She also realised that people throughout the country were probably sharing her problem of finding reliable tradies to quote on their jobs.
Taking a leaf out of Trade Me founder Sam Morgan’s book, she started an interactive directory website.
Logajob eliminates the need to trawl through hard copy directories, contact a tradesperson, wait for a return call, organise a meeting and then wait for quotes.
Instead the homeowner simply fills in details of their job on the website, which are linked to the appropriate tradies. A telephone text message alerts the tradies listed on the site and the homeowners can consider the quotes they send in at their leisure.
More competitive prices are encouraged because more than one person is likely to be after the job and the quotes are available for all parties to view on the website.
Jobs posted include home improvements, home adaptations, add-ons, gardens, tiles, bathroom specialists, plumbers, electricians, floor sanders and many other disciplines.
Homeowners are encouraged to enter as much detail as possible, particularly dimensions, to avoid wasted time later on. The request is listed on the website for anyone to view.
Tradies, registered on Logajob and qualified to carry out work in the category, will be emailed immediately and sent a daily text alert. All participants will have access to questions and answers about the job posted on the site before a quote is accepted. Contact details, which will only be exchanged after a quote is accepted, can be supplied in confidence if a house site visit is required.
Tradespeople listed on the site attach their profiles, qualifications, sometimes photographs of work previously completed and feedback from previous jobs won through Logajob.
Feedback on the quality of service and workmanship is sought through written comment and a rating system on the website. This helps to filter out people who do not reach the standard of workmanship required.
While the system depends on people providing honest feedback, a mediation service is offered where a tradesperson believes comment about them is unfair. Logajob reserves the right to remove any user deemed to have abused or violated the policy of posting honest feedback. Ms Callebaut says feedback keeps everyone accountable for good and bad work.
“We believe feedback needs to be given and received so, unlike other similar sites, the job poster also gets a reliability rating and feedback comments which the tradesperson can view. This encourages prompt payment, courteous relationships and a general respect to and from both parties."
Ready to spread wings
While Tonya Callebaut has been concentrating on “our own backyard” in Taranaki, she is planning to attend expos in other parts of the country to promote her website.
“Facebook allows us to better target different areas and when I do run a Facebook campaign in other areas we get a great response,” she says. “Our Google analysis shows that out of the 4000-odd hits we’ve had to date, at least half of those are Auckland-based.”
Involvement of social media, she says, has been one of the most unexpected spin-offs.
“It has been a very powerful tool for the business and has given me inspiration to include a social media avenue in the business model which I had never thought of before. Social media is the way of the future and it has been a fast, but very useful, learning curve for us.”
“The site sends a reminder to all interested tradespeople who said they were going to quote and haven’t yet done so, 24 hours before the quote period closes. I then see a flurry of activity and tradespeople contact me if there’s a reason why they haven’t been able to quote yet. So we’re definitely seeing a greater realisation and accountability.
“We have seen people select a tradesman who has quoted $500 above others, purely because he had excellent feedback placed on him. So people are looking at the feedback, rather than just bargain-hunting for the lowest prices.”
Tradespeople, she says, seem to be quite courteous in the questions they ask.
She thinks this is because they know the homeowner is able to leave visible feedback on them. Bearing in mind that the tradesman is able to leave feedback on the homeowner too, she says better payment agreements are reached between both parties, “so both parties get the benefit of the feedback system”.
Because the site has been live for only six months, Tonya says she has not had to handle any mediation cases yet, although she has had two tradesmen go into battle to try and remain on the site.
Feedback about the site has been positive from both parties, she says. Homeowners love the idea that they can log one job and answer a few questions from interested parties rather than having to phone people, request quotes, chase up on promised quotes and then respond to them.
“Tradespeople naturally love the fact that they are being given leads to quote on work and potentially the opportunity to expand their clientele.”
Being internet-based, the site undergoes ongoing developments, she says. Phase two in 2012 will include a few tweaks to simplify the process “but the fundamental way the site operates has been thoroughly thought out and to date we feel we have covered most bases. But, being web-based, we would have to be regularly evolving.”