How to boost business operations with Water Tight Canberra

Want a strong business strategy? Learn how tech helps streamline business operations with Water Tight Canberra, a business that has improved its customer experience with business innovation.
· 24 May 2023 · 10 minute read
Co-owners of Water Tight Canberra Tom and Belinda Martin stand in front of their office computers.

Co-owners of Water Tight Canberra Tom and Belinda Martin.

As the owner of a plumbing business, Tom Martin’s job is to keep things flowing smoothly. The 2019 Telstra Business Awards Small and Succeeding National Winner shares how technology propels his business innovation, reduces overheads and supports his customers.

From the early days of his business journey, Tom Martin saw technology as a problem-solver. He established the plumbing company, Water Tight Canberra, with his wife and co-owner Belinda in 2010. Together, they set out to increase customer satisfaction, improve their bottom line and stand out from their competitors using the best systems they could get their hands on.

“We use a lot of technology to communicate with our staff and make sure we’re working effectively with them.” Tom says.

Water Tight Canberra is just one company integrating digital tools to improve many areas of its business strategy. CPA Australia’s Business Technology Report 2022 found that the main drivers of tech uptake are:

  • Improving efficiency (63%)
  • Cost saving (31%)
  • Boosting customer experience (27%).

Digital tools – like job management software – help Tom boost efficiency, anticipate customer needs, and ensure an open flow of communication between clients, tradespeople and office staff. Here’s how he does it.


Smarter Business interviews Tom Martin

Can you describe how technology helps your business?

Tom Martin: We use technology in just about everything we do. From training our staff to monitoring and maintaining our vehicles, tools and equipment.

We also use it to create a positive customer experience. We have a lot of systems in place to seek feedback and register customer assets. For example, if we install a hot water unit, we’ll put a QR code on it that’s linked with our system. This way, if the customer needs the information about the hot water unit or wants to book with us again, they just need to scan the QR code.


Why do you think businesses should integrate technology?

Tom Martin: One of the best things technology can do for a business is to meet or exceed customer expectations. Today, technology is the norm. Being able to adopt and pivot as new tech emerges can give you a competitive edge.

By optimising how you use tech, you can save yourself time. Water Tight Canberra is a trade business, so we make our money by charging out labour. If I can save each tradesman an hour a day by getting them to process paperwork digitally, then I can send them out to a chargeable job sooner. This can equate to a huge profit margin over time.


“There aren’t many areas of our business where we don’t use technology every single day.”


– Tom Martin, co-owner of Water Tight Canberra


What digital tools do you use to improve efficiency for both your customers and your staff?

Tom Martin: About a year ago, we implemented a pricing app to help our tradespeople quote on the spot. It took a bit of effort to get it exactly right for our business, but it was worth it. Now, all our tradespeople – even those just out of their apprenticeships – can go to a site and give the customer options. And tell them exactly what it will cost to get the job done.

The customer agrees to the price upfront. This means we have fewer collection issues at the end of the job. Plus, if the customer sees all the available solutions and chooses the most involved one, it means our business makes a slightly bigger sale.

Internally, the core software we use is our job management system. It’s intuitive and easy for me, the tradespeople and office staff to use. I think simplicity is key when choosing the right technology. When our people can easily use the tools it saves us time, money and energy. This makes a huge difference to our bottom line.


Meeting customer expectations is important to your business. How do your digital tools help you do that?

Tom Martin: There are two sides to our business: the customer service side and the strata side. For the customer service side of things, we send out automatic emails that set the customer's expectations before we even arrive. The emails outline:

  • What’s going to happen
  • How to contact us if they have any concerns
  • Our fees
  • What they’ll expect to pay
  • Other options if they need them.

This way, they know what they’re getting before we even turn up.

For the strata clients, we work with over 100 complexes that have ongoing maintenance plans. Our advanced reporting software helps our tradespeople do each job properly and ensure nothing is ever skipped. It helps keep our staff accountable. It also makes the process transparent to the customer, so they can see exactly what’s been done and how. We’re really well known for high-quality maintenance plan reports. The software has given us that competitive edge.


"You could have the best software in the world and it might have 1,000 features, but if it’s difficult or time-consuming to use, you’re not going to take advantage of it.”


– Tom Martin, co-owner of Water Tight Canberra


How does technology help to speed up your day-to-day work and automate manual, time-consuming processes?

Tom Martin: My role is to look for bottlenecks and areas where I can improve our business operations. My first reaction to resolve a problem will always be to ask myself what options we have. And 99% of the time those options are going to be technology-based.

I always compare the cost of the technology to what it will save us. A new application might cost $100 a month or $500 a month. But if it saves us 15 hours of someone’s time, then we can put their work to better use somewhere else.


How do you train your staff to ensure they’re comfortable using your business’s digital tools?

Tom Martin: We set up short courses in a cloud-based program so that when we have a new staff member start, we can direct them there. Then they’re up-to-speed right from the start.

It also means that if a staff member has forgotten how something works, they can just log back in and redo a course. It’s an easy way to relearn our systems and tech and keep themselves sharp.

It's important to get staff buy-in with new tech and ensure we follow up. So we’ll do that initial training session, then every month we’ll check in and make sure the tech has been adopted the way we want.


“Technology can be a challenge at times, but it really does make our team’s life a lot easier and more enjoyable.”


– Tom Martin, co-owner of Water Tight Canberra


How have your digital tools changed as your business has grown?

Tom Martin: When I started my business, I was driving around with a laptop on a mounted stand in the car. At the end of each job, I’d process the invoice and ensure I had automatic emails set up so that they would send as soon as I connected to Wi-Fi. Now we do everything from our mobile phones or our tablets, and we’ve introduced the following software to support different parts of the business:

Our job management system is the core of everything that we do, from storing our customer database and job details to managing our workplace health and safety forms.

  • We use a pricing app to help our tradespeople create quotes for customers on the spot.
  • We use password management software to help boost our cyber security and protect our staff.
  • We added GPS tracking on all our work vehicles to automate staff timesheets and give our customers an estimated time of arrival.
  • We use a cloud-based workspace software to help manage emails, training, customer forms, calendars and devices.


Can you share some business inspiration for anyone else considering how they choose and use tech?

Tom Martin: Absolutely! My tips are:

  • Make sure your tools are intuitive and comfortable to use. Technology should make things easier.
  • Look at all the features of your software. Whether you’ll use every feature or not, it’s worth fully understanding it and knowing how it fits into your business strategy.
  • Don’t look at the price of software until you’re fully across what it can do. Something that saves you time, energy and effort is worth the investment. They’re going to help add value to your business.

The right digital tools can simplify your business operations and enhance your customer experience. They can streamline your team’s workflow to help them focus on the things that matter. In Tom’s case, key tech also helps to improve communication between staff and customers to ensure everyone is on the same page.

Tom puts it best: “In almost every scenario, tech saves me time and money. Two things that have a huge impact on my business.”

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