Busy, but are you profitable?

Installers have been busier than ever this year, but have they been profitable? Glass Times talks to Business Pilot to find out.

Figures published by Business Pilot in its monthly barometer show that June and July were peak months for the window and door industry: leads rocketed 70% June on May, and a staggering 453% on April; while sales were up 46% on May and almost 560% on April.

Going into the autumn, leads have slowed. According to the tracker there was a 23% drop in sales in August on July, and by 3% in September. However, they remain at historically high levels, with many installers still reporting 12-week order books.

So, while installers are busy, are they actually profitable?

According to Ryan Breslin, sales director of Business Pilot and managing director of Cherwell Windows, this is the million-dollar question.

“It’s very difficult to track your profitability if you aren’t using the right software and if those software systems aren’t connected and talking to one another,” he said.

“We know this from our own experience: we needed a real-time understanding of our financials and there wasn’t a system that could give it to us because they were focused on lead to sales; the connection between the sale and the order was missing.

“As soon as the order became live, they were lacking on the operational side of the business in terms of scheduling of installers, the financial reporting.

“We wanted to create a turn-key solution from lead inception from, for example, a website all the way through to the installation and its management, so you can see the profitability of each job.”

Business Pilot is a cloud-based business management tool. Its USP is that it’s been developed by installers for installers: by Cherwell Windows’ Jim and Ryan Breslin, and Thames Valley Windows’ Ryan Schofield, plus managing director, Elton Boocock.

The starting point for design was Cherwell Windows’ own scheduling board, something developed and refined by Jim Breslin over a 30-year period.

Digitised, this and Business Pilot’s wider functionality is accessible from wherever you are and on whatever device you happen to be on, connecting your team and allowing you to run your business from anywhere.

Drag-and-drop capability, links to drawings, specifications and images, site video, supplier orders, cost of install, and helicopter and detailed analysis of your profitability is accessible from anywhere.

It allows installers to track costs against each element of the job from purchase cost to time on site, to service calls.

“We encourage customers to connect their purchase processes, which then links with their order and delivery schedule, so you can see when that product is coming in and that it’s doing so at the right price,” Ryan said.

“That feeds into a job-cost summary report. That also allows you to track other costs: fitting times, remedial and service costs right the way through the lifetime guarantee across the 10 years.

“You can also put commissions against the job and see if individual members of your sales team are pricing jobs correctly, with sufficient margin, what the salesman has allowed in fitting time, and if you have had run-overs on the job.

“You can manage and track each and every aspect of delivery when you’re in a live environment.”

This, he argues, is important as the industry continues to see unprecedented levels of demand, and in underpinning sustainable growth.

“The information management side of Business Pilot is what’s helped us grow,” Ryan said. “There are lots of interactions every day, with customers, salespeople, and fitters. There is a lot of day-to-day activity that goes on.

“We store all the relevant records in one place. As a cloud-based system it can be accessed from anywhere and by anyone who has permissions, from home or wherever you are.

“It connects and tracks each element of our operation, removes mundane tasks and automates them, and allows us to operate our business more efficiently.”