Technology and your business

Technology advances at a dizzying rate. New software, tablets, PCs, cellular phones and more are introduced so frequently people often fail to keep up with each advancement. What matters, however, isn’t being proficient in the latest and greatest technology. Rather, what matters is ensuring you choose technology that works for your company and client base.

In 2002, Gerry Gerber, CR, president of Gerber Software Products LLC, St. Louis, developed a software program, Mo-Bilt, out of sheer frustration. Mo-Bilt, which stands for More Business in Less Time, streamlines the process for contractors and enables easy communication, document sharing and more. 

“Subs were calling me asking for job addresses. Subs showed up to the jobsite and couldn’t find the plans or schematics. I developed Mo-Bilt out of total frustration,” he recalls. Gerber, who acquired his first portable computer in 1980 that he compares to a little suitcase, realized then the tremendous potential for contractors having portability. “A contractor wouldn’t have to be tied to an office,” Gerber says. “He could move around. Nowadays, with mobile devices and so many programs being totally online, the needed systems are all accessible from the jobsite, office or home.”

As such, Gerber was an early adapter of the iPad. “I got it before my iPhone or my Mac; I wanted that portability,” he recalls. “Right now when I go in the field, I just pull up the plans on my iPad. I recently met with an HVAC sub onsite. We pulled drawings, looked at where the different vents were going to be run and how the return air would be located. We laid out everything so the carpenters could put all the holes, then he left. It was all done with no paper.”

Gerber notes how programs, such as Mo-Bilt, help deal with the inundation of technology and information. “We have to be very careful about how we introduce technology into our business and how we use it and leverage it in a way that will best benefit our business and the way we do things,” he says. “It’s a matter of contractors finding the system they’re comfortable with, finding people they’re comfortable with and then putting these systems to work in their business. They can leverage their position as a tech-savvy contractor because homeowners nowadays expect you to have a systematized way to deliver proposals, invoices, correspondence and for them to be able to communicate with you.”

Other features that boost the importance of digital platforms include the ability to enter data regarding time, crews and profitability. “There’s a bundle of information that can be derived from using tech,” Gerber asserts. “The capacity of these systems goes in and above just taking care of the mechanics of delivering documents. It can show which crews work better together and provide better service. Project managers can see how well they executed explaining a job to tradesmen.

The streamlined processes technology affords can help a contractor appear more organized and professional, Gerber believes. “Systems help run businesses more efficiently. By having efficiency in their business, they’re able to be more competitive. Even a small contractor with only two or three people in the field will benefit because they appear to be larger than they are,” he says. “From 2004 to 2010, I was the only individual in my office aside from a part-time bookkeeper. I ran a sub-contractor-based business. I’d use technology to explain what I needed, they’d jump online, give me bids, and then I would take those bids, mark up my professional markup, sell the jobs, produce the jobs and move on. I was running two to four jobs simultaneously by myself while visiting the jobsites twice a week. You can become very efficient. Introducing technology in this manner is very profitable.”

Gerber does caution that many available programs are almost too fancy. “Most of them have a lot of bells and whistles but don’t help with efficiency. They end up slowing people down because they send unnecessary notifications and the subs don’t adopt them. This is a quagmire in these Web-based programs because your subs must be able to use the systems. Otherwise, they’re not of any benefit to you.”

Gerber concludes, “Contractors must feel comfortable that technology is going to merge with their business. We think of Mo-Bilt as the grease for all of your gears. A remodeling company is all of these different mechanisms that need to mesh together to run efficiently. We help transition companies from a paper system to a Web system.”