Contractors And Technology: A BSC/Software Expert's Insight
Several years ago, many building service contractors were reluctant to buy even the most basic software packages. Recently, as changing demands of the marketplace require BSCs to be more comfortable with technology, they’ve added more computers and specialized software. But how much do they really need? What are they looking for?
It varies, says Scott Smith, owner of Executive Cleaning Co. Inc. in Billings, Mont. He also owns Rimrock Technologies, a software company in Billings.
“Most BSCs and cleaning managers in general all realize they need something to help them manage their business or department,” says Smith. “But a lot of them kind of expect that once they install the software, all of their problems go away, which of course isn’t the case. You’re only going to get out what you put in, regardless of the software that you purchase.”
BSCs who understand that software is only a tool, not a panacea, tend to get the most out of their technology investments.
Although contractors often have a reputation for being resistant to change, Smith says that’s not the case. When he speaks with BSCs about technology, they’re receptive to new things, and they even offer their ideas for improvement, including suggesting new products and modules.
In the pipeline
“The No. 1 thing people ask for that I don’t already offer is something for hand-held devices,” Smith says. “But I actually see that trend going down — which is surprising, but in the last year or so, they don’t ask for that as much.”
Smith does offer an inspection program for hand-held computers (such as the Palm Pilot), as do other software vendors, but he says most customers just want their existing software to perform better.
“As far as future products, I’ve got some ideas for additional modules, but the thing I think about right now is how I can make my current customers more productive with the software I have,” Smith says. “Just like in my cleaning business. My top priority is to make my existing customers happy. And when I do, the upside is I get more business through referrals and word-of-mouth.
Interested in government work? If your contract is worth more than $25,000, and you’re interested in working in federal facilities, visit the U.S. General Services Administration’s portal. Building service contractors can search the site by keyword for opportunities in their market. They also can register to receive notification of updates or modifications to the requests for proposals that they wish to track.
Many small business owners perform their own technical support, even with limited knowledge and background in computers and office technology. To make this task easier, tech site CNET offers a continuing how-to series, “Tech Nightmares,” which presents common problems, troubleshooting methods and solutions in easy-to-read, entertaining language. Recent topics have included printing difficulties and wireless security.
City-Wide Web? BSCs in San Francisco and Milwaukee might soon have alternatives to traditional internet service providers. In San Francisco, Web giant Google recently submitted a proposal to set up a city-wide wireless network, to which any properly equipped computer could connect, for free, according to Wired News.
And, in Milwaukee, city officials currently are negotiating with service providers to set up a municipal wireless network, which could then be accessed for a fee. According to a recent Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article, approximately 125 cities worldwide now have some form of widespread, wireless broadband Internet access available.
Not Every Business needs a flashy, constantly updated Web site — but all BSCs need to make sure their sites are functional, secure and up-to-date, according to an article on bizjournals.com.
Content should be short and simple, while avoiding unnecessary bells and whistles that could slow visitors with less-than-modern browsers down. Also, while most BSCs needn’t update their content daily, or even monthy, they should make sure that all links are live.
An expert consulted in the article suggests that even static Web sites should be thoroughly reviewed once a quarter. Companies also should ensure their Web site is secured at both the office and host levels.
To read the rest of the tips, visit the “Toolbox” section.
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