A POS system can help your small construction business provide professional digital receipts to customers and accurately record the payments you receive on the job. Even if you prefer that your customers pay with cash or check, having a basic point-of-sale (POS) system on your phone or tablet helps you keep track of payments accepted on the job more accurately – and professionally – than handwritten notes jotted on paper. It also allows you to provide customers with digital receipts immediately and, if needed, accept credit and debit card payments.
Although most POS systems are designed for retail stores, restaurants, and bars, skilled professionals in the construction industry who work directly with customers – such as landscapers, plumbers, painters, and carpenters – can benefit from this technology as well.
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What is a POS system?
A POS system is a device that's used at checkout to process debit cards, credit cards and digital payments. POS devices come in many different forms, from cash registers to handheld card readers. The best POS systems not only process payments for your business but track sales, manage inventory, and let you run customized reports. POS systems are most commonly found in retailers and restaurants, but they are also used in many other industries, including construction. [Read related article: POS Systems: Every Cost You Need to Know About]
Why should you consider a POS for your construction business?
Cash is king for small businesses, particularly for those running a construction operation. The sooner you can get paid, the better you'll be able to run your business. Often, you have to pay for supplies and materials upfront. As a result, it's vital to get paid as quickly as possible. With a mobile POS, you can accept payments from customers on the spot via smartphones and tablets. If you prefer check payments, you can send an invoice from your mobile device in real time.
The benefits for construction businesses don't end there. With a POS, you can set alerts when inventory is low if you are selling products, and track your best customers if you are offering a service. With reporting and analysis available from the leading POS providers, you can make better business decisions.
What are key POS features?
From accepting payments to managing customers, POS systems offer a variety of features that are beneficial for your construction business. Here's a look at the popular ones:
- Accept payments. You can accept cash and check payments on the job with your mobile POS system, email or text receipts to customers immediately, and record sales data so you can transfer it to your accounting software at your convenience. You can also accept credit and debit card payments and, depending on your card reader, receive contactless and digital payments as well. Although you'll have to pay a processing fee for these transactions, customers often prefer to pay by card, and accepting this type of payment makes it easier for you to get paid straightaway.
- Gather and store customer contacts. Most POS systems include a database to manage your customers' contact information. Some have additional features that allow you to communicate and follow up with your patrons. For example, if you use Square and send email or text receipts to clients, they can click on the digital receipts to leave you feedback on their experience with your business. You can learn more in our Square review.
- View sales data. Even the most basic POS systems generate sales reports to help you analyze your business's performance over time.
- Manage inventory. Many POS systems help you manage inventory. You can set alerts when inventory reaches a certain threshold and automatically reorder when supply is low.
- Share payment data with your accounting software. POS systems often integrate with popular accounting programs like QuickBooks and Xero. Our review of QuickBooks and review of Xero show that with these services, and others, you can share payment details and customer contact information between the accounting software and POS systems. This saves you the time it would take to manually enter information into your accounting system and thus reduces errors. If your accounting software doesn't integrate with your POS system, you can export your data as a CSV spreadsheet and then upload it to your accounting software.
What are additional POS features?
If you choose a POS system that has an app store, you can add features that help you run your business more efficiently with just a few clicks. Each system supports different apps, so if there are specific features you desire, check the company's website to make sure that they're available, and whether they're built in, add-ons, or apps. These features may be free, carry a one-time fee, or require a monthly subscription fee.
Here are some common features you can add to most POS systems that may be useful to your construction business.
- Online invoicing: If you invoice customers, sending online invoices through your POS system can help you get paid faster. Instead of mailing a check, your customers can click on a link in the invoice and pay it online so you receive your money just minutes after they pay, rather than days. Keep in mind that because the transaction is facilitated by the credit card processing company, you'll pay a processing fee, usually a small percentage of the invoice amount.
- Time tracking: Whether you need to keep a record of the time you spend on a job for billing purposes or you have employees that you pay by the hour, a timeclock feature is a useful addition to your POS system.
- Appointment scheduling: If viewing available time slots on your calendar would be useful, or if you need a tool that makes it easier to assign employees to different jobs on specific days and times, look for an appointment-scheduling app. Some include a booking webpage or website, which may be a worthwhile addition to your business if your customers want to schedule a project with you online, or if you require prepayment or a deposit before starting a job.
How to get started with a basic POS system
Whether you are new to accepting payments or are looking to switch providers, getting up and running with a POS system isn't too complicated. Here's how to do it.
Step 1: Go simple to start.
If you're not yet accepting credit card payments, a good place to start is with a basic POS system that is included at no additional cost as part of a mobile credit card processing service. For example, PayPal Here and Square include free, basic POS systems in the apps that you install on your phone or tablet. These companies make their money from credit card processing fees and charge a flat percentage of each credit or debit payment you accept. They don't charge any other fees, making them affordable choices for businesses that primarily accept cash and check payments.
Step 2: Check with your processor.
If you're already accepting credit card payments, you can check with your processor to see which types of POS systems are compatible and which simple POS systems they recommend for your specific business. Clover and Paysafe are good options to consider because they're compatible with many top credit card processors, they offer subscription plan choices with inexpensive basic tiers, and they have app stores so you can easily customize the system with additional features. Learn more in our full review of Clover.
Lori Fairbanks contributed to the writing and research in this article.