with:  Eric Garves, Five Star PDR

Paintless Dent Repair has entered the new era of digital invoicing and estimating.  Companies that are on the edge of innovation have welcomed the new technologies with open arms and used them to help better run their businesses.  There are some really good generic invoicing systems out there that are designed for small to medium sized businesses.  With a little bit of customization dent guys have been able to use these apps to run their businesses.  However, the general invoicing systems lack certain crucial features that PDR companies need to have access to, such as hail estimating and dealership lot management systems.  There are also multiple apps that are available specifically for the PDR or auto reconditioning industry.  Each one has its strengths and its weaknesses.  However,  none of them seem to offer a complete preloaded system for running all aspects of a PDR business.  Dent technician, Eric Garves and his team saw an opportunity and created their own software, in hopes of establishing a system that fulfilled their company’s needs along with yours.  Eric answers all of our questions about his new software, Mobile Tech Books.

When did you start PDR?

In May of 2007 I graduated from the University of Arizona with a degree in Economics. A few months later I was pushing dents! My best friend from high school (and my current business partner) was a 5-year tech at the time and invited me into the business shortly after I moved back to Texas. It was either PDR, or an office job. The thought of sitting inside all day every day in front of a computer was far less appealing than what he was offering! Here I am going on 8 years pushing with no regrets.

What aspect of PDR do you focus on (dealership, retail, body shops,service centers, hail damage, auctions, etc)?

We made the conscious decision early on not to chase hail. We knew that if we wanted to build a steady year-round business without having to travel, we had to sit out the lucrative hail jobs. It was a slow start, but about 2 years in we were so busy we had to stop answering retail calls! We focus on dealer, body shop and retail work. With that being said, we have and do still fix hail. We’ve been lucky to be able to partake in 5 good storms between our Austin and Dallas locations over the past 7 years.

When did you decide to create software geared towards mobile auto reconditioning companies?

We discovered several software options at the 2014 MTE in Orlando, Fl. We spent the first 8 months of last year trying to find a product we liked. Ultimately there wasn’t anything out there that we were satisfied with, so we decided to make our own. Here we are a 6 months later with a product we can actually use to run our company. Mobile Tech Books is exactly what we wanted/needed, we hope y’all feel the same way!

Did you know a programmer and interface designer or did you have to find those people through references and interviews?

We are based out of Austin, TX, which is a very tech savvy city full of App developers and home to the SXSW interactive festival. Living in such a forward thinking city has been a tremendous help; as we had several highly rated app development teams to choose from. We settled on a company called Bohemian Innovation, and couldn’t be more satisfied with our decision!

Did you have certain goals, themes, and design languages you wanted to achieve with the software?

Yes. We wanted our software to be as simple and user friendly as possible, without sacrificing functionality. We admire the way Apple keeps their products clean and simple and used that thought process as inspiration when building ours. Making a simple to use product is harder than making it complicated, but we feel we pulled it off!

The software seems to be an all-in-one system.  What features are included?

Anything you used to do on paper can now be electronically managed. Not only does our software help you stay organized with your own individual day-to-day activities, but your entire company as well. If you walk a lot and can’t get manager approval, then anyone in your company will be able to return at another time and get approval on their iPad. No more texting lists back and forth; or confusion as to which cars have and have not been done. Once a work order is complete you can add it to an invoice, collect a signature on the iPad and then email it to whichever department processes your purchase orders. If you are synced to QuickBooks then the invoice will appear in your QuickBooks account immediately. The days of dreading the end of the month because you have to spend hours manually entering in all of your invoices are over! Whether you specialize in retail, hail or wholesale; we’ve got your covered.

Is this app just for PDR, or are other auto recon services supported as well?

Once we perfect the PDR services section, we will add others. Being dent guys ourselves, it’s important to us to focus on what we know best, then add the other reconditioning services with the help and expertise of other established vendors.

Do I need to have internet access to run the app?

Yes. The good news is that nowadays you can add an iPad to your data plan for dirt-cheap and always stay connected. If you are stuck with a Wi-Fi only iPad then you have two options: turn your phone into a personal hotspot, or purchase one of the new ATT Modio iPad cellular enabled protective cases which will turn a Wi-Fi only iPad into an always connected cellular device, while offering protection at the same time.

Is there cloud storage?  Included with the app or with the use of a 3rd party storage site?

We store all information on Amazon servers. Any item you save in the app will be backed up and saved immediately which can be accessed anytime anywhere, even if you lose your iPad! As an added bonus we will save your information for future use should you cancel and reactivate at a later date. We think hail guys will enjoy this feature since they will be able to “cancel” their service in the off-season, then re-activate once they return to work and still have all their previously entered information available to them without incurring any penalty or dormancy fees.

The software syncs with QuickBooks.  That is an impressive feature.  Was it a difficult process submitting your app to be approved by QuickBooks?

QuickBooks has a dedicated website for app developers to refer to should they want to sync information into QuickBooks. I wish I could give you detailed info as to how hard it was to install that feature but I honestly have no idea!

For the hail estimating feature, is a matrix preloaded?  Can I add a custom matrix or multiple matrices?  

Currently we have two matrices pre-loaded in the app; DRP and Retail. The DRP matrix has prices that most insurance companies will be familiar with, while the Retail matrix is meant to maximize the repair cost. We polled several other PDR companies around the country and came up with these price structures. They are guidelines only, and each price entry can be edited based on the estimator’s discretion. The ability to add a custom matrix will be available soon.

How did you establish the R&I times?

We polled dent techs as well as body techs to come up with what seemed to be an acceptable average for each R&I item.

Can I override panel repair prices and R&I times?

Yes, you can manually override all panel prices and add-ons, as well as the R&I times and labor rate.

Is there part replacement cost or conventional body shop repair/repaint prices on the app?

Not yet…

What kind of file is emailed as an invoice?

Both the customer and the tech that emailed the invoice will receive the email. Opening the email will display the invoice basics, and clicking on “View Invoice” will open up a detailed, printable invoice.

Is it easy to print an invoice directly from the tablet?  Do I need a special type of printer?

We held off on adding a print from the app feature. It’s an easy function to add but unfortunately difficult to use for the user. Apple requires a special Air Print enabled printer, which currently do not come in a mobile format. We are waiting to see if anyone actually requests this feature, and if they do we will quickly implement it. In the meantime if a customer requests a paper copy, simply email it to yourself and print it out.

Can I log into the software on my PC or Mac at home?

Each company will have a portal that they can login to from mobiletechbooks.com. This is where you will manage your employees, sync to QuickBooks, edit company information that appears on emailed invoices, and see how much each tech is billing. Estimate and invoice creation takes place in the app.

What kind of reports can I generate?

In the portal you have access to view individual and company wide gross earnings on a month or year basis. In the app you can view an interactive month-by-month bar graph, which displays gross earnings (company totals if you are an admin and individual totals if you are a tech). Our reporting feature will become more robust as time goes on.

The app is made for the ipad, will it work on an ipad mini or iphone?

It will work on the iPad or iPad mini. It does require iOS 8 or higher, which would be a problem if you tried to use one of the ancient original iPads. We have plans to release an iPhone version at some point this year.

Can I run the app on an Android based tablet?

Not yet but we are working on it. We are undecided as to whether we should build on the iPhone or Android platform first. If you guys/gals have a preference let us know since we are going to make that decision based on user requests.

How many devices can I use with one license?

You pay for a login, which you are free to use on as many devices as you wish. Technically you could allow your entire company to login using the same id and password and only pay for one user. This isn’t recommended however since you will have no way of tracking who repaired what and how much each of your techs billed.

Can I have multiple users with different levels of administration permission (owner/manager vs technician)?

You can add as many users as you wish to your company. You may classify each user as either a tech or an admin, with each having different user rights. Admins can login and manage all the portal settings, and can view all closed invoices from within the app, as well as view company-billing totals in the app. A tech does not have back office access, can only view closed invoices for which they repaired at least one vehicle on, and can only view their billing totals from within the app.

How much does the software cost?

We are offering an introductory special of $50 per user, per month. If you sign up at this price now, you will be locked in and any future price increases won’t affect your subscription. There are no contracts, no setup fees and no cancellation penalties. In addition we offer a free trial with no credit card required.

Have you been using the software at your dealership accounts?  How has it been received with managers and accounting?

Yes we use it for all clients no matter how big or small. Our dealerships absolutely love it! The managers think it’s the best thing since sliced bread and I feel it makes our company appear more professional which can be refreshing in the vendor world.

Do you have a goal for the number of users?

We are more concerned about having satisfied users. As long as we continue to provide great customer service and improve our product based on user feedback, then the number of users will take care of itself.

Mobile Tech Books seems to be a more user friendly and intuitive way to create hail damage estimates vs the industry standard, CCC1 and Mitchell.  Can your software be introduced into body shops and put into the hands of insurance adjusters?

While our software is indeed more intuitive to use for hail damage estimates, it won’t replace the systems currently in use by body shops and insurance adjusters. Whatever benefits that could be gained by using our estimating app would be outweighed by the fact that their system ties into their entire company database.

Is Mobile Tech Books a world wide software solution for SMART repair?  If so, how do you plan on marketing to the planet?

With a few language and currency tweaks we don’t see why not! We would begin with MTE Live in the UK, any excuse to travel to Europe!

What is on the horizon for Mobile Tech Books?

Our first version is just the beginning. We have a huge list of items that we will be implementing over the next several years. We don’t ever intend on being able to claim to have the “perfect app” that requires no further modification. Mobile Tech Books is an ever-evolving product that will constantly improve based on the needs of our clients. please include any photos (screen shots that relate to some of the questions might work well), contact info, and links you want attached to the article

For more info check out www.mobiletechbooks.com

Download at the App Store

View Tutorial videos

You can also contact Eric Garves directly, eric@mobiletechbooks.com.  For more info about his dent repair business check out his PDRtalk profile or company website.

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