Four tell-tale signs that your business is stuck in the loop of outdated operations and what to do to escape

5 minute read

Article by AroFlo

No tradesperson ever wants to feel like their business isn’t living up to their expectations. It can be distressing to not see the returns you expect no matter how hard you work and downright infuriating when you can’t figure out why.

You may think you’re failing to make the right moves to grow your customer base. You may think you aren’t hiring the right people who share your business vision. You may even think that your professional sights are set too high. But have you considered that it might not be you, your client base, your employees, or your great expectations?

Instead, it could be something you often think about but never really consider when it comes to judging your operational success; the systems you use to run your business.

The way you operate is undoubtedly something you’ve developed over many years in the business, but that doesn’t make it any less prone to becoming outdated with time. Add to this that rapid digital change is quickly shifting the playing field for many trade businesses, and the need for innovation in the trade operations space becomes even clearer.

But this begs the question, how do you know if the way you operate is the cause of your business not finding the success it deserves?

In this article, we’ll highlight four tell-tale signs that your business is stuck in the loop of outdated operations and discuss how each can affect your ability to run a successful business.

Along the way, we’ll also provide tips on changing the way you operate with minimal disruption using the power of digital automation.

Let’s get started.

Sign 1: Paperwork is taking over your business

A trade business runs on invoices, purchase orders, receipts, safety documents, job cards and timesheets. Every piece of paper has a crucial part to play, and falling behind can leave you putting in extra hours just to keep up. You’ve likely dealt with paperwork most of your professional life, and it has probably become second nature to handle these documents without thinking about how much time they take to process.

It isn’t complacency, just a familiarity that’s led you to always associate an increase in work with an increase in paperwork and more hours spent filling out documents as a result. But knowing when the amount of paperwork you handle is causing harm to your business success can be challenging to work out as a result.

Typically, if the amount of paperwork you complete has you constantly dipping into hours outside of work to keep everything running, then it’s time to reassess your operations. No trade business owner should regularly spend their evenings writing out invoices and filing paperwork, but that’s the reality when you’re stuck in an operational loop.

If you work in the field, you may also find yourself stuck in this loop if the process of carting paperwork between site and office begins taking up time that you’d typically spend completing more work.

Luckily for you, it’s easy to break out of this cycle and eliminate paperwork from your daily business grind. Automation is your friend when it comes to handling documents, and even a simple software system can do the work of multiple people in the same amount of time. Digital invoicing, purchase order handling, and an automated timesheet system can both eliminate paperwork and shift the burden of endless admin from your shoulders, helping you quickly escape outdated operations.

Sign 2: You hire more employees but don’t complete more work

As you scale up your operations and push for greater success, it’s normal to hire more staff to help you fill the new roles that appear as your business grows. After all, growth is a good thing, and it lets you tackle bigger jobs with the help of an expanded workforce.

However, for many trade professionals, once their business grows to a specific size, everything just seems to stop moving quickly, regardless of how many new people you bring on. It can be frustrating knowing your team can take on more work, but no matter how hard you try, there aren’t enough hours in the day to make it happen.

But if the methods you use to schedule work, assign employees to jobs, and keep them informed while they’re in the field are outdated, then all that growth is pointless.

Successful tradespeople value clear lanes of communication and employees who always know what they’re doing and where they’re going next. Without this, a trade business can fall into the loop of hiring more people to complete more work rather than adapting how they manage the work they have now.

Job scheduling software runs rings around manual processes like scheduling by hand and running each day using physical job cards. Digital solutions allow you to assign work back at the office and dispatch instructions to technicians in the field in seconds compared to the minutes it would take by hand. Saving a few minutes sounds like a small change but repeat that process dozens of times a day, and suddenly, you’ve saved hours every week to use for more work.

Sign 3: Your cash flow is getting slower and slower

A functional cash flow is the lifeblood of any trade business. Even small changes to the way money flows in and out of your business can severely affect overall profitability.

Years ago, keeping track of your cash flow was as simple as knowing how much you owed versus how much you were owed. Now it’s a lot more complex, with multiple methods of payment, some instant, and some taking days, which leads to cash flow that’s sometimes unpredictable and often confusing.

But if the rate money moves through your business has been slowing down for some time, then it may be a sign that things aren’t working. Outdated or ineffective financial systems are one of the most pressing issues a trade business can face, and nobody wants to be waiting to get paid for their hard work.

It’s essential to tackle slow cash flow head-on and try to break out of this loop as quickly as possible. Digital payment methods like payment gateways or instant transfer links ensure that payment from clients is received promptly. You can also use a range of software solutions to cut down the time it takes to create and raise invoices, with some even allowing you to invoice clients on the spot.

Ideally, your cash flow should involve no paper at any stage in the process, as digital connectivity is the number one driver for a faster payment cycle.

Sign 4: Communication is breaking down between office and field staff

Good communication between office and field is a vital component of every successful trade business. Without the proper means to exchange details and request information, either team can find themselves unable to do their job properly, and your profitability will suffer as a result.

Businesses stuck in the loop of poor communication often conclude that simply adding more staff to either end of the pipeline will solve their issues. But this is a temporary fix to a problem that only grows over time, and without the proper infrastructure to support both sides, conflict can flare up and cause rifts within your workforce.

Moving away from traditional methods of communication such as phone calls and paperwork is once again the best way of escaping this loop. The adaptability of modern digital systems allows for office and field teams to remain in constant contact, eliminating downtime and facilitating a smooth exchange of information.

Investing in communication doesn’t just help your employees, though. It also provides more avenues for client correspondence and lets your staff interact with customers faster, creating more work opportunities and strengthening your bottom line as a result.

But it’s important to start now.

The longer you wait when your business is showing the signs of being stuck in a loop of outdated operations, the more your success will suffer. It’s vital to be proactive in moving from manual methods to digital automation, and luckily, we’re here to help.

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