Feature, V2I6

Solving the Paper Trail Headache

Eric Hunsberger leaned back in his chair, stretched his arms. He briefly closed his eyes as numbers floated behind his eyelids. Just then, his phone started buzzing,
again, underneath a stack of paper.

He leaned forward and dug for his phone, answering it just before it hit his voicemail.

“This is Jennifer,” the voice spoke over the line. “I need a new shed in time for our grand opening in two weeks. Do you know how soon you can have something like that available for me?”

For Eric, that was a typical day in the sales office of a shed builder in southern Colorado.

Chaos seemed to chase him from every direction—filing the paperwork for his bookkeeper, trying to wrap up the bid for a new customer, scrawling sticky notes reminding him to call back a prospect, and answering last-minute questions from the crew.

Of course, there were always those days when he lost a piece of paperwork, misplaced a customer’s phone number, and forgot about another project when he estimated a customer’s shed delivery date.

Eric knew there had to be a better way—a solution that would allow him to manage this workflow without adding more complexity to his already crazy life.

That’s when he sat down with our team to discuss options.

Understanding Your Business Processes

Our team partners with AppHosting.zone in building custom business solutions for our clients. Having spent many years building software for Fortune 100 clients, we know the importance of reliable, well-designed software. However, our consultations never begin with software.

Every conversation begins with understanding the business processes, systems, and workflows. Every successful business has these systems, whether they’ve articulated them or not.

Software can never replace healthy business systems. However, when it’s built to fit into the existing business, it becomes a strong support for the business systems.

Eric explained the entire sales and fulfillment process: the inbound call, the bids and proposals, the signed agreements, the build schedule, and the delivery process. After our first meeting, we followed up with more specifics—understanding the product lines, customization options, and special billing requirement.

We clarified as many details as possible, identifying areas in the business with unclear expectations and responsibilities. While every business can limp along with some ambiguity, it often costs dearly in lost efficiency and quality.

Eric also explained the importance of networking the solution. He wanted to be able to use his tablet to access his information on-site, and he wanted to be able to expand the solution to multiple sales offices. We assured him our entire solution is a native web solution (no Flash, no Java, no extra software to install), and it’s designed to work on a cellular data network.

Eric told us later, “When I left the meeting, I had no idea what they were going to come up with.” However, he knew that while he was the expert in the business systems, he could trust the experts in software design.

Using the Software

The first few weeks were an intense learning curve for Eric. Even though the system was designed to be easy to use and understand, Eric admitted, “I’m not a computer genius.” However, it didn’t take long for Eric to start seeing the measurable benefits of the system.

Most importantly, Eric started having peace of mind with his work, eliminating many of the small yet challenging issues that pulled him away from his most important work—making sales.

If the crew had questions, he could simply pull up the invoice on his computer and have the details in front of him. They didn’t have to wait in his office for 10 minutes while he wrapped up his sales call. They knew exactly what they needed to build, and they could build it.

He could see his work orders and could accurately estimate when a shed was going to be delivered. He was also able to see when his sales pipeline started drying up.

When he created an invoice, the system automatically assigned a serial number.

However, that wasn’t the only benefit.

When customers needed financing, he could work with them to determine their ideal monthly payment, automatically calculating the cash down-payment required based on the interest rates. He could automatically generate the rent-to-own agreement with the custom financing options. When a customer needed custom windows, he could easily review the prices without needing to call his manufacturer. Better yet, he could easily add more options as needed.

If he needed to reach out to any lead, new customer, or past customer, he could easily find them and review all their order details. When he wanted to follow up, it only took a few clicks, not a few minutes of shuffling through stacks of papers to find the invoice.

Because this was a web solution, he never had to worry about running backups or computer upgrades. He simply needed to make sure he had a functioning tablet, laptop, or desktop computer.

Opportunities for the Future

Eric also recognized the value of the opportunities this would open up.

The crew could expect a standardized format for all their work orders. With time, they could even eliminate the paper trail entirely, placing tablets or laptops throughout the shop to allow their builders easy access to the work orders.

With a structured format for his invoice, Eric knew he would never miss an important detail, cutting out follow-up calls to the customers asking, “What was it that you wanted?” And he would never have to shuffle through stacks of papers to handle a customer’s change order.

Not only would it improve operational efficiency, but it would also open up opportunities for them to establish additional sales lots and expand their sales team. This would improve communication and help standardize the company culture across those sales locations.

With time, they could start building a customer list, allowing them to reach out to their customers over holidays or simply check in for feedback on their sheds.

Eric also knew he was leveraging a growing platform by working with us. With time, he could tap into additional features such as accounting, inventory tracking, and cost analysis.

Considerations for Your Own Software Solutions

Even though Eric chose to invest in a solution, it’s not the right answer for everyone. When considering a software solution, you must consider the following conditions.

1. What are my current business objectives?

If you’re a startup, your most important priority is to secure sales and fulfill orders. If you choose to invest your capital into building business systems early on, you might consider a solution like this. However, you may also find hiring a part-time secretary would serve you better during your startup period. You might also decide to choose a product and then build your business around it.

If you’re well-established with specific business systems already in place, you may choose to build a solution that closely models your business. Rather than forcing your hand to fit a glove, you may find the right glove that fits your hand.

2. What are the long-term objectives of my business?

While it’s sometimes possible to migrate data from one software solution to another, it’s often an expensive process. At times, it might not even be possible. If it is possible, your team must learn new ways to enter and find information.

When considering your long-term objectives, you need to ask yourself questions such as:

– Will we be able to adapt as my business requirements change?

– Will we be able to add new features without making it overly complex?

– Will the solution be able to support growth as I continue adding information and users?

– Is my vendor continually building for the future?

Consider the long-term objectives of your business before you choose your solution.

3. What are specific requirements?

You must consider specific requirements. For example, do you need on-the-field access? Do you need access to your information in Excel format? Do you need to generate custom PDF reports? Do you need to automate specific email reports? Will the solution operate on a cellular data network?

Of course, these questions cannot be answered without a deep understanding of your business and the specific capabilities of a specific solution.

I encourage entrepreneurs to partner with others to help them identify the answer to these questions. While they are overwhelming, a solution provider will ask the right questions and provide the expert opinion. An expert solution will give you the tools you need, allowing you to be the expert in one thing. At all times, it will allow you to be the expert you really are—in building and running your business.


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