All-In-One Field Service Management Software by Aptora –

Author name: James R. Leichter

James R. Leichter, renowned HVAC business consultant, author, and public speaker, is dedicated to empowering HVAC businesses with innovative strategies and insights. Leichter, affectionately known as 'Mr. HVAC,' brings over 27 years of industry expertise and a passion for practical solutions, assisting HVAC businesses to streamline operations and maximize profits. Discover transformative guidance at MrHVAC.com.

Young man holding credit card and tablet at home at table

Managing Credit Cards in Total Office Manager

Managing Credit Cards simply means you track any charges and credits applied to your merchant Credit Cards and verify this activity against your statements each month.  Credit Card activity is track by entering each transaction into Total Office Manager as a Credit Card Charge or Credit Card Credit when the charge/credit occurs.  Anytime someone uses the company card to purchase anything, your bookkeeper should receive the receipts for these transactions.  They are then entered into Total Office Manager as a Credit Card Charge/Credit.  When your statement arrives, you reconcile the transactions in Total Office Manager against the statement and decide how much to pay. The running balance for the Credit Card account is stored in your Credit Card Chart of Account balance.

Accessing the Credit Card Menus

From the main menu options, click Banking | Manage Credit Cards

From the Manage Credit Cards pop out menu, you will find the options that are available for managing your Credit Card accounts.

  •      Enter Credit Card Charges: Entry of individual charges made on your Credits Cards. Click here for more information
  •      Enter Credit Card Credits: Entry of credits/refunds issued to your Credit Card. Click here for more information
  •      Credit Card Credit/Charge List:  A central location for all Credit Card Charges and Credit Card Credits that have been entered into Total Office Manager.
  •      Verify & Pay Credit Card:  Entering Payments on your Credit Card accounts and reconciling of the Credit Cards against statements received from your Credit Card merchant. (Read further below for instructions)

Setting up Credit Card Accounts for Use in Total Office Manager

  • From the main menu options, click Banking | Chart of Accounts List.

  • By either right clicking on the list form or going to the Chart of Accounts List form menu, choose the option New Account.

  • Select Credit Card as the from the Type drop down.  Complete the remaining Chart of Account information.  

  • In the Vendor drop down, select the Vendor Name that you receive your statements from.  Once you begin entering transactions for this Credit Card, you will NOT be able to change the Vendor selection.  Please verify that the correct Vendor is selected before entering transactions.  If the Vendor for your Credit Card does change, you will need to setup a new Credit Card account and designate the new Vendor.

o For existing Credit Card accounts, you will need to edit the Chart of Account for your existing Credit Card accounts and designate the Vendor that is associated with your Credit Cards PRIOR to proceeding with Credit Card transactions in the program.

Verify & Pay Credit Card Menu Options

Total Office Manager allows you to manage your Credit Card Payments in two different ways.  By choosing the option to “Make a Payment on a Credit Card Balance”; you can quickly pay against the outstanding balance on your Credit Card account, without the hassle of reconciling.  This feature is handy for partial payments that need to be made on your Credit Card between statement cycles.  In order to make payments using the Credit Card Payment form, you will need to have Security permissions to Write Checks and/or Enter Credit Card Charges.

If the option is chosen to Reconcile Credit Card, you can verify any Credit Card activity that appears on your Credit Card statement against the information that has been submitted and entered into Total Office Manager. In order to make reconcile a Credit Card, you will need to have Security permissions to Reconciliation, Write Checks, and/or Enter Bills.

Making Payments on Credit Card Accounts

  • Select Credit Card:  This is a drop down menu that lists only Chart of Account types that are Credit Card.

  • Current Balance: This is a non-editable field that displays the Chart of Account balance.  The balance displayed in this field is for all time.

  • Payable to: This is a non-editable field that displays the Vendor assigned within the Chart of Account.

  • Date of Payment:  This is the date that you are making the payment.  By default, the date is set to today’s date.

  •  Amount to Pay:  This is the amount that you are creating the payment for.

  • Remaining Balance: This is a non-editable field that displays what the new balance for the Credit Card will be after the payment is generated. 

  • Payment Method: The method you are going to make the payment.  Acceptable payment options are Check or Credit Card.

  • Account Paid From: The Chart of Account (Bank or Credit Card) payment is being made from.

  •  Pay Now: Creates a Check or a Credit Card Charge.

o When the Payment Method is Check: Clicking the Pay Now button, the newly created Check will be opened automatically.  This Check will appear as follows:

o   Bank: Populated based on the Account Paid From on the Credit Card Payment form. 

  Pay to the order of: Populated based on the Payable to on the Credit Card Payment form. 

o   Date: Populated based on the Date of Payment on the Credit Card Payment form. 

o   Amount: Populated based on the Amount to Pay on the Credit Card Payment form. 

o   Memo: CC Payment via CC Pay form for Card #1234567890123456 by default, with Card # being the entry in the Card No. field on the Chart of Account. You can change this if necessary.

o   Expenses Account: Populated based on the Credit Card Chart of Account selected on the Credit Card Payment form. 

o   Expenses Amount: Populated using the Amount to Pay on the Credit Card Payment form. 

o   Expenses Memo: CC Payment via CC Pay form for Card #1234567890123456 by default, with Card # being the entry in the Card No. field on the Chart of Account.  You can change this if necessary.

Reconciling Credit Card Accounts

Account: Shows only Chart of Account types which are Credit Card.

·         Statement Date: Selection should be made to match the statement date that appears on your Credit Card statement that you received from your merchant.

·         Last Reconciled: Shows the last Statement Date that was reconciled for the Account that is selected.

·         Previous Balance: Displays the New Balance from the last reconciliation that was completed for the Credit Card selected.

·         New Balance: Should be entered based on the New Balance that is reported on your Credit Card statement that you received from your merchant.

·         CC Payment Method:

o Create Check for Full Payment Now: Creates a Check for the amount in the New Balance field once the account is reconciled.

o Create Bill for Full Payment Later: Creates a Bill for the amount in the New Balance field once the account is reconciled.

o Reconcile with Partial Payment Now: Creates a Check for the amount entered on the Reconciliation form once the account is reconciled.

o Reconcile without Payment (Pay Later): Selected entries are reconciled without the creation of a Bill or Check.

·         Finance/Interest Charge:  Enter if you received penalties on your Credit Card statement.

·         Date: Enter the date any penalties were accessed.

·         Account: Select the Chart of Account that you would like the Finance/Interest Charges to report in on your financial reports.

·         Click the Cancel button to close the form or Continue to proceed with the reconciliation process.

·         Mark All: ALL transactions that are currently displayed on both sides of the Reconciliation form are checked.

·         Unmark All:   ALL transactions that are currently displayed on both sides of the Reconciliation form are unchecked.

·         Hide transactions that appear after the Statement Date

o This is a Checkbox option.   When checked, all transactions that are AFTER the Statement Date entered on the Begin Reconciliation form will be suppressed.  If you begin checking off transactions, please save the form before checking this option.

·         Enter Charge

o When clicked, Enter CC Charge form is opened.  When CC Charge is saved, Reconciliation form is auto refreshed with new entry.

·         Enter Credit

o When clicked, Enter CC Credit form is opened.  When CC Credit is saved, Reconciliation form is auto refreshed with new entry.

·         Charges & Payments Mark: Allows you to quickly check Charges and Cash Advances that have a Date within the From & To date range.

·         Charges & Payments Unmark: Allows you to quickly uncheck Payments and Credits that have a Date within the From & To date range.

·         Payable To: This is a non-editable field that displays the Vendor assigned within the Credit Card Chart of Account.

·         Amount to Pay: Based on options selected on the Begin Reconciliation form, allows for entry of an amount to pay at the end of the Reconciliation.

·         Pay Date: This is the Date that you are making the payment.  It will default to today’s date.

·         Refresh: Reloads the form with updated transactions.

·         Save: Saves the existing form.

·         Reconcile Now: Clears all transactions selected and prompts for Reconciliation report to be displayed for your records.

When the option to Create Check for Full Payment Now is selected, the Check for the amount in the New Balance is created.

 Bank: Populated based on the Account Paid From on the Credit Card Payment form. 

 Pay to the order of: Populated based on the Payable to on the Credit Card Payment form. 

o Date: Populated based on the Date of Payment on the Credit Card Payment form. 

o Amount: Populated based on the Amount to Pay on the Credit Card Payment form. 

o Memo: CC Payment via CC Pay form for Card #1234567890123456 by default, with Card # being the entry in the Card No. field on the Chart of Account. You can change this if necessary.

o Expenses Account: Populated based on the Credit Card Chart of Account selected on the Credit Card Payment form. 

o Expenses Amount: Populated using the Amount to Pay on the Credit Card Payment form. 

o Expenses Memo: CC Payment via CC Pay form for Card #1234567890123456 by default, with Card # being the entry in the Card No. field on the Chart of Account.  You can change this if necessary.

When the option to Create Bill for Payment Later is selected, a Bill for the entire amount entered in the New Balance is created.   In order for the partial payment from the Bill to appear correctly in the next Credit Card reconciliation, you will need to edit the Bill amount PRIOR to paying it.  The edited Bill amount needs to reflect the actual amount you are paying against your Credit Card balance.  While this option is available, it is recommended that you utilize the Credit Card Payment form for making partial Payments against your Credit Card. 

  •     Vendor:  Vendor assigned within the Credit Card Chart of Account.
  •     Reference #: Blank by Default.  You can manually enter the Reference # if needed.
  •     Memo: CC Payment via 7/31/2010 CC Reconciliation for Card #1234567890123456 by default. Date populated is the Statement Date entered on the Begin Reconciliation form and the Card # entry that appears within the Credit Card Chart of Account.
  •       Date: Populated using the Date selected on the Reconciliation form. 
  •       Date Due: Populated based on Terms. 
  •       Amount: Populated based on the Amount to Pay on the Reconciliation form.
  •       Expenses Account: Populated based the Credit Card Chart of Account selected on the Begin Reconciliation form. 
  •       Expenses Amount: Populated based on the Amount to Pay on the Reconciliation form.
  •       Expenses Memo: CC Payment via 7/31/2010 CC Reconciliation for Card #1234567890123456 by default. Date populated is the Statement Date entered on the Begin Reconciliation form and the Card # entry that appears within the Credit Card Chart of Account.

When the option to Reconcile with Partial Payment Now is selected, the Check for the amount entered on the Reconciliation form in the “Amount to Pay” field is created.   This Check is created just like the Check explained for the Create Check for Full Payment Now option.

When the option to Reconcile without Payment (Pay Later) is selected, the Credit Card account is reconciled with selected entries being cleared and without the creation of a Bill or Check.

Audit Trail Entries for Reconciling Credit Card Accounts

For your reference, anytime a Credit Card is reconciled, Audit Trail Entries are created to indicate the manner in which a Credit Card account was reconciled.

Related Topics

Entering Credit Card Charges

Entering Credit Card Credits

Reports – Credit Card Charges/Credits

VIDEO – Credit Card Charges

VIDEO – Credit Card Credits

VIDEO – Credit Card Charges, Credits, and Reconciliations

James Leichter Teaches Materials Management / Inventory Management at Contractor University

Aptora Owner James Leichter, a founding instructor at EGIA, was asked to give a 2-day workshop for Contractor University.

Materials Management and Inventory Management

Understanding material handling possibilities throughout your business – including accountability for it in the field – is crucial to contracting business success.

In this workshop, dealers will learn to create an efficient material replenishment process for their companies, while getting the tools and training to tie metrics to inventory management system in a way that ensures you’re driving profit – not just revenue.

Attendees will also learn:

  • Field Accountability for Material Handling
  • Standardized Vehicle Stock Systems
  • Replenishment Procedures for Review
  • Establishing Inventory for 85% first time Service Call Completion rate
  • GPS Technology
  • Electronic Invoicing and Processes
  • Purchasing Procedures

Learn Inventory Management directly from James in his new book.
On sale now as both a physical book and an ebook.
Use the link below and Get Yours Today!
The Essential Guide to Inventory Management with Total Office Manager

Cropped shot of Professional architect working at his desk, measuring and estimating the house proje

Understanding Estimates in Contracting

Creating Estimates for Contract Jobs

Contractors use estimates to help them project the cost of labor, materials, and profitability on job jobs they bid.  They use them to quote remodel jobs for homeowners.  They present them as proposals for the replacement of the HVAC equipment for a property management company. Without any of these estimations, a contractor would rely on their knowledge of the industries and experience to just know if a job is making them money.  Unfortunately, without proper estimation tools in hand, miscalculations due to rise of material cost for inflation, labor mismanagement, etc., a poorly estimated job can cost you a lot of time and money.

Estimates serve many purposes.  They are the starting point to AIA reporting, job costing, and/or contract analysis. They are entered when you want to:

  1. Track the jobs you have presented quotes on for contracted work.
  2. Measure the overhead and all costs associated for review of the job profitability.
  3. Assess project costs to make sure you are within the estimated projections.
  4. Analyze the type of jobs which make you profitable along with the types of jobs you wish to avoid.

It is common practice for companies to use programs which specialize in estimating.  There is not one program to handle all estimating needs for a contractor.  After all, the presentation for the job you are quoting and the documents you provide to your customer are something which will represent your company. It is important the presentation of your estimates be discussed among your team and selected accordingly.  In Total Office Manager, you will want to record the estimate to keep track of the estimates quoted, awarded, and lost.

Determining how to enter an estimate, you must understand the types of estimates you can enter.  There are four (4) estimate methods you may use.  For some companies, they will use one (1) or two (2), while others will use a combination of them all:

  1. Flat Rating
  2. Time and Materials (T & M)
  3. Hybrid of Flat Rate and T & M
  4. Project Bidding (commonly used for AIA Payment Applications)

Flat Rating

The Flat Rate style of estimating allows you to quickly add the components for a contract job without having to list all the details of the items needed.  This style of estimating typically contains a single line for the total contract price with sections lines for things like labor, equipment, parts and materials, subcontractors, permits, etc.  These items would then contain the estimated cost to complete the work.  You might see these entries are bid items or quoted work in your estimate.  Once the estimate is approved, details of the items needed would then be added to the estimated or work order to begin staging for the job. When invoicing from the estimate, exact parts and materials used are then added to the invoice from work orders and use of reimbursables.  Below are examples of how the estimate lines might appear.

Time and Materials (T & M)

The Time and Materials style of estimating requires a bit more detail.  This style of estimating lists all components of the job which are expected.  You might consider this as the detailed pull sheet for all materials and components estimated to complete the job.  Completing the estimate in this manner may prove beneficial or time consuming.  When invoicing from the estimate, materials used are then reconciled against the work orders and reimbursable material requisitions.  Below is an example of how the estimate lines might appear.

Hybrid Flat Rate and T & M

The Hybrid Flat Rate and T & M style of estimate combines both methods but only details out specifics as required by the IRS rules and regulations.  When invoicing from the estimate, materials used are then reconciled against the work orders and reimbursable material requisitions. Below is an example of how the estimate lines might appear.

Project Bidding

The Project Bidding style is typically used in conjunction with AIA Payment Application billings.  The estimate is created to mirror the Schedule of Values.  When invoicing from the estimate, materials used are typically entered on a separate materials invoice and reconciled against the work orders and reimbursable material requisitions. In some instances, the material is added to the progressive invoice after the AIA Payment Application is completed. Below is an example of how the estimate lines might appear.

Business executives in a management meeting

How to Choose the Right Business Management Software (Ultimate Guide)

Integrating business management software is key to running a successful contracting business.  With this software, you can streamline processes and eliminate needless tasks in seconds that would otherwise add days to your workload. Using this software reduces your labor costs and increases the efficiency of your workforce. Overall, you can make better business decisions with the important data that the business management software automatically tracks.

What is Business Management Software?

The term “Business Management Software” is not an official category of software. The term has been widely used to describe a category of software that has the features and capabilities needed to manage most aspects of a company. These software programs attempted to be an all-in-one solution. These software programs include capabilities such as marketing, sales lead management, customer relationship management (CRM), purchasing, sales, estimating, payroll, inventory tracking, custom reporting, and more. 

field-service-advice-quote

For years, business management software was built with generic features and capabilities that might appeal to the widest range of companies. Businesses began to demand more specialized software to meet their individual business needs. What was good for a plumbing company, was not always good for petroleum equipment services business. Electrical contractors may have their own unique requirements. Companies began to demand more specialized business management software systems. 

Specialized Business Management Software

Software companies began to modify their software or build new software programs to meet the needs of specific industries. Software companies began to build software programs designed for specific industries such as HVAC, plumbing, electrical, and other similar businesses.  

Some software programs are not only built for a certain industry but also a sub-set to that industry. One example is “HVAC Field Service”, where the HVAC company focuses on providing services in the field, that have a relatively short time frame. This can include demand service, maintenance, and equipment replacements. Another subset is “HVAC Construction”. These jobs might sell for millions of dollars, require crews of skilled technicians, and last for months. There are software programs that are more geared towards contracting companies that perform mostly commercial work while others are built more for residential services. 

How Do You Know When You Need Business Management Software?

upgrade-your-business-with-management-software

There are several signs to look out for. If one or more of these apply to your company, you may need more specialized business management software. 

  1. Your company depends on a lot of spreadsheets, PDFs, and other software programs to fill in the missing gaps of your current software.  
  2. It is hard to get information you need for planning, forecasting, decision making, or to prepare for management meetings. 
  3. You cannot tell which departments are making money. You cannot easily evaluate the performance of your technicians, installers, and other billable personnel. 
  4. Your financial reports, job costing reports, and other reports do not seem accurate, or they don’t contain enough information about your company and its activities.

What are the Benefits of Business Management Software?

field-service-management-representation

Save Time and Money

When a business management software program is built just for your business segment, it will help you do things far more efficiently and accurate. You will save time by eliminating double entry of information. Your company will be able to find vital information faster through simple searches and queries. You will be able to reduce or eliminate documents and other paperwork. That information will be retrieved electronically, saving you time, money, and space. 

Get Hyper Organized with Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) 

When you invest in excellent business management software built for your industry, numerous best practices and SOPs are built in. Specialized software will make it easier for your employees to perform bookkeeping and other tasks according to known best practices for your industry. Reports will be far more meaningful and easier to produce. 

Manage Your Company by the Numbers

Take the guesswork out of financial decision making and reduce the risk of failure. Questions like how much should we charge for products or service, how much can we afford to pay, are we on budget, will we run out of money soon, and other important questions can be answered in seconds. Excellent business management software, built for your industry, will quickly tell your where you are making money and where you are losing money. You will have financial reports for each department, and you will be able to hold your employees accountable with clear objective information. 

Important Features to Consider in Business Management Software

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accounting-icon

Accounting and Payroll Must Be Built-in

This recommendation is our most important one. We highly recommend avoiding business management software that requires you to buy a completely separate software program for accounting and payroll. The accounting engine is the basis of all financial related reports. Full enterprise level accounting must be built into the software and not an add-on. 

Labor control is the most important element to profitability. If your business management software cannot directly process payroll, you will have largest hole in your job costing and other financial reporting. Only consider business management software that has heavy accounting and complete payroll completely built into it. Be on the lookout for unscrupulous companies calling their software “all-in-one”. 

accounting-icon

Core Accounting

Your software should have accounting functions built for an enterprise level business. These features are broadly known as accounts receivable, accounts payable, banking, estimating, purchasing, inventory, fixed assets, payroll, collections, budgeting, general ledger, and reporting. 

reporting-icon

Specialized Payroll and Time Tracking

If there is anything you will want your software to do properly, it is pay your employees. Payroll systems need to be able to handle the way you pay and incentivize your employees, especially the high performing ones. Select a business and field service management software program that offers performance-based compensation, sales commissions, spiffs, and incentives. You may also need prevailing wage and certified payroll features.  

It should be easy to time in and out of jobs or clock in and out when coming to work. Integrated time tracking features reduce the time associated with hourly-based paychecks. 

FSM-software


Financial Reporting by Division and Department

Your company likely has multiple departments that drive revenue (AKA: Profit Centers). You should only consider investing in business management software that offers complete departmentalized financial reporting. You need to know where you are making and or losing money, and you need to know this ASAP. Insist on having financial reports for each division, department, and profit center. 

Budgeting and Forecasting

Budgeting is a vital part of business planning and motivating staff members. With accounting built into your software, creating budgets should be fast and easy. That’s because they are built from prior financial data. 

Flat Rate Pricing

Many field service contracting companies use flat rate pricing in their demand service and other departments. Select a business management software system that includes a flat rate pricing system that you can maintain yourself. When your software includes full accounting, flat rate tasks are updated automatically, as your company performs regular bookkeeping tasks. 

flat-rate-pricing


Human Resource Management (HRM)

HR management for many companies can be incorporated into their business management software program. Since the software has a payroll system, adding HR functionality makes a lot of sense for the software maker. Chose business management software that keeps track of employee reviews, emergency contacts, timesheets, history of raises, reprimands, and more. 

Advanced Inventory Management

This is another critical area for business management software, and it is possible when enterprise level accounting is built into it. There should be many advanced inventory features includes multi-warehouse, serialized item tracking, unit of measure, location and bins, automatic reordering & replenishment, item assembly, kits, grouping, history, and advanced reporting. Bar code scanning is common. Some software programs have the ability to scan existing bar codes, that are already on the package. You don’t need to print labels. It should also be easy to correct inventory numbers, batch update retail pricing, and import pricing from vendors.  

Fixed Asset Management

You will want the ability to track all your equipment, vehicles, machinery, tools, and other important fixed assets. A great business management software program will track all expenses incurred against your fixed assets. You will be able to calculate depreciation schedules, track maintenance reports, setup reminders, assign assets to employees, assign assets to jobs, schedule assets to be used on jobs, and more. 

Document and File Management

Get rid of file cabinets. They take up valuable space and finding information is inefficient. Find a business management software system that makes it easy to scan bills, receipts, and other paperwork for fast simple retrieval – in the office and in the field. 

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Custom Reporting and Using Excel Spreadsheets

Look for industry specific reports and key performance indicators (KPIs). No matter how many reports the software includes, you will want to create your own. You will also want to be able to quickly open reports and lists of information in Microsoft Excel®. 

Build PDFs That Work With Your Business Management Software

We know that many contractors use PDFs to collect information and manage their business. You don’t want to give up on using PDFs that are important to your company. There is no sense in entering information into a PDF if you must then reenter into your new business management software program. Find a software application that allows you to build PDFs that save the information within the database. You may then use that information for sales, marketing, and other analysis. Other software users will be able to open those PDFs as soon as another user saves one. 

Mobile Field Services App

Field service management is a vital part of many businesses. It is important that your business management software also include field service management capabilities. The app should have a real-time (live) connection to the same database that your office is connected to. The app should be easy to use and allow technicians to view work orders, customer history, order parts, create invoices, and process credit cards. Managers should be able to view employee stats, company KPIs, sales activity, order parts, check on the status of parts, lookup customer history, view equipment repair history, and many other vital activities. 

Robust User Audit Trail

A good enterprise level audit trail records user activity, from the time they log in until they log out. The audit trail should capture details about the device they connected with, forms that were accessed, and reports that were ran. Many audit trail systems neglect to record details about users importing or exporting data. If your custom list is exported, you will want to know who did it and from what computer or device. The audit trail should also note when users are backdating financial records, adjusting key security settings, editing other user’s payroll records, and other potentially dangerous activities. 

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Granular Security is Vital

Security is a core and crucial component to any good business management software program. It is important to be able to closely control what features and reports users can access. You will also want to be able to closely control how the software behaves depending on the user and their role in the company. Select a software program that offers view, edit, add, delete, inactivate, and void permissions by user for every single form and report.  

You may also with to have the ability for managers to approve certain purchase orders, estimates, invoices, and other important transitions. Keep this in mind when looking for your next business management software solution. 

Lock Down Financial Periods

Protect the past from the future. To prevent problems and accounting regularities, it is recommended that you lock down accounting periods as soon as bank and credit card accounts have been reconciled and the “books are closed”. However, authorized users should be able to easily correct bad information without affecting the financials. When a period is locked, it should never be rendered permanently non-editable. 

Extensive Preferences, Settings, and Defaults

A good business management software program will offer several hundred different preferences and system defaults. These fine-tune the software’s behavior and perfect the user’s experience. What is good for one user, may not be good for another. Ask your sales representative to show their preferences page to you. There should be hundreds of global and user preferences. If they fall short, that means their software cannot be tailored to individual needs. 

Open SQL Database

Avoid software that uses proprietary databases or databases that you cannot get direct access to. You may need to have an IT person get data from your dataset for various reasons. You may decide to switch software down the road. Many companies hold your data hostage. 

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Training, Migration and Support

We will finish our discussions of important features by covering these vital elements of your software investment.  

Software Training

Training is an essential process to your company’s successful onboarding. Ask about their software training programs. Be sure your staff takes training as seriously as they would an online college course. That means cell phones are off, doors are closed, and notes are being taken. Ask your staff what they learned and ask to see their notes. 

Migrating Your Old System’s Data

The data migration can be one of the most important, and often overlooked “features” of your new business management software program. You will want a software company that has experience migrating data from your software program. Schedule a meeting with their migration supervisor to discuss your options. 

QuickBooks Data Migration

If you have been using QuickBooks®, you may wish to keep your accounting information, financial transactions, payroll, and other information. Ask your business management software provider if they can migrate your QuickBooks information, including complete financial records. Be wary of companies that claim to migrate financial transactions. They  are likely just enter beginning and ending balances. 

Technical Support

Once your staff has been trained, there will need basic technical support. Your software provider should provide their support agents with ongoing training. Ask to view their software product documentation. They should have an extensive collection of written materials and videos. 

Business Consulting

Any good software company should be able to provide training and support. Consulting is a whole different level. Once your company is using the software comfortably, it will be time to go to the next level of software mastery. Since your bought business management software to manage your entire business, you may wish to work with a software product expert who understands bookkeeping and accounting and how to apply those concepts to your company’s specific way of doing things. Unlike a trainer, a great consultant can show you better ways to operate your business and how to use the software for your specific requirements. Consultants can also design new software features and modifications for your company to consider investing in. Paid custom software programming is something your new software company should be willing to offer. 

business-consulting What to Look for in a Business Management Software Company 

Make sure they understand your business. That is the only way they will be able to build software that solves your business problems. They must know your industry if they are going to be able to understand what you are asking for and why. Find out who the owner is and investigate their background. Have they worked in an industry like yours? Google their name and find out. 

Someday you may need a feature or capability that is vital to your company. You are not going to want to switch software all over again. You should be able to speak with someone who has the authority to make changes to the software. The software company should offer paid custom programing to those who need it. They should also have a “feature request system” that is transparent and allows other users to vote and comment on ideas for software features. 

Some companies brag about being in business for a longtime. They don’t tell you that the company has been bought and sold numerous times and is now owned by investors trying to maximize value so they can sell out or go public. These companies are likely to change ownership. With each new owner, the software company loses is original purpose and focus. When a  software company loses their way, the customer suffers. 

choosing-the-right-software Determining Your Budget 

If you invest in the correct software, there will be some cost savings due to efficiency gains. That is a hard number to pinpoint, but you should keep that in mind when deciding how much you can afford. 

Remember this important point, and you likely say this to your own customers. It’s always more expensive if you must do it all over again. I know companies that are on their third or fourth software program. If they had selected the correct software the first time, they would have saved a lot of money. Be sure to buy software that can do the things it was bought to do. If you don’t. You will need to set aside more money so that you can afford to get the software that you really need. 

Software Shopping Tips 

Have a list of your company’s absolute must have features and capabilities. Make sure they demonstrate to you their software has those things. Have them use real-world scenarios when they demonstrate the software’s capabilities. 

Be careful about assuming the software does what it looks like it can do. Like a magician, salespeople will sometimes show you the end result, and not the steps it took to get there.  

Make certain that you have them put all their pricing, fees, and other expenses in writing. Know what the ongoing fees are and how often they can increase their pricing or change the terms of the sale. They will sometimes work to get your business so tightly wrapped into the web, that you can’t get out. That’s when you might see them raise prices and nickel and dime you to near death. 

Be wary of contracts that contain one-sided language designed to only protect their software company and limit your recourse. Look at their agreements before you get too far into the sales process. 

Ask your potential business management software company about their owner. Talk to the owner(s). Ask them what their plans are for the future of the business and the software. Interview them like you would an important long-term vendor or employee. 

Key Takeaways

inventory-management

Only invest in a true all-in-one business management software that includes enterprise level accounting and industry specific payroll. Don’t get talked into buying a half-completed software program that requires you to purchase an accounting and payroll system. 

Make a list of “must have” and “like to have” features. Be sure the software company proves their software has the features you must have and has many of the features you want.  

A great software company will offer business consulting. Their consultant should be able to understand your business processes and show your staff how to use the software for your company’s specific way of doing things. 

The successful and complete migration of data from your current software to your new software is essential. Ask to meet with their migration specialist to go over your options. If you’re a QuickBooks owner, make sur they can migrate your QuickBooks financial data at an individual transaction level. 

Deal with a software company that understands your business and plans to be around for a long time. Be cautious of companies that are owned by investors whose only motivation is maximizing their ROI. Google the owner’s name and see if they are involved in your industry in a positive way. 

 

James R. Leichter is a longtime HVAC contractor, consultant, and public speaker. James is president and CEO at Aptora Corporation, a maker of contracting business management software. He is the editor of MrHVAC.com. James is a partner at RA Tax and Accounting, Inc. James is a founding faculty member at EGIA Contractor University.  

Happy customer and mechanic in workshop

Advice for Building Long-Term Friendships with Customers

There is an old story about a salesman that’s about to embark on an overnight business trip to a big city. His young son begs to go with him, yearning to take a vacation with his dad and not fully aware of what going away on business actually entails. The man agrees to take his son with him but briefs his son about the trip. The salesman will meet with several clients and his son is welcome to tag along provided that the young boy is courteous and keeps to himself when necessary. The boy agrees, suddenly welcoming the opportunity to see his dad hard at work, one day dreaming of being a salesman like his father.

After a full weekend of successful meetings with clients, the father and son return home. “How was your trip?” the salesman’s wife asks her husband and son, then says to the boy, “Did your dad work hard?”

“He didn’t do any work!” the boy replies. “All Dad does is talk to his friends all day!”

The Importance of Customer Relationships

This charming story is often used to highlight the importance of businesses developing friendly relationships with their clients. Seemingly, the friendly rapport between the salesman and his potential customers is what allows him to win them over.

The importance of these relationships cannot be underestimated. Because a reliable client base separates successful businesses from temporary ones–especially in an industry devoted to repairs, in which you are supposed to represent the solution to people’s problems–it is vital for maintaining and growing a client base in which long-term friendships are nurtured between service provider and customer. Also, do not forget the importance of personal business referrals for your company.

While crossing the threshold between the stoic business-and-customer relationship to a casual, friendly one can seem difficult, or even strange, there are a few simple ways to ease this process. Here are a few tips for developing lasting, friendly relationships with your customers.

Nurture the Relationship

Remember that being professional does not mean being distant. Politeness and mutual respect exists in good friendships, so feel free to nurture this type of relationship with a client. While good, polite service is appreciated, the level of trust in your services skyrockets if you and your client develop a friendship. Who do you trust more, a professional waiter or a close friend? Trust, after all, is one of the most important factors determining whom a client chooses to perform their repairs.

Don’t Be Too Casual

Being friendly with a client does not mean speaking to them the way you speak with friends outside of work. These people are participating in a goods-for-currency exchange with you, after all. Do not curse, discuss lewd subjects, argue, or delve into private matters with your client. Being polite and distant is one extreme, but being strangely casual with clients is the opposite vice. You will still need to thank them, greet them professionally, and maintain your dignity as a businessperson by putting your work first.

Be a Good Listener

The keys to a good balance of being professional and friendly with clients is smiling, welcoming conversation, and engaging in long conversation with your clients. Everyone is different; be a good listener and follow the path toward friendly interaction your client welcomes. Some people might enjoy talking about their home, travels, spouse, favorite sports teams, or career. As with every new friendship, take this small talk and allow friendly, continuous discussion to sprout.

Be Honest

Be genuine and honest with your clients. If you think one of your coworkers can best handle a certain job, allow them to take over a delicate process. If you have made a mistake, admit it and apologize promptly. If your client asks for a recommendation, give a good and reliable one. This is what friends do.

Stay in Touch

Most importantly, stay in touch with all of your clients. This cannot be stressed enough. Sending letters reminding people to make appointments is one thing, but calling a customer to ask if their appliances are in good shape and if they have any concerns takes things to the next level. Your client will feel that you have a personal commitment to them that goes beyond stale, ordinary business contact.


About the Author:

Noah Franklin is the owner of AC Pros HVAC, LLC, a professional Austin Air Conditioning and heating company. The business has been up and running for just over four years. Noah is fully experienced in all aspects of the Land business, having previously been a Landman at T. S. Calkins & Associates, Inc., Osage Land, Arrington Oil & Gas Operation, LLC, and Petroleum Landman. He is a very intelligent man known for his diligence and dedication to his clients.

HVAC Technician with His Toolbox

Emerging Innovations In The HVAC Industry

HVAC technicians today have more technology available to them than ever before. With new technologies coming to the industry every week, today’s HVAC companies need to be aware of what is coming, so they can adjust their work accordingly. Here are some technologies that will impact the HVAC industry very soon.

The Rise of Self-Diagnostics

One of the challenges for homeowners is that they rarely have insight into what is going on with their HVAC systems. When something doesn’t work properly, they find themselves at the technician’s mercy. An unscrupulous technician can easily inflate the problem, indicating it is worse than it really is, and homeowners have no choice but to pay the bill.

This is changing with an increase in self-diagnostics in air conditioning and heating systems. New components with built-in self-diagnostics  are the wave of the future. Some of these systems can even be set up to repair minor issues without help. This can actually benefit the HVAC business owner, because customers will be more trusting of the repair recommendations, and systems can be set to alert business owners when a problem is developing.

Fleet Tracking

HVAC companies rely on a fleet of vehicles to get service technicians to their locations. Whether that fleet includes just one service vehicle or a fleet of 10, the need to lower fuel costs and increase the speed at which technicians arrive at their locations remains the same.

Fleet tracking is not a new technology, but modern systems are evolving so that they now meet the need of the small business owner as much as the large, 100-truck fleet. These scalable systems provide the same benefits of the systems designed for larger fleets, but in a smaller package with a manageable price tag that small business owners can benefit from. With more efficient fleet operations and better routing through fleet tracking, today’s HVAC business owner will be able to lower operating expenses and exceed customer expectations. Both of these combine to improve income for the company.

Increase in Utility Sales

Managing energy use during peak times is always a challenge for utility companies. Utility sales programs use technology to reward those customers who turn off their HVAC systems during peak times, when energy use is at a premium. By offering lower rates to those customers, utility companies can manage their energy supply a little easier, and technology is coming that will make this easier to do, even offering the option for automatic shutdowns when requested.

Variable Refrigerant Flow

Most homes do not have even temperatures from one room to the other. The kitchen, where the hot work of cooking takes place, may be several degrees warmer than the den, which only has one window. Unfortunately, heating and cooling the entire home with the same system is inefficient. Zoned systems, which divide the home into various zones that are heated or cooled separately, are a solution to this problem. Variable refrigerant flow is the next wave in zone air conditioning.

Variable refrigerant flow allows the home to be heated and cooled in different ways in different parts of the home, without sacrificing the efficiency of the home’s cooling system. The systems are designed so that they can simultaneously heat and cool, using the latest technology to control the system with precision. They run quietly and have a lower lifecycle cost with minimal energy usage and maximum comfort. HVAC companies that can install and service these will be well positioned for the future.

Energy Analysis Software

What is the most energy-efficient HVAC system for a customer’s home or business? Energy analysis software can show this. With these programs (which are up and coming in the HVAC industry), technicians can recommend the exact products that will genuinely meet the needs of their customers. Software can also project the long-term benefits of the system, helping customers embrace the higher upfront cost for a more efficient system.

The HVAC industry is changing. To ensure that your company is prepared, you need to be aware of the changes and embrace them as they come. Whether it’s adding new energy analysis software or purchasing fleet tracking systems for your company, you will be ahead of the competition as you embrace the wave of new technology that is coming.

Author bio:

Robert J. Hall is President of Track Your Truck, a leader in GPS tracking devices and software for small and midsized companies. 

Woman holding badge name tag, with blank space mock up

Why Using Badges is Important For Your Business

There is no better job out there than that of a business owner. Being a good business owner is not an easy job and will require you to constantly be on the lookout for ways to improve upon what you do. When the time comes, a business owner will need to expand their base of operations and hire on more employees. The more employees a business has, the more organization they will require to keep everything running smoothly. Getting badges and new visitor access control software is a great way to keep the unsavory element out of a business. The following are some of the reasons why using ID badges at a business is so beneficial.

Keeping Everyone Straight

The first and most obvious benefit that comes along with using these types of badges is that it will help you and others keep everyone’s name straight. The more employees that a company has, the harder it will be to keep everyone’s names and position straight. By having all of this information available on an ID badge, the business owner and other employees will have an easy time knowing who is who. There are a number of different designs that a person can get in regards to their badge. Taking the time to figure out what all information you want on it will make the selection process much easier.

Incorporating Access Control Chips

Another great thing that a business owner will be able to do when trying to use ID badges efficiently in a workplace is to get an access control chip put in them. This will allow the user to wear the badge and gain access to specific locations throughout the building. This type of technology will allow a business owner to restrict access to key parts of their building with ease. The money that is spent on this type of technology will be more than worth it considering the benefits that it will bring.

Use the Business Logos

The next benefit that a business owner will be able to gain when using a badge printer is that it will allow them to incorporate their logos and branding into every aspect of their business. By finding a professional with experience, the business owner will be able to get the results that they are looking for without having to worry about messing it up. Letting professionals handle this job will be worth it considering the amount of benefits that they have to offer.

The only way to get the right results from your business security is by taking the time to find the right professionals to work with.

Worker employee recieve salary plus good working overtime bonus money payday from factory manager.

How to Reward Your Employees With Creative And Inexpensive Bonuses

As companies grow so do employee bonus expectations.   In today’ economy it is of the utmost importance to get the most out of your company’ dollar.  Managers often forget that bonuses can be effective yet economical.   This article will give you 10 cost effective ways to reward your employees and still stay within budget constraints.

1. Dollar Box

Fill a box with miscellaneous office supplies that are not normally furnished by the company.  You can purchase these at any retail or office supply store.   Regularly check the clearance sections for these bargains. The key to keeping this economical is to have a budget for each of the items found in the box of one dollar or less.  Let everyone in the company know you are keeping track of customer and manager compliments.  Ask them to forward any complimentary e-mails, letters and phone calls to the HR Manager or General Manager.  When one of these is received, let the employee with the positive review choose one item out of the box.  Be sure to thank them for their continued positive customer relations.

2. Candy

It isn’t just for the kids.  Even adults enjoy the occasional sweet treat.  Keep a variety of mini candy bars and suckers on hand.   Encourage your managers to “toss” out a piece of candy each time an employee does or says something notable.

3. Birthday Cakes

Pass around a form and have each employee write down their birthday and cake preference.  On their birthday buy a cake of their preference and share it at lunch with all employees.  Let the birthday employee bring home any leftovers.  If an employee does not like cake ask them to name some other treat that you can buy to make their day special.  For large companies buy one cake monthly for all employees with a birthday within that month.

4. Cards

Cards can be purchased as cheap as 50 cents apiece.  Keep a variety of cards on hand such as birthday, anniversary, congratulations, in sympathy, thank you, and blank cards.  Each time an employee has a milestone fill out a card.  Events that might warrant a card; employee anniversary, birth, death of loved one or pet, new house and going above and beyond normal job duties.  An easy way to keep track of minor events in employee’s lives is to monitor time off requests.

5. Drinks

Many companies are not large enough to have a drink machine on the premises however, most have a company refrigerator in the break room.  Stock a few varieties of soda and bottles of water in this refrigerator.  In the winter stock packages of hot chocolate in addition to the cold drinks.  Encourage your employees to help themselves to these.  To make this more convenient ask the employees to restock (not buy, just refill) the refrigerator when it is low so this doesn’t become another HR or General Manager duty.

6. Gift Cards

Purchase multiple five dollar gift cards at local retail stores such as Wal-Mart, Target or Quick Trip.  Each time an employee does something that is above and beyond their normal job duties, without being asked, give them a gift card.  Make sure gift cards are given out for tasks that are beyond the employee’s normal job duties.  Make a note in the employee file each time they earn an “Above and Beyond” gift card.  These notes will be helpful during annual reviews.

7. Time Off

If business is slow and you can do without the extra help for a short amount of time, let an employee go home 15 to 30 minutes early.  The employee is excited about the extra time off and the company actually saves money by cutting payroll hours.

8. Company Potluck

Designate a day for a company potluck lunch.  This is best done on your slowest day of the week, avoid Mondays.  Give it a theme such as “Soup and Salad Day” and ask the employees to sign up to bring one item each for the lunch.  Employees can sign up for different categories such as soup, salad, crackers, drink, dessert, or cheese.  The cost is minimal because everyone participates in bringing in food.  Encourage participants to share the recipe they used in preparing the food.

9. Company Auction

Each time an employee does something exceptional, give them monopoly money.  Twice a year have a company auction and let employees use their monopoly money to bid on and purchase items furnished by the company.   Possible auction items are new office chairs, pen sets, stationary sets and miscellaneous containers for organizing office spaces.  Purchase items for the auction throughout the year at clearance sales.  This works best if you have one higher priced, desirable item that everyone wants to bid on.

10. Praise Board

Whenever an employee does something exceptional, write a short description of the act and the employees name on a bright piece of construction paper and pin it up on a bulletin board designated for this purpose.  The bulletin board needs to be placed in a prominent place in the office or break room so everyone can see it.

Keep in mind that not everyone will be motivated by the same things.  By using a variety of incentives you have the most effect on employee motivation and job satisfaction while developing a good working relationship within the company.

 

Thanks to our Guest Writer: This post is courtesy of Susan Green. Our sincere gratitude goes out to her. Please contact Mr. HVAC if you would like to be a guest writer.

Residential Air Conditioning Maintenance Technician at Work

5 Clever Ways for HVAC Contractors To Make More Money In The Summer

It’s summer, which means that people all over the country are going to be firing up their home air conditioners in an effort to stay cool indoors. This is good news for you, the HVAC contractor. Just as how business was (or should have been) booming with service calls and furnace replacements during the cold winter months, the summer should afford you the same type of opportunity when it comes to air conditioners. Though as you know, meeting your overhead costs and turning a profit isn’t easy — and just because you had a successful summer last year doesn’t mean that this year will follow suit.

With that being said, here’s a look at five ways you can make more money in the summer as an HVAC contractor.

Raise Prices

While this might be an unpopular tactic, in many cases, it’s a necessary one — especially if you haven’t done so in several years. Simply raising prices on your service calls can potentially bring in tens of thousands more dollars over the course of just a few months. Demand for HVAC services is high during summer — why not take advantage of the increase in business?

Charge More for Same-Day Service

This one should go without saying, yet many HVAC contractors still charge the same rate for a regular service call as they do for an “emergency” service call. Plumbers charge more for emergency service and delivery services charge more for overnight service — why shouldn’t you as well? That isn’t to say that you’ll lose business if someone doesn’t want to pay more of a premium fee, just explain that you can put him/her into your regular scheduling system, which offers standard prices. Think about this, however: When an air conditioner breaks on a 100-degree day, most people are going to want the problem resolved ASAP.

Think Add-Ons

Wireless thermostats, smart thermostats, air cleaners, portable generators, surge protectors — these are all popular add-ons that HVAC contractors can also offer to their customers while servicing their HVAC unit in the home. You can even offer a certain percentage discount on these items if the customer were to purchase it on the same day as you’re servicing their HVAC system. Some HVAC contractors have even invested in greater revenue-generating add-on services, such as duct cleaning and electrical work.

GPS Tracking

This isn’t so much a money-making tip as it is a money-saving tip. As you know, money saved goes right into your bottom line. Consider equipping vehicles with GPS tracking equipment. Not only can you map routes and service calls to more effectively and efficiently consume gasoline while your techs are on the go, but GPS tracking is also a safety feature. For instance, alerts can be programmed to deliver to managers or owners when a tech is speeding or driving erratically, so corrective action can be administered. You can also set maintenance reminder alerts on GPS units.

Run Promos

Finally, running promotions, both while in the customer’s home and through marketing can also be a big boost to business. For instance, techs should be taught how to up-sell customers while in the home on additional services that are offered (i.e. thermostats, duct cleaning, etc.). It’s worth noting that they should be taught not to be pushy when attempting to sell the customer on these other services. With that said, keep a running list of your techs and the add-ons that they’ve sold in the month, and reward the top sellers at the end of the month. You may even choose to give your techs commission on any add-on sale that they make — it’s up to you how to handle it. Secondly, the summer is a great time to stay at the forefront of your customers’ minds through marketing. Advertise with coupons/discounts on air-conditioning services and educate potential customers about the importance of regular, routine maintenance on their air-conditioning units in your marketing.

Summer isn’t going to last forever, so take advantage of the opportunity to elevate your profits like never before. You may even elect to implement a similar sales-boosting strategy during winter, when servicing on heaters is the most common. Don’t let the opportunity pass you by — your summer should be booming as an HVAC contractor. How much do you intend to profit from it?


Author Bio

Patricia Bonacorda is the President of Spartan Plumbing, Heating and Air Conditioning, a commercial and residential plumbing and HVAC Company. For 51 years, Spartan Plumbing is a licensed, bonded and insured business that has provided professional plumbing, heating and air conditioning services throughout Maryland and Washington, DC.

Air conditioning, technician or engineer on roof for maintenance, building or construction of fan h

5 Important Safety Tips For HVAC Technicians

Summer has come to an end, and with it the busiest time of the year for most HVAC contractors. But, that doesn’t mean it’s time to relax. Improving your business should be a year-round activity and the colder months are a perfect time to think about what you can do to make your business better.

Here are some safety tips to think about when you’ve got some breathing space this Fall and Winter:

1. Get Your Contractor License Bond and Know How It Works

This may not sound obvious, but getting bonded and understanding the claims process should help define how you think about workplace safety. To start, follow this 3-step contractor license bond process to get bonded at the best possible rate.

Once you’re bonded, familiarize yourself with how the claims process works. When you’re determining your standards of quality and safety, avoiding claims needs to be at the forefront. If a customer brings a claim against your business for improperly done work, it harms your reputation and can even prevent you from getting bonded again.

2. Maintain an Onsite Safety Manager If Possible

State and local regulations may or may not require it, but if possible, maintaining an onsite safety manager trained in OSHA or EM-385 rules and regulations can help maintain the highest safety standards in your workplace.

While a full 40-hour course in EM-385 rules may not be necessary, some type of certification can help. This onsite expertise can be incorporated into your advertising or bond application. As it shows your commitment to safety, it could even lower your premium for your contractor license bond.

3. Ensure Your Equipment Keeps You Safe

Whether you’re dealing with summer heat or winter cold, gloves, face shields, helmets, and other HVAC contractor equipment needs to be properly used and maintained. Though this is only the start.

Proper ventilation can serve the dual purposes of keeping you and your employees at a comfortable temperature year-round, while helping to protect against the buildup of harmful compressed gases or chemical vapors. There’s never a bad time to invest in next generation equipment or at least double check maintenance.

4. Double-Check Your Electrical Systems

As any HVAC professional knows, extreme temperatures put incredible strain on heating and cooling systems. This means it’s also the season to double-check the electrical systems backing your equipment. Electrical malfunctions can lead to anything from blackouts to fires, putting your safety and reputation at risk.

Make sure you’re familiar with your state and municipal ordinances and safety requirements. Not adhering to these could leave you liable for any malfunctions that occur months after you’ve finished at a site, depending on the bond requirements for a given job. This is another reason to ensure you maintain high work standards.

5. Learn More From Online Safety Resources

Once you’ve checked your worksites and reviewed your contractor license bond, there are plenty of free resources out there with more information and tips on maintaining a safe HVAC workplace. One example is this exhaustive safety guide put out by State Auto Insurance. Resources like this offer detailed lists, including small details (like why you shouldn’t use impact tools with mushroomed heads) that you may otherwise forget about.

What kind of tips would you offer your fellow HVAC professionals? Share your best to make sure everyone has a great summer!


 

Eric Halsey is a historian by training and disposition who’s been interested in US small businesses since working at the House Committee on Small Business in 2006. Coming from a family with a history of working on industry policy, he has a particular interest in Surety Bonding, Contracting, and Professional Certification; he loves sharing his knowledge of the industry for JW Surety Bonds.

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