Mobile technology has created a new breed of tradespeople. Wedded to their smartphones and tablets these high-tech combatants are blowing the opposition out of the water.
Sparky Dave Woodhouse has doubled the amount of work he does since he started using his Samsung Galaxy SII smartphone. Competitors in the same market have had to lay off staff.
Woodhouse puts the difference down to new technology. Builders he works with scoff every time the smartphone comes out of his pocket. Yet it is Woodhouse whose business is leapfrogging the competition for jobs.
His Galaxy SII is rarely out of Woodhouse's hand as he replies to texts and emails from a new breed of potential customer who look for tradespeople online and communicate digitally.
One key new source of work for Christchurch-based Woodhouse Electrical is the Builderscrack.co.nz website. Anyone can post a job they want done on Builderscrack and tradespeople who want the work respond.
Woodhouse reckons he lands the majority of the work he bids for on Builderscrack because he's faster off the mark than his competitors. When he hears the special tone he has set up on his iPhone for Builderscrack jobs he pulls the phone out and makes contact immediately.
The tech-savvy electrician has sent up a connection that allows him to operate his office computer from his phone anywhere in the world. "It means that the office is always in my pocket." He has built a Microsoft Access database for quoting and can give customer a quote on the spot if they need it.
Roofing contractors Nick Jenner and Rob Lovie run a weather dependent business. The last thing they want to do is pull off a section of roof and the heavens to open. Rain, wind and the type of longrun roofing they install don't mix.
The Telecom Business Hub Waitakere customers have been assisted with setting up their home office and mobile solutions through Telecom, which has helped the business become more efficient.
Among the many technological weapons they have adopted in their business the MetVUW weather service is one of the best. Nick Jenner can access MetVUW on the office computer or his iPhone on the job. It's a better and more reliable predictor of the weather than old-style TV forecasts, which didn't always forecast Auckland four-seasons-in-one-day conditions as accurately as a roofing contractor needed. As a result Nick Jenner and Lovie have a better idea of whether the weather will be suitable for roofing later that day or the next day.
This forecasting helps lessen the number of weather emergencies where tarpaulins need to be used at short notice. That in turn has benefits for work flow planning and ultimately profitability.
Even simple improvements such as access to email help business. The iPhone helps Nick Jenner answer emails to Affordable Spouting & Roofing Ltd in a timely manner throughout the day and respond to urgent requests, says wife Katrina Jenner. As well as the iPhone, Nick Jenner has an iPad. The Telecom Business Hub showed him how to tether the iPad to the iPhone's data connection, reducing the overall cost of using the technology.
Affordable Spouting and Roofing does a considerable amount of work for builders and developers who send through building plans. In the old days those plans would have been delivered as A2 sheets of paper. Nowadays Nick Jenner and Lovie can receive PDF plans via email and study them on the job using the iPad.
Back at the office Katrina Jenner has set up a wireless printing connection so that her husband can print direct from his iPhone and iPad from wherever he is working.
She enters information from job quote sheets into MYOB and can email quotes straight through to customers. She is considering upgrading to the new MYOB LiveAccounts cloud-based accounting system. Among other benefits, her husband could, in theory, enter quotations online during his downtime on jobs.