Small Firm, Big OpportunityAugust 2009
By Andrea Moe
How to spend less time in the office and more time on the job.
No matter a firm’s size or location, it’s always important to keep a solid handle on the company’s financial health, and particularly for small firms, it’s more critical than ever given the current economy. The fewer employees a contractor has, the more crucial it is to have proper systems in place to manage the business, keep tabs on cash position, and enable intelligent decisions about the health and future of the company—freeing employees to do what they do best.
TV SUCCESS TURNED BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY
With a background in mechanical engineering and residential construction, contractor Chip Wade’s talents landed him on the Atlanta, Georgia, team of HGTV’s popular Designed to Sell series in fall 2007, and most recently as the General Contractor for HGTV’s Curb Appeal the Block. Wade’s creativity and expertise have made him a favorite with viewers, and quickly generated additional demand for his building and design expertise around Atlanta.
After a year on Designed to Sell, Wade found himself in the enviable position of having more opportunities than he could manage, and teamed up with a business partner, Ryan Taylor, to offer a refreshing approach to design along with creative, high-level construction—engineering and fabrication expertise.
Formed late last year, their firm, Wade Taylor, LLC, is a custom design-build firm that provides distinctive, turnkey design, planning, and construction services for the high-end commercial and residential markets. Their services are geared to corporate facilities, restaurants, hotels, retail, religious facilities, and other commercial and residential clients. Taylor’s background in commercial construction pairs perfectly with Wade’s residential expertise, enabling them to cover this wide spectrum, from small scale residential renovations to large scale high-end commercial projects.
Despite the broad range of their expertise, they are essentially a five-man shop, relying on subcontractor assistance, and requiring exceptional organization on the back end to help them stay on top of their projects and cash flow to make solid business decisions. By implementing a software solution to help them do all of those things easily, Wade Taylor can take on projects of any size, large or small, and focus on what they do best: designing and delivering distinctive design and construction in the Atlanta market.
SUPPORT FOR A GROWING BUSINESS
Wade and his partner recognized the need for a powerful back-end solution early on. They were looking for a system with extensive reporting, detailed tracking, business analytics, and construction-specific functionality, but also a system that was intuitive and easy to use.
“When we first started, we were using one solution,” Wade says, “Ryan had used it in a previous business, and we had the perception that it was basic and user friendly. What we quickly realized was that it was too basic. The scope of job and financial management that we needed was too much for the software—we may as well have been using Excel. With our eye on growth, we realized we needed more, so we started looking around for something that could do all of what we needed, but was still easy to use.”
IDENTIFYING THE RIGHT SOLUTION
When looking to implement a back-end solution, Wade Taylor—like many small contractors—needed a system that could automate business management functions so that Chip and Ryan could spend more time designing and building. Implementing a solution with the ability to perform cash flow projection, detailed job costing, forecasting, and detailed reporting was parmount. With this in mind, below are some key features that Wade has found critical to the success of the business.
Cash Flow Management. “Cash flow projection is big for any firm, but with the type of accounting we’re doing with our business with the manpower we have, efficient accessibility to information is critical. The ability to get a snapshot of where we are at any point in time enables us to immediately get the information we need to make intelligent business decisions.”
Access. Quick and easy access to documents is immensely valuable to Wade, who is always on the go. The ability to keep certificates of insurance, plans, estimates, and any other related documents for a job right at his fingertips in the accounting system allows him to quickly add attachments to reports and complete administrative tasks with ease.
Forecasting. As Wade Taylor’s business continues to grow, implementing a solution that creates as many efficiencies as possible was important—especially features that enable forecasting and future planning. “The way the employees tie into the job costing—to see the extent to which an employee was utilized for which job is helpful for future planning, and gives us a leg up on being able to forecast labor needs,” Wade says.
Wade chose Peachtree Premium Accounting for Construction, a solution that encompasses all of these features. “Right off the bat, we were able to easily track job costs and profitability, which helps us stay organized, and now we can compile comprehensive reports quickly because of that organization along the way,” he says. Peachtree’s customizable My Business dashboard gives Wade a graphical display of where his business is at any one moment, providing him the information he needs to make confident decisions about the direction of his business.
“For us, having the right software in place is critical, and enables us to do so much more. It really opens up the scope of what we’re able to do. Because we have the back end covered so well, we have the ability to make informed decisions and the capacity to do just about anything.”
As for those firms that still use paper and pencil or Excel, Wade recommends taking another look at your system, “With Excel, you’re not privy to on-the-fly info that helps to make smart business decisions. You’re rolling the dice. You can always make the right decision if you have the right information in front of you; you’re shooting yourself in the foot if you have technology on your side and don’t use it. It’s much easier to stop mistakes before they happen. The right software protects you all the way through.” ■
About The Author:
Andrea Moe is director of product management and marketing for Peachtree by Sage, overseeing the strategy and delivery of Peachtree solutions for small businesses. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on Wade Taylor, visit www.chipwade.com.
Download a pdf version of this article. | Adobe Reader is required.