Computers are supposed to make life easier, but small builders usually face a tough choice: Either try to turn off-the-shelf software into something it isn’t, or spend big bucks on a high-end construction package that is really designed for high-volume contractors. That’s the dilemma David Jones was trying to resolve when he set out to create SiteTrak. A tradesman himself, Jones couldn’t find any software for his boss to use, so he teamed up with his brother Brandon, a programmer, and formed Beacon Systems. The software they created is just what the doctor ordered for a lot of small companies trying to computerize their operations, or for contractors totally frustrated with the systems they’re using now. Beacon Systems calls SiteTrak a "job cost" program, but I prefer to think of it as a "job control" program. It isn’t accounting software, but it does keep track of your cash flow and it will manage your checkbook. It’s not a contact manager either, but it stores all the information you need about clients, suppliers, and employees in one spot. SiteTrak does, of course, handle job costing, automatically distributing payments and deposits to the appropriate job, but it also provides tools to analyze where your business as a whole stands at any given moment. The best thing about SiteTrak is that the average contractor who loads it on a computer will start to get good information about the financial health of his or her business within five minutes.

I’ve been around computers a long time, so I appreciate the value of SiteTrak’s simple and easy-to-use interface — even computer newcomers will be comfortable right away with this layout. The program is organized into four interconnected main sections, or "windows," represented by icons on the left side of the screen. All four windows...

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