How to Make a “Time & Materials” Form

With PEP’s library of production rates, you can make a detailed estimate that calculates time and material based on the surface (sheetrock, smooth trim, rough trim, brick, etc), the method you plan to use (brush, roll, spray), the number of coats, the difficulty level, and the height of the work. But sometimes you just need to record a list of labor hours and materials. This is especially helpful if you come across something you don’t have a production rate for. To help your estimating process go faster, you can make a Time & Materials Form with itemized tasks you frequently do.   Step 1: Decide how you want your T&M estimate to look to clients There are a few ways to go about setting up a Time & Materials form in PEP. The real difference is how it looks when you present to clients in the proposal. Check out the samples below and then jump to steps #2 and 3 for the option you like best. Option A – Simple A list of itemized tasks with one line labeled “materials.” This does not show customers what specific material is being used for each task. Option B – Use Materials from Your Library Shows itemized tasks and specific materials within each line item using the Materials Library. Option C – Note the Material Make a note on each task line to indicate the intended material. Step 2: Begin your estimate Forms are made inside of a job so start by selecting a client and a job, then make a new area and add items. Note: Time & Materials does not...

How to Make and Execute a Project Plan

The warm days of summer are upon us, which means the busy season for many businesses that are anything but lazy! During these months of hectic work loads, you may spot some inefficiencies in your business practice. Projects are how you’ll implement new systems into your business strategy but before doing so, it’s important to develop a project plan. No matter the size of the project, a project plan is your road map to guide you through the process. A project plan is a working document that outlines the direction of a project: the “what” and “how” it will get done. It provides timelines, deliverables, team responsibilities and can be adjusted throughout its course to accommodate unexpected issues.   How Do I Make and Execute a Project Plan? Creating an effective project plan before implementing a new system to your business will ensure greater success in the project and overall business practice. Follow this 7-step process and you will be on your way!   Step 1: Define the Project What do you hope to accomplish? A project may have multiple objectives so be sure to list each one clearly.   Step 2: Discovery and Research This is an important step in your project plan. Some things to consider: How will you go about implementing the project? What tools do you need to complete the project? Who will be responsible for various tasks? How long will each task take? What are the potential risks? How will you measure the project’s success?   Step 3: Verify– Is this worth doing? Think about how the project will enhance your business and if...

Using Notes in PEP

Do you remember taking notes in class with your spiral-bound notebook and ballpoint pen, trying to keep up with the teacher’s lesson? I would ferociously scribble down every word the teacher said and was confused to look up and see other classmates merely jotting down a word or two or, dare I say, not taking notes at all! How will they remember the details? Maybe you’re no longer in school but taking notes is still an important task and can be helpful for the business owner, project manager, crew, and the customer. These notes should be key points you want to remember about your clients and jobs. Enter your notes in PEP to reference later. Because who can remember every detail without a little help?     Recording Notes in PEP There are several ways to add notes in PEP. Some of the notes are just for you in PEP. Other notes will appear on reports you share with your clients and team (eBids, proposals and work orders). Below are a few key places to record different kinds of information. TIP: Notes about the job or estimate will automatically show up on an eBid. If you choose to send your client a proposal, you’ll need to select the medium or high detailed option for notes to be included (or you need to configure your own proposal settings).   Client Notes – Not included in reports These are notes for you to reference about your client, not related to a specific job. Maybe the client has specific likes/dislikes or this might be a record of communication (list of phone call...

Communicating Relevant Information

  Relevant information depends on who you’re talking to.     There’s a lot of overlap in  information that is relevant to clients and relevant to the crew. The areas that are part of the project, the work to be done in each space, the materials and colors: all these details are important for both groups to know. However, a few pieces of information are only relevant to one group. Clients need to know the price of the work. Clients do not need to know the material requirements or the number of man-hours. That is not relevant information. The crew does care about material quantity because they need to make sure they have enough materials. The crew does not need to know how much the client is paying for the project. How to Communicate the Relevant Information   Step 1: Build your estimate in PEP Organize your estimate into areas. Include a picture of the area. Make a list of tasks that will be done in the area and include the material. This is easy if you use a form! (Check out this link for details). When entering your estimate into PEP, there are a lot of details helpful to you as the project manager but not relevant information for your customers (for example: production rate descriptions, which can be confusing). When you convert the estimate into a proposal, your clients will only see what is entered in the NAME column and the PRICE. They never see the production rate DESCRIPTION or the HOURS, which are reference details for you. If you want to change the name of an...

Documenting Business Processes

Whether you are a business owner or an employee, you likely use a number of business processes every day. This means going through the same steps for doing specific tasks (i.e. generating reports, processing invoices, communicating with new leads, etc). Business processes are designed to streamline the way you and your team work. Putting business processes in place and following a set of thought out steps is helpful when training new employees, and will also result in fewer errors, less duplicated work, and overall efficiency and satisfaction for employees and customers. With so many tasks at hand you’ve probably also experienced the results of inefficient processes, which can wreak havoc on a business, its employees and its customers. For that reason, it is important to regularly review business processes and make improvements when they are not working well.   Follow these steps for documenting and reviewing your business processes:   1. Map the process First you have to write everything down. Document each step of the task. A flowchart is helpful for this because it allows you to see the steps visually. It’s important think about the details of each phase and to include every sub task, even the minor ones. You may also want to consult your staff who regularly use the process to make sure nothing is left out.   2. Analyze the process Use your map or flowchart to pinpoint potential problems in the system. Think about these questions: Which steps might cause frustration from employees or customers? Do any steps create a bottleneck and/or delays? Which steps require the most amount of time? Where can...

Setting Goals and Getting Organized for the New Year

The beginning of a new year marks a fresh start. In addition to setting goals for myself for the year ahead, which I prefer over the term “resolutions” that seem to fail after a month or two, I always get the urge to clean and re-organize, purging my house of unnecessary items and bringing back a sense of order after the chaos of the holidays. The same mentality can be applied to your business! Setting goals that are smart and attainable for your business and decluttering your mind and work space are key to being productive. Here are some guidelines we recommend that will help you set goals and get organized in the new year:   Declutter Tidy up your work space by filing papers and archiving digital documents. Throw away unnecessary clutter (mail, magazines, catalogs, etc) and invest in some organizing bins so you always have a place to put things. “A place for everything and everything in its place” is a motto I live by! Starting the year off in a clean, organized space will give you that “fresh start feel” we’re talking about.   Set the bar high (but not too high) Goals should move your business forward but setting realistic goals is critical for success. If your goals are too difficult, you’ll be frustrated when they aren’t met. If they are too easy, your business could go stagnant. To achieve the most, you want to set goals that are high but reachable.   Be specific Setting goals that are specific and in line with the big picture of your business will be more effective than...

Navigating the Slow Season in a Seasonal Business

Depending on where you live, industries like painting and landscaping are seasonal. For many seasonal businesses, moving into the winter months means gearing up for a slower period. As a seasonal business owner you have to carefully plan and budget for the year to make it through your slow season. So what can you do to prepare and how do you keep yourself busy during those months?   Budget, Budget, Budget Financially speaking, businesses have both fixed costs that stay the same throughout the year (rent, insurance, etc.) and variable costs that change depending on the amount of work you’re doing (salaries, materials, etc.). You’ll have to cover your fixed costs, but you should adjust your monthly budget to keep those variable costs down during your slow period. It’s important for you to conserve money and build up a cash reserve during your busy time so you enter the slower season with a cushion. Once work slows down, execute your budget adjustments.   Discounts and Promotions To keep some business moving during your slow season, try offering discounts or promotions to your customers. PEP makes it easy to include a discount on proposals for the materials, the labor cost, or both. Check out this video to learn how!   Focus on Your Business Put extra time to good use during your slow period by catching up on work that is often pushed to the side during the throws of a busy season. Document the processes you use in your business. Give your website need a face-lift. Start a newsletter or blog. Increase your social media presence. Your slow season...

How to Follow-Up On Painting Estimates to Increase Closing Rates

Guest post by Brandon Lewis with The Academy of Professional Painting Contractors.   Apparently, it’s a dirty word… because even painters don’t use it very much. When I ask if they’re doing it regularly, painters are ashamed to admit – they aren’t. It’s embarrassing really… Lest you get offended because your mind is where it shouldn’t be, the “F-Word” I’m taking about is “Follow-Up.” Specifically, follow-up on estimates done in a thorough, proven, and most importantly persuasive manner. This is important for both residential and commercial painting leads. Even large, successful and profitable painting companies can drop the ball here – leaving untold thousands on the table because they “think” they are maximizing their follow-up efforts. If you want your follow-up to be powerful, let me ask you to “Turn Up the T.E.M.P. 3X” on your unconverted estimates using this powerful acronym – T.E.M.P. 3X.   When you turn up the T.E.M.P. 3X, your unconverted leads are contacted using four mediums simultaneously for three rounds of contact at minimum. Please note: From an operational standpoint, I recommend you phone, email, text, and mail in that order… unfortunately P.E.T.M. does not spell anything easy to remember 😉 T is for text: Text message all of your clients because open rates and reply rates are higher for text than email. More people are likely to immediately reply to you after leaving a voicemail.   E is for email: Email your clients because many of them process their personal business out of their email box in their own good time and will get back with you.   M is for mail: Yep! Good,...

What Do Customers Really Want?

Last time we gave you important tips on how to be professional when dealing with customers. Today, we’re going to offer you a little insight to what customers really want from you… It’s probably not what you think! Without customers, your business would fall apart so their experience needs to be a major focus. Acting in a professional manner is top on the list for keeping your customers happy. How you dress, speak and behave are extremely important. While instant gratification has become ubiquitous in today’s world, many people are still choosing quality and experience over fast, cheap service. So give customers more of what they really want!    How to Provide What Customers Really Want…   Communicate quickly, clearly and often. Clear communication ensures you’re always meeting your customers’ expectations. Technology plays a big role in communication today with everything at your fingertips (phone, email and social media, etc). Making yourself constantly available (within reason) is one thing customers really want; many have expressed it as being important when choosing one business over another. We’ve talked about how PEP can help with automating your email communication but setting up an automated chat function on your website is another way to stay in touch with customers during “off hours.” You can also set alerts on your phone when a customer asks a question (via email or social media) to help respond quickly. Choose quality over speed. While efficiency is something your business should strive for, delivering a quality product or service will ultimately please your customers the most. Skimping on quality in the beginning will make it harder to deliver down...

Be Professional: Tips for Making a Good Impression

Working in the service industry, it is important for you to be professional when dealing with clients. That not only means looking clean and put together but also refers to how you communicate and manage your time. The classic line of “we’ll be there between 10AM and 4PM” may work in some industries but do customers really like waiting around all day? And what if the service person arrives with dirty clothes, disheveled hair, isn’t knowledgeable about the work, and uses more slang than real words? Would you take them seriously? We are here to help you be professional with tips on making a good impression.   Dress the Part Your clothing should be appropriate for the work you are doing. Are you going into a home to make an estimate? Will you be painting or doing any physical labor? Your clothes and shoes should be comfortable, clean, and free of holes. Uniforms or business branded shirts are always helpful but when in doubt, dress conservatively; nothing too trendy, too tight, or too revealing.   Be On Time and  Prepared Arrive to appointments on time and ready to work. No matter how you feel, you need to show interest and enthusiasm. Make sure to have all your supplies and equipment ready to go. Act business-like at all time both on-site and in the office. If you are in a client’s home, be mindful and respectful of their things. No smoking, eating or drinking on the job.   Behavior To be professional you want to act friendly but not be over-familiar with your clients. You don’t want to be super...