Database and software for trades

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Most small businesses and specifically trades even sole traders and one-man bands need at minimum a database. At the beginning this can simply be using excel. As you grow it makes sense that the database also has a diary and job reporting function. Especially when you add multiple engineers or handymen etc.

Then an invoice or quoting function. The invoicing can be done directly through your accounting software, something like QuickBooks or Xero, but a lot of diary management software connects to the accounting software removing admin time. The accounting software then connects to your bank account so as payments come in, they can be reconciled once across both platforms. The reporting options on the software then gives you an accurate assessment of your company’s real position, in real time and allows you to forecast, plan, grow, cut etc.

The software can be trade specific otherwise many have different forms or certificates you can add like gas certificates or NIC EIC inspection reports. Specific and detailed job reports with before and after pictures and all your branding makes operations slick and you and your business professional.

One of the biggest mistakes and earliest mistakes I made as a one-man band was not keeping those early customer records and as a gas engineer where there is annual certificates and services I lost out on a lot of repeat work. Sometimes you’re so focussed on filling the funnel you forget to catch the clients that fall through the bottom.

There are several different trades software available. I have used Commusoft and ServiceM8 quite a lot. Both have similar functions. ServiceM8 is more modular in terms of pricing- they both however have a free trial and a lot of support. If you’re in the position of looking for a new job management software, then start with these two.

One major benefit of these is you can connect them to either Stripe or WorldPay and take payments on site through your phone or iPad without the need for a card machine- you will have to have an account with either merchant. These are free. They earn their money as a percentage per transaction. The benefit to us trades is less time in the office in terms of invoicing and chasing payments, improved cashflow and again professionalism.

The invoices can also be sent from site and if the customer isn’t ready to pay there and then, the invoice will have a payment link- reducing overall barriers to getting money you’re owed into your account.

Once you have these elements set up and are ready to get started. Start. I know it sounds stupid, but I have seen company after company spend money on software then only to have a fear or barrier of using it. As mentioned, there is ongoing support, tutorials, Facebook groups and others using the software that can help. But this step to start using the software looking back was one of the most important for us. Communication improved throughout the company. Record keeping of what happened at each job. Stock reporting, invoicing, and cash flow. When this was implemented fully, we became a business rather than a team of subbies working with each other.

By Andrew Black – find out more at

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