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Signshop Management and Estimation Software

Why leave money on the table?

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A POTENTIAL CUSTOMER CALLS and needs a dozen banners. After giving you the details, they want to know how much will it cost. Are you prepared to quickly respond with a quote? In many cases, the shop owner will work out the estimate on a scrap piece of paper. Blank banners cost so much and the vinyl will cost this much based on coverage and type. Add the number up, factor in profit and taxes, and there’s the answer. If that’s your method, then you may be poised either to lose money or leave money on the table. Did you factor in the cost of the transfer tape or labor? Or other, harder-to-figure expenses like overhead? As you can see, it’s possible to forget important details when estimating a job.

If you feel you aren’t making as much profit as you think you should, or if you’re losing business because you can’t bid fast enough, then sign estimation – at a minimum, and possibly a full-on, shop-management solution – may help you overcome these issues.

GETTING THE PRICE RIGHT

Starting out, a shop can begin using an estimating/pricing application. In the scenario we presented earlier, you could plug in the banner sizes, number of colors, etc., and the program would generate a professional-looking estimate that included all of the costs and taxes. It may be so fast that you can do it with the client on the phone. If you have a larger shop, the software can act as a complete shop-management application. Customer-relations management (CRM) information can be added as the info flows from cold call to estimate, job, delivery, invoicing and receivables. Along the way, jobs can be scheduled and managed, and inventory levels can be overseen. Now imagine accomplishing that manually; it’s too easy to make an error that could be the difference between making a profit – or even losing a bid.

So now you’re ready to go. Where do you start? The size of your shop should determine that. Estimation is a good place to begin. You can either opt for a standalone application that will carry a higher initial cost, or select a cloud-based application that offers a low startup cost, but an ongoing fee each month. If you see your shop growing, look at a package that can be upgraded to a full management system in the future.

After making your decision, don’t expect to just sit back and relax; the set-up phase will require some effort. You’ll need to load company information, customer statistics, and data about your equipment and operating costs. Most of the software companies offer training, and some will even come to you and help you set up the application for your shop. The final steps are ensuring that employees are trained and that the system is used consistently. As a final note, most of the applications do not offer full accounting capabilities. However, virtually every program will interface with popular accounting software, such as QuickBooks.

Job estimation and, ultimately, shop management applications, can be invaluable additions to your company. We all want to make the most profit we can and spend our time on the important aspects of running a signshop. With the right application, proper setup and use, estimating and shop management software can make your job much easier.

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Chris and Kathi Morrison own and operate The Image Specialists, a full-service graphics company based in Clements, CA. Chris is also a Microsoft-certified systems engineer. Contact the Morrisons at [email protected].

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