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.
AutoAlert submitted an application for the EIR ICT Labs Challenge. Following is the detail of our application.
Millions of paper jobs sheets are produced each day. They are inefficient, involve a lot of manual intervention, often lead to duplication and ensure no one knows what’s going on with their job until the job sheet is returned. Its our mission to eradicate paper based job sheets!
Job sheets, works orders, delivery notes or their equivalent are used for millions of jobs each day in multiple different industries ranging from electricians and plumbers to haulage contractors. They are paper based, inefficient requiring lots of manual intervention and duplication and lead to a lot of extra cost.
As no one knows the status of the job until the job sheet is returned, this leads to chasing of staff, anxiety and late invoices as your invoices can’t be raised until the details of the work done is returned.
Our aim is to eradicate the job sheet and replace it with a cloud based, connected platform where customers and subcontractors can connect to each other, send and receive jobs and update those jobs in real-time as they happen on a mobile telephone.
Our platform uses cloud, web and mobile phone technologies.
We are primarily targeting service based companies with remote workers i.e., electricians, plumbers, construction companies, facilities managers or transport companies. Our job scheduling solution is especially useful to companies who are big enough that they have large customers, may use subcontractors and have ambitions to grow further, but who are not so big that they can afford to invest a lot of time and money into more complex and bespoke systems.
The electricians market alone comprises of about 30,000 companies in the UK producing an average of 30,000,000 jobs per year. The plumbing market is of a similar size.
Competitors include Primavera, SAP and Oracle. However, these systems are typically complex and expensive and out of the reach of most smaller businesses.
Newer incumbents to the market include vWorkApp and Geop. They utilise smart phones to provide job information and tracking. They are typically easier to use and available for much smaller companies.
However, what differentiates AutoAlert from the competition is the networked aspect of our system. Unlike our competitors, our platform allows our customers to connect to their own customers and suppliers. This means that customers don’t need to pay for different systems and then log in and out of each while working for different companies.
With AutoAlert you can receive and update jobs from your customer as well as send your own jobs to your subcontractors.
Although there are no legal obligations to AutoAlert in particular, our customers have a duty of care over their own employees and it is therefore important that our applications are simple to use with information that is easy to see and with buttons that are easy to press, This helps reduce distractions and ensures our users can concentrate on their other tasks.
Many of our customers have employees that drive and this is therefore also something we need to consider.
We are currently developing our software to determine when our a phone is being used by someone who is driving and only show messages with a minimum of text, large fonts and requiring no interaction from the driver. Other more detailed job information will only be available once the vehicle has stopped.
We primarily derive our revenues from our monthly subscriptions which are charged on a per user basis and allow access to the platform. We have three subscription options:
Find out more about AutoAlert’s innovative software and how it can benefit you.
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.
If you’re anything like me, you’re always looking for a way to make your business more efficient. I speak with small and medium business owners on a daily basis, and I find it’s something even the best companies can improve on.
Efficiency, however, is a broad term that could mean a lot of things. But what it really boils down to is one question: how can my company make the biggest profit in the smallest amount of time?
Our top tips for making your business more efficient are
Find out more below.
How often do you lose money because of simple mistakes, like making a delivery to the wrong address? How often are you penalised for arriving late? How often do your employees get lost?
Even if you accept a certain amount of waste as being inevitable, the fact is that these things add up over the year, potentially taking a large chunk out of your profits.
In a nutshell, time is money – or the potential for money. The more time you waste on inefficient activities, the less free time you have to spend doing productive activities that will help your business grow.
Michael Gerber, in his world-famous book ‘The E-myth revisited – Why most small businesses fail and what to do about it’, stresses that one of the reasons businesses fail is that the owners spend too much time on day-to-day tasks. So if you are a small business owner, it’s vitally important to spend enough time steering your ship in the right direction.
One of the most common ways our clients improve their time efficiency is by using AutoAlert’s job management features. Because AutoAlert gives you automatic notifications whenever a job is added by a customer, or whenever the job status is updated by an employee, you spend less time chasing jobs up. In addition, you’ll spend less time filling out and duplicating job sheets, as all data is managed and sent to staff electronically. AutoAlert even generates invoices for you, saving yet more time.
This one is particularly important if your employees are out in the field. If you can’t assign jobs to staff and relay information to them easily, they will miss out on opportunities to finish jobs quickly. This could result in you taking on fewer jobs overall, meaning you’ll make less profit.
This is another reason that a mobile-based job system like AutoAlert is so useful. As soon as a job is entered into your system by you or a customer, it can then be assigned to an employee, who receives an instant notification on their mobile device. Additionally, you can simply communicate via AutoAlert’s messaging system. It’s a lot easier than trying to get busy workers on the phone.
Have you ever been working for a company and thought “our company could save so much money if our managers only asked us for input”?
The fact is, a lot of companies just never think of asking low-level employees for help. Your employees do the same job every single day, so there’s a chance they know their corner of the business better than you do. Why not ask them if they have any ideas on how you could save money or improve your service?
It may not always be possible to give a flawless service to your customers, but at the very least, you should make sure that you are doing a better job than your competitors. Even if you feel you’re already doing this, it’s worth asking yourself a couple of times a year, “if a competing company opened tomorrow, would I have any reason to be worried?”
One of the best ways to retain your regular orders is through giving good customer service. If you don’t, it could cost you – a 2013 study showed that UK businesses lose £12billion a year through poor customer service.
While we don’t want to overdo the self-promotion, this is another area where AutoAlert can help. Because your employees can update job statuses from their mobiles, it means that when customers call for updates, you’ll always have up-to-date information for them. AutoAlert also warns you if a job hasn’t been picked up or is running late, so you can correct the problem sooner.
Find out more about how AutoAlert’s job management software can help your business.
Ever asked yourself how come some people seem to achieve so much more from their hours than others? We’re all given the same amount to play with and I’m not offering any simple solution because running a business invariably means devoting a lot more time to it than just 9-5 Monday – Friday. If you’re anything like me, it’s a driving passion.
That often means that 24 hours just isn’t enough hours to get all the work done. You find yourself sitting at your desk at weekends, evenings and before sunrise. Managing a small business, you’re in the role of salesperson, head of marketing and PR, bookkeeper, accountant and problem solver.
Part of the reason for the niggling equation of time usage and work/life balance is because the way we manage our time usually has a big impact on sales, profit and growth. Is it a bigger problem today than a few decades ago? I think it is: internet and e-mail has meant more of us have the facility to start up and manage a business so competition today is stronger; business is increasingly global so time zones may mean working unsocial hours. Communication has become ever more demanding and it’s unlikely your daily post would have had the same volume of envelopes as your daily inbox quota, all competing for immediate attention. Life was certainly slower pre internet…buy hey, not nearly so exciting and with so many opportunities to explore.
Achieving a work/life balance sounds boring so how about talking instead about managing your time and getting the best out of life? That means freedom, not just for yourself on a personal level but the freedom to enjoy your business and achieve greater success.
It’s about being organised, setting realistic goals and learning when to stop. As everyone is different, it’s no good me giving you a list of rules or ‘how to…’ points. Some people like a strict regime, reading e-mails at a certain time of the day. Others prefer just to tackle everything as it comes in, prioritising as they go, and so on. There are those like me who manage a bit of multi tasking with a combination of the other methods. You will probably know by instinct which time management method works best for you. It will largely be dependent on the type of business you work in, where your office is based and…the crucial point, your personal life.
Now, this is where the solution comes in. Most people make the mistake of fitting in social and leisure time around their work. As there is always work to tackle when running your own show, invariably this means leisure time gets sidelined and work time takes the dominant role, gobbling up those 24 hours in your day.
So, instead of looking at the whole picture and the mind boggling amount you have to get done in order to run your business, step back from all that and look at how much of your time you like to devote to outside interests and the activities you most enjoy. Go ahead and enjoy yourself.
If you’re serious about running a professional business, you’re not going to be in danger of living the good life while your company crashes. Instinct will kick in and you’ll know when you’ve devoted enough time to friends or family mainly because you’ll have rested your brain and when the time is right, feel more galvanised than ever to jump into work.
By understanding the demands your personal life will make on your time and how many of those demands are vital, you can begin to work out how much time you have left for being your own boss.
Structuring your time to achieve business goals helps make your business a success and allows you the free time to have a life outside of work.
The good thing is it costs you nothing to get yourself organised – except of course a bit of time.
Find out more about AutoAlert Job Management software and how it can help your business.
Following conversations with our customers, we found the following ten reasons are those most likely sited for using GPS vehicle tracking technology.
Customer service was cited as a key requirement. By knowing where all your vehicles are, if a customer rings you can immediately tell them what is happening and when to expect a delivery without having to ring the driver, find out where they are and then ring the customer back.
By monitoring mileage, routes taken, idling times, or just through better scheduling of drivers, it is possible to make big savings in fuel costs – one of the largest costs for transport companies.
As above, reducing mileage also directly reduces harmful exhaust emissions. Furthermore, by having access to real-time data it is possible to watch trends and have key information at hand.
Using the working time reports means less reliance on job sheets or overtime sheets. It’s also a lot easier to see when a vehicle is used, for what purpose and why.
Putting the information in the fleet managers hands reduces the need to constantly ring the driver to see where they are. This is safer for the driver and reduces stressful situations often caused by poor communication.
Time stamped satellite imagery and historical reports make it easy to prove where a vehicle was at a specific time or what speed it was doing. This could cut parking or speeding tickets or even fines from suppliers such as ports who often charge if a delivery is not made within a particular time frame.
With less paperwork and key information readily available, it is easier to manage your fleet and spend time on the jobs that matter.
You can see where your vehicles are always, set up alerts if they enter or leave particular areas and get text message alerts to potential problems.
This is particular relevant to our motor home or classic car customers. With AutoAlert you check the position of your vehicles when you want and wherever you are through your mobile telephone rather than relying on a distant call centre which only tracks your vehicle after it has gone.
Improved performance, efficient operations and reduced costs allow for investment in new revenue generating areas.
Find out more about AutoAlert GPS Tracking software and how it can benefit your business.
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