Are you a small business owner who embraces technology?
According to a 2011 study from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), 58 percent of small business owners felt investments in technology would help them remain competitive. And 81 percent felt that when they did invest in technology, the experience either matched or exceeded their expectations.
One form of technology small business owners in the construction and remodeling industries can leverage is tablets, including Apple's iPad. Larger than smart phones and smaller than laptops, tablets offer many of those devices" combined benefits, including: Internet connectivity, long-lasting power, lighter weight for transporting and real-time access on the go.
Beyond the benefits inherent in tablet technology, small business owners also can use the devices to boost sales and the bottom line. With a tablet, you can showcase photos of completed projects, call up real-time data related to pricing and project timelines and take orders and sign a contract-all while being away from the office.
Here are three ways you can turn iPads and other tablets into an asset for your business.
Tablets are a great tool for tracking information-such as customer purchase histories-and pulling up that data on the spot, whether visiting a client at home or on a job site. This real-time access to information improves your company"s customer service.
"The customer might say, "I thought I got a larger size [for this product]," but you can tell them that they actually got a smaller size, in yellow, and this was why," says Jake Fry, owner of Smallworks, a Vancouver-based specialty small-home builder.
Having real-time access to information also pays dividends when customers have worked with multiple people in your organization. To ensure everyone is on the same page, you can still offer personalized service by calling up account histories and answer any questions, says Fry, whose entire team uses iPads.
The tablet also can act as a credit card machine, allowing you to process payments remotely and close your sale without having to go back to the office. Depending on the app, you can enter a credit card manually or process it through a card reader mailed to you. Getting that signature right away leaves less room for error and less time for customers to change their minds.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but when it comes to sales, photos can be worth much more than that. A tablet allows you to easily show customers photos of your past work and put your project history on display.
"As far as sales, [my iPad] is starting to work much like the old picture folder I used to carry around," says John Friswell, president and owner of CCI Renovations in North Vancouver and second vice president of the Canadian Home Builders" Association. "It can easily store and sort a huge number of pictures, so it can be tailored to a specific project type if required," like examples of bathrooms, kitchens and fireplaces.
Friswell, whose team has been using iPads for the past year and a half, says being able to show customers photos is invaluable because it provides clients with ideas and options for their own projects, and it validates the quality work you"ve already done. Friswell says he recently had clients choose almost the exact same style for a home based on pictures of a recent project they viewed on his iPad.
Tablets also can assist in giving presentations to clients, so you don't have to carry around a heavy laptop when making sales calls throughout the day.
"When it comes to sales, I use my BlackBerry PlayBook frequently when I'm doing presentations for potential clients," says Cesar Abeid, project manager for Remontech, Inc., a construction-site-monitoring company in St. Thomas, Ont. "I can connect it to a projector and use it for slideshows. I also use it as a "cue card" presenter as an outline for my presentations."
Friswell says his company hopes to soon add a video component to its sales presentation that prospective clients can view on the iPad. So while he takes measurements or pictures of the job site, the clients can watch an informative, engaging presentation about his company and the services it offers.
While it can be difficult to establish a tablet's direct effect on the bottom line, it's important to note that any time you use technology that makes you more efficient, you save time. And as any small business owner knows, time is money.
Abeid says his tablet has made him more productive and has become an integral part of his daily routine.
"Since it is always with me, it is a great tool for capturing things that come my way during the day," he says. "I can use it for taking pictures while on sites, recording voice memos, sending and receiving emails, taking notes, scribbling doodles, etc."
If you have an iPad or another tablet, consider these apps for your business:
Note: This content is for informational purposes only. Lowe"s makes no warranties and bears no liability for use of this information. The information is not intended, and should not be construed, as legal, tax or investment advice, or a legal opinion. Always contact your legal, tax and/or financial advisors to help answer questions about your business's specific situation or needs prior to taking any action based upon this information.