In the wake of the pandemic, workloads have increased as plumbers play catch up and supply shortages and increased costs have compounded the issue. In a recent episode of Master Plumbers...
In this episode, Matt shares his thoughts on the need to implement technology into business, especially in the trade space, to avoid being left behind in the inevitable shift to digital.
In this episode, Matt shares his thoughts on the need to implement technology into business, especially in the trade space, to avoid being left behind in the inevitable shift to digital.
Daniel: Welcome to Master Plumbers Radio. My name is Daniel Carroll and today my guest is Matt Reynolds. Matt is the Director of XRM Plumbing Services, a high end maintenance firm that he built from his garage before serving in an advisory role to the Laser Group, the leading plumbing and electrical contracting franchise across Australia and New Zealand. Matt’s a recognized industry contributor, he’s an award-winning plumber, a podcast host on his podcast called Trench Talk and a regular contributor to the Australian Plumbing magazine. Matt, welcome to Master Plumbers Radio.
Matt: Thank you for having me in Daniel.
Daniel: It’s good to have you on board. I remember when I first started in my role here. I picked up on your podcast, and I thought this is a guy I need to be following, he seems to have his stuff in order and I might be able to learn a thing or two from him.
Matt: Well that’s very nice of you to say. It’s been an interesting journey putting the podcast together, and I’m sure you’re starting to find here with Master Plumbers Radio, it’s a format of media communication that really travels a long way, and I’ve been quite surprised about whose picked up on it, who listens to the podcast, who contacts you. Early as, I think it was episode number four, I got an email from somebody who told me they’d listened to podcast and then quit their job, because the guest had said something that resonated with them in a certain way, that they thought to themselves, hey you know I’ve had enough of what I’m doing here and I want to move on to bigger and better things, and they did. So it’s been very surprising for me because I don’t really, to be quite honest, consider myself to be smart in any sort of way, and to be able to pick up a microphone, and put down a shovel I guess, and pick up a microphone and communicate with some of these people has been awesome to do. As I say, really surprising how far it’s gone.
Daniel: That’s awesome. Taking a couple of steps back, how’d you originally get involved in plumbing? Was there something that drew you in, or it’s in the family lines, as some people usually are, they do what their dad does, or … What’s your story?
Matt: No, I didn’t follow mum and dad’s lead in terms of occupation, but did follow their advice. So going through school I wasn’t the smartest person in the class, I guess you’d say and I remember a conversation I had with my dad one day. I guess you have it at a certain point in your life. What do you want to do, here are you going, and all that sort’ve stuff. My answer at the time, probably quite naively was that I wanted to be rich, and the advice that he gave me was that-
Daniel: Who doesn’t want to be?
Matt: Yeah, that’s right, exactly.
Daniel: Especially when you follow the NBA players and the AFL players.
Daniel: They’re rich and they do what they love.
Matt: I’d come to the conclusion that I couldn’t be Michael Jordan, and the police and fire brigade weren’t for me, so the next best option, yeah, to become rich. So the advice that he gave me at the time was, if you want to do that, you need to work for yourself. So some very quick calculations in my head, I worked out that if I went down the uni path and then had to get out of uni, then get the experience, then maybe borrow some money, raise some money whatever to start a company, then I was really looking at probably a good solid six to ten years before I could actually get into that position where I was working for myself. Then I thought about trade, and I thought well four year apprenticeship. I could start as soon as I finished year 12, which I did, and the day that I finished my apprenticeship I’ll start my own business, which is exactly what I did do. It was just a very practical answer or solution to a problem I was wrestling with, you know, getting ahead in life I suppose. I fell into plumbing and I loved it and it’s worked out really well for me so far. It’s been that piece of advice, and plumbing that I’ve found has been a great blessing for me.
Daniel: There’s also, just touching on your desire to get rich and choosing a trade over uni study or whatever else, I’ve seen recently there’s been some news articles saying about how when you work it out on the long run, HECS debt and all that sort of stuff, a person who invests in a trade early on in their career wise actually comes out in front over the length of the career.
Matt: Yeah, I think there’s a couple of really good reasons for that because I’ve since reflected, and maybe becoming rich was a bit too lofty of a goal or whatever at the time, you know you had a bit of fun with it but a couple of key reasons that I’ve now realized is that time is money and the two advantages we have as a tradesman are time and money, as in that we get paid, although little, we get paid from the very start, which means that we don’t need to pay to learn, we get paid to learn, if that makes any sense. So the two things we have is that we start early, and we get paid. We don’t run up a lot of debt. Then you’ve got this, you know the compound interest factor that comes in that anyone who jumps on the internet these days can pull out a calculator and work out how little you need invested early on to compound, and all the Warren Buffet stuff that’s out there, you can look into that and it makes a big difference in the end. If you get to the starting gate, in some cases eight or ten years late if you want to put it that way, then you’ve got to work really, really hard and be really, really smart to catch up and to get ahead. I knew I wasn’t really smart so that wasn’t an option for me.
Daniel: Yeah well, if I had my time again, I might’ve been looking towards a trade. There’s something to be said about using your brain to figure out a problem and working with your hands so it’s something I really appreciate about the people that are in trades. You’re involved in a lot of things away from the tools as I mentioned before and in the intro, you’re a recognized industry contributor, you host the podcast, you write regular articles for the Australian Plumbing magazine and you’re just a big promoter for the industry in general. At what point in your plumbing journey did this type of thing begin to appeal to you?
Matt: I’m not sure the exact point, but I think the reason that I’ve chosen to put a bit of time into these things is because I’m just a really big believer in the opportunity that we have as tradesmen, particularly, you know we touched on that, of that I suppose mindset and intelligence to go to uni and do well there. It’s a great, great opportunity that if you are willing to work and you’re willing to put in the hours you can go really well. We’ve seen many cases of that in Australia and I just love the opportunity. I think it’s a great teacher of life. I think it’s a great teacher of core Australian values, you know, you do the right thing, you put in the hours, you know, you be honest and you collect good money for doing it. If you can be organized in the way you go about it then I think it’s just a great opportunity in life and I want to pass that on to as many people as I possibly can to give them the same start I guess that I kind of fell into.
Daniel: Talking about giving back and passing on the things you learned back in the industry. A little while back you presented at a business breakfast that it attended and you spoke to the crowd of tradies about the use of technology in trades. Can you remember a little bit about what you spoke about?
Matt: I can recall a bit of what we spoke about, yeah. The trade industry’s in a very interesting position at the moment where we haven’t fully gone digital but we’re certainly getting very, very close to I suppose someone flicking that switch where we have to be to stay in business and there’s a lot of opportunity out there for those people that recognize that, absolutely.
Daniel: Yeah, I’ve just got a couple of notes here from things that stood out to me. It’s how apps are changing the way we run a business, how you need to think to leverage the power of technology and trades, why it’s about to cost a whole lot less to grow a business, how technology is solving the traditional challenges in business, and you also shared some of the applications that you use in your business.
Matt: Technology/apps that’s certainly a big part of it and we only need to look at the rest of our lives to see how we’ve adapted, particularly the use of our phone, and then applications obviously that run on our phone, and then the effectiveness and efficiency that we can now do a lot of mundane tasks. I remember the point that I realized that this could be a possibility for the trade business and the point that I realized how it had started to really affect our lives, was that I was part of the generation that Facebook was introduced to and I didn’t jump on it straight away. I remember it was a Monday or Tuesday after a weekend, and a couple of friends together started talking about a party that was on the weekend, that I knew nothing about and I found out that the invite was done through Facebook and I didn’t have Facebook at the time. I was busy working at the time, and probably wasn’t putting in too much on the social side, but I missed the invite because I wasn’t on Facebook. When that happened, that was a real moment for me that I thought If this can change the way we act socially, maybe there’s some benefits here that we could also apply to our businesses as well. I think that today, we don’t have time to do everything the manual way. So I think you need to be, in respect to technology, you need to be all in or all out. There’s some things that you can automate in your business that you don’t need to do manual, they don’t affect the way that you communicate, the power of the communication with your customers or employees or anything like that. You want to use technology as an enabler, as in that you automate the things that can be automated to give you time to spend one on one communication when it’s really needed. So that’s kind of the way that I think about the use of technology, all in or all out. The great thing about many of these programs is that when I started to put servers into my office and get tablets and all the rest of it to make some of these things work, we all have the hardware these days, there’s no cost any more on that side because we all already own phones, right, we all have iPads and all that sort of stuff.
Daniel: The number one tool in the tool box.
Matt: The most important tool, yeah, exactly and as tradies we think we’ll always have a job, which is true. I think we will for the foreseeable future, always have a job. The problem is before you have a job you’ve got to get a job and whether that’s actually getting a job, as in working for someone else or getting work as a business owner, you’ve got to think through those things.
Daniel: Can you remember, that’s almost 12 months ago now and we’re now in the world of technology, 12 months is a bloody long time and have your thoughts changed in that last period?
Matt: It’s getting faster. Everything is getting a lot faster. Just in 12 months we’ve seen the GPS technology come a long way in terms of speed. This is kind of macro stuff, we’ve got 5G in some parts of Victoria now, which is gonna make things even faster again. One of the programs that we use quite a lot now, we actually have complete live feed from the field. So if someone takes a photo, it pops up inside our dashboard in almost like a twitter style minute by minute, second by second, total transparency way of operating. That 12 months ago, it was probably possible it was a bit slower but we’re just getting faster and faster which is just the general trend in all parts of life really.
Daniel: Do you remember outside the obvious ones like job management, that type of thing, what type of apps do you use, even if it’s just getting yourself organized with like a calendar or something is there anything in particular that sort of stands out to you as things that you implement in your day-to-day routine?
Matt: Outside of plumbing management just all of the the standard ones you know, Gmail, Google Suite, all the stuff that goes along with that. I’m a big Dropbox sort of person.
Daniel: That’s pretty appealing given that the Google Suite especially given the fact that you know I’ve run into a lot of people that winge everytime they have to update their programs and buy the newest version. You don’t have to worry about buying Microsoft Office anymore because there’s pretty much an identical version of those tools that’s available for free and syncs across all of your devices.
Matt: Yeah. The challenge becomes then just keeping up with the development inside those apps, right? Just little things like Dropbox made it really easy just only recently to edit docs on the go, you know. So you got something you really need to send out. You can quickly jump in and change a sentence or whatever. It can all be done by phone now. You don’t really need to travel with a laptop or anything like that. Those days are probably gone really if you’re on top of how your apps work and what they’re capable of.
Daniel: Yeah and I guess the big thing there is too that if you’re gonna be implementing some of that in your day-to-day routine the flip side of that is worrying about what you’re gonna lose if your phone falls into the drink or.
Matt: Yeah. First of all it seems a lot more unsafe than the old way, than carrying paper but then when I guess you start to understand how the cloud works a little bit and how things are backed up and you quickly find that it’s a lot safer way.
Daniel: Just for the people listening that might not have a good grasp of how the cloud operates do you have a simpler explanation? Just putting you on the spot here. A simpler explanation for how that works and how it’s all possible?
Matt: Well basically everything that happens on your phone is replicated externally in multiple places. So, if you use Gmail as an example your emails are not actually on your phone per se they’re just a copy of what’s somewhere else. So that’s why if you drop your phone down the toilet as we’ve all done from time to time in the old days putting our first iterations in the top pocket of our overalls. Every plumber that used to wear overalls have probably done that at some point, straight in the toilet.
Daniel: Surely the original phone wouldn’t have been small enough to fit in the bowl. With them they would have just rested on the top.
Matt: Yeah, that’s right. The laptops or a suitcase they started out like. I never had one of those phones but certainly the bricks early on, I did have those. Its just that once you understand that what’s on your phone is just a copy of where the information is kept somewhere else and it doesn’t actually matter if you lose or that reading device gets damaged. If you’re properly backed up and you have your passwords in the right place you can very quickly get up and going straight away.
Daniel: You just need half decent data plan on your phone. I remember when a couple of the phone plans that I’ve had the data has been quite pricey but I think the latest plans out there at the moment you can get yourself a 100 gigabytes for like $30 or something. The price of data has made it a lot more accessible for everybody to start using these type of services.
Matt: And you do need a good data plan because I was just talking on the way over here this morning to a plumber who had an issue with a heater just recently and he went back to the manufacturer and actually ended up doing a FaceTime call and they solved the potential warranty call through a phone, through that FaceTime way of communicating and you need data for that. So, it’s a very, very small price to pay. Now data was used to be expensive but it’s basically free now so it’s just a cost you’ve gotta be comfortable with paying if you want to move forward.
Daniel: Oh for sure. Just like you mentioned before that the introduction of 5G. When 4G came along that made a huge difference to people being able to not just work but even just communicate. As I’ve said before the FaceTime calls that’s massive. Just outside of work being able to communicate to family and friends and people not realizing initially that you could do so many things other than just talk cause you can show someone what you’re actually looking at if you’re not good at describing things over the phone, you can show them.
Matt: Yeah, absolutely and there’s some things that you can jump on YouTube and learn about when you’re on the job. A lot of plumbers are very good at sharing Facebook and Instagram stories and stuff now, as we’ve often talked about and the jobs that they’re doing and the work that they’re going through and some of their methods and procedures and that sort of thing and you can learn through all of that sort of stuff. You just need to organize your phone so it’s properly backed up and you need to have a good data plan and you’ll be fine.
Daniel: And I’m sure as well with all the different products that tradesman is dealing with on a day-to-day basis there’s no need to have folders full of instruction manuals when all these things can be drawn up over the internet.
Matt: 100% right and there’s a lot of advantages to that. First of all, you’ve always got access to them. You don’t leave them at home and then manufacturers, suppliers, and like they can update them as better information becomes available and as products change over time they can quickly do that at their end, which then if you look it up it gets replicated on your device. So it’s a quicker, easier, more transparent method and it fits in with this whole technology wave that we’re riding as a plumbing industry and in life.
Daniel: There’s so much out there for people to drive efficiencies in their business but there doesn’t seem to be a great uptake just yet. Australians are renowned around the world for really being early adopters of technology, everything from mobile phones to even just online services. What do you think is holding people back from taking advantage of these? Is it we’re holding out for something better? Are we waiting for someone to lead the way and to make the mistakes that everyone else is too afraid to make or is it simply a case of being too busy or being resistant to change?
Matt: The main reason I think is that we haven’t been forced into it yet because generally we still have a shortage of tradesman. People need us, if you want to put it this way although probably not quite correct, people kind of need us more than we need them in some ways because it’s not a shortage of work. So if you don’t need to improve yourself, if the market’s not forcing that upon you, you can get a little bit complacent. I’m not sure if we’re holding out for something better because certainly from the people that I speak to and communicate with regularly we’re not using the things we have available just yet to their full potential so we can’t until we understand what we’ve got, there’s probably no reason to hold out for the future. I think this is where the opportunity really opens up because what we’re finding is that and ill give an example, I mean probably six months ago I was talking to one company and they were looking at implementing some changes in their business and then they come to the conclusion that the owner didn’t really believe in the power of computers and if you come from that mindset well then none of this is probably gonna make any sense to you at all right? You’ve got to be in that spot in my opinion where you’re continually testing and trying new things just to be open to new and better ways of doing things and what’s gonna happen is that we do have a bit of an aging population in this plumbing industry. More people are gonna start exiting soon and if I’ve got the statistics correct then what are coming in. So the people that are coming in are going to be more valuable. So what’s gonna happen is that plumbing companies are gonna have to find a way to communicate with these younger people coming into the industry and they’re all on their phones, they’re all tech savvy and all that sort of stuff. So there’s that but there’s also we’re starting to see that the main people that order plumbing work and have plumbing work done own real estate and these people are also aging. What’s gonna happen is that eventually that property is gonna be passed onto younger generations who are going to be tech savvy as well so as a foreplay on suring up or protecting your business you want to have a tech environment in my opinion for these younger people to come into because if you don’t they won’t wanna work for you. You know? And that’s going to be a big part of becoming an employer of choice. You’re gonna have to operate in a way that people want to work so that the tides gonna change a little bit.
Daniel: And touching on that thing employer of choice, similarly you’ve also gotta offer a service people wanna engage with and you wrote in recent column for Australian Plumbing that consumers are wanting more and they want it to be better and they want it to be faster, they want it now and there’s a huge desire out there for a higher level of service and a variety of choice. The consumer driven technology is basically re engineered how many industries around the world are operating and they’re forcing major changes to everything we use or consumer products for everything we do from purchasing like Spotify, Netflix, Amazon, Uber Eats and the like and even how we travel. So Uber, Ola, DiDi, Airbnb, all those type of things. I guess that’s a typical case of people voting with their thumbs, you know you can do all those things from the comfort of your couch at home. It seems to me through all of that, that there’s a huge opportunity for disruption in the TradeSpace.
Matt: Yeah and I’ve written a few articles on this about we’re being primed for disruption because there is so much money in the TradeSpace and so much money that gets transacted under that building in construction banner that these bigger companies are not going to just observe that forever, they’re going to want a piece of that and I’ve done a fair bit of communicating and research and stuff in the US at the moment and what this has really forced is the disappearance of the middle sized plumbing companies. You’re always gonna have, they call it chuck in a truck, we say man in a van but they call it chuck in a truck, just the small operator, one or two people running around and then you have the $100 million turnover plus category and everyone in between that is really disappearing and the reason is that because you need to be in a position where you can adapt to all of these things and understand what consumers want. As soon as you actually think from the consumer’s perspective you set yourself up for rapid growth. I mean if we can order food through our phone, why can’t we get a plumber? And there’s a number of other things that come into play here and I’ll give you an example, anyone whose been into McDonald’s recently in the last few years knows that we have these digital screens that we order from. We don’t have to wait in line anymore. Now you can look at that and say well McDonald’s just wants to get rid of their staff behind the counter and that’s probably true but I’ve read a few things on what they actually found when they’ve done that and the fact now is that many people actually order more from a digital screen than they do in person because they’re so used to working through a device and when they’re in front of somebody because we don’t do it all the time anymore we can be put under a bit of pressure and we can hurry and we can forget to order things.
Daniel: You’re feeling a little bit reluctant to order the extra burger or the bigger box of nuggets because what the person taking the order might think of you but when it all comes in a brown paper bag all of that’s a secret.
Matt: It is yeah, absolutely and just the fact that it’s quicker. You can just touch the screen and it’s done, you don’t even have to say up size my meal, yes I’m prepared to have fries or the extra whatever they do these days, I’m not sure but it’s just an easier way of doing it. So you start to get to situations where the great divide happens because companies pick up on this and then they really take off, others that don’t retreat back because what we need to be very aware of in my opinion as an industry is we compare ourselves to other plumbers all the time. Maybe I do something better than him in this way but he’s better at that than us in another way, that’s not the case anymore, we’re getting compared on our phones. So someone will literally order a new pair of shoes through their phone, through Amazon or Catch of the day, or whatever they’re doing and then they’ll try and get a plumber and even that correspondence, even if that contact with a plumbing company means that they have to call, have to wait on hold, then they have to call them back, and they need to email them, that’s so hard in comparison to what they’ve just done. It makes the plumbing company look bad even if they haven’t got any worse. So we need to understand that we get compared now across industries and that’s something we’ve gotta be very, very aware of.
Daniel: And with how much reliance people place on word of mouth and ratings these days we’ve seen both good and bad examples of people push for that high rank on Google or the five star review on whatever booking agent you’re using but we’ve also seen that there’s a couple of companies out there that have tried to take advantage of it by inventing their own platforms to say okay ‘Jim’s’ Plumbing, you can write your own reviews and no one will even know and sooner or later those get found out and you’re more likely to see them coming up in a current affair, whatever when the people find out what’s actually going on and it can actually be quite detrimental if you’re taking advantage of that.
Daniel: In relation to being able to attach that type of technology to the trade space, as an association we’re always on the lookout for a solution that we can present to our members to help them drive efficiencies in their business and get back some of the much needed time in their day and on top of that be able to deliver a greater service for both their current and prospective customers. Master Plumbers has recently signed an agreement to make i4Tradies available exclusively to our members and it’s a company you’re actually involved in yourself. Can you tell us a little bit about i4Tradies and how you got involved?
Matt: Yeah, sure. So I’m an early investor and Advisor at i4Tradies and it was a funny story how I did get involved and speaks back to what we originally covered, the power, the podcast, the founder, Logan contacted me a number of times early on in building the product through LinkedIn and to be honest with you I just thought to myself the last thing I need to deal with is someone coming in from the outside and telling me how my business needs to be changed and what I need to do differently. So I ignored the messages and he called me a few times and I continued to ignore it and then I was actually at a breakfast run by the Master Plumbers, I think it is and one of the plumbers said I’ve got a guy that you should talk to for the podcast and it was Logan and I went and spoke to him and I had him on the podcast and I started to understand a little bit about what he was doing. I think one of the key things with this trade space and one of the challenging things really is that the trade world is so vastly different to the tech world that it’s very, very hard for the two to work together and there’s a couple of different models, I guess you’d say of disruption. One is like your Uber model where you just go into the taxi industry and you just do your own thing and you don’t need to have anything to do with the current operation or the current people, you can just go about whatever you wanna do, you can disrupt that. Then you’ve got the model like, I guess you’d say the Spotify sort of model where you actually do need the industry participants to make your platform work. Spotify needs the existing artist to be on their platform for it to have any value and full credit to Logan and they way that he thought about this because he knew early on that he needed to get people inside the industry to, I suppose he needed to consider their opinions and he needed to connect with those inside the industry and really make this, I know it’s a bit of a buzz word, collaboration but it really needed to be a team effort to kind of get the thing off the ground.
Daniel: You can’t build something for someone on what you think, you have to ask them.
Matt: Yeah. It’s a bit of a tooing and froing thing. Certainly I’ve learned a lot about that world working with all the guys, and I think that they’d say I’d probably say the same thing about trade and there’s a number of things that they’ve done that have made us more efficient and there’s a number of things that they’ve got a little bit wrong and vice versa, you know? So it really is a team effort. He understood that, and I guess invited me to be part of it and all that sort of thing and here I am today obviously talking about it and along the journey it probably took me I think realistically six to eight months after I actually got involved and started working day-to-day, pressing buttons, testing things to really understand this new consumer experience model because if we look at trade businesses one thing we’ve got, I suppose its part of evolution, but we’ve got different to all these big disruptors so far is that when we have a problems as a tradie we often think about solving our problem. We really shouldn’t think about it that way. An example of that would be quoting, like how do I quote? What’s a better system to quote? We don’t think how does that effect the customer? Like your internal operations of your business, none of your customers really care about. None of us worry about the latest phone system that cab companies installed back in their office 5 years ago. We never even thought about it, all we know is that when the cab doesn’t turn up in 20 minutes like they say, we’re annoyed then Uber comes along and gives us a much better experience, and we go for it.
Daniel: Don’t look back.
Matt: We don’t look back, we try it once, and we really don’t look back. It took me a while to get my head around this consumer facing technology. So the way that I4tradies has been built is from the consumer perspective. Its about giving them control of the things that are happening with their job in a way that benefits you as a business owner. So if I can briefly describe I suppose I4tradies, and the general parameters how we operate there is three main apps and there’s a few more of this now but three main ones. There is the business owners app, which is most of the things you need to run your business internal. So I spoke before we mentioned that Twitter like feed of everything that’s happening in your business, that’s one of the things that rolls now inside the business owner’s app. We have an employee app, which is a separate app download in the app store, and we have a consumer app. Now the key thing about the three of them is that they all talk to each other. So you can set up the parameters of what you share, and you always want to share obviously what’s appropriate but for instance if an employee takes a photo to start a job, the consumer will see that photo and so will the business owner. So it brings a lot of transparency to the whole process, and we’re sort of creating this situation that consumers are used to now where they can see their parcels in a track through the post, they can see their Uber drive to them, you can do all that with I4tradies now, and it’s just that next step in lifting our game from a consumer perspective, and we haven’t quite seen it yet but I think what we’re gonna see very shortly is that we’re gonna have the McDonald’s scenario because it’s so easy to order stuff now, they’re gonna start ordering a lot more through the app because if someone’s on shift work as an example, and they come home and their taps dripping, they can quickly pull out their app, a photo, send it off through our platform and then it can get dealt with quickly and appropriately. Not after hours necessarily but they don’t have to wait until the morning, they don’t to get on the phone, they don’t have to wait on hold then your office person’s sick that day, you gotta wait for the boss to call you, all the stuff that we all deal with all day, every day. You eliminate all that sort of stuff, and you just make it easier and quicker and more desirable to do business with you.
Daniel: And you said as well as being built from a consumers point of view, there’s also a lot of benefit that tradies themselves can get out of this by saving time on submitting paperwork and all that sort of stuff. Can you tell us about all the functionality on behalf of the tradie themselves of what it brings?
Matt: Yeah, sure. So there’s a lot of things like when you get to a job, you take a photo to start the job as an example. Its timestamped, it goes straight into the system. So normally what would happen is that you need to put into normally multiple systems, a start time, upload your photo somewhere else, do a job description somewhere else as the job progresses, and that sort of thing. We’re bringing a lot of those things inside the one app. As an industry we’ve been pretty bad at collecting large amounts of data about what we do. Now we have P&Ls, we run balance sheets and all that sort of stuff but if you’re looking at for example buying a company you really don’t know. There can be a lot hidden, I guess you’d say, behind those sales figures as an example about what actually happens. What we’re going to start seeing is that as more of these systems get adapted, people start using them, they’re collecting data, you can actually get a good collection of what’s happening inside the business and there’s just a lot of secondary things that come after you make this whole job process a lot easier. To finish off the job process really quickly, you can’t finish a job without taking a photo, you can take payment through the app on completion. So you can as an employee could do a job, finish it by the time that you get back in your car, the company that you work for can have the money in the bank. So we’re shortening all those processes and where the big data component comes in here is, another real example, a company recently was moving offices. I’ve used this example a few times now. So, if you are thinking about moving where you’re based out of, where truly do you move to be the most efficient? Probably you want somewhere maybe in the middle of where all your jobs are in relation to where your employees live so you can cut down on vehicle travel time and become that more desirable place for people to work and all the rest of it. So if you automatically have on a map where all your jobs are, where all your employees are, open jobs, closed jobs, you can find out really quickly where the best place for you to locate that office and it comes into a lot of the decision making going forward, that being one. Another really basic one of course would be if you’re gonna buy a new car. What’s the fuel efficiency of that vehicle? How far did you travel last year? Is it better to buy a $55,000 van knowing that you’re gonna actually be cheaper after 12 months than a $45,000 van. At the moment as an industry we’re making a lot of these assumptions based on intuition, our best guess, we don’t actually truly, truly know. So as we’re collecting more of this data what you’re gonna find is that companies are gonna get very, very good at analyzing the data and they’re gonna become a lot more efficient and I suggest that even if you didn’t believe in some of this stuff right now you gotta start to ask yourself the question, if I don’t do this and the plumbing company up the road does, surely there’s gonna be a time and there will, there’s gonna be a lot of companies that run into this issue where you go to quote a job and you’re gonna not be able to work out why their 15% or 20% cheaper. It’s not about driving the price down necessarily, they actually may be making more money than you and also have that saving because they better understand what’s going on inside their business. Until you have a process or system to collect all that information, you can analyze it, which means you just can’t be the most efficient that you can be.
Daniel: And I understand it’s a platform that’s pretty flexible as well? You don’t necessarily have to have work coming to you through the platform, you could also transpose or even direct jobs that you’re getting elsewhere and put them into the system and manage that way?
Matt: Yeah. So it’s a cloud based model of all that stuff is on the Google cloud. We have situations now and my specialty was real estate work and the rental space and that sort of thing and now we’re integrating and connecting some of the rental management systems directly with the business owners’ dashboard. So no more emailing back and forth, no more photos back and forth, and all that sort of stuff. The property manager in that example can just create a job inside their system, hit one button, it appears in your dashboard, and then you can push it out to an employee or you can manage it.
Daniel: That’s already out in the field.
Matt: That’s already out in the field, yup.
Daniel: You’re managing efficiencies if you’ve got 5 blokes out on the road, you can just say oh this one’s closest or this one’s got the right tools to do the job, we’ll give it to that one.
Matt: That’s right. Instead of spending that time getting your emails, saving photos, putting it into a job system, then pushing it out, then you forgot a photo and you’re in a rush so only half the address went through and not all of it. All the time that we used to spend chasing out, managing, all that stuff that doesn’t matter, you can now put towards going and seeing that property manager and having a coffee or a beer on a Friday night or whatever you wanna do. You can get much more personal with those relationships because you automate the stuff that doesn’t matter. So it’s a big part and we’re gonna see more and more of this going forward. This is just the very, very first steps.
Daniel: And in early stages now, it’s been in production, and development, and testing for a long time now and it’s starting to get a bit of traction amongst trades around the country and from plumbing in Victoria it’s available exclusively to Master Plumbers members.
Matt: It is, Daniel and we’ve obviously put something together for all your members to make it, well I can tell you the cheapest that it’s ever gonna be available to use. We talked a fair bit about this relationship before we kind of started talking to you guys and I sort of made the point and we came to the conclusion that before started getting the trade industry associations involved with what we’re doing and there’s a number there across different trades around the company that we really just had an idea, we really didn’t have a validated idea and one of the key things that has come from working with you guys and making the changes that we’ve had to, to make it work and all that sort of stuff is that both parties here really are trying to lift the standard of the entire plumbing industry and one of the ways that we do that is by providing better service to our customers and I think Peter, the CEO could probably see where we were heading in terms of a direction and a trade and wanting to improve that side of it. So me being a plumber, as we said at the start, having a passion for the industry, wanting to give that opportunity to others it worked out to be a great collaboration between us as an industry body and a tech supplier with many more things to happen there and progress but very excited for the future.
Daniel: And just thinking about some of the other benefits of what the I4tradies platform provides, I was very impressed to see what happens after a job is finished. A job is finished, it’s closed off from either end of the platform either by the consumer or the plumber themselves, both parties agree that the job was completed as per the agreement and then they’re able to initiate a rating process I guess you could say. Can you explain a little bit about how that works and what happens afterwards?
Matt: Yeah. So both the customer are prompted at the end of a job to rate the service that they’ve got from the trade business and vice versa.
Daniel: Just like the way Uber works.
Matt: Yeah, exactly right.
Daniel: You provide a rating and everything like that.
Matt: Yeah, absolutely because it’s about doing the right thing and it’s about being open and it’s about being honest, right? We’ve certainly come across as many others plumbing companies would have along the way, customers that we don’t wanna work for, for whatever reason. They don’t fit what we’re doing and there’s some customers who won’t wanna work with certain plumbing businesses as well.
Daniel: The first thing you think of is the guys that don’t pay on time or don’t pay at all, the first ones to get the low rating and sooner or later you won’t find them in the system.
Matt: Yeah, that’s right and we monitor those ratings as a platform. We don’t make public exactly what the parameters are for being removed from the I4tradies platform but we do look at that because we want this to be not a transactional based platform. It’s really a place where you can come and build a deeper relationship with your customers and client base using technology and that’s the way that we really think about it and the more we can, I suppose facilitate that the more open we can make it, the more transparent that we become, everybody wins right? Its only if you’re trying to hide something or do something that’s not quite right from a business or a customer perspective that that methodology won’t work for you. Actually, if I could just say one more thing on the completion of the job too is that what we can produce is a complete audit trail of how the job has actually unfolded. So we receive the call, email, job sent straight into our system would be like the first line where the job is actually created, then it was assigned, then it was this technician went out to the job, when they went to the job the person knows ahead of time when they’re coming cause they can see who’s coming, they see a photo of the technician before they arrive so they know who’s gonna be at their front door. We can see travel times, you can see when the job started, all the photo history and that order which you can just print off at the end of any job. We’ve seen cased now where it’s gone to the court scenario and there was party A versus party B and of course they weren’t exactly the same, what they judge or whoever was making this particular decision said well the only thing we can go off is what’s written on this piece of paper, this is right and then the penalties or infringements or whatever were handed down from that space. So the fact that you diarise every single thing that you do on a job digitally goes a long way if you ever have any problems down the track as well.
Daniel: So, if anyone wants to learn more about I4tradies you go to I4tradies. It’s i4tradies.com.au And if anyone from a plumbing perspective wants to get involved contact the membership team of Master Plumbers and see how they can jump on board and start taking advantage of all that I4tradies has to offer. Just in closing, what advice do you have for people out there looking to integrate any type of technology into their business?
Matt: Well I think the obvious one is you need to think from the perspective of your customer and try and sort of build you architecture back from that place. I would say it’s a good idea to actually engage your own company from time to time or have a grandma or a mother or father or whatever order something through your business and see what their actual experience is because the more we can make that experience better the more people will buy from us and that sort of thing. So you wanna look at that, you wanna keep your mind open to the possibilities moving forward. There’s a lot changing in this space, it’s gonna get faster, it’s probably in some ways gonna get more complicated. So you wanna be testing things, trying things, except for the time that it takes to implement some of this stuff, most of it is free to try. So you wanna get the best solution that you can for your business, which will change from time to time. You’ve gotta really stay on top of that. You wanna look to centralize your processes, streamline your processes, become more effective, become more efficient. Just think back to the evolution of search and how that sort of played out. I think it gives a good indication of kind of where the industry is moving. I remember I was deciding on my business name very early on and of course to get ideas you flick open the yellow pages at that point and there was people back in those days who would try and get up near the front of the yellow pages.
Matt: AAA, that’s actually correct. It was a lot worse than that. The number one listing and I still remember this because my uncle told me what they were doing and explained how it kind of worked was Aardvark Plumbing and it was spelt with seven A’s. So you could have bet when the next year’s edition came out that number one would be Aardvark Plumbing spelt with 8 A’s and forward we progress but in those days you want a plumber you open the yellow pages and you can see on that page, I’m guessing 80-100 at least options and then you can flick and it’s very easy and probably very easy to get exposure through that method. What’s happened since then is obviously we’ve gone to Google and now Google, if we’re not on the first page we all know we’re not seen.
Daniel: Yeah. What’s the joke? Where’s the best place to hide a dead body? On the second page of Google.
Matt: Yeah, that’s right.
Daniel: Nobody ever goes there.
Matt: A 100%. Yeah, so those hundreds of options now that is a fight for just ten on the first page. If you’re outside that top ten you won’t be found as you just said.
Daniel: Or ten organic listings you can pay big bucks to get on the front, but it’s probably you gotta work out where the balance is for how much you’re spending to what you’re getting back from that investment.
Matt: And hence we have the divide. The big companies and the really small companies to speak to exactly that because there was one episode of my podcast where I talked to a guy out of Phoenix in the US, a big plumbing and air conditioning company who grew his company from I think it was $6,500,000 turnover to $103,000,000 and what’s happened in their space is that you used to have to spend about $500 a month as he told me to be on the front page of Google. Well now that starts at about $25,000. So what that means is in Phoenix if you wanna advertise your business, you better have that monthly budget. Now we can straight away see that small companies can’t do that, obviously which means only the big companies can, which means they raise their prices over time because there’s more big companies competing for it. They can afford to spend more or that price will just go up but even further than that Google has now started to introduce Google services and what Google Services is, is that they’ve realized that they are the source of new leads for your business so it’s gonna go one step further and this is starting to happen. You won’t be advertised by Google unless you have a partnership with them and what that will mean is that Google with audit your business, the practices within your business because I don’t want to promote anyone who’s not a best practice. So there’ll be a yearly or monthly fee or however they determine to do it to get access or get that exposure to buy those leads and then they’ll also take a percentage of the job that you’re doing as well. So all of sudden we’ve gone from hundreds of exposures in that yellow pages right through to unless you’re a big company with a big budget, going for one or two spots, you can’t be on google. A lot of the avenues that we see now and get work through and there’s always going to be exceptions but on broad scale are going to start to slowly, slowly, slowly close up and you wanna think very carefully long term about where you wanna end up and where you should be investing now to make sure that you take the best advantage of the situation because like we mentioned, there’s too much money in the trade space for these companies not to want a piece of the pie. It might be right, we might not agree with it, we might think it’s wrong, unethical and all the rest of it but that’s not gonna change anything unless you’re going to take on Google and virtually nobody has the energy, budget, or desire to do that then you need to play the game but you just need to play the game in a way that allows you to win and I think that those few things looking forward as to what is going to happen in different areas of your business is going to put you in a really good space but mindset, testing and trying new things and certainly you’ve gotta be on your phone. Business is just on your phone now. It doesn’t mean you don’t have an office with office staff who have screens and all that sort of stuff, granted for some people that’s gonna be right but unless you can also make that mobile then I think it’s fairly safe to say that you will lose to someone who does make it mobile.
Daniel: Every day, we are seeing the transfer of people going from computers to their handheld devices so going back and looking at the way your business is set up not just in the tools that you use within your business but how your business is marketed and presented to the public, making sure that the people who are picking up their phone and searching for your business if they pull up your website making sure that it’s a responsive website and that it’s able to be seen nicely and neatly, and people can get what they want quickly I guess. So I guess in general it all comes down to the opportunity is there it’s just up to whose the one that’s gonna make it work for everyone else the best.
Matt: Yeah and in a changing landscape there’s a lot of opportunity. That’s the most exciting thing and what i think is an extension of what’s gonna happen here is that small companies now as we said can become big quickly because they can adapt quickly. You can get some of this stuff, you can put into your business, and you can see straight away does it work? Doesn’t it? Get rid of it, keep it, move onto the next thing or whatever and I think were gonna see some of these small companies really shoot to the moon and like with all these other industries that have been effectively disrupted some of the biggest players are not a blockbuster, they’re not here anymore simply because they didn’t think that this digital way was going to affect them, and they paid the price if they don’t look into it
Daniel: The story goes that they were offered an opportunity to be part of Netflix in the early days back when Netflix delivered DVD’s through the mail, and they laughed, and they said oh good luck with your efforts, within a couple of years they were closing down their stores at a rapid rate just because they didn’t see past the now and look to the future.
Matt: And simply looking at that customary experience you know, getting in your car, driving across town, choosing a video, getting back in, driving home, watching it, taking it back the next day, like it’s easier to press one button.
Matt: Its very very basic when you put it in those terms but we as plumbers need to think about that as well, making that experience quicker, better, and easier because the quicker, the better and the easier that you make it the more business that you would have.
Daniel: Fantastic. Matt Reynolds thanks for your time!
Matt: Thanks for having me in, Daniel and the opportunity to share some of my thoughts. I appreciate it.