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Managing Workflow at a Growing Construction Firm [User Story]

User Stories is a regular column here on the WorkflowMax blog. Here, we get a company to walk us through their workflow process. Every company is different, and every firm has different methods and processes for managing their projects. Our hope is that by studying what others do, you can find techniques to improve your own workflow.

Today we talk to company director, Daniel Malton from Symmetry Commercial, a Melbourne-based commercial fit-out and property maintenance company.

Tell us about your company:

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Daniel: Symmetry Commercial has been in business since 1988. We’re essentially a construction business, but we do facilities maintenance as well. We have approximately 30 employees and then a contractor base of 100 to 150 people around Australia.

For the fit-out project side of the business, we predominantly do commercial interiors. And on that front we do the whole package, from essentially helping clients with advice around finding a new tenancy to giving them a design, or a number of design options. And we can assist with all that - the interior-design element - through to actually constructing the project, getting permits and getting the client moved in. It’s a bit of a multi-faceted organisation in that sense.

What kind of clients do you work with?:

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Daniel: For contract maintenance projects we have a variety of clients from Victoria Police, to Officeworks stores here in Australia, to a number of larger commercial real estate companies.

We’ve developed long-term relationships with people in various organisations. For example, we did a fit-out for Officeworks in Melbourne, and one of the project guys said said we should get in touch with head office because they were looking for people to assist with their facilities maintenance needs. From that, they gave us Victoria to look after, and from that we basically went to national presence.

What tools do you use to manage your construction firm?

Daniel: We’ve been on Xero now since 2011. As well as Xero and WorkflowMax, we use Fathom. It’s more of an accounting tool that plugs into Xero. It basically shows you all your financial statistics, for example, KPIs around debtor turnover. It lets you know how you’re tracking there. It lets you know if you’re not chasing debts hard enough or you haven’t paid people on a timely basis. You can quickly work out what’s happening in the business without having to go into detailed reports.

We’re really keen to build upon WorkflowMax and the success we’ve had with that and incorporate other add-on systems.

What challenges were you facing when it came to your workflow?

Daniel: Getting back to the early days we were using MYOB. That wasn’t particularly the best system. Stuff like purchase orders - getting them out to suppliers - was all paper-based. Part of the beauty of WorkflowMax is that we’ve been able to create really tight processes around purchasing and online purchase orders.

Walk us through the life of a project:

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Daniel: We’ll have an enquiry and then go and meet with the client to discuss their requirements. We take some measurements on site, come back, set the client up on WorkflowMax and prepare the quote.

Sometimes we might need to get external contractors involved, that could be electricians or fire services contractors, or whoever it might be. They may have to go out and have a look at the job as well to give us some inputs into the price.

We’ll then put the cost of the project together, bundle it up and then email it off to the client.

The job’s then accepted, and we obviously then start going to that job management side of things and sending off purchase orders and then when it’s complete the job migrates across to Xero for invoicing.

How do you hope to improve your workflow?

Daniel: Unfortunately for us, gone are the days where, for example, you get call centres who ring you and say “Symmetry Commercial, can you send someone down to 1 Pitt Street, Sydney? We’ve got a flooded basement.”

For urgent matters we still do get a call, but a lot of the routine stuff, we just get emails. So we’re looking for a customer support system that will pick up all that, scoop up all those emails and drop them into a ticketing system that we can use. From there, ultimately, what we’re looking to achieve is one integrated system.

What do you love most about WorkflowMax?

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Daniel: It’s easy to use. It’s very user-friendly. We’ve had new people start here and it’s been really easy for them to pick up.

Also, its scalability. As the company grows we can actually expand our use of the system. WorkflowMax has been great for us in the sense that it has got so much scope and you want to look for something that is going to grow with you. When our business goes to that next level and we have got more people out there doing project estimating, then I know there are those functionalities within WorkflowMax, and it’s something that we’re excited to explore.

WorkflowMax is only going to get better for service based industries, including construction, because they are specialist to that particular type of thing.

Thanks Daniel! If you’re running a company using WorkflowMax and want to talk workflow with us, then drop me a line at monica.shepherd@xero.com and we can interview you for User Stories.