Keeping Track of Business

Oct. 18, 2011

Since 1988 it has been my privilege to discuss some topic pertaining to the locksmithing every month in Locksmith Ledger. If you are a consistent reader, you know that I often refer to my father who was also a locksmith.

Although my father was a good locksmith in many ways, his bookkeeping system was not the best. If an employee went on a job which was to be billed, the employee was required to bring the empty boxes back to the shop and write the name and address of the job on the empty boxes. The boxes were not destroyed until the bill was written and mailed.

When our business had only one employee, this billing system was manageable, but as we added more employees, we soon had an overload of empty boxes everywhere.  My father spent much of his time sorting through the empty boxes to find the exact one for the bill he was writing.  Billing slowed down along with the amount of money going in our business bank account.          

I was reminded of our billing fiasco when a locksmith in distress called recently. This locksmith started ten years ago with a much better business plan by purchasing a computerized dispatching program. The program was used to write job orders and the program also contained their customer list and kept track of billing.

Everything went smoothly until a few months ago when they received a new update for their dispatching program. After installation of the new update, the dispatching program suddenly stopped working and they could not retrieve their billing reports. The software company reportedly blamed the problems on the old computers and server owned by the locksmith. The locksmith reportedly invested several thousand dollars in new computer hardware, but the software problems persisted. According to this locksmith, the software problems have continued for several months and the software company is no longer answering their phone calls.

Computers are certainly a necessary part of our lives today. However, they must be handled with care and attention. Between software and hardware, crashes of some kind are inevitable. Regardless of how well your computer and computer programs has been operating, backing up files should be a daily ritual. If your software stops operating and the software company becomes uncooperative, at least you have your current files.

If you are having trouble with you present business software system or if you are thinking of purchasing one, the best recommendation is to ask other locksmiths in your area for recommendations about what business program they are using. Ask your accountant to suggest a suitable program.  Business programs are not inexpensive. One locksmith owner told of paying $1000 per year for updates for their program. Business programs form the lifeblood of your company. Especially today when we all want to keep track of every penny, it pays to buy the best instead of looking for low-cost alternatives.