We caught up with Ryan Schofield, Thames Valley Windows and founding partner of the CRM and business management tool, Business Pilot.
What is Business Pilot?
Business Pilot is a powerful CRM and business management tool, giving installers complete visibility of each and every element of their operation from leads and conversions to job scheduling, cost of installation, service calls, and financial reporting. Because it’s cloud-based, you can access it from anywhere either on a desktop, tablet or on your phone on the app.
It helps you to run your business more profitably, integrating with lead generation tools, supplier ordering systems and accountancy software so that everything is there at your fingertips.
Why did you create it?
I was approached by Jim and Ryan Breslin at Cherwell Windows who were in exactly the same place as we were, in that out pre-existing CRM system didn’t do what we needed it to do.
It had a facility for inputting leads but we were still handing them out like much of the industry to salespeople rather than tracking and proactively managing them digitally, so the only ones you ever heard about were the ones you sold, the rest disappeared into the ether!
Given the cost of lead generation and how competitive the industry is, we couldn’t afford to carry on doing that.
The other challenge was scheduling. We had the customer record in our old CRM but we were relying on manual systems and scheduling boards to run jobs, white boards, pieces of paper, t-cards, so we really wanted something which would allow us to bring it all together in one package.
There were lots of lead management tools out there, lots of marketing bolt-ons, but nothing that pulled it together and delivered on the ops-side.
That’s what you really want as an installer. You want to know where your leads are coming from but the pinch points in your business, all come within the customer journey. It’s after the job is sold that the hard work really starts.
At that point we brought in our own digital teams and decided to build a platform which did do what we wanted, which was specifically developed for installers, and which would support us in future-proofing our businesses, launching Business Pilot in 2017.
What was that journey like?
Thames Valley Windows evolved from an ‘everyday window company’ around eight or ten years ago doing a bit of PVC-U, a bit of timber, to bring in more complex products like Solarlux, Internorm – more bespoke European products, largely because of where we are in an affluent area of the South East and bordering London, and the architectural projects started to come through.
With that type of job, there’s a lot of expectation, and a lot of paperwork that comes through and that was where Business Pilot came in. We had experience where not having the paper trails had cost us money, and we wanted a system that gave us that audit trail.
Job costings, the performance of individual products, deferred income – we wanted to be able to see and understand the workings of what is probably on the scale, a more complex installation business.
If Business Pilot could be made to work for us, it gave us the confidence that it would work for everyone else. And it wasn’t all there, we had to go through a development phase to refine Business Pilot and make it what we wanted it to be.
With us and Cherwell having gone through that ‘road-test’, and what adapted from other customers, while we will continue to add and develop and remain customer led, for most new customers, Business Pilot will be a turn-key solution for the management of their businesses.
Is there anything you would single out?
It’s the understanding that you get of the profitability of your business. If you follow the steps in Business Pilot and they are very logical, you are creating a more robust business. You understand your cashflow, where your leads are coming from, is there money in the bank? You also understand where you’re making or losing it.
Business Pilot gives you an instant understanding of your financial position. Over the last 12-months with demand where it has been, it’s very easy to be a busy fool. You may think, ‘it will cost me this and I’ll sell it for that’ but it’s very easy to get caught at the back of a job for cost that you weren’t expecting.
That’s always going to happen to a point and you have to go through the mill of the job to know, but if you’re not tracking it you won’t know and you don’t have the opportunity to adapt your process.
Business Pilot gives you the understanding that you need to run your business profitably.