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Speaking with: Ricky Macdonald of RLM Windows

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For many owner-mangers the biggest risk in business isn’t taking the plunge to start-up. Most people starting a business are by definition pretty good at what they do, otherwise they wouldn’t do it. It’s handing over responsibility for what they have built up to other people – something which is the inevitable consequence of success and growth.

That makes process key, because it gives you, as an owner-manager, visibility. Without it, you don’t have a business, you have you!

“One of things that I’m really bad is delegating”, says Ricky Macdonald, Managing Director, Newcastle-based retail specialist, RLM Windows. “Most of the business was stored in there”, he says, pointing to his head. “I needed a system where my business wasn’t just stored in my head; where I could put a note onto a customer’s account so that anyone who picked it up, in the office in the install team – wherever they were, they would have that note there.

“That’s why we introduced Business Pilot.”

Set up 2008, bang in the middle of the last recession, RLM Windows works throughout the North East offering an extensive range of windows and doors as well glazed extensions, conservatories and sunrooms. This business has grown since start-up employing three fitting teams plus specialist sub-contractors.

Technology key to growth

“We’re a pretty tech-savvy business. We like to do things differently and that’s supported our growth”, says Ricky. We were one of the first installers locally to have a door designer on our website, something that is now pretty basic to any company. Then we started pricing through the website.

“We now survey with I-pads which is great with Business Pilot because we can survey and upload the photos straight away from the customer’s premises”, he adds.

“The one thing we really struggled with was a CRM system. We relied on bits of paper, notepads and files in the office. We couldn’t find anything that did what we needed it to do.

“We were looking at a competitor to Business Pilot’s system and I just so happened to see Business Pilot at the Fit Show and had a quick look at the product and then looked at again couple of weeks later, looked at it, liked it, had a play around with the demonstration system and it went from there.”

Business Pilot has been designed to give installers complete visibility of each and every aspect of their operation from lead through to aftercare and everything in between, including installation scheduling.

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

And moreover, it’s accessible from anywhere.

Better delegation = better customer experience

Ricky argues that the oversight Business Pilot gives him, has not only freed up his time and supported the RLM Windows team in working more efficiently but also translated into better customer experience.

“With Business Pilot we put it all on there from first call to after the job is complete and service calls.

We use the note facility and pictures quite a lot throughout the process. It means if someone picks it up or the customer calls half way through the job, they don’t necessarily need to speak to the person who sold it or who surveyed the job, anyone who takes that call should be able to answer the question by looking at the notes and the pictures.

“Not that they know that anything is done differently but there is something in place every step of the way which makes our interactions with the customer and the delivery of the job better.”

 

Which products give you most profit?

Every change is tracked within Business Pilot and duplicated throughout the system making day to day management of installation operations simpler but also delivering new insight into your business. This includes a ‘true’ indication of profitability per job but the factors that have contributed to it, for example pricing, time on site or call backs.

“Percentage of profitability something we never really looked at before. We knew that we made money within reason but we didn’t know which products made us the most money. Business Pilot gives us our overall profit and losses on each job and shows it as a percentage”, Ricky continues.

This has prompted RLM Windows to adjust the focus of its business to those areas which allowed it to generate the most sustainable profit.

“It wasn’t that we were losing money it was that in one of the biggest areas of our business we weren’t making as much money as we thought we were. The profit margins weren’t as great as a lot things”, says Ricky

“We build a lot of conservatories, small extensions and summer rooms, and we hadn’t quite realised what we were making on some of those jobs. It’s allowed us to be keener on price on window jobs, for example and to win more work.

“We’re not one of these companies that tries to sell at a higher price. We’re quite comfortable with the pricing structure that we have got. We want to turn the work around and at a fair price, so it’s given us a little bit of a competitive edge.

“On the flip side of that we have put in increases on some of the products that we do because we simply weren’t making money on them, to make it reasonable.”

He argues that window and door retailers need to adopt new technologies more quickly, highlighting a resistance to change.

“The glazing industry has a lot of old-school guys in who don’t like change. They write orders out on a scrap piece of paper and that’s it, but I think now to get an edge you have to be different.

 

Your business accessible from anywhere

Ricky added that Business Pilot had also brought new flexibility to his own working practices. “With Business Pilot I can track everything. I was sat in the garden last night when I got home and I just flicked the I-pad on and checked a few things, where as before I would have been back into the office to the desktop to check what I needed to do, so I can check in from just about anywhere.

“It gives me the confidence to delegate, the traceability of who dealt with what. Someone’s name is logged against everything that we do, and the visibility shared amongst everyone of exactly where we are on each and every job, which makes customer experience, better.”

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