“One area of the Beyond service that is massively beneficial is the monthly management accounting. We can see where we should be doing better. Each division is more accountable – both in terms of winning jobs and successfully completing jobs.”

Peter MacNamara – owner, P Mac

About P Mac

  • Masonry conservation, cleaning, and restoration expert
  • Based in Dublin 12
  • Established 1999
  • Over 40 employees
  • Beyond client since 2017

Interview with Peter MacNamara, owner of P Mac

What was financial management like before you became a Beyond client?

Four years ago, the company’s financial management looked quite different. We ran Sage and Sage Payroll for our accounts and had a bookkeeper who managed our day-to-day. The only time we were in contact with our accountant was at the end of the year when it was time to file.

Real-time data wasn’t something we thought about. The bank account wasn’t connected to our accounting system. Everything was disjointed and information was siloed. Like many businesses, we were managing our finances reactively instead of proactively.

How have things changed since we migrated you to the cloud accounting software, Xero?

Things look very different today. In any given week, I know exactly what we owe and what is owed to us. Every month, I look at our management accounts where I have reports for the company’s five departments.

Having our accounts in the cloud has made a huge difference in how we work. Our Financial Controller works remotely and our Administration and Finance Manager works from home a couple of days a week, but we all have access to live information no matter where we are. Even when the office was closed in 2020, we could continue to work and were also able to train for future developments. That wouldn’t have been possible with a desktop system.

What other cloud systems are you using?

We used to manage our projects using JobPro, which was installed on a single machine in the office. If that went down, we couldn’t access the management system, which had a big impact on customer relations. It didn’t connect with Sage, or with Xero which we migrated to. So we had software packages that didn’t talk to one another. A big issue I had with JobPro is that it didn’t allow me to schedule jobs, so there was a serious gap in the system. And we couldn’t use the information within JobPro to communicate with clients, so that had to be handled manually.

We looked around for a better solution and eventually, with the help of Beyond, came across simPRO. It has streamlined everything about managing work, from the initial site visit – where we take pictures and survey requirements – through to quotations, communications, scheduling operatives at the right time, and closing off jobs.

Operatives have an app on their phone so they can check in and out of a site, log their breaks, etc., which makes everything very transparent. They use the system to mark a job complete, and that triggers the invoice in Xero. We run a lot of jobs at the same time, so the ability for operatives to make notes about a project, take before and after photos, etc., is immensely valuable to us when it comes to quality control. It also means that if there is a snag or a follow-up call at the property, we have a record of previous discussions and what was done.

What was the implementation of these systems like?

Implementation did have its challenges. Transferring to this much more transparent system meant that operatives were accountable in a way they hadn’t been before. There was a perception that the technology was spying on them, so we needed to show that the change was as much a benefit for them as for the business.

I’d say it took nine months to a year to get everyone to fully adopt the system. What they came to realise was that the system was allowing them to deliver a better service to the client and that it actually made their job easier. Simple elements like being able to add notes and pictures became real winners because with the number of jobs we handle it’s almost impossible to remember what happened on a particular site several months ago. With the app giving them instant access to this information, things became so much easier.

What are some of the ways the solutions work together?

The out-of-the-box connection between Xero and simPRO was based on a batch upload. After discussions with Beyond, it was decided that a real-time connection would be much more useful. Beyond connected with a developer who was able to integrate the two systems via API. With simPRO linked to Xero, invoices are pushed out automatically as soon as a job is marked as complete. Inversely, simPRO knows when clients pay invoices, so jobs will not be authorised if moneys are overdue.

We also use simPRO for purchase orders. This links back into individual jobs so we can check job costs on a monthly basis and see clearly what our gross profit on each job is and how it compares to other jobs in the division. On jobs where costly materials must be ordered well in advance of the project start date, the system will show us that the client has or hasn’t paid their deposit so that the order can go ahead.

What kind of additional support did you need?

The support from both Beyond and simPRO has been great. Our account manager at Simpro has been amazing with support, training, and also finding unique solutions for us within the system itself. I think that it’s hugely important to get enough training for the solutions you use. We’ve been using Xero for four years and Simpro for two, but it was actually only during lockdown that we became really trained up and had time to discover what these systems can provide. As an example, we initially thought that simPRO’s scheduling was too clunky for our use and we were looking at having our own app developed. But with the training we did last year we realised that it does exactly what we need it to.

What have been the benefits of the new system?

For the business, a big benefit is that we look more professional. We have complete oversight of our relationship with a particular client – what quotes we sent, what issues we noticed on the site, if we offered discounts and why, and dates of every interaction we had with them. There are also valuable insights for the business in looking at what happened when jobs weren’t won – whether there were issues with communication or the quote that was sent, etc.

This is a business where results are visible and hard to argue with. If a wall was previously covered in graffiti and is now spotless, that’s obviously a job well done. By using the system to record this, we have a nice end-to-end record of every job. Productivity of staff has gone up. They are better prepared for jobs which means there is less downtime, they complete more billable work in any given day and this, in turn, has driven up profitability.

Rory’s takeaway

It’s so important to build a technology stack that enhances how you work and gives you valuable information. Being able to connect your different solutions is a gamechanger, but you don’t have to stick with the standard connections available – either direct or via middleware. The benefit of working with systems that have APIs is that you can build the kind of connection that YOU need. If you plan carefully and share the right data, the benefits are huge.

P Mac’s example shows that integrating new systems is often a much longer journey than we typically imagine. It’s not enough to just send an employee their login information and assume they will jump in enthusiastically. Preparing teams to use new technology and investing upfront in training time will help you get the adoption rates that bring a real return on investment. A good way to do this is to get one key employee fully trained and then have them train up other members of the team as needed.