Customer relationship management and project management systems have become crucial tools to remain competitive in today’s data, social media and mobile driven world.
However, the cost of these systems — often starting at $100 per month — combined with their complexity, may make them unattractive.
That’s why some contractors have put together their own “hacks” — a combination of existing free or low-cost mobile and web apps. These cobbled-together systems create no frills, budget-friendly equivalents of off-the-shelf PM and CRM systems that perform many of the same tasks. Here are four hacks, how they work and much they cost:
BaseCamp is a generic online project management system accessible via web or mobile app. Rather than a typical remodeling project management system, Anna Wuchter, owner of Rock Solid Builders, uses BaseCamp. The system costs $100 a month and allows Wuchter to create and share project details with crews and customers on computers and smart phones. The system has been so efficient, it replaced the need for a project manager. “It’s really been a game changer,” she said.
2. Google Calendar and DropBox
Google Calendar allows you to schedule appointments and receive reminders, while DropBox is an online cloud storage web and mobile app. Both are available for free, though DropBox charges a monthly fee between $8.25 to $12.50 (depending on the service tier and storage level you choose). Above Roofing bootstrapped the two into a system that connects the team, reduces paperwork and minimizes office visits. Google Calendar handles scheduling, while DropBox handles cloud file access. The result? Up to 10 percent faster job completion times. “Tech is great, but tech without a purpose is like, ‘Eh,’” said Above Roofing founder Robert Freeman. “The purpose is to get that sales person in front of a homeowner and provide consistency.”
Evernote is a web and mobile app that allows you to save articles, photos and notes to the cloud. The basic version is free, while the “Plus” version is $25 per year, which includes up to 1 GB of uploads per month. Webber Development uses Evernote Plus as a combo PM and CRM system to keep customers and crews in the loop on projects. Each job gets its own online notebook, which includes the schedule, job details, contact information, even pet’s names. That way everyone has the information they need when they need it. “A lot of times, delays are caused because you don’t know what to do and you don't have the information,” said co-owner, Dan Webber.
Slack is a web and mobile app that bills itself as offering, real-time messaging, archiving and search for teams. Prices range from free to $12.50 per month with an “enterprise” option in the works. Mahogany Builders uses Slack to create a simple, but powerful project management system that’s centralized communications and changed the way the company operates. “It blew my mind with how easily it could be integrated,” said Wes Crocket, the firm’s business manager. “It was almost like it was made for us. Once you start using it, you almost wonder how you lived without it.”