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4 Small Business Online Tools to Help You Ditch Pen & Paper

Learn Which Online Tools Can Help Scale Your Small Business

Remember what it was like when you first started your local service business?

Working hard to spread the word about your business, running operations, ensuring jobs don’t fall between the cracks, plus all those phone calls, schedules and handling invoices!

But those days are gone and now you’ve reached the point in your home service business where you’ve built a loyal customer base and grown a team. Whew!

So how come you’re still drowning in paperwork? It might hurt your business to stick with your old habits as you are more likely to miss out on leads and lose track of your bottom line.

When you have dozens of spreadsheets to track daily (or hourly!), not to mention the hassle of clunky paperwork, messy handwriting and the risk of losing documents, it can all ruin your day.

The good news is that now there are digital tools available to help you move on from all these headaches!

We picked four impactful tools to help you take your business to the next level. They’re so easy to use, even your most technophobic dispatcher can wrap their head around them in no time.

Top 4 Online Business Tools for Service Companies

  1. Online Sheets
  2. Google Calendar
  3. Project Management Software
  4. Dedicated Service Management Software

1. Online Sheets

Online sheets are a go-to for many service business owners when they first try to go digital. After all, what can be more obvious than switching from a paper sheet to a digital one?

Spreadsheet apps Google Sheets, Airtable, or Excel Online enable you to easily create files, share them with your team and even update them in real-time.

Pros

  • Not a dramatic shift. Everyone on your team is likely already used to spreadsheets, so this transition may actually be more comfortable for them.
  • Price. Some of these apps, like Google Sheets, are free to use.

Cons

  • Usability. Spreadsheets are great when creating tables and graphs, but they can't help you with scheduling, invoices or real-time reporting.
  • Cumbersome. Same as with paper sheets, with time, you'll find yourself creating more and more online sheets until it's hard to keep track of every team and their performance.

2. Google Calendar

Google Calendar makes up for what Google Sheets lacks in coordinating. Schedule jobs for multiple team members and fill in each entry with job details like location and price estimate.

You can even correspond with teammates regarding certain job aspects using the messaging option on Gmail.

Pros

  • Visual scheduling. View and scheduling appointments visually makes it easy for you to see where your technicians are and the available times for booking more jobs.
  • Transparency. Your team members can also view the calendar or specific jobs to plan their commute without contacting you regarding missing job details.

Cons

  • No way to keep track of your bottom line. You'll have to cross-reference job estimates with the actual invoice and add up the numbers via another software or by hand.
  • No way to monitor your team's location and time on site. There's still a chance of job cancellations in case your technician is running late (due to traffic, for instance). Also, you can’t know if your technician took ten minutes or two hours to complete a job, which means you can't assign them another job until they report that they’re available.

3. Project Management Software

If you can't follow time slots, why not manage your workload by tasks?

Organize job boards by tasks, deadlines or progress status, with editable labels to suit your needs, with online project management boards like Trello, Monday, Basecamp or Asana.

This way, team members can update their progress without any help from you.

And if an emergency cancellation does happen, you can always manually reschedule a particular task by moving it to the next due date quickly.

Pros

  • Take on large projects. Project management software can be an excellent solution for big construction or home-renovation projects that include many tasks and action items for your team.
  • Visual aid. You can never miss a task (or a job) when you have them all laid out in front of you visually; plus you can always assign certain tasks and jobs to specific techs as needed.

Cons

  • Necessity. When you own a service business, most of your services will be on-demand, so some features might be superfluous for your needs.
  • Usability. Most project management boards don't support advanced functions like scheduling and calculating (other than paid versions, which require some technical orientation).
  • No private channels. You can't use these platforms for communicating with dispatchers or customers unless you want customers to view everything you write to your dispatchers.
  • Reporting is only possible after the job is completed. There are no options to monitor your team's performance in real-time.

4. Dedicated Service Management Software

Suppose your team already uses a project management board or you simply need more than a standard sheet to organize your team's workflow.

In that case, it might be time to look into dedicated service management software.

These online tools are designed with small businesses in mind and particularly local service companies, with everything you need to streamline your operations without breaking a sweat.

Add-on features such as automatic invoices (integrated with accounting software like Quickbooks) eliminate tedious tasks that come with running any service business.

Furthermore, workflows integrate with services like Zendesk, Zapier and Google Sheets. Don't pull back if that sounds a bit too techy—we assure you that they are all super easy-to-use.

Pros

  • Workflows designed for team collaboration. Service management software enables you to stay on top of your operations and monitor your team's performance in real-time. You can also customize the software according to your line of work (whether you're a plumber, a locksmith, a junk-removal pro or something completely different).
  • Lead nurturing. Service management platforms aim to help you earn more money by not letting job opportunities slip. Workiz, for instance, has an integrated phone system for call monitoring, notifying dispatchers of missed calls and job booking (call queuing) outside of regular business hours. It also has an online booking option and a partnership with Google Local Services Ads to help you book straight out of search results.
  • Invoicing. Billing platforms automate the billing process for you so everything runs smoothly with no hassle on your side. These systems typically also have integrations with email systems to send out reminders for unpaid invoices.

Cons

  • Price. Service management software can feel expensive when starting, especially if your team is small, so consider them an investment as your business scales up.
  • Require some technical orientation. There can possibly be a learning curve for some employees when adopting robust tools. You may want to watch some tutorials, read help articles or ask for support and guidance from a more technical employee or business mentor before feeling like you know your way around these systems.

Grow Your Small Business With Online Service Tools 

If you're unsure what is the best digital tool to use, we suggest starting small. Many of these options offer a free version or a free trial.

Use them for a particular project or timeframe to see how they work out for your team. Don't give up if you fail, as there are many options and the challenge is finding the right one for you.

When your business grows, these tools will be there for you over the long haul, so select the ones that you feel most comfortable with. Good luck!

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