17hats: All-in-One Business Management Software

In this monthly post, it’s my pleasure to introduce you to one of the many apps that we at Schulte and Schulte endorse and recommend to our customers.

As a firm of construction accounting specialists, we love to help companies in the construction industry with their books and finances, part of that help is finding different apps or software that can help our clients out.  During this monthly feature, we take a look at several apps that we love at Schulte and Schulte, LLC, and dig a little deeper into our favorites.

This month, we would like to introduce you to 17hats.

As a business owner, there are multiple “hats” that you will wear as you go about running your business.  By hats, we are talking about the different roles you will play on any given day, from accounting, marketing, client communication, lead development, etc.  17hats is a brilliant piece of software that is designed to integrate each of these different hats into an easy to use business management tool.  We could go into detail talking about each of the different tools that are built into 17hats, but for the sake of time we will highlight a couple of the features that we appreciate the most; specifically the Overview Page, Customer Relationship Management (CRM), and Workflow Management.

Overview Page
This dashboard is what you will see whenever you log into your 17hats account.  It has been designed to incorporate a 3-day calendar view of all events and to-do’s that you have set up.  Underneath the calendar is a list of all action items from every ongoing project that you have, as well as a list of client email correspondence that is needing your attention.  This dashboard is customizable to include this above information, as well as other options available for you.  It is a really handy tool to get a bird’s eye view of what needs your attention on any given day.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
A lot of effort has been put into developing this CRM tool to make it easy to use.  As the above video shows in its example of adding a new lead and the development of that lead into a client, 17hats utilizes its CRM to assist you in keeping your contact information and projects accessible. It also stores all email communication and documents sorted by client.  This means no more searching through your email account for that important message from a client’s project you are working on.

Workflow Management
The video above gives a snapshot of the process involved within 17hats’ Workflow Management.  You are able to create templates for almost everything you will end up passing onto a customer, from engagement/proposal questionnaires and feedback forms, quotes, invoices, and more.  It has e-signature technology built into the app to allow anything that needs a signature or feedback from a customer to be sent from the app, and also allows you to track what has been sent.  17hats has a one-way sync that will allow you to sync invoices into QuickBooks Online, which is music to our accounting ears.

We love 17hats, and would like the opportunity to share it with you.  If this sounds like an app that you would be interested in checking out, please let us know!

CoConstruct: Custom Build and Remodel Software

In this monthly post, it’s my pleasure to introduce you to one of the many apps that we at Schulte and Schulte endorse and recommend to our customers.

As a firm of construction accounting specialists, we love to help companies in the construction industry with their books and finances, part of that help is finding different apps or software that can help our clients out. During this monthly feature, we take a look at several apps that we love at Schulte and Schulte, and dig a little deeper into our favorites.

This month, we would like to introduce you to CoConstruct.

CoConstruct is geared specifically for custom home builders and remodelers. This software is designed to include everything that goes into home building from initial client leads, all the way through punchlist and warranty work. The video above gives a brief overview of the software in action, particularly the financial setup of a project start. CoConstruct has a lot more features baked into it than we have time to get into here, but we want to highlight a couple of the features that we believe set CoConstruct apart from other similar apps and software.

Keep Your Clients Informed – “If the clients ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”
Keeping your clients informed as the project progresses is an essential part of any custom build, and CoConstruct takes a lot of the time involved in doing this off of your hands. Included in the software is a client-only web portal that shows them the information they are looking for; 24-7 access to selections, costs, photos, conversations, job calendar, and more. This gives them the opportunity to know exactly where the project is at, and also allows them to share progress photos and your work with their friends through social media, which translates to referrals for your company!

Improved Client Communication – Kiss the “he said, she said” goodbye
CoConstruct has patent-pending communication technology that allows all communication between your team, client, and trade partners to be found in one place. This allows everyone involved in the project to be on the same page, and if changes happen then everyone involved will be in the communication loop without having to worry about forwarding emails, IMs, or text messages to all of the relevant parties.

Finish Strong – Leave a great last impression on your clients
CoConstruct makes it a priority to see your client’s projects through to completion, even while you are moving on to new jobs. You won’t get caught dropping the ball with your clients and subcontractors regarding warranty work with the reports and reminders that will come up, months and years down the line. It’s the “little things” like this that can make or break a great referral for your company, and CoConstruct has your back.

We love CoConstruct, and would like the opportunity to share it with you. If this sounds like an app that you would be interested in checking out, please let us know!

Will QuickBooks Online work for my Construction Business?

I was originally asked to write this article for QBOChat where it was published back on March 8th. I wanted to share it here for our readership as well (with a few minor changes.)

Have you heard it won’t?

If you are a construction company owner who has been told that QuickBooks Online won’t work for your construction business, you may want to take a second look. There are still quite a few accounting professionals who tend to think of QuickBooks Online in the same way as they view the QuickBooks Desktop software package. Don’t get me wrong, QuickBooks Desktop is still a powerful piece of software and it is still being improved upon by the great folks at Intuit. However, to truly understand QuickBooks Online you must understand the idea of SaaS, cloud computing, and app integrations.

So, what is SaaS? No, it’s not the lip that you used to give your mom and for which you were sent to bed without your supper. SaaS stands for Software as a Service. QuickBooks Online is designed to be run from the cloud and one of the major benefits of this cloud computing model is the ability for QuickBooks Online to integrate fairly seamlessly with other cloud based apps. Cloud computing and SaaS programs – “apps” – are really the future of small business management.

OK, so what?

Why, you may be asking, does this matter to me in terms of my construction business. Back to our original proposition – if anyone has ever told you that QuickBooks Online just doesn’t have enough features for you to properly manage your construction business then you should know that they’re right.

Gulp. They’re right. As a Construction Accounting Specialist, I would say that the majority of construction companies (of any size) should not attempt to manage their construction business accounting solely through QuickBooks Online. Yet, the beauty of app integrations with other cloud based software is that now you can take your accounting software – QuickBooks Online – and link it directly to your project management software – for instance, Knowify – and have all the integrated project management and accounting data be magically imported into QuickBooks Online without having to do any manual data entry from one program to the other.

Just think

Think about the ramifications of that for a second. Just a few short years ago, the various aspects of running a construction company were broken up into various parts – estimating had their software tools, project managers had their software tools and accounting had their software tools. These various software systems operated independently of one another. So, estimating would work on an estimate (say they put that together in a spreadsheet program.) Then, they had to communicate that information to the project manager and to accounting – both of whom enter the same data all over again into their respective project management and accounting platforms. As the project progresses, the project manager had to communicate with accounting information about project costs, time and materials, what portion of the job is complete, and so on and so forth.

Let’s take a walk in the cloud

Now, step into the world of cloud computing, Knowify and QuickBooks Online. With these two powerful tools integrated nearly every step of a project (no matter how complicated) can now be managed in one simple tool. Accounting still has the ‘back end’ system of QuickBooks Online for maintaining non-project related items such as payroll and bank reconciliations, but everything pertaining to the projects is now flowing through the one, easy to use system of Knowify and the accountant never needs to do double data entry work to make sense of the numbers because Knowify pushes that information into QuickBooks Online without even having to click a button. Estimating enters their estimate directly into Knowify using as much or as little detail as necessary. The project manager can manage every piece of the project from scheduling to materials invoices to billing right within Knowify. All along the way, every detail that needs to post to QuickBooks is posting to QuickBooks. The accounting department (or your knowledgeable QuickBooks ProAdvisor or Construction Company Network Advisor) can see every piece of the accounting puzzle as it pushes into QuickBooks. Financials, job costing, and other reporting tools can be accessed much more quickly because there is much less time spent between when something happens out on the jobsite and when it is accounted for in the books.

Not only that, but if you need to prepare AIA type billings on a regular basis and they give you headaches trying to figure out what the exact percentage of completion will be for that month, then you will really fall in love with Knowify’s AIA billing capabilities. Not only does Knowify track your costs and progress on the job so that you can have a very accurate picture of percentage of job completion, it even has built in AIA style forms that most general contractors will accept. (Does your QuickBooks Desktop do that?)

Now you know – and,

The next time someone tells you to stay away from QuickBooks Online because it isn’t the right tool for the job, remind them that a drill with no bits is never the right tool forthe job either!

JOBBER: Business Management Solution for Field Service Companies

 

At Schulte and Schulte, our passion is in working with any company that fits under the construction umbrella.  This includes construction service businesses like plumbers, HVAC techs, roofers, landscape techs, etc.  Some of the apps that have been, and will be, featured in this blog series are feature filed and do have elements that would be beneficial to construction service businesses.  However, we feel strongly about finding an app or software solution for each of our clients, and this month’s featured app, Jobber, is a great solution for anyone in the construction service industry.

 

 

 

Jobber is geared toward any company that focuses on construction field service. It is a comprehensive business management solution that will aid any small to medium-sized construction service company. There are three main areas that we’d like to focus on as we dig into this app: Client Features, Team Features, and Business Features.

Client Features
Jobber has some features that will impress your clients and help keep your client information organized. It has an excellent customer relationship management (CRM) tool to keep your client’s information and communication organized. As you communicate with your different clients, whether by sending a quote, getting an e-signature, or reminders to follow up with clients, Jobber keeps track of all communication and saves it in each specific client’s file to help keep you as a construction service business owner more organized.

Team Features
These Team Features integrate both the Jobber computer software as well as their mobile app, which is available for both tablet and phone on iOS and Android. Included are various tools like Scheduling that allows you as the construction service business owner to easily create new jobs for clients and assign them to your team with only a few clicks; Map View Routing that will automatically send notice to your team as they are out in the field giving them the information that they need to get to and work the next job; and GPS Tracking so that you get a clear picture of where your team is at throughout the day as well as tracking employee hours and labor costs.

Business Features
Jobber gives you the ability to send out customized invoices so that you are in control of what your clients see on their invoices. It also has the option included of accepting payment for service right at the jobsite. Also included are Reports that provide a bird’s eye view of how your construction service business is doing, Time Tracking that makes it easy to review and complete payroll, and Accounting Sync that seamlessly integrates with QuickBooks Online to assist with your monthly bookkeeping.

We love Jobber, and would love the opportunity to share it with you. If this sounds like an app that you would be interested in checking out, please let us know!

KNOWIFY: Manage Your Entire Contracting Business in One Place

In this monthly post, it’s my pleasure to introduce you to one of the many apps that we at Schulte and Schulte endorse and recommend to our customers.

As a firm of construction accounting specialists, we love to help companies in the construction industry with their books and finances, part of that help is finding different apps or software that can help our clients out. During this monthly feature, we take a look at several apps that we love at Schulte and Schulte, and dig a little bit deeper into our favorites.

This month, we would like to introduce you to Knowify.

Knowify is an app that is a huge help to any subcontractor, whether that be commercial or residential. Some of the features that won us over at Schulte and Schulte:

Job Costing & Estimating
With Knowify’s powerful estimating tool, you can plan your jobs, itemize your material budgets, and schedule your people to create comprehensive cost estimates. These estimates can be translated into bid line items with a single click.

Bids, Contracts, & Service Work
You can quickly create bids and contracts on your own letterhead and send them through Knowify for electronic signature. You can also easily create service tickets and schedule technicians on work orders.

Time Tracking & Scheduling
Replace the whiteboard, create and maintain your schedule in Knowify so that all your people can see what needs to be worked on while they are in the field. As your people work on work orders, they can punch in time and reimbursements via Knowify’s mobile app. As your people put in time, Knowify will track how you are performing on each job compared to your budgets and estimated costs.

Knowify is truly cloud-based. You can access your Knowify account on your desktop computer, laptop, or tablet; it’s time tracking is most easily handled through the mobile app that is available for either Android or iOS.
We’ve been impressed with Knowify’s truly unified, fully integrated platform. All of its different modules (contracts, time tracking, purchasing, and invoicing) integrate seamlessly to ensure that the products and billable time covered by our client’s contracts are billed correctly.

We love Knowify, and would love the opportunity to share it with you. If this sounds like an app that you would be interested in checking out, please let us know!

HUBDOC: All Financial Docs In One Place

In this monthly post, I’d like to take some time and introduce you to one of many apps that we at Schulte and Schulte endorse and recommend to our customers.

As a firm of construction accounting specialists, of course we would love to help companies in the construction industry with their books and finances, but we also would like to suggest different apps or software that we feel may help our clients out. During this monthly feature, we will be taking a look at several apps that we love at Schulte and Schulte, and dig a little bit deeper into our favorites.

This month, we would like to introduce you to Hubdoc.

 

 

Hubdoc has been an absolute lifesaver for us and our clients in tracking down all of the different financial documents that our clients create and receive. Hubdoc automatically pulls your online bills and bank statements into one secure hub so that these don’t have to be chased down anymore. These documents can be pulled right from your email account, or if you have paper documents, they can be scanned onto your computer and then uploaded to Hubdoc by using a unique email address you are given or by dragging and dropping from your files. They also have a smartphone app that will allow you to take a picture of a receipt or document and upload it to your Hubdoc. Pretty slick!

 

Some of the features of Hubdoc that we have come to love and depend on are:

  • Data management, not data entry
    • Every time a document is fetched or uploaded, Hubdoc extracts the key data and seamlessly creates entries in QuickBooks Online with source documents attached.
  • Automatically audit-proofs your business
    • Through integration, Hubdoc transactions are automatically matched with the bank feed in QuickBooks Online. Audit-proofing your business has never been so effortless.
  • Supercharged automation with vendor rules
    • Vendor rules are a powerful way to take greater control of how receipts, bills and statements are coded into your cloud accounting and cloud payments solutions.
  • Easy collaboration with your advisers – like your friends at Schulte and Schulte!
    • With Hubdoc, your advisers have the documents they need, when they need them. And you have confidence your docs are organized, secure in the cloud and accessible from anywhere.

 

If this sounds like a helpful app, please get in touch with us! We would love to assist you in getting a free trial set up, as well as an opportunity to walk you through the ins and outs of Hubdoc.

Playing Like One of the Big Boys Just Got Easier (3 Apps to Choose From)

Demo versions of Knowify, Contractor Tools and Bolt apps for contractors

Demo versions of Knowify, Contractor Tools and Bolt apps for contractorsAs the world moves forward with technology, a new and unique opportunity is opening up for small contracting businesses. We like to say that we at Schulte and Schulte “help small businesses ‘play like one of the big boys.’” Meaning that, utilizing the increasingly large number of options available in the technological arena, your small contracting business can operate like a large construction corporation.

You can utilize the same powerful tools and resources at a decent price. This is because, thanks to the advent of cloud technology, many tech companies are moving to the subscription based model rather than selling individual pieces of software.

The advantages for small businesses are tremendous. The old methods of software development made it much harder to scale a piece of software for various sized businesses and needs. So, many of the more powerful software choices were economically out of reach of smaller businesses.

Thankfully that is no longer the case. Additionally, the advent of smartphones and tablets is a boon for contractors who need to be able to do a significant portion of their business out in the field.

When I first began working in the construction industry some ahem-ahem many years ago, cell phones were not even prevalent. Job supervisors in the field had to carry massive paper plans with them in their work trucks, make change orders on the job site and hope that the proper person that needed to sign off on them was there. He or she then went on to write take off lists on their ever-present yellow legal pads and try to remember which jobsite that particular takeoff was for and then take photos with their film cameras to be developed at some later date.

Now, every one of those tasks has been automated and shrunk to less than an 8 ½” x 11” piece of paper. By carrying your tablet or smartphone with you onto the job you can do all of those tasks and keep every bit of them in one spot, making decisions on the jobsite much easier and leading to a significant savings in time and amazing increase in productivity – meaning you can take on more work and get it done more quickly!

Let’s take a look at three options available for contractors which can be utilized on mobile devices all of which integrate with QuickBooks Online for seamless accounting information transfer.

 

Contractor Tools

Contractor Tools is a relatively new player in the apps market, but they are growing quickly and have some really excellent features along with some limitations that are worth noting. The developers (makers of the Smart Contractor software) entered the app market with their original offering for iOS (works on iPad, iPhone and iPod) called Construction Cost Estimator. This handy tool brought the hefty Craftsman Costbooks to a portable app that could be accessed from anywhere and searched easily. It also enabled contractors to create estimates on site and get signatures on them right in the app. Building off that idea, Contractor Tools takes things a step further and includes not just the option to subscribe to the costbooks and do estimating, but also the ability to set up multiple customers and jobs for job tracking and costing, set up custom job templates to shorten the time required for putting together estimates, and even keep track of basic information on employees. It has a QuickBooks sync feature and can sync quite a bit of data with QuickBooks Online including:

  • Customer information
  • Job and job estimate information
  • Customer invoices
  • Customer payments

What we like:

  1. The easy to use, straightforward app interface
  2. The link to the Craftsman Costbooks and ability to create custom costbooks
  3. The job costing features (QuickBooks Online’s job costing features are greatly diminished, so this fills the void.)

What we’d like to see improved:

  1. Time tracking – they are developing this and we’re excited to see where they take it
  2. More operating systems supported – also in development currently with a Mac app to come out sometime this fall
  3. Improved dashboard – more job costing information would be a good start here.

What it costs:

Contractor’s Tools offers Basic, Essentials and Pro packages starting at $9.99 for one user and only one invoice per job. Other options are offered at slightly higher price points.

Where you can find out more:

Take a look at Contractor’s Tools website for more information on the app, pricing and to see some tutorials. You can also download the app and try it free for 30 days.

 

Bolt

Much like Contractor Tools, Bolt was created by contractors for contractors. Bolt is a more robust tool which includes everything from the ability to upload plan documents and draw on them in the field to scheduling, time tracking and reporting. Bolt is a web-based app that can also sync with native apps on your mobile device (for now they only have iOS, but Android and Windows apps are in development, with the Android app set to appear within a month of this writing.) So with Bolt you can create scheduling of materials and people in the office and then supervisors and field personnel can confirm that those schedules have been carried out correctly right from the jobsite. Supervisors can also look at an overall list of work orders and prioritize their day accordingly. The QuickBooks sync syncs both your items list in QuickBooks Online along with invoicing, so that everything can be invoiced in Bolt and then QuickBooks can be utilized for all of the back end reconciliations and financial reporting. Again, Bolt fills in the gap for project costing that QuickBooks Online simply cannot do.

What we like:

  1. The scheduling capabilities are fantastic – including drag and drop ease of use
  2. The ability to mark up drawings in the field is a significant benefit
  3. The fact that the main app is cloud based and accessible from any device with an internet browser.

What we’d like to see improved:

  1. While we do love that drag and drop feature, the layout can be a tad confusing. We’d like to see maybe some icons or colors to distinguish different areas of the screens
  2. The live demo is helpful, but we’d love to see a free trial download or at least demo version to click around in before buying – around here we learn best by doing
  3. More clear information up front about exactly how the app integrates with QuickBooks so that the contractor and the bookkeeper can be sure to be on the same page

What it costs:

Bolt works with clients to design a program and price that works well for them. They offer 1 month free implementation and training so that your setup is customized to your specific business and your employees are equipped to manage it from the beginning.

Where you can find out more:

Take a look at Bolt’s website for more information about Bolt, their story, and to schedule your own live demo.

 

Knowify

Knowify is another cloud-based solution. It is a very robust solution created specifically for sub-contractors and small home remodelers that offers seamless integration of all parts of the project. You can create estimates for fixed price, time and material or AIA-type commercial projects. It has some really powerful dashboard features, including a separate, easy to read dashboard for each individual job. It also has some great time tracking and dispatch management features as well as the ability to customize user privileges. Like Bolt, you can personalize the app to fit your specific business and you can use it everywhere – from the office, to the home office, to the field – everyone in the company can collaborate on the projects together in the same system. There is an Accountant’s View and also a two-way sync with QuickBooks so that the entire company can be working on the projects together, but only those with a need to know are touching the financials. One of the most impressive features of their job costing setup is the ability to not just track budgeted vs. actuals on labor and material COSTS, but to also track expected hours to be worked against actual hours worked and also budgeted materials needed for the job vs materials ordered. While traditional job costing methods can be aggravating to try and understand when overtime hours and material orders are not easily understood using only dollar figures, Knowify’s job costing can help you really see the overall picture and make up for any estimating or scheduling deficiencies in the real world. This app can not only fill in that great job costing deficiency within QuickBooks Online, but it can help you look good while doing it!

What we like:

  1. The billing features including the ability to produce AIA-type invoices with schedules of value
  2. The overall appeal of Knowify’s look and feel including the ease of navigation and simple to read dashboards
  3. The ability to receive email notifications and alerts to help you stay on top of project needs

What we’d like to see improved:

  1. With all these great features, it would be great to add a built-in CRM tool for keeping up with leads in addition to current estimates and projects.
  2. Like other cloud-based options, the information can only be accessed if you are able to be online. In a state like Arizona where contracts and/or service calls might be performed outside of mobile networking, it would be nice to have the native app available and be able to upload and sync data after returning to mobile network or wi-fi access.
  3. We’d like to see the ability to draw on plans or photos right in the app.

What it costs:

Knowify offers simple pricing based on the size of the company starting at $68 per month for 1-5 employees and include about an hour of free setup and training for one of your employees.

Where you can find out more:

Take a look at Knowify’s website for more information about the app, see a customized video demo and to start a free 14 day trial.