The Great British Entrepreneur awards are for entrepreneurs working in the service industry who offer a unique service or perhaps delivers an established service in an innovative and creative way. Either way, the winner of this category will be a pioneer, showing how they have achieved commercial and critical success through high and sustained customer satisfaction.
At AutoAlert, we believe we are a pioneer bring our unique job management solution to industries which previously faced manual paper based processes, lots of duplication and no visibility over the status of jobs.
Following is our response to the judges questions and how we believe we can help millions of companies with remote workers really improve their own business.
Living in London, it was often difficult to find a parking space near my home. At the time i had a nice car but one day i came down in the morning to find a note on my windscreen saying “if you don’t turn the *$!£$&? alarm off, I’ll put a brick through the window” Obviously an alarm is not much good if all it does is upset the neighbours. So when my brother came up with a way to link his car alarm to his mobile phone and ring you when the alarm was activated i thought this was an excellent idea.
That was the originally idea, as we could track the phone we could also offer a more simple and cost-effective alternative to Tracker. However, the market was effectively closed due to the Thatcham regulations set up by the insurance companies. We were also getting interest from tradesmen who liked to be able to track their colleagues when they were out on jobs so we moved into fleet management. We continued to grow and develop and a couple of years ago one of our clients said they would also like to track their jobs as well as their vehicles – hence the latest iteration of the product.
I gave up a lucrative career in the city and invested a lot of time and money into the project. Risks include getting off the career ladder, the potential negative impact on friends and family and the worry of where the money is going to come from to pay the mortgage.
Job scheduling used to be the preserve of large companies using complex systems. With the advent of smartphones, more simple phone based job management application are now available. This is leading to new markets with smaller companies.
Job scheduling used to be the preserve of large companies using complex systems. With the advent of smartphones, more simple phone based job management application started appearing, opening up the technology to smaller companies.
AutoAlert is different due to the connected nature of our system. Other applications work well for individual companies but fall down when companies get jobs from their customers, or when they use subcontractors. Large companies with many subcontractors can also not view the status of their jobs without chasing individual contractors.
With AutoAlert, companies can connect to their own customers and subcontractors. Everyone knows the status of their jobs as they’re updated. There’s no chasing people and information is readily available meaning queries can be escalated immediately rather than weeks later when information may have been forgotten. You can also raise your invoice when the job is complete and see whether your customer has viewed and paid your invoice in real-time.
This creates massive value for our customers and value for us as our customers are incentivised to invite their own customers and subcontractors onto the platform. We can do much more without commensurate increases in resources.
AutoAlert’s mission: eradicate paper based job sheets.
Millions of jobs sheets are created each day to give job details to remote workers such as electricians and plumbers and to get information back about the work they’ve done on each job.
The current process is labour intensive, involves lots of duplication, especially as more subcontractors are involved in the job and is opaque with no one knowing what is happening with each job until the job sheet is returned – often weeks later.
There are other electronic job management solutions, but only AutoAlert offers a “social network for blue-collar workers” allowing companies to connect to each other, send and receive jobs, then check and share the status of their jobs as they’re updated in the field by the engineer on their mobile phone. Invoices can be raised through the application and are immediately available to your customer. You can see whether they’ve viewed and paid the invoice meaning no more delayed invoices or invoices lost in the post.
AutoAlert provides clarity over what is happening as it happens, this leads to less anxiety, less chasing of people and more time for other tasks such as growing your own business.
Its my ambition to create a billion dollar company. Not for the fact of creating something worth a billion but for the aim of creating something special. Something that few people have done and something that can create a big and lasting impact in Britain, Europe and beyond.
My desire is to be special, and that feeds thought into everyone we do at AutoAlert. It is why we spend so much time listening to our customers, it’s why we spend so much time trying to learn from best in class companies and it’s why we’re continually striving to improve everything we do.
If AutoAlert is special, if we create tools which are powerful, yet simple and easy to use, then we can also help our customers to be special. If we can make their life’s easier, if we provide the tools so they can offer excellent customer service and if we can help free up their time to improve what they do, then we believe they can also stand out from the crowd, and together we can all grow.
David Perfect – “its like opening a window on my world”
Graham Warby – “it allows me to expand my business knowing i only have to deal with the exceptions whilst the rest of the jobs take care of themselves”.
Peter Gilbert – “it means we can provide our customers with the details they’re looking for when they ring, rather than having to ring our drivers and then get back to them”.
Millions of jobs sheets are created each day providing job details to remote workers such as electricians and to get information back about the work done on each job. AutoAlert’s aim is to eradicate these paper job sheets and replace them with our connected web and mobile phone based platform.
Find out more about AutoAlert’s unique Job Management Software.
Following are just some of the new ways you can interact with our iOS Monitor application.
Rotating your fingers on the screen rotates the map.
Slide two fingers up on the radar screen to change the angle at which you can view your vehicles on the map. This provides for a more 3D view and when zoomed in can show your vehicles among buildings.
When you’re zoomed in, then pinching or expanding two fingers on the map causes it to zoom or out.
Double click on the map to zoom in.
When you’re in the radar screen on the iPhone, pressing and holding on the map will cause the map type options to appear. The options are displayed for a few seconds and allow you to easily switch between standard map view, hybrid or satellite view. Particular useful if you want to see a photo quality image of where your vehicle is parked.
Sliding in from the left on the orange tab on the radar screen shows you a list of all your vehicles. You can then click on each one to find it on the map, then zoom in or out. You can also refresh the map, and get further information and settings. Sliding back from right to left closes the list.
You can also slide in from the left on other screens such as the jobs screen and messaging screen to bring back the previous screen.
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The Digital Champion awards highlight digital businessess who are changing their markets; and creating new markets through the application of digital technology.
Digital technology will underpin Britain’s economic recovery, enabling UK businesses to unlock new markets, raise productivity and improve operating practices.
The “Digital Champion” award recognises UK-registered businesses that are challenging traditional industry and business practices; building a successful business on the back of such disruptive activity; and acting as a champion for the new digital economy.
AutoAlert’s digital approach to job management is creating a disruptive influence to all those industries which use remote workers including electrician and plumbers, security companies, transport and logistics and facilities managers.
AutoAlert’s mission is to eradicate paper based job sheets.
Millions of jobs sheets are created each day to provide job details to remote workers such as electricians and plumbers and to get information back about the work they’ve done on each job.
Unfortunately the process is labour intensive, involves lots of duplication, especially as more subcontractors are involved in the job and is opaque with no one knowing what is happening with each job until the job sheet is returned – often weeks later.
AutoAlert’s solution is a “social network for blue collar workers” which allows companies to connect to each other, send and receive jobs, then monitor and share the status of their jobs as they’re updated in the field by the engineer on their mobile phone.
AutoAlert provides clarity over what is happening as it happens, this leads to less anxiety, less chasing employees and more time for other tasks.
We are small in size but big in ambition. We have almost 20,000 customers using our platform but believe we can get millions due to the massive value our customers derive in connecting to their own customers and suppliers and being able to share the status of their jobs.
Paper based job sheets are wasteful and inefficient. No one knows what is happening with a job until the job sheet is returned.
By automating the process and by allowing engineers to update the job sheet on their mobile phone when they’re doing the job rather than filling out job sheets at the end of the day, or week this means everyone is aware what is happening as it happens.
This means no waiting around for job sheets, no difficult to read or missing information and no chasing remote workers by telephone.
Job details can be updated in the office or on site. The information is immediately available to all concerned ensuring customers, suppliers and engineers can respond immediately to any changes.
As the list of jobs is available on your mobile telephone, you can see any new jobs that have arrived and add them into your working day rather than having to come back to the office to pick up additional jobs.
If a job is not viewed, or if there is any delay, then alerts are generated to all concerned so any issues can be resolved or the job reallocated to another engineer.
Mobile telephones and the mobile web are an integral part of our “blue collar social network”. In the past, remote workers got information about their jobs on a piece of paper. A form was then completed once the job was done and taken back to the office often the next day or even a week or so later.
Handwritten information is often difficult to read and information may be missing. If the job sheets are returned days or even weeks later then this can lead to additional problems and disputes when raising invoices. Unfortunately, by this time the information is no longer fresh in everyones mind.
By using a mobile telephone to update the job details, the engineer gets the information in real time with text or push notifications when a new job has arrived. They can update the job while they are on site and while the information is still fresh in their minds meaning less errors, less chasing and quicker and more accurate invoicing.
Other companies are now using mobile telephones to provide a more simple, real time way of updating job sheets. They work well for individual companies but fall down when more than one company is involved in the job.
With AutoAlert, we’ve learnt from leading social networking companies such as Dropbox, Twitter and Facebook and have developed a connected system that works right the way along the supply chain, no matter how many companies are involved in each job.
We continue to learn and innovate, we speak to our customers regularly and spend time with them to understand how they are using our platform, how we can make it easier to use and how we can improve their lives. We also get thoughts and inspiration from other successful companies whether they’re working in related fields or in completely separate areas.
In terms of entrepreneurialiasm, i believe one key trait stands out – determination. We’ve faced many ups and downs, we’ve changed and improved our strategy and have now got to a stage where we have almost 20,000 customers using our platform with ambitions for millions more.
We have been working with a number of key customers since 2009. They were using our GPS tracking technology to help manage their vehicles and engineers. However, they wanted to expand, they were getting interest from large national companies but were concerned that they wouldn’t have the time and resources to manage the subcontractors that would be required to take on these new contracts.
Consequently we worked together to develop our job management software in order that they could better manage their jobs and workers.
We now have over 18,000 customers using our system. We have processed over 4,000 jobs with a value of approximately £1 million.
We have eradicated about 5,000 paper based job sheets and 15,000 telephone calls.
We have also allowed our customers to expand and take on more business. We estimate our customers have saved about £160,000 in costs by being able to reduce duplication, paperwork and calls to field workers to find out where they are.
At AutoAlert we’re keenly aware of the need for innovation. Both to set us apart from the competition and also to improve our own customerss working lives. We want to be special and we want to give our customers the tools so that they can be special too.
We have won a number of awards including Best Aftermarket product for the Telematics Industry – where we were competing with large multinationals including GM Motors.
Find out more about how AutoAlert job management software can benefit your business.
The European Business Awards is looking for innovative business models that can be exported and used as a reference by other companies.
At AutoAlert, our approach to job management is simplicity and innovation. We’re helping our customers reduce duplication, reduce administration and improve clarity over their business by eradicating paper based job sheets and delivery notes and replacing them with our simple, mobile phone and web based job management system.
We’re learnt from other leading companies such as Dropbox and Twitter and we believe that what we’re doing can be used as a reference for other companies as well.
The following highlights why we believe our approach to job management is innovative and disruptive to the existing status quo.
AutoAlert provides a social networked platform which enables companies to connect to their customers and suppliers, manage their jobs and share the status of those jobs and invoices with everyone involved.
AutoAlert aims to reduce the paper based job sheets which are used in the many industries which use remote workers. This includes electricians and plumbers, facilities managers and transport and logistics companies. In the UK alone there are over 900,000 field trade companies and around 14 million in Europe and North America.
Paper based job sheets are used in these industries to send information about each job to the final engineer and to get information back about what was done on the job in order that invoices can be raised.
This process is laborious, involves lots of duplication, especially as more subcontractors are involved in each job and is opaque with no one knowing what is happening with the job until the job sheet is returned.
We now have over 18,000 customers using the system. 5,000 jobs have been processed and over a million pounds worth of invoices have been raised by our customers.
The advantage that we have gained relative to the competition
In the past, job scheduling was the preserve of large companies using complex systems from the likes of SAP and Oracle. With the advent of smartphones, new companies such as GeoOp and vWorkApp have entered the market offering more simple job management applications using mobile telephones. This has opened up the technology to smaller customers who are lacking the skills and resources which are available to their larger competitors.
AutoAlert offers a simple, mobile phone based job management system. However, where it is different, is in the connected nature of the system.
Other applications work well for individual companies but fall down when companies get jobs from their customers, or when they pass jobs on to their own subcontractors.
Large companies are also let down as they cannot force their subcontractors to buy into the same systems they use. Consequently, they do not have visibility over the status of the jobs done by their subcontractors.
With AutoAlert, each company can connect to their own customers and subcontractors. Everyone’s aware of the status of their jobs as they’re updated by the engineer on-site. There’s no chasing people to find out what is happening, and information is more readily available meaning queries can be escalated immediately rather than weeks later when the information may have been forgotten.
With AutoAlert you can also raise your invoice as soon as the job is complete and see whether your customer has viewed and paid your invoice in real time.
The connected nature of our system creates massive value for our customers. It also creates value for us as our customers become our salesforce due to the massive value inherent on inviting their own customers and suppliers to connect.
We’ve developed a “blue collar social network” allowing companies to connect to each other, send and receive jobs, then monitor and share the job status as they’re updated in the field by the engineer on their mobile phone.
Unlike existing paper based processes which are labour intensive, involve duplication, especially as more subcontractors are involved in the job and is opaque (no one knows what’s happening until the job sheet is returned), AutoAlert provides clarity over what is happening as it happens, thereby reducing anxiety, reducing time spent chasing employees and increasing time available for other tasks.
The development of our job management platform has been achieved through close collaboration with our customers.
Initial inspiration was provided by our customers who liked our simple to use vehicle tracking solution and realised that we could do something similar to reduce the cost of managing their jobs. We have worked closely with our customers and have built a culture with them where they can feel open to come to us with comments and suggestions.
This culture was created over a long term through periodic communication with our customers and by us being open and available. Even where a customer has telephoned us with a problem, we have thoroughly investigated it, kept them informed of what we are doing and then made changes as quickly as possible.
This openness is the key message we’ve always tried to portray to our customers. We have also used technology such as instant messaging from within the AutoAlert system to make it easier for our customers to ask questions and provide their suggestions, and for us to respond back in a clear and timely manner.
We also periodically sit down with our customers to see how they use AutoAlert. This provides further insights and ideas for improvements which may not be evident in just a conversation or email from our customers.
We’re also very keen to learn from other companies. In particular we’ve looked at how companies like Dropbox, Twitter and Facebook have scaled and grown their user-base. How they’ve developed the networking effect of their products and how they’ve “hacked their way to growth”
We’ve learnt from this and used similar ideas within our own product development. This ultimately led to the innovative and connected nature of our platform which differentiates us compared to the more standard “single company” approach that our competitors have followed.
We believe we are innovative and remarkable due to the lessons we’ve learnt and the unique way in which we’ve structured our business and product in order to positively disruptive how many small business currently run their day to day operations using inefficient and opaque processes based around paper based job sheets. By reducing our customers stress and anxiety and by providing them with the tools to grow and develop their business we believe we can make a massive change to the many industries who used remote workforces and we believe we can achieve so much even with such a small team.
Find out more about AutoAlert’s job management software, and how it can benefit your business.
It’s been four years since the first iPhone was unveiled, and in this short time our way of life has changed quite dramatically. The iPhone has become a super robot with mind-boggling capabilities. In a rapidly evolving digital world, what could be next in the development of iPhone and iPad apps?
At its most basic this touch screen genius is everything from a simple diary, alarm clock and camera, to a newspaper, weather reporter and social networker. A GPS tracking system, route planner, world map, bookshelf, torch and even a universal remote control – and who knows what more is yet to come. Having developed iPhone applications at AutoAlert, we’re excited by what these advancements could mean for both business, and our future lives.
So, where next?
The iPhone 5 promises more than 3000 applications and 250 new features. With its eagerly anticipated release just around the corner, here are some of the possibilities we can look out for:
Hey, be great to hear any insights or opinions…
There’s been lots of stories about individuals making bundles of money on the app store although with thousands of apps out there this tends to be the exception rather than the rule
However, I’ve just noticed that there are a number of apps in the top 25 today. They are cheap apps selling the ability to see through a friends clothes or track ANY mobile telephone. It appears to be a joke and when you read the description it does clearly state what the app does or doesn’t do but lots of people seem to be downloading them regardless.
Three of the apps are below, [update 10th March 2013, the apps are no longer available]. 2 are from the same developer, all have got really bad reviews and all appear to be very simple apps to put together.
The apps were an X Ray Scanner to “see under your friends clothes”, a phone Tracker to locate the location of any of your friends mobile telephones (it only shows the location of your friends phone if you’re next to them) and a sex position game.
What ceases to amaze though is how many people seem to be surprised that the app doesn’t do what they thought.
I take a few learning from this and i’d be interested to hear your views.
As an app developer we’ve seen this ourselves. No matter how clear you try and make the description and how much information you provide on your website; people will still download the app but often have completely different expectations to what it actually does.
The same is true for help and instructions. No matter how clear you’ve made your instructions (or how clear you feel you’ve made your instructions) people will still have problems.
The more expensive the app, I assume the more research people will do before purchasing. The cheaper the app the more likely people will download it without really knowing what it does, then be upset when it doesn’t do what they thought.
As a developer we put a lot of effort into trying to create good apps which will be useful to our customers. When we first released our applications we always took it personally if someone wasn’t happy. Of course we still want to make the best app possible but given the above it seems that reviews shouldn’t be taken too seriously. Obsviiously constructive critisms can help you develop your app further, but bad reviews appear to make little difference to sales.
The apps I mentioned above were obviously quick to make and appear to have upset a lot of people. However, they are in the top 25 paid applications as well as the top 50 grossing applications today. If you create a buzz in the app store, even if for the wrong reasons then it appears that your app will get priortised. Sensationalism sells!
By the way, before any one thinks this is just another marketing ploy for these apps, thiese companies have nothing to do with us!
I’d be keen to hear your thoughts, both around marketing of applications as well as on a lighter note, some ideas for equally bad apps which could sell millions.
First published March 2010. I’d welcome any views on whether you think this has changed.
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