Operations • Business Tips • 43 minutes

Tips for the Trades from a Tech Detective

April 5, 2022

Episode Overview

Sean McGuire has spent 22 years helping people in the trades solve business-related technology problems.

His official title at the Mechanical Contractors Association of America is director of innovative technologies. Essentially, he’s a tech detective.

“I'm an association geek who has served firm members for so many years that I've been able to get a lot of good exposure to understand the problems and the operations of most of our contractors,” McGuire says.

A common theme for what he does: solve problems, then continue to evaluate whether those fixes can be improved upon. Sometimes they can. Sometimes not.

“Sometimes that means you've taken things like 70 percent or 80 percent and you realized that it's never going to go 100 percent,” McGuire says. “You've got to put it away to the side and give up and you've got to find the next problem and try and fix it.”

The ways technology can boost a company can be different from business to business.

“If you're looking for common themes, it's really not only the ability to tinker,” McGuire says. It’s also the grit and the determination to not just find the problems, but solve them and continually look back to see, "Did I do that right? Could I have done better? Is there a better solution out there?" 

Just because something is fixed doesn't mean it can't be better, he says. 

“That's what I'd say is the common theme along the lines of a lot of the innovators that I'm seeing these days that deal with construction technology,” McGuire says.

Everyone recognizes that changing the way a company does business can be hard. McGuire says success comes more from an accumulation of small victories rather than bigger, one-time gains.

“Anything you can do that's going to make marginal improvements to your productivity, you've got to be able to stack those up,” he says. “They might seem like a little win, but if you can build on top of that, you start easing your gap.”

McGuire points to the low margins of business in the trades.

“Service contractors have slightly higher margins, but it's still a margin business,” he says. “It doesn't take too many bad jobs to put you under. It helps to have a way to prevent yourself from having a gap so you can still be profitable on most jobs.”

That’s where technologies like ServiceTitan lend a hand.

McGuire’s advice: Always be looking to the future. Oversize your operation to fit where you’ll be in five years. You’ll save yourself the hassle of having to go through a tech upgrade somewhere down the line. 

Sean McGuire recently joined ServiceTitan’s Jackie Aubel as part of Season 5 of the “Toolbox for the Trades” podcast, which included McGuire's thoughts on:

  • Top technology tips for contractors

  • Predictions for future trends 

  • The importance of continuous education 

  • Overcoming reluctance to change 

  • Data-driven predictive learning

To hear more tales from the trades, subscribe to Toolbox for the Trades on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, our website, or anywhere you get podcasts.

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Toolbox for the Trades is a podcast where top service professionals share the tips, tricks, and tactics they use to succeed in their industry. Hosted by Jackie Aubel, this podcast is brought to you by ServiceTitan—the leading home and commercial field service software.

Episodes will feature stories and strategies to help contractors grow and scale their service business.

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