Recently posted outside the office of my colleague Todd Shraiberg, director of electronic media and editor in chief of HousingZone.com, is a software company ad featuring “six dangerous myths about e-business platforms.” The items Todd posts are either hilarious or educational, but always worth a read. In this case, though most remodelers don’t need “enterprise portal technology” or “middleware integration solutions,” I found that the ideas reinforced what we’re trying to convey in this month’s cover story on technology, “Working Smarter.” In my words, here are four helpful truths about using technology in remodeling:
1. Technology — hardware and software, the Internet and e-mail, wireless tools and applications — is here to stay. Get on the bus or get run over. More and more readers tell me that their customers come to them much more educated than they used to be, having used the Internet to research the process and products inside out. Then they want to be able to e-mail their contractor questions, see a model of what their design will look like ... the list goes on. Meeting, let alone exceeding, customer expectations will require technology.
2. You often can improve your profits by using technology. Granted, you will have to increase your expenditures as well (see No. 4), but technology can be likened to energy-efficient building: Sometimes a high initial cost is worth the long-term savings. Bob Gallagher of Sun Design Remodeling Specialists says that using personal digital assistants (PDAs) in the field has allowed his company to identify and then eliminate inefficient practices, saving nearly $250,000 a year.
3. Technology isn’t the answer to everything. It won’t always improve profits or productivity. Remodeling is still, at heart, a personal, face-to-face business. There’s no point in throwing money at every new software program or gadget on the market. You know your business better than anyone else; don’t buy anything without knowing that it will fill a real business need. Ask peers for referrals and get more than one opinion. Estimating software alone has inspired heated debates worthy of the Yankees/Red Sox rivalry. And the real challenge often comes in trying to integrate all the programs.
4. At the same time, be willing to recognize that purchasing, upgrading and maintaining computers and PDAs and software might be a necessary cost of doing business. As one of my advisory board members said at our last meeting, “Some guys will spend $35,000 every three years on a truck, but they won’t do it on software.”
We’ve tried to present practical, cost-effective business practices rather than blue-sky applications. Share your technology stories with us — hilarious or educational as the case may be — so Todd can post them for all to see on www. HousingZone.com.