Change is rarely easy. In fact it’s typically very difficult. That’s what the co-owners of Springfield, Missouri’s ForresterTech are learning first-hand as they work with consultants Ryan Brown of Media Environment Design and Leslie Shiner from the ShinerGroup to complete Residential Systems’ Resi Business Makeover, which began earlier this year.
The ForresterTech team, back row (l-r) Ben Forrester, Ed Mills, Thad Forrester, Dustin Willis. Front row (l-r) Chris Allison, Wayne Pierce, Robert Gann.
As part of the Makeover, brothers Ben and Thad Forrester are completing a D-Tools database overhaul, which has them narrowing their product mix to be more focused and targeted on brands that they want to embrace regularly. They’ve also built pre-engineered packages in D-Tools and begun using more accessories in the database to build efficiency and accuracy in their sales/design/installation process.
“One thing I have certainly learned through the process thus far is that change is work,” Ben Forrester noted. “It has been a substantial increase in workload to continue to perform the day-to-day operations as well as the work on the Makeover.”
Forrester acknowledged that some of the items identified through the Makeover factfinding process are ones that his team had already identified as issues but had never taken the time to correct.
“Having someone to hold you accountable as well as ‘hold your hand’ at times has been very helpful to get things rolling,” he said of his work with Brown and Shiner.
In part as a result of its improved D-Tools database, ForresterTech’s most notable change thus far has been in its proposal and job-costing processes. This was by design, according to Forrester.
“We chose our proposal process as the area where we felt we would realize the largest benefit for the least amount of work,” he said. “Ryan’s help in getting our D-Tools data cleaned up and set up in the correct way has greatly sped up our proposal generation. Leslie’s help in correctly burdening our labor costs has given us a realistic view of the profitability of our projects.”
Although the integration firm is still creating packages for D-Tools, accounting workflows to finalize, and project management processes to improve, it is already looking ahead to its next big task: implementing a CRM system.
Previously, ForresterTech didn’t have any method of centralized contact management and their customer contact data is stored in everybody’s local contact lists or cell phones. The company also doesn’t have any formal method of tracking its sales pipeline other than each sales person keeping track of their own prospects and opportunities.
“It’s an issue when the owner of a company is getting phone calls from their staff asking for contact information,” Brown noted. “It’s [also] an issue when the owner can’t get a snapshot of the current sales pipeline.”
ForresterTech also lacks a formal servicecall management process or tool to track incoming service calls other than email and their project schedule. “They know that they aren’t capitalizing on the revenue opportunities presented by service and have admitted they are probably losing money at times due to invoices that never get sent for service,” Brown concluded.
The consultants selected a cloud-based CRM tool from Zoho (crm.zoho.com) that will provide ForresterTech with centralized contact management, so that their staff will have all customer contact data at their fingertips. A sales pipeline management system will be put in place to help the firm track all of its sales opportunities and identify when their pipeline is out of balance (not enough new opportunities or too few opportunities poised to close). The integrator also will begin running its sales meetings using the pipeline data as a focal point for the discussion. A service call management system will be put in place to track incoming service calls, assign them to a technician and track the status of each service call. A service dashboard will show management the current status of the service department (how many open, closed, and in-process service calls), as well as allow for escalating a service call to become a high priority. In the future the company will utilize the CRM tool to streamline and optimize their process.
It’s a change that Ben Forrester fully embraces, but wishes he had started years ago. “My advice to anyone who wants to make changes to their own company is to get started today,” he said. “There are always excuses not to do something, but if you really want to change, schedule the time and make it happen.”
Jeremy J. Glowacki is editorial director of Residential Systems.