We spoke with Fabricating & Production Machinery owner, and early Daylite Cloud adopter, Thomas Lowkes to talk about how Daylite Cloud has changed his business for the better.
During our chat, we learned some of the trade secrets he has picked up using Daylite that he uses to win more business and deliver his promises.
Can you tell me a little bit about the company?
Fabricating & Production Machinery was founded in 1983 and was started by my father. I purchased it from him in 2012 after being an employee since 1990, but my connection to the industry goes back to my Grandfather. Machine Tools have been in the family for a long time.
So when you took over the business, were
there any particular challenges you faced?
Manufacturing in North America is a real challenging industry. There is a lot of competition from China and India, and that means fewer customers for us. This is still a challenge now, and we have to work hard every day to find an edge.
Speaking of finding an edge, you were one of the first customers to move to Daylite Cloud, why were you so excited to move so early?
It was frustrating before Cloud when I had missing information. For example, I would leave to see a client or travel somewhere and if I hadn’t synced with the server, I could have missing information. I’d want to do something like inputting the address of a new client into my GPS, but they were missing. Having up-to-date information with me all the time on my Mac, iPhone, iPad has been huge savings for me.
So you’ve found syncing to be better since moving to Cloud?
So much. I just don’t even think about it anymore. I used to do a lot of manual syncing to make sure everything was working. I had repeating tasks in Daylite to remind me I needed to sync. One for my Mac, another for my iPhone, and a third for my iPad.
Daylite Cloud removed any thoughts I had about syncing and has made everything far more simple.
Some customers are nervous about migrating, can you share your experience and maybe offer some tips?
The migration was seamless. It was very simple and easy on my end. Basically, we scheduled a date and time for the move and I was asked not to add anything to our current database during the migration. I could still review Daylite though. So, I scheduled it for Friday and by Monday I was on Cloud. Just like that!
We’ve been told removing the server is one of the best things about Daylite Cloud, have you found that true?
When I used Daylite Self-Serve, I was the IT person. I had to make several decisions; whether my computer or my assistant’s was the server, managing backups and fixing things when sync errors occurred. Our set up was pretty simple, but I knew that I could do more with it with automatic syncing. When I moved to Daylite Cloud, all this went away. I could fire myself as IT director!
Has Daylite Cloud changed how you used Daylite?
I use Daylite a lot more. I can now use it while traveling and have it sync. Also, I don’t use it on my Macbook nearly as much, and instead I use my iPad more often, which is really nice. Before Cloud, I was reluctant to add anything when on the go, especially on my iPad. When I finished with a client, I’d have to rush back into the office and try to capture everything into Daylite. 90% of the time I’d miss something.
Now that I know everything will sync, I can work on my iPad. I can stop to grab a coffee on my way back to the office and add everything into Daylite while it is still fresh in my mind. Daylite Cloud has simply helped me to use it more.
So before using Daylite, what was the business like for you?
Before Daylite, I had two Filemaker databases I used to track contacts and inventory for the business and I also used OmniFocus to manage my tasks. It worked, but nothing was linked, I would have to jump all over the place to find information on a customer or an inventory item. Our sales cycles can be very long – sometimes nine to twelve months, and having this information in one place is a huge benefit.
So what made you decide you needed a change?
Managing all the different apps was too much work, too much maintenance. I needed to find a better way; I needed a tool that could be my memory. That tool was Daylite.
When you found Daylite, what sold you?
Daylite’s Mail integration sold me on Daylite. Daylite solved a lot of the problems I was facing but what really sold me was how easy it was to link emails to my clients, opportunities, and projects. It saves me a lot of time, keeps me organized and was a real game changer.
So Email is a big deal for you?
In the manufacturing industry, email is the default communication method. Texting and iMessage are also becoming popular, and I do use Fone&Text add-on from iOSXperts to track that.
How has Daylite changed the way you manage email?
Since our purchasing and sales cycles can be long, months can go by between when I send a client an offer, and when they accept. In those cases, it’s hard to remember what the offer was in the first place! By using Daylite and Daylite Mail Assistant, I can find the customer from within the email, see all of the linked opportunities, and from there I can view the estimate I sent them.
That’s one example of how Daylite has become my “memory”. Before emailing or phoning a customer, I search their history in Daylite to review all of the past conversations and business I’ve had with the client. I can get reacquainted with them, so I know as much as possible all before I reach out.
What does the beginning of your sales process look like?
The majority of our sales originate from our website. Our website has all of our inventory listed. Using multiple industry specific websites – similar to MLS for real estate – we have our machinery listings in several locations at one time. Using these sites, as well as Twitter, eBay, etc., potential customers call to request a quotation or call to let us know that they may have something for sale.
What is the typical workflow once you’ve determined you might have a sale?
First I get a call or email from a customer. I make sure to log the call in a note or add the email to Daylite. I check that the client is in Daylite and if not, I add them. I make sure things like, you know, name, email, phone number, stuff like that.
If it is someone selling a machine, I add a new Opportunity, which is the machine, sort of like how in real estate, a new house is an opportunity. Then I go and inspect the machine, take notes, pictures, and other things. I add the things like serial number model etc. in the Opportunity. One thing I love is I can do all this with my iPad. I don’t need to bring my MacBook to collect and manage inspections.
Then, I create an estimate and send it to the customer in Daylite. I also have a task that reminds me to follow up in 4 days in case I don’t get a response. This way I can reach out keep moving closer to the final sale.
Once they accept the price, I take the opportunity and turn it into a project. I make sure to add things like how much it was originally bought for, and how much an item sold for, as well as the industry it was used. This way I can reference my past sales to help my decision on how I approach future ones.
You mentioned linking a lot, how are you doing all that?
I tend to link everything from the Daylite Mail Assistant. When I get an email that is related to the business, I add it to Daylite and from right in Mail. Then, I link it to both a client and an opportunity. If they don’t exist yet, I just create it and make sure everything is to together. I like to keep things linked as much as I can because I don’t like things falling through the cracks.
It sounds like you really have your process in place. How do you keep track of it all?
One of the biggest challenges we have had in the past is the sheer number of stuff we needed to do for a sale. We do things like, create and send estimates, take pictures, add a machine to all the various listings websites we use as well as our website, and a lot more. It can be pretty complex with some of our processes having over 20 steps and either myself or my assistant are responsible for different things.
To manage all this, we use Activity Sets. Activity Sets have helped us be sure all the nitty gritty things get done, and nothing falls through the cracks. Everything is in Daylite and is repeatable every single time.
We’ve found that most businesses rely on building relationships for future business. How do you build relationships?
Whenever I do business with someone, I want to keep in touch with them regularly. For that, I also use Activity Sets. I can create different tasks and reminders based on 30, 60 90 or whatever number of Days I want. I can thank a customer for their past business, or reminder that I can help them with future business. Reminding a client is important because it’s so much easier to continue a relationship once established than starting a new one for both myself and the customer.
So you have a reminder to reach out to a customer, now what?
Something I just learned from your @dayliteapp Twitter account was using merge letters. I can create letter templates and send out the same message over and over again to different people and have all the information about them automatically get filled in. I save a lot of time this way, and it makes things a lot easier.
That’s a great tip! Got any more?
Sure! Because I add information about our client’s buying and purchasing habits, as well as information about projects and opportunities, I can match certain clients with machines. For example, if I couldn’t make a sale because a client was asking for a price that was too low for me at the time, I’d make that clear for the opportunity state reason. Then, if there is a price drop on that machine, I can find anyone who declined but maybe now would purchase. I can email them with the updated price confident that they are interested.
Companies often change their processes after using Daylite. Is that true for you?
Yes! Before with OmniFocus, I was very reactive. I was putting out fires constantly, and that is all I could do. With Daylite, I can be forward thinking. By creating tasks ahead of time, I can plan the big picture and then simply follow through.
For example, I have an Activity Set for important customers. These are customers that I do a lot of business with. I follow up with them regularly and to keep in touch, and the Activity Set helps me do that.
Could have done that in the past without Daylite? Probably, but it would have been very hard to set up. Daylite lets me do that so easily that it afforded me the ability to do that.
When you’re using Daylite, where do you find yourself spending most of the time?
The Home Page is probably where I spend most of my time. I like being able to see what tasks are coming up, which are due and inevitably which are overdue. Here I can prioritize important tasks, ones that need to be done right away, or even the easy ones that can be done quickly.
After that, probably the mini calendar. I like being able to see how busy a day is and that helps me decide on other appointments. Oh, and of course, I spend a lot of time looking at my opportunities themselves, reviewing the details and getting in contact with the customer so I can move it to a sale.
Time is so important to all businesses. Where has Daylite helped you save the most time?
Mail [Emphatically]. In the past, we would copy and paste the contents of emails into our Filemaker database to track them. It was very cumbersome, and would have to be duplicated if a task needed to be created in OmniFocus. Often times emails would not get tracked and we would lose valuable information. The ability to immediately link an email to a person, opportunity and/or project, as well as create a task, all without leaving the email, has been invaluable to my company.
Finally, if you tell us what Daylite does for you in a few word, as a business owner, what would that be?
Daylite has given me peace of mind. Our previous system forced me to keep a lot of information in my head. Daylite allows all of our information to be in one place, freeing my time to concentrate on the larger goal.
Do you want to feel the weight of managing a server lifted off your shoulders like Thomas? Go Cloud and say goodbye to the server.