Ready or not, the past year just came to an abrupt close. For some, the new year simply serves as an opportunity to change out the calendar hung on the wall; I like to think of the new year as more of an opportunity to makes changes and improvements in one’s life – and shouldn’t such a focus also extend to professional life?

As business owners and managers, we know the greatest strengths and concealed weaknesses of our own organization. We know what we should be doing differently, and what practices have become outdated. In nearly every business, there are opportunities to improve – to become more efficient, more productive, more profitable, or otherwise. So how do we breathe new life into an established organization? The first step is to acknowledge areas that deserve improvement, and the following step (and arguably the most critical) is to take appropriate action.

In my line of business, I have been fortunate to work with contractors from all walks of professional life on a very regular basis. I regularly see some of the same basic desires for improvement within a restoration company. Here are some of the most common.

1. Accessibility to Information

“Who has the job file?” A simple inquiry you may have heard a time or two during your time as a restoration professional. Inherently, such a statement implies that information – basic job details, job history, photos, documentation and forms, work schedules, etc. – are all held in a single, physical file within an office. It’s no secret that with such a workflow process there are also certain limitations, such as the inability for efficient sharing of information, the risk of damage or loss if information, the inconvenience of real-time updates to the file, and more. Contractors have built successful businesses on paper-based processes for years, but as technology and innovation rapidly move forward, these processes are quickly outdated and becoming more and more inefficient.

In today’s growing age of technology, there are software systems designed specifically for restoration professionals, complete with contractor-centric workflows, familiar verbiage, tools designed for the trade, and more, all of which designed around improving access to your business information and enhancement of communication. Adoption by contractors today is at an all-time high, and for good reason – investing in technology helps businesses to grow. If you still rely on a paper process to stay organized, make 2017 the year to propel your organization forward with improved accessibility to your critical business information through an restoration management software system.

2. Mobility

Contractors are always on the move, so wouldn’t it make sense that all tools of the trade become just as mobile? As a society, we’ve come to rely on our mobile devices for so much more than making phone calls or sending a text message. Much of the demand is driven by the younger workforce that has embraced modern technology for all aspects of life – including their professional life. It’s a natural alignment to make mobile workflows a key part of your business.

Injecting a mobile workflow in your business provides the flexibility of accessing information, completing jobs and updating records while on the go – inside or outside the office. While functionality may vary by system, everything you need is at your fingertips, such as capturing a signature on a work authorization form, accessing basic customer contact information, capturing and uploading job photos, sending a job progress report, tracking equipment, and more. Leveraging a mobile workflow empowers your employees like never before and helps your company to get more done in less time with greater accuracy. Most workflow management systems designed for contractors include a mobile app or mobile workflow at no additional cost, helping you to take full advantage of a system designed for your entire team – office staff and field staff alike. If your team doesn’t rely on a mobile workflow today, make it a priority for 2017.

3. Automation

There are increased gains in efficiency and output when automated processes are put into place, such as quicker results, more accurate information, and improved communication on many levels. Automation is all around us today – in our homes, in our cars, in our daily commute, and so much more that we often take for granted. Such automation in a business process eliminates costly redundancies, which in turn has a direct positive impact to your bottom line and profitability!

Today, there are means to build automated processes into your organization through software. For example, in some systems you have the power to fully customize workflow tasks for your employees based on trigger points; you can build out a series of steps, much like a follow-the-prompt sequence for different job types, which helps your employees always know what step in a process is next. For example, as soon as a job is received, an employee may be systematically prompted to contact the customer to schedule an inspection. Once the inspection is completed, an employee may be prompted to capture photos on a mobile device or capture a signature on a work authorization form, which in turn automatically triggers other steps in the process. Consider the benefit of building such automated processes into your organization, such as a more confident employee and ultimately more consistent results on every job.

4. Reporting

How many open jobs do you have today? What is your gross profit to date? What is your job volume trend year over year? What is your most valuable lead source? What is your average job completion time? What are the top reasons new jobs are not accepted? Are you even making money?

There are many questions that factor into understanding the overall health of your organization, and without recognizing areas for improvement, it’s difficult to know how to improve. An aspect of reporting is critical to driving success. Most business owners don’t have free time to compile data and build regular reports, which is why a reporting system integrated into your workflow management software is an invaluable resource. Many systems offer standard reporting tools, visual dashboard representations, as well as custom report builders that provide the flexibility of pulling data relevant to your company to further enhance data insights.

In what ways do you wish to breathe new life into your restoration company? There are many ways you can make 2017 have a lasting positive impact on your business. It can be overwhelming to take on too much, too fast (and can also have detrimental effects on your business) - you don’t have to do everything, but you should certainly make plans to do something as you consider how to turn weaknesses into strengths in your business. Take a moment for introspection and consider new ways that leveraging technology further in your organization may make a positive impact and generate improved, fresh results for the current year, and the years to come.