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Essential SME business-management tasks made easier

Technology can make business-management processes a breeze. Watch Bruce Billson and Brendan Green of Hire A Hubby explain more.
BRUCE BILLSON: We’ve explored how today, every business needs to be a digital business. We’re about to share with you a really vivid case study, Hire A Hubby, a well-known brand in Australia bringing all that home maintenance know-how that we all wish we had to within the reach of everybody, just by engaging a Hire A Hubby franchise business. Now we can learn about how they brought new digital tools to the traditional tools of home maintenance, commercial building maintenance, and home repair. And we are fortunate to be joined today by Brendan Green, the managing director of Hire A Hubby, who’s built out a traditional business and turbocharged it with the use of digital technology.
Brendan, it’s so good of you to share some time with us today. Can you share a bit more, though? Not just time, but experience and insights about your journey?
BRENDAN GREEN: Sure. Thanks, Bruce. Hire A Hubby just started out very much in the cottage industry space where, you know, a guy would turn up with his trailer towing behind him. He’d have a triplicate invoice pad. He’d usually turn up two or three days after the initial call, because that was the way trades were conducted back then. We identified that there was a move in the market with the smartphone coming in, people had an instant gratification desire and we needed to keep pace with what it was that customers were asking for. And we developed an opportunity for our franchisees to receive their leads electronically through an SMS message and they would then say yes or no to the lead.
So if the capacity was at a point where they are unable to meet the client requirement, they could simply say no, route the job to the next available franchisee who said yes, and on the back of that a message goes to the customer to say, ‘Hi, I’m Brendan. I’m your franchisee looking after you today’, instantly telling them that somebody was going to address their problem, rather than that phone call that’s going to a voice message and they sit back and wait and wonder. That’s certainly revolutionised our opportunity to keep the clients engaged and they stopped looking because someone had responded, and as a consequence our conversion rates were significantly increased.
BRUCE BILLSON: So the fact you could use technology to not only take the call, but activate the process of servicing that requirement, brought great comfort to your customers and they thought, ‘This is covered. I don’t need to make more phone calls. I’m locked in. This is going to be done’. 00:02:13.740 –> 00:02:15.660 align:middle line:84% Is that essentially the transfer?
BRENDAN GREEN: Yeah and that was the starting point of their journey and of an increased customer experience. Because when the franchisee then turned up at the scheduled time, we’d sort of set up a background admin solution which was an outsource for the franchisee. So they could turn up and go and see Bruce the customer. They’d walk in, they’d look at the job and then return to the ute or the van.
And we had a script that they would follow, record the quote details into the voice recorder on their smartphone, and then send that as an MMS message back to headquarters, which was their admin person who logged into their job management system, produced the quote instantly, sent that off to the customer. And within an hour, quite often we would have a response back from the customer from the original time of the visit, 60 minutes later, quote’s been received and accepted. That can then obviously be followed up if the customer hasn’t been quick to respond and the work can then be scheduled in on behalf of the franchisee. So for our franchisees this is our first level customer.
We were taking care of what was an admin burden. The speed with which they got their quotes back meant they increased their return on effort. And the customers were getting something beyond anything they’d experienced before. So technology underpinnned all of that. Just to make sure we’ve covered our requirements as a franchise brand, we like to have the customer get a quote in writing, but obviously, the quote as produced on the smartphone, on the spot covers our terms and conditions. And completing the work in half an hour, hour later, or whatever those small jobs might take, convert that quote into an invoice on the spot, receipt the money from the customer. They’ve then concluded the transaction.
All of that information in the background is seamlessly pushing from our job management system into the zero accounting framework, helping our franchisees to cover off on their admin requirement, and giving the customer conclusion right then and there.
BRUCE BILLSON: And the key you mentioned earlier was for a franchisor, your franchisees are your first customer. And they would have loved this I’d imagine, because it’s more time to actually do the work that generates value and income for their business, and those back end admin things are taken care of for them.
BRENDAN GREEN: Yeah, well, that’s exactly right, Bruce. And then the rate of return a franchise, they can get in our space, it’s a very high-demand area these days. So if they can pay a fraction of their hourly return to an admin person, our guys are not admin-orientated so using technology to enable a process that was not a strength has certainly helped them. But our retention rate, in terms of franchisees staying in the business for longer because their satisfaction levels are higher, our guys aren’t going home and working
until 10:00, 11:00, 12:00 of a night, and creeping into weekends anymore with admin work, because very, very easy in this day and age to keep saying yes to those leads as they come through without the consideration of the consequence, which was often making them busier than they needed to be. So this has striped out a lot of the back of house effort, and gives them time back for themselves and their families.
BRUCE BILLSON: Literally capture, translation into business, support to activate the activity, and you are saying payment on the spot, too, with all of that being processed, a real cash flow bonus, you can just– that end part of the transaction, that must delight your franchisees.
BRENDAN GREEN: Look, it takes away a lot of the problems. Yeah, if you were going home in the old days and producing your invoices after the day, emailing them out, then the process comes back to following up those ones that aren’t paid. Most people expect that a tradesman turns up and they’re going to pay on the spot. So if you create the environment, in our case with the technology, that opportunity was for the franchisees to fast track the collection of those monies, as you said, and not have that uncomfortable follow up. Because a lot of people, in general, forgetting our franchisees, don’t like what is considered, you know, debt collections. So this is certainly enhancing quite significantly.
BRUCE BILLSON: So given your experience, Brendan, what advice– what’s the one thing you’d suggest to other SMEs looking to deepen their digital engagement, based on your learnings and your experience?
BRENDAN GREEN: I think you really need to know what your problem is, because people will try and offer you solutions that might be close to it. So be thorough in your assessment. Get some expert advice and if you need it, to help you go through. And you know what you know, but trying to articulate that to a vendor, or somebody who’s going to custom build something for you. So someone with expertise to draw from you what it is that you need. Once you’ve got that documentation in place, go out and talk to a number of vendors.
If you can find some out-of-the-box solutions that are well supported, certainly, that’s a pathway that is a hell of a lot of easier than developing yourself. But if you do go down the pathway of self-developing, ensuring that there is a good infrastructure behind the platform that you choose to build on would be my first piece of advice in that regard.
BRUCE BILLSON: With clarity about what the problem is you’re trying to solve–
BRENDAN GREEN: Absolutely.
BRUCE BILLSON: –or what the business opportunity is.
BRENDAN GREEN: Good people will take you down the path, or create user stories to say here’s the problem. Here’s the pathway to the solution and then present that to the developer. So there are people that are particularly well skilled in helping you consider articulate what your problems are. The other thing I’ve found is that our staff, in the roles that they’ve played supporting franchisees, they’re doing a better job because they’ve got better information. Their long-term engagement with us as an employer has been enhanced by the fact that they feel good about what they do. They’re not dealing with problems after the event. They’re able to pick them in advance.
They can put solutions in place to avoid problems and then when they come out with a win like that for the franchisee that they manage, they feel good about the job they do.
BRUCE BILLSON: Brendan, it’s so good of you to share some time with us today. Great story at Hire A Hubby, and thank you for your time today.
BRENDAN GREEN: My pleasure. Thank you.
Finance, accounting and some reporting tasks may keep you awake at night, but technology can make these business management processes a breeze.
Digital engagement can provide business efficiency and performance benefits by dealing accurately with routine tasks and processes that help the SME owner/manager better manage internal and compliance requirements.
These digital engagement tools may help to ensure that customer leads are properly responded to, quotations and workflow are properly managed, invoices and payments are made in a timely way and transaction information is entered once and seamlessly works its way through accounting and record-keeping systems.
Here, digital engagement takes the form of internal sharing and use of information across a number of business processes.

Your task

In a retail SME it’s so helpful to have a sale not only recorded as a receipt but that also tells the owner of changes in stock and seamlessly updates profit and loss statements and balance sheet position.
Identify a transaction in your SME that you’d like to see recorded once and then applied a number of ways in your business.
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SMEs and Digital Engagement

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