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Key Strategies to Keep Your Construction Workload Steady

Construction work is happening at all times – it only takes a quick drive through any town to notice it.

Running a successful construction company, however, goes beyond an owner’s ability to perform quality construction work. The constant demand for work does not mean someone can simply start a construction company and expect the business to reach and continue its success.

According to ConstructConnect, the construction industry has grown for 7 consecutive years, with 2018 spend nearing $1,313.3B. To keep up with industry demand and rising competition, construction companies must plan and put strategies in place to guarantee a steady workload. Whether you are just starting out or have been in the construction business for years, use these guidelines to keep the work coming long-term (and ensure you have the resources to keep up!).

Invest in Technology

Providing estimates, invoices, and storing customer information may seem easy to complete manually at first. If your goal is to grow the business, though, embracing technology to help do this work for you is crucial.

The construction industry requires managing a lot of information – bookkeeping, resources, workflows, deadlines, and invoices are just the start. Mobile business tools and construction management software will allow your company to provide timely and accurate information, so more of your time can be spent on the business versus in the business.

Although very few construction companies are comfortable using technology, you will notice the largest and most successful construction companies rely on technology to manage suppliers, projects, resources, employees, and even the payment process. Technology is not only helpful to you but also to your customers (for example, imagine getting paid on the spot instead of waiting for the paper invoice to process!).

Payment solution software, such as what ClearGate offers (and their new app, payup℠, coming soon), works with companies to implement digital solutions from initial pricing proposals and business support to data security and online reporting. Given the time, cost, and chance of error included while doing these processes manually, digital solutions are worth the investment.

Invest in Your People

Finding and hiring qualified, dependable employees is only half the battle. Construction is a fierce business, and it is just as important – if not more important – to know how to keep your employees.

Your people and their skills are the bread and butter of your company, so first put the right strategies in place to ensure you are hiring the right candidates from the start. Do not forego scheduling a traditional job interview, as this provides the best chance to understand how the potential employee’s previous work, skills, and personality and culture fit your business.

Once a good hire is made, providing competitive pay is only a small piece of securing an employee long-term. You want to build a company and culture that your employees want to be a part of, so ask their opinion, listen to their ideas, and help them understand how their skills and career could grow. Set goals, and work with your team to help them understand how to reach them. Show employees you appreciate their hard work. A ‘thank you’ goes a long way, as do flexible Paid-Time-Off and family policies.

The construction business typically pays well, and it is easy for employees and company owners alike to focus most of their energy there. However, according to Forbes Top 10 Factors for On-The-Job Employee Happiness, an attractive salary ranks at a lowly 7 out of 10. Appreciation for work, good relationships, and work-life balance rank in as the top 3 factors driving employee engagement.

In today’s world of technology, a construction company’s success depends a lot on two things: its systems and its people. With a whopping 52% of field service companies still doing things manually, taking advantage of digital solutions (to support both your people and your customers) is a surefire way to get ahead of the competition and ensure a steady and successful workload for years to come.

Trends Every Small Business Should Be Paying Attention To

As we move into 2020, small businesses are taking advantage of technology now more than ever.

From finding new ways to connect to customers to implementing digital payment software, small investments in technology are showing big returns for small businesses across America.

Every New Year brings new opportunities for you and your business to learn and grow. As technology continues to transform the way we work and interact with others, follow these trends to set your business up for success as we enter the next decade.

Small Businesses are Going Digital

“Going digital” is a popular statement in the business world today. Although some businesses are skeptical about digital solutions, they fail to take into account the technology tools they already use to operate their business.

If your business uses email to communicate or conferencing software to meet with multiple parties around the world at once, your business is already on the path of going digital. Finding ways to advance the way your business uses technology does not have to be difficult or expensive. Whether you just launched your business or are looking for ways to stay ahead, technology is constantly growing and providing small businesses with opportunities to improve efficiency and increase profits.

Small Businesses are Using Social Media

It is nearly impossible to scroll on any social media platform without noticing promotional or branded content. Not only can small businesses save time and money by using social media to advertise, but they can also reach a larger audience than what is possible with traditional advertising methods. For example, a Facebook ad is much more likely to save money and reach a larger audience than a traditional billboard advertisement.

Advertising on social media also allows your business to reach a more targeted audience (those that are more likely to be interested in your product or service). Unlike commercials and newspapers ads, social media platforms use special coding methods to place paid advertisements in the right place, at the right time, in front of the right people. Social media comes with its share of pros and cons, but small businesses will find more benefits than risks in terms of advertising their business and connecting with customers around the world.

Small Businesses are Accepting Digital Payments

When it comes to accepting payment methods, the data speaks for itself: accept digital payments or continue to lose profits. A May 2012 survey by Intuit GoPayment, a credit card processor, found that while only 45% of small businesses in the U.S. accept credit cards, 83% of those small businesses make more revenue than their competitors. Implementing digital payment software is not only more convenient for your customers and business, but it also helps drive revenue and capture more business.

A number of studies have shown that consumers are likely to spend up to 100% more when using a digital payment method versus cash or check. Digital payments are becoming an essential part of any successful business, and the digital processing fees amount to far less than the amount of lost business. As Philip Parker, founder of CardPaymentOptions.com, says, “…The consequence is lost sales. This is a fact.”

Thankfully, payment solution software is both affordable and widely available from industry-leading companies, such as ClearGate’s easy-to-use software, payup℠ – a new, free app. Their software allows businesses of any size to process payments, check payment statuses, and create custom reports at the touch of a button.

Small Businesses are Securing Their Data

As mentioned before, the days of cash, check, and swiping your credit card are over. Along with the rise of technology comes the rise in large-scale data breaches and identity theft for businesses and customers worldwide.

Card companies have met this challenge by implementing chip-enabled payment technologies, while small businesses find ways to further secure their data with software programs, much like Cleargate’s Payment Solutions. Outside of offering a virtual terminal for processing payments, Cleargate also uses a unique combination of two data security techniques – encryption and tokenization – to ensure small businesses receive the flexibility, reliability, and security they need.

Whatever method of digital payment software you choose, securing customers’ sensitive financial information is of the utmost importance.

Technology is becoming a critical component of any successful business. As consumers continue to give way to the latest trends in technology (social media and eWallets, for example), they are also paying attention to how businesses are – or are not – using technology to enhance security, convenience, and communication.

Staying in tune with technology trends is no longer a ‘nice-to-have’ but increasingly considered a ‘must-have’ for any small business. As technology becomes the new standard, keep an eye on digital trends to ensure your business does not get left behind.

6 Small Steps to Modernize Your Business for 2020

Starting a business is hard, and maintaining a successful business is even harder.

As a small business, it is important to understand the latest technology trends to stay competitive. You are no longer just competing against businesses that are bigger but also businesses that are more modern. Instead of viewing this negatively, consider this: a small business is able to easily change and adapt to the latest technology, while large businesses typically struggle to implement change.

Finding ways to modernize your small business does not have to break the bank. To reach success and continue growing, consider these 6 small steps to advancing your business in the New Year.

Embrace Technology

The most important step? It is time to accept technology and learn to love it. In the 1980’s and 90’s, taking your business digital was only a suggestion. Nearly 30 years later, 94% of small businesses are mobile friendly. With businesses flooding the internet, choosing to resist technology is also choosing to give your business a death sentence.

Choose the Cloud

Where do you house all of your business and customer information? Hopefully your answer is “The Cloud” and not a row of filing cabinets. Customers expect to interact with you and your business any time, anywhere, and from any device. Get comfortable with using web-based platforms and software applications (including mobile apps!) to meet your customers’ needs.

Keep it Secure

Keeping important and confidential information on The Cloud instead of filing cabinets and spreadsheets may feel risky, so choosing the right software and security package ensures your customer data is safe. Cloud-based solutions save time, effort, and allow you to provide a better customer experience. Security is key when it comes to building a trustworthy relationship with customers.

Start Automating

Say goodbye to bookkeeping and invoicing by hand. With the right software application, you can manage your work and process payments with increased speed and accuracy. The software automatically does the work for you, and customers should hardly notice the difference (but you will!).

Automating your business processes also allows you to save time and resources on administrative tasks to free up time to grow your business and profit margins. From automatic emails and social media posts to data entry and scheduling, allow technology to do the work for you. Your time is better spent on the business versus in the business.

Think Mobile

In today’s society, mobile devices come first as a means of communication, media coverage, and information searches. Have a question? Google it on your phone. Need to chat with a friend? Give them a call or text from your mobile device.

If your company is not using software and tools that allow for easy use on a mobile device, you are giving customers a reason to look elsewhere. By allowing customers to find and interact with your business quickly from their mobile devices, you are marketing your business and increasing the chance they choose your services over the competition.

Accept Mobile Payments

Upgrading to mobile payment software is a great first step in automating your business and becoming more mobile-friendly. Mobile payment applications, such as payup℠, allow you to process automatic estimates, invoices, and payment collections on the spot. Only 23% of people use cash for point-of-sale transactions, so businesses that do not accept mobile credit payments are severely limiting themselves to a small demographic. With mobile payment software, estimate and invoice accuracy increases and wait-time for payments decreases. A win-win situation for any small business!

If you want to meet the demand of current customers (and remain ahead of the game), modernizing your business is no longer just a suggestion – it is crucial. Thankfully, upgrading your business’s technology and digital solutions does not have to be expensive or complicated. In the long run, going digital with mobile solutions will allow you and your business to save time, money, and build a better relationship with customers.

Learning to accept technology as a business norm is half the battle. Mobile business tools are ready and available to help streamline your business’s workflow anytime, anywhere, from any device. It is time to make a decision for your small business: are you going to embrace technology or get left behind?

Contractors: Why Accepting Mobile Payments is the Future

Accepting mobile payments is a trend that contractors simply cannot ignore.

In 2019 alone, 96% of Americans owned a cell phone of some kind, with 81% owning smartphones (skyrocketing from 35% in 2011). Smartphones allow consumers to browse online, connect to friends and family within seconds, and make purchases on their device via debit or credit card – if a business allows this option.

Thanks to technology and many software applications, accepting mobile payments for your business does not have to be difficult or expensive. The advantages of accepting mobile payments overcome the disadvantages, and it is important to understand these benefits to gear your business up for success in the future.

Consumers Do Not Carry Cash

Pretty self-explanatory, huh? In our world of online shopping and credit cards, many consumers will opt out of purchasing an item if they do not have the cash on-hand to pay for it. According to NerdWallet, only 23% of consumers even use cash for point-of-sale transactions. Without offering a cashless payment option, small businesses limit themselves to a much smaller demographic of potential customers. 

Accepting mobile payments via debit or credit card allows businesses to offer an immediate, cashless payment option to all customers. This not only increases the chance of growing your customer base but your sales, as well.

Consumers Appreciate Rewards

There are many reasons consumers choose to support small businesses over larger chain corporations. A few include the desire to support local communities, feeling valued by small business owners, and receiving quality products and services for a fair price.

Setting up a mobile payment system allows you to honor support from customers with incentives and rewards. Starbucks, although large, caught on to this trend early on.

Mobile payment software can track each time a customer purchases products or services from your business, keeping the information stored on the app itself. This information can be used to send coupons, discounts, and rewards based on buying behavior.

Giving back to customers makes them feel valued and goes a long way to encourage repeat purchases.

Consumers are Busy

Mobile payments are fast, and consumer lives are busy. Unless someone’s A/C breaks in the dead of summer (hey, it happens!), people have options when it comes to where they spend their time and money. Using the right software to accept debit and credit card payments ensures your customers experience a fast and hassle-free purchase process.

Within seconds, customers can complete their purchase and feel confident that their experience with your business will be smooth sailing in the future. Mobile payment processing also gives your business the ability to process more purchases at once – like during busy hours or peak seasons – and receive the money quickly. Win – win!

Consumers Follow Trends

At any point in time, there are new and existing buying trends in your area of expertise. For example, the purchase of luxury items plummeted during the 2008 Financial Crisis. Many consumers simply did not have money to spend on items outside of necessities like groceries and mortgage payments – especially not luxury apparel or jewelry.

No matter your service area as a contractor, following trends in your area of expertise is important. Instead of keeping track of customer purchases, inventory, and buying behavior by hand – allow a mobile platform to offer this information at your fingertips. Use this information to understand what products or services are currently popular with your customer base, and why other products or services in your wheelhouse may be experiencing a decline. Knowing what your customers want (and do not want) is a key factor in growing and succeeding in business.

Contractors Have Options

Now more than ever, contractors have many options when it comes to choosing the right mobile payment software. Many software applications are charging less fees per transaction than credit card companies to help small businesses keep more of their profits.

The right mobile application will work as hard as you do to ensure your business continues to grow and succeed. From generating estimates and sending invoices to collecting payments accurately and quickly via credit or debit card, the process will be easy and hassle-free for both you and your customers.

Research mobile payment app providers to understand which one meets the needs of you and your customers. For your business – it is not about if you will accept mobile payments, it is about when. With more and more generations losing sight of what it even means to write a check, mobile payment options are the future of every growing business. A 2016 study published by MIT found that shoppers are willing to spend up to 100% more when paying by plastic versus cash.

Ask yourself: without mobile payments, what potential customers and income is your business missing out on?

5 Critical Things Every Small Business Owner Should Get Immediately

For small business owners, going digital can seem like a costly decision.

However, with more and more businesses and consumers taking advantage of digital technology, it can be even more costly not to go digital. All small businesses can benefit from transforming to become more digital, but it is important to remember that all companies are different – meaning their digital needs will be unique.

Fortunately, transforming your business to be digital-friendly does not have to break your back or the bank. Consider implementing some of these digital strategies over time to find what works best for your small business.

Accept Credit Card Payments

Not only have debit and credit card payments skyrocketed from $13B in 2012 to $69.5B in 2015, but businesses have seen even more growth in sales by accepting plastic. The statistics are staggering.

As more consumers move to cashless lifestyles, only 23% of people use cash regularly for point-of-sale transactions. What does that mean for small business owners? It means that the cost of updating your business to accept credit card payments is far less than the long-term cost of deciding to only accept cash.

One survey, sponsored by Intuit, found that 83% of small businesses that started to provide cashless payment options saw an increase in sales. Even better? Fifty-two percent of those businesses saw an increase of $1,000 or more in monthly revenue.

When it comes to going digital from a payment standpoint, do not just take our word for it. The proof is in the numbers!

Communicate via Text

Are you stuck leaving voicemail after voicemail to customers who never pick up? How often are potential customers answering your emails? If customers and potential leads are picking up the phone and answering your emails, you are in the minority of small business owners.

Thankfully, the age of cell phone addiction has its perks when it comes to communication for small businesses. Believe it or not, communicating with current and potential customers via text is considered the strongest method to guarantee engagement.

Approximately 99% of text messages are opened and read, with nearly 95% of texts being opened within the first 3 minutes of arrival. To paint a clearer picture, compare that level of customer engagement to the 20% email open rate and 3% email engagement rate.

Incorporating text messages into your small business’s communication strategies requires a small amount of effort (and money!) with the possibility of huge returns.

Create a Social Media Presence

Like with any successful change, a small business must crawl before it can walk. If your business is not yet on social media, start with one social media platform. What is the most popular social media website for the main demographic of your customer base?

Similar to text messages, social media communication moves fast. According to BCG, digital speed is more than five times faster than traditional business methods. Unlike large corporations, small businesses are focused on their community and its members. This involvement in their community allows small businesses to connect more quickly and strongly with customers, and social media is a great way to stay in touch and promote products or services.

A social media presence can truly be priceless for a small business. Outside of paid marketing ads, most social media platforms are absolutely free to use. Without spending a dime, social media is a step in the right direction for any modern business.

No More Paper

A business with no need for paper may not be realistic, but every step toward digital records is a step in the right direction. Communication? Make it digital – texts, emails, social media. Invoices? Send and receive digital contracts and invoices using free or affordable digital software and faxing services.

Not only does less paper make your business more modern and save trees, but it will also save you on paper-related expenses. File folders, file storage, printers, toner and ink… The list goes on! Moving your documents ‘to the cloud’ or to a private server will save both you and your customers time, effort, and money.

Find a Mentor

Just as coaching can be critical to business success, mentorship is also critical when undergoing any business transformation. Without choosing a competitor, is there another small business in a similar industry that has a website or digital presence you respect?

Most small businesses shy away from digital services because they do not know where to start, and they do not know who to ask. Another local business owner that has found digital success will have ideas, advice, and past struggles to share.

The saying, “No need to recreate the wheel,” fits perfectly with this scenario. Instead of being afraid of the unknown, ask someone with experience and success to share best practices as you try new things.

Digital transformation does not have to be one, big change.

It can also be small changes over time that lead to long-term cost savings, customer satisfaction, and business growth. Whether you manage your small business solo or have a team, think about which digital transformation will be the best for your business – and hit the ground running!

How to Make More Money for Your Small Business

It is no secret: everyone wants more money.

However, finding ways to make more money is especially important to a small business owner. For a small business owner, the ability to increase cash flow is the only way a small business can secure its future. Thankfully, a small business can be successful in growing its profits without the need to jack up prices or cut employees’ pay.

Answer these questions to understand if you are truly doing the most for your business and customers. 

Does your business have a website?

According to a recent business research study, less than 64% of small businesses have a website.

An even more shocking statistic? 56% of consumers do not trust a business without a website.

It does not take a statistics genius to do the math. Although many small business owners, especially in the service industry, choose to forgo a website to avoid the cost – this choice may have unintended consequences. 

Building a simple, professional website can give a small business the presence and credibility it needs to grow and succeed. In today’s age of technology, customers are quick to Google search businesses to fit their needs. No website? No cigar. A clean and modern website allows a business to get in front of consumers around the world, with customer testimonials and company information available to prove the company’s purpose and authenticity. 

Is your business turning leads into sales? 

Do potential customers contact your business for more information, but the lead goes cold? If your business has a website, there is no doubt that interested consumers have visited your website without making a purchase. How do you handle those leads? How are you spending time to create more leads?

Without spending anything other than time, your business can begin converting some of those leads into paying customers. When a potential customer reaches out for information on your business, make sure you continually (and respectfully) follow up with them. No need to blast them with constant sales calls, but a well-written email reminder can go a long way. Go the extra mile and include a special, one-time offer for first-time customers!

Many website providers also include automatic follow-up features for those that visit your company’s website. If someone adds products or services to their cart without following through to check out, your website can send an automatic email to remind the potential customer of what they left behind (another great chance to provide a small discount incentive!).

To make a change like this manageable, start by focusing a certain day of the month on potential customer follow-ups. For example, at the end of each month spend time following up on potential emails and website visits, and include some personalization or a discount opportunity so each communication feels individual.

Is your business paperless?

Operating a business entirely without paper may be impossible but reducing your business’s reliance on paper is a healthy first step. Less paper is both good for the environment and good for your wallet. As businesses are challenged with the idea of corporate social responsibility, tools and resources to move your business from paper to digital are appearing daily.

Digital invoices, email communication, and digital fax services are examples of how to reduce your business’s reliance on paper. If it is not crucial that a certain work task be on paper, do not use paper. You will not only save on paper costs, but associated paper costs, as well (think binders, printers, toner, and more!).

Moving your business from paper to digital not only saves you time and resources but also creates a more modern and socially responsible feel for your customers. Trust us – now more than ever, employees and customers alike are placing a premium on working for and spending money with businesses that take the environment into account.

Does your business accept credit?

Regardless of debit and credit processing fees, studies show that customers will spend more money with your business if you have a credit card option. Not only do cash and check options take longer to process (less money in your pocket!), but they also increase the chance of a customer spending less with your business.

In one M.I.T. study, students were willing to spend roughly twice as much on a product or service if they were able to pay with credit versus cash. We have likely all experienced this phenomenon ourselves – paying $50 for a product or service may seem like a lot if we only have $100 in our pocket, but we may view it differently if we can pay with a credit card that has a $5,000 limit.

This advice is in no way pushing your small business to take advantage of customers. Small businesses can only reach full success by providing their customers a transparent, quality experience. However, accepting all forms of payment improves your business’s chance of making more money and waiting less time to receive it.

Increasing the revenue of your small business is no small task, and there is not one right answer. Finding ways to decrease expenses and increase sales is the perfect mixture for any small business. Hopefully these ideas allow you to find ways to bring in more revenue without spending a lot of money to do it.