You’d think the ‘secret document’ we refer to in the title would be, say, a project proposal or a cost estimate, but those aren’t really a secret. Everyone already knows how important it is to attract new customers, sell them on your services, and price your parts and services right.
But a purchase order? Now that’s a well-kept secret. This lowly document may be the key to success for your field service business, but many businesses fudge their POs—like raising a PO for £0 and then forgetting to fill in the correct amount later—are sloppy about using them consistently, or don’t use them at all.
We want to light a fire under you to start using POs, so here are the top three ways this ‘boring’ document can be the most exciting opportunity for your field service business.
1. Purchase orders help you serve your customers better.
Customers love field service companies that can provide them with the information and service they need quickly and without fuss.
Let’s say you installed a new boiler for a business customer a year ago. That customer comes back to you now and says they’re opening another office and want the same boiler installed in the new location. And they want you to install it!
The PO-less business owner would have to dig back through their files (or through their brains) to remember what boiler the customer had installed, what parts were needed for the installation, and how much it all cost. However, ‘If you had had a PO for that first installation, you’d be able to check and tell the customer, "Hey, you got this particular product at this particular time, and it cost this much. I've got you covered’”, says Damon Brown, author of The Bite-Sized Entrepreneur: 21 Ways to Ignite Your Passion & Pursue Your Side Hustle. ‘That gives you the ability to streamline the actual service process’.
2. POs help you grow your business.
Those first few years when you’re building your business are the ‘danger zone’, where so many businesses fail. You’re just trying to stay afloat, and doing the bare minimum required in terms of record-keeping and systems.
Once you’re out of the danger zone and are ready to grow your business, POs let you analyse your costs over those first few years so you can make smart decisions for the future of your company. ‘Getting those particular details takes more energy and time in the short term, but in the long term, you're able to have a bit more objectivity’, says Brown.
It’s tempting to skimp on strategising when you’re just trying to make it through the day, but putting in the bit of effort to use POs when your business is young will pay off big. (By the way, if you’re a Commusoft customer, you can easily raise POs from your PC or Mac, or on-site with your mobile device.)
3. POs help you prepare for the future.
You may think you’re too small to bother with POs. After all, you’re only doing £X in business per month, so why bother? However, business experts suggest you put systems in place before you need them, instead of waiting until you need them right now or else. ‘If you have the space and the time to do POs—or any system that would make your business better as it grows—then you should do it immediately, versus waiting until it becomes a desperation point and you're not able to put it in properly’, says Brown.
For example, what if you’re waiting until you really, really need a purchase order system before implementing one, and your dream customer lands on your doorstep? The kind of customer that will skyrocket your profits, and that demands to see POs as part of their record-keeping? ‘You don't have a system in place, and suddenly you’re trying to slap things together to take advantage of this opportunity’, Brown says. ‘That could crush your business’.
On the positive side, there’s the philosophy that ‘luck favours the prepared’. Get all your systems in place even if you don’t need them quite yet, and chances are an opportunity will show up.
Speaking of opportunities: We just integrated PartsArena Pro, the leading parts identification software for heating engineers out in the field, into our workflow management solution. These two helpful tools give you the power to easily identify the fault and part number required for your next job through direct access to technical manuals, exploded diagrams, and parts number lists.