an excellent option. It’s lightweight and powerful, and also has an anti-reflective screen, an improved camera, and convenient Touch ID. Another great option is the Nvidia Shield Tablet. It’s about the same weight as the Air 2, has great graphics, and is quite a bit cheaper.

iPad Air 2 $500

Nvidia Shield Tablet $200

Mobile Wifi Hotspot

Many contractors travel often and staying connected is vital to keeping businesses afloat. Even though most phones can create a mobile hotspot, they can be unreliable. A mobile wifi hotspot offers more reliability than a phone-created hotspot and longer battery life, while letting you keep your phone free for doing other things. Verizon and AT&T both offer good options.

Verizon Jetpack® 4G LTE Mobile Hotspot—AC791L $50 (with 2 yr contract)

AT&T Unite $50 (with 2 yr contract)

Laser Tape Measure

Laser tape measures like the DMiotech allow you to take large measurements without an extra set of hands, which is great if you’re at a jobsite alone. This Bosch laser tape measure takes it a step further by sending those measurements to the app on your phone or computer.

Bosch GLM 100 C $199

DMiotech 131 Feet / 40 Meter Digital Laser $30

A Great Water Bottle

Staying hydrated on the jobsite during the heat of summer is critical. There are a lot of great affordable options like Kleen Kanteen to keep your water cool. Some, like the Nomader, are even collapsible so you can fit it in your pocket when you’re on the go.

Klean Kanteen Wide Mouth Bottle with Stainless Loop Cap $17

Nomader Collapsible Water Bottle $17

In the Mobile Office

If you’re like many contractors, you probably spend more time in your vehicle than in the office. Fortunately, there are ways you can make that small space an effective, efficient, on-the-go office.

USB Car Charger

Make sure your device stays charged in your car with a USB car charger like the Anker PowerDrive 2. Most of these chargers are inexpensive, unobtrusive, and have an led light for visibility.

Anker PowerDrive 2 $9

Bluetooth Headset

Having hands-free accessibility for your phone is invaluable. Not only is it convenient and lets you to talk to employees or clients while driving, but allows you to keep both hands on the wheel.

Plantronics Voyager Edge Wireless Bluetooth Headset $82

Laptop

If you like using a computer rather than a tablet, there are some great budget options to use in your mobile office. The Acer Aspire E5-575G-53VG has a 12 hour battery, better performance than most others in the budget price range, and has all of the essentials most people need for everyday usage.

Acer Aspire E5-575G-53VG $550

The Wirecutter has a great guide on choosing the right laptop for your needs. Read it here.

Laptop & Smartphone Car Mounts

A smartphone car mount like the TechMatte MagGrip CD Slot Car Mount makes it easy to navigate or answer a client phone call while on the road. While you’re not driving, use a laptop mount like the RAM Seat-Mate and get more work done from your mobile office.

TechMatte MagGrip CD Slot Car Mount $11

RAM Seat-Mate Laptop Mounting System $167

Portable Scanner

Papers get lost, damaged, and thrown away accidentally. Keep them at a minimum by having a portable scanner like the Fujitsu ScanSnap in your truck. No more shuffling through papers, scan and search them quickly and easily.

Fujitsu ScanSnap S1300i Mobile Document Scanner $243

Portable AC Power Supply

If you travel a lot, a portable power supply is a great thing to have on hand. Power supplies like the ChargeTech Portable Power Outlet are small and portable. The ChargeTech has both USB and AC outlets so you can charge your phone, laptop, and just about any other gadget you need to power.

ChargeTech Portable Power Outlet $185

Smart Notebook/ Notepad

If you prefer making notes using pen and paper but want those notes to be saved without having to search through a notebook, a smart notebook or notepad is a great solution. The Wacom Bamboo Spark lets you take handwritten notes on any paper and saves it digitally so you can edit, share, and search for it later.

Wacom Bamboo Spark $64

 

 

Any awesome gadgets we missed? Let us know in the comments, or on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn!

 

The Estimate Rocket Team

November 15, 2016

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5 Ways To Generate More Business Online

Posted By Estimate Rocket, Monday, November 14, 2016

Previously, we’ve talked about ways to start Going Paper-Less and introduced some of our favorite apps for Productivity and Personal Improvement. This time, we’ll lay out a few easy and cost effective ways to get a leg up on your business competition and increase visibility and sales.

 

1) Make your website mobile friendly

An excellent website is an invaluable tool for every business. How many companies do you reject because their website isn't modern, user friendly, or professional? But having an effective site isn't just about being visually appealing.

 

As more people use their phone as their primary way to browse the internet, having a website that’s easy to navigate on phones is becoming increasingly important. Also, if your site isn’t mobile friendly Google won't rank it as highly as websites that are, which means less business coming to you and more going to your competitors.

 

Fortunately, there are some great options available to help you create a clean, professional website. Services like Squarespace and Weebly make it simple to build your website and won't break the bank.

 

2) Show the right information

Having a website is vital, but if a potential customer gets to your website and can't figure out how to contact you, you've just lost that customer. Have a contact phone number visible on every page, list your service area so people know where you operate, and include a contact form to make it easy for them to reach out.

 

3) Build name recognition with retargeting

Ever wonder why you're haunted by ads for that new pair of shoes you were looking at on Amazon, on every site you visit?

 

That's called retargeting and it’s easier than you think. Check out services like Perfect Audience and AdRoll and start showing your ads to people who are likely to use your services. Spend as much or as little money as you'd like, and once someone lands on your site they'll start to see your ads on many of the other sites they visit. Your prospect might not be ready to buy the first time they reach your site, but constantly seeing your name and logo means you’ll stay on top of their mind when they are ready to move forward.

 

4) Build an audience on Social Media

Your Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn profiles aren’t just other places your customers can get ahold of you. They’re perfect for sharing helpful tips and content with your audience. Posting informational (not just self-promoting) content shows that you’re an expert in your field and can be trusted to provide your audience with useful information.

 

Make sure to check out your competitor’s pages and the content and offers they’re promoting. It’s a great way to get ideas for your own material. (It should go without saying, but if you’d like to share their information, give credit where credit is due. Don’t try to pass it off as your own work.)

 

5) Find new leads with targeted advertising

Once you’ve created your profile and have started posting updates, use Facebook Ads to highlight upcoming offers and any content you've created.

Take advantage of Ad Targeting to build an audience of people who are more likely to be interested in your services (for example: homeowners, age 20-60, who have shown an interest in home improvement).

 

 

Implementing even one of techniques can generate more business for you. What are some tools or strategies you’ve used in the past to give yourself a leg up on your competition?

Let us know in the comments, or on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn!

 

 

Kayla Suhm

Logical Engine, Estimate Rocket

October 14, 2016

Tags:  estimate rocket  generate more business online 

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