Working throughout the lockdown and beyond – Edinburgh Tree Surgeons
The ‘lockdown’ has had a profound effect on almost everyone in the western world, disruption of services, both state and commercial, and time spent in places and situations which could not have been predicted in the new year.
For the staff at Edinburgh Tree Surgeons in Auchendinny, the first few weeks of lockdown had us scrabbling to revise health and safety policies, re-arranging client contracts, and worrying about cashflow from clients who we had completed work for in the early spring, but now were asking for payment deferral.
As all that eased, it became clear that people definitely still wanted their gardens attended to. In fact in some ways, they wanted this service even more, as they were spending more time in their gardens, and the weather was glorious, and it didn’t look like anyone was going on holiday anytime soon so home improvements were high on the shopping lists of many. However we could not complete any tasks where access was through a house, we could not have more than one staff member in a vehicle, and we spent extra time cleaning vehicles and tools to reduce risks of infection to our staff. We were operating on reduced capacity, and our turnover dropped considerably on predicted income.
With all that considered, our business followed many others with the opportunity to ‘look inside’. We reinvested and bought extra tools, as it was no longer possible to hire machinery. We got the vans and our machines in tip top condition with the extra time, serviced and sharpened everything so when we could get to full capacity we would be ready.
We also looked at our systems. In the day-to-day busyness of running a family business, it can be harder to look at strategy, long term goals, and systems of supporting smooth operations. We have a tight team who have morning meetings, but as we wanted to limit these contacts we looked at ways we can communicate using online tools, as did many businesses around the world. We had already identified last year that we needed a decent Client Management system, and that our accounting software was lacking. We took this time to investigate and implement these tools, and took advantage of the fact that many of our advisors which we normally turn to on an ad hoc basis now had increased availability, and we hired a virtual assistant to help us with the tasks of setting up systems. We trained our staff team to use Hubspot, which managed leads and deals and tasks. We employed Asana to add more detail to the deals and tasks, as a way to manage team calenders and chat online. We also moved our accounts and payroll to Xero, which so far we have been very impressed with.
We have found that implementing systems has had a huge effect, not just on our lead time and client satisfaction, but on how we feel as a team, communication and taking the weight of work tasks between us, as we can all see how each project is progressing using our new tools. A business to customer business like our small tree surgery business has a huge amount of leads every day, only some of which become customers. Many people just want to ‘know the price’ which can take us many hours of our time to provide, at no cost of course. With ways of managing leads, we can ensure that our customers are pleased with the level of service, and also that it is highly responsive. With more customers not only just happy but ‘delighted’ (this is the language of our new Client Software, its very American!) with our service, we began to get even more word of mouth referrals. These buying decisions are often emotional, so we need to be available to talk through all the possibilities with our customers, and build trust. We are members of several ‘Trusted Trader’ bodies, which have provided us with amazing support during the Covid-crisis, and have provided our customers with valuable assurance that we are not part of the doorstep sales or scam companies that, in many cases, have increased in this time and prey on the vulnerable who are stuck at home.
We also attended a little more to our social media, especially Instagram which had been neglected! We have a highly photogenic business, and we have also invested in helmet cameras so we can share with our clients the amazing views our climbers get from the tops of trees! We previously have just got on with what we do best, gardens and trees, but now are trying to embrace the huge range of skills the modern business needs to get to grips with, including photography, video editing and social media platforms, please follow us on Insta @edinburghtree.
Who knows what the future holds for small business, the threat of an imminent large recession is scary for all of us. We have found that our focus on systems, customer service and lead management, being organized and efficient, and increasing our advertising visibility has stood us in good stead for the coming year, and fingers crossed things will pick up. Another great decision was to become a MiLC partner and join this amazing community which is focused on recommending excellent local products and services. We look at all the work we have done on our platforms in April and May and think, we should have done this years ago, but we didn’t have the time!
Ellie at Edinburgh Tree Surgeons