Business Software I

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Business Software I

Management strategies in such a variable and volatile environment such as PDR business is crucial. Generating reports or some form of measuring the profits, break even points, losses, parts and labour costs need to be monitored regularly – some on a daily basis. PDR business software packages have been available for some time for the panel shop industry and now with the growing market and increasing popularity of PDR also incorporating PDR.

Microsoft Excel and Spreadsheets

When beginning, investing in industry specific software may not be easy to afford – some software begin at $8,000 with ongoing costs of $3000 per year. With the addition of hardware such as a system computer networked and the labour for those that require to set it up and backups, as well as training to use such a system this can easily amount to $20,000 in the first year! Such software though may not be required for the starting technician new to the industry and probably not recommended until one has developed a pattern of working practices and then the needs that arise from these practices. Getting to the wrong software can be costly and usually when one has spent ample money on software will try to stick to it.

Using Microsoft Excel is one of the easiest software packages to master and to maintain. Furthermore, many businesses such as car sales yards use Microsoft Excel or similar software to maintain lists of their vehicle information for both used and new cars on the yard. This makes it easy to import and such vehicle lists and develop a quick spreadsheet of vehicles repaired and so fourth.

Microsoft Excel is a flat file spreadsheet different from the more complex and difficult to learn (although more powerful) relational databases such as Microsoft Access etc. What flat file means is that all the information on a basic spreadsheet is in front of you and all you require is to scroll up and down for information. These type of programs have various functions that allow for organisation of data, filtering such as for sorting of data in alphabetical order, calculations of costs and profits such as percentages and totals and even the use of colour coding for status updates eg cars completed, cars to be picked up, cars to be quoted etc. Such software can be very effective and powerful to maintain the early business operations.

Making and maintaining backups

Of course there are disadvantages. Because spreadsheets are typically single files, backing up up such software requires diligence and an organised system. Overwriting your work with an old file version can be devastating for the information lost, the time that it entails and for the embarrassment if it requires getting that information from clients and businesses. It also makes one look unprofessional and disorganised.

The best practice in maintaining backups when naming files is to always save a newer version based on the file name and date that the file was named or saved. An example of a possible good naming convention for your files:

excel_spreadsheet_sydney_hailstorm_14_04_1999.xls

or

1999_04_14_sydney_hailstorm_excel_spreadsheet.xls

This can easily be understood as it shows the event Sydney hailstorm, the type of file excel spreadsheet and also the date. Note that the second example looks unusual but it offers a simple method in allowing files to be ordered easily. All files should be placed in a specific directory/folder eg PDR_jobs_1999.

Now backing up the files not only involves an efficient and consistent naming convention but also various types of backup media. Most people are able to carry with them external hard drives which are relatively inexpensive as well as portable. You should backup up on more than 2 mediums eg your computer, an external hard drive and an online copy for instance.

Online storage mediums. These days there are quite a few free services to store online files (of course one needs to be able to make a decision as to what is sensitive information such as privacy requirements for customer details to be stored on a system). There are several systems at this point of writing such as those listed below:

Amazon Cloud Drive: 5GBBox: 5GB (but read “Beyond referrals” below before installing Box, as you may want to postpone installing this one)Dropbox: 2GBGoogle Drive: 5GBMiMedia (m)Drive: 7GBSkyDrive: 7GB (longtime SkyDrive users may be eligible for 25GB free)

SpiderOak: 2GB

Using a spreadsheet file for customer information

When creating a spreadsheet file in the PDR industry, designing the file is ongoing but you should do as much as you can early on to make other latter adjustments less tedious and not so time consuming. The requirements from insurance companies and also efficiency in general dominates the design of the spreadsheet. PDR technicians can either work for themselves or contract with an existing PDR company or both. What information is saved in a spreadsheet will be different in each case. Use different styles and separate spreadsheets in each case.

The individual PDR Technician

An individual PDR Technician running a business will require to maintain what work they have completed and also the customer and vehicle information. If at the same time, you have a car yard as well as private customers, it is probably best practice to not mix the two and keep them on separate spreadsheet files. Some advantages of separate spreadsheets are to not allow the clients to see the work and pricing being used for other customers.

The following groups of information are the typical headings that should be used for the spreadsheet headings

Customer Details

Vehicle owner, Address Street Name, Suburb, Post Code, Phone Number Business, Phone Number Mobile, Email address

Insurance and Vehicle Details may be important in some cases

Insurance company names, assessors, claim numberVIN, Rregistration numbers, year, make, models, (sometimes special models, colour, mileage, style, fuel used

Other information related typically to the job itself could include

job number, invoiced to and dates on invoices, invoice number, and some status for your internal information invoice status, parts purchased and so forth

Other useful information to include that relate to insurance and their allowances are as follows eg parts and the various components of a job quotation as shown below

Parts, Remove and Replace Costs, Sunroof removal costs, rust treating costs roof racks, glass etc

So an example of a spreadsheet would look like

Microsoft Excel already provides a customer template as well as other items for use in business which can easily be modified. Here is an example of the customer template:

Excel_customer_details_template

When working for insurance companies or car sales yards, often they will provide some spreadsheet template for you to follow to match their systems.