Home Remodeling Gets Retooled

How one online venture is working to update an old industry
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This story appears in the August 2010 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »
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A traditionally offline sector such as home remodeling may not seem the likeliest candidate for a next-generation technological overhaul, but Brian Javeline would beg to differ: His MyOnlineToolbox promises to reinvent how contractors do business.

MyOnlineToolbox gives builders a web-based platform to manage customers, vendors and subcontractors, schedule work orders, create and track invoices and order materials from wherever their work may lead them.

"Contractors are evolving--many people stereotype them as sloppy and criticize them for not answering their phones, says Javeline, president and CEO of Pompano Beach, Fla.-based ServusXchange, the virtual solutions provider behind MyOnlineToolbox. "Their business is mobile--they're all over the place, and always in the car. They're forced to play catch-up on their business on their nights and weekends.

Nationwide investment in home improvement fell just shy of $153 billion in the first quarter of 2010, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Javeline says it's virtually impossible to draw an accurate bead on the number of contractors in the U.S. because so many in the industry never declare themselves as such on their government forms, instead tackling remodeling jobs during off-hours from other professions and getting paid in cash or check.

These off-the-radar contractors are ideal candidates for MyOnlineToolbox, Javeline says. The platform's viral collaboration elements create an expanding network of skilled, reliable peers across different specialties such as plumbing, electrical repair and carpentry. Members can advertise for bids and refer others for jobs.

Contractors can sign up to MyOnlineToolbox for free. Premium subscriptions that offer additional features and resources are $89 per month. As of June, more than 1,100 contractors have signed up.

Javeline's challenge has been recruiting older contractors, some of whom are slow to move their business processes online.

"The younger generation already accepts technology in their lives, he says. "They get it.

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