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How this company put an end to email ping-pong

English Garden Group started out as a family-run nursery but, over time, has expanded – first into landscape construction and then into landscape architecture and garden design. When their old CRM became less and less able to handle complex interaction between the different parts of the business, they turned to WORK[etc] to consolidate them all under a single cloud-based system.

English Garden Group

Company

English Garden Group is a design-led landscape company, with large outdoor show gardens and retail nursery, a landscape design office, and a construction department. Working as an integrated business, the teams deliver turn-key projects from inception to completion, including site supervision and consulting services in parallel.

While the entire operation is represented to customers as a unified brand, internally they run as three distinct divisions. This can lead to some interesting challenges when trying to coordinate projects between the three different businesses.

Challenges

English Garden Group started out as a family-run nursery but, over time, has expanded – first into landscape construction and then into landscape architecture and garden design. As the company grew and diversified, the owners increasingly struggled to maintain tight integration and tracking of everything they needed to follow as customers interacted with the various parts of the business.

“We used to use a simple CRM and I was getting increasingly frustrated with the dislocation between the different parts of the business,” said James Hartley, director of English Garden Group. “With an increasing workload involving site supervision and new employees joining the team, our old CRM was cumbersome and really didn’t fit our business properly.”

“We’re up to now eight of us in the head office, managing close to thirty staff outside and an even bigger circle of regular contractors” he adds “and keeping track of who had dealt with what was becoming a bigger and bigger problem.”

Hartley knew that they couldn’t keep trying to track projects spread across three separate companies, accurately record billable hours and client communications using only their old CRM and massive back-and-forth email chains. They needed a better solution.

“I started looking around for something that would plug that gap and that’s when I found WORK[etc]” Hartley said. “I looked at several solutions, carrying out trials with two and three, but the only one that really fit the bill for us was WORK[etc].”

Solution

“Our biggest problem was inbound communication, keeping the right group of people up-to-date with what’s going on,” said Hartley. “The only way to keep track of things before was with cumbersome email chains, and when unsure, the only alternative was calling the office and asking everybody. Often one wouldn’t know even who to ask. WORK[etc] fixed that almost overnight.”

After implementing WORK[etc], Hartley found that the platform kept communications streamlined, organized and easy to find. The system also sent out automatic updates so everyone had the information they needed to stay focused on the task at hand, without having to trawl through lists of cc’d emails each morning before starting work (only a couple of which would be relevant).

“Inbound email comes in to the platform and automatically slots into the projects, updating everybody who’s assigned to that project so we can compartmentalize,” said Hartley. “Now nobody sends anything out of this company from a private email inbox. It all goes out from WORK[etc] so you can always find it, know who’s had what, at what stage each project, lead or enquiry is at, who said what to who and what interactions they’ve had. All that, but no more, ends up in the private inboxes is the form of brief relevant updates from WORK[etc].”

Email Integration

WORK[etc] was also able to help English Garden Group keep track of billable hours for the landscape architecture and garden design portion of the business. The company had struggled with this as that part of the business grew because it was a different model of billing and compensation than the other two portions of the business, the nursery and the landscape construction.

“The last of our companies to come to maturity was the garden design and landscape architecture department,” said Hartley. “It’s very different running a landscape design business compared to our other businesses. Our product is principally intellectual and sold almost uniquely as our time, compared to the other businesses where the client receives either a physical product or execution of works with a tangible product at the end of it built by our staff and other contractors.”

“The design business requires a different mindset,” Hartley explained. “We found that we weren’t collecting the revenue correctly. Sufficient profitability just wasn’t coming out, because we just weren’t mentally geared to focus on the concept of billable and unbillable hours.”

“We had a few years where that part of our business didn’t see growth like the others. We were getting busier each year, but we weren’t seeing the improvement in profitability at the end of the year that we would have expected. With the adoption of WORK[etc] we saw an almost immediate improvement – our staff slot in the timesheets, allocating them to the project, lead or task, and we were able to see, in one hit, how this was stacking up as billable or unbillable by client or by project in real time. That’s a cracker of a feature and it allowed us to implement further changes to improve our workflow almost immediately.”

Results

WORK[etc] has not only solved major communications and time-tracking issues for English Garden Group, it’s also brought an unprecedented amount of transparency to how all three of the individual businesses work.

“Exceptional customer service and efficiency in meeting our clients’ needs is crucial to us – it is part of what sets us apart in our marketplace. As the business grew and the depth of complexity increased, I found I struggled as a business owner with the decreased transparency and the fragmentation.”

“I need to feel satisfied that I have sufficiently got a handle on what’s going on and am able to measure the performance of our organization” said Hartley. “I found we were organically developing lots of small organizational processes, but which were largely unrelated to one another – this was disorganized as a whole and had minimal transparency. You reach a point where you just don’t feel you’ve got a grip on it if it’s in too many fragmented parts.”

“WORK[etc] provides the underlying structure and overview so that I don’t have to be told about every detail, but I receive updates on the things that I want to be updated on, I can review performance in area, and, if I’m worried about something or I need to go and find something, it takes me a second – because it’s all there in one place, from billing to client interactions.”

WORK[etc] has also helped English Garden Group organize their project workflow with linked subprojects, keeping the information organized as the project passes seamlessly from business to business within the larger company structure.

“As soon as we get involved with the client for a project, we are potentially going to design the garden, landscape the garden, supervise other works and supply plants and products,” Hartley said. “We’ve therefore developed a pre-formatted template project, stored in WORK[etc], customized for our company, with a hierarchy of subprojects and tasks within it, covering every element of how the various parts of our company will interact with the client.”

English Garden Group’s WOR[etc] Project Map

“We just weren’t able to achieve this before,” said Hartley “we had to resort to folders and papers – and it’s impossible to automate and difficult to efficiently achieve that level of complexity with paperwork — unless you just dedicate a totally impractical amount of time to it. But with WORK[etc], everything’s right there.”

“Looking back now, I can’t see how I could work without it,” said Hartley. “It’s really a genuine game-changer. If you took it away now, we’d struggle.”

“Our biggest problem was inbound communication, keeping the right group of people up-to-date with what’s going on,” said Hartley. “The only way to keep track of things before was with cumbersome email chains, and when unsure, the only alternative was calling the office and asking everybody. Often one wouldn’t know even who to ask. WORK[etc] fixed that almost overnight.

— James Hartley, Director, English Garden Group

English Garden Group

Requirements

English Garden Group needed a robust solution that would allow them to run three separate but interacting businesses in one office, keeping projects organized and the lines of communications clear.

Solutions

English Garden Group implemented WORK[etc], an all-in-one business management cloud-based solution.

Results

English Garden Group was able to solve their communications problems almost overnight, dramatically improve internal organization, and implement superior time-tracking capabilities for the design aspect of the business.

About WORK[etc]

WORK[etc] is a cloud-based, all-in-one business management software that breaks down the barriers between your customer relationship management, time management, and project management. With WORK[etc], here’s what you can accomplish in one platform:

  • Consolidate multiple apps into the one platform
  • CRM, Projects, Scheduling, Invoicing, Help Desk & more
  • iPhone, Android and web apps
  • Gmail, Outlook, and inbox gadgets
  • Open API and integration tool set

For more information, visit http://www.worketc.com/features-overview/.

  • David McGarry

    As conscientious as I try to be with my Outlook and email accounts – for example creating folders for projects/ clients and other boring admin chores – I still always seem to not be as organised as I would like to be (or would like others to think I am!).

    But now we use WORK[etc] I find that wading through email chains is a thing of the past. I just search for a TODO/ client or Project in W[e] and everything is there, easily accessible and easy to navigate.

    I know that everything I need about the project is attached and that I do not have to worry about searching endlessly through Outlook. It’s helped to consolidate our business processes and relegate quite a few apps along the way..

    • “I just search for a TODO/ client or Project in W[e] and everything is there, easily accessible and easy to navigate.”

      This sounds like the “WORK[etc] moment” I’ve been trying to work out how to describe in our marketing. The “moment” where you’re under some time pressure and need to find that critical piece of information but can’t quite remember where it was – a 2 second search in WORK[etc] and it auto-magically appears at the top of the list and you just think “wow”. Its tough to communicate this without ever having experienced it!

  • Thomas Lawler

    Another great success story! While email is great, and serves it’s purpose we have seen productivity increase two-fold with Work[etc.].

    Support, project management, CRM Work[etc.] has it all! I can’t say enough about this wonderful team and application!

    We look forward to growing with Work[etc.]!

  • Michael

    Well thanks to WORK[etc] we have a lot less email to deal with as almost everything gets into our system first. Those few items that don’t I can easily get them into the system with the outlook plugin. It’s great reading about success stories and seeing just how much a lot of have in common in our beginnings.

  • EGG is similar to us in that they are managing multiple units of a diversified business. It is always enlightening to learn how other companies are using the many features of WORKetc. Stories such as this always give me new ideas. I like the project map you provided and see my team moving towards a similar model. I am meeting with my team shortly and will share this story. Thanks.

  • We primarily use WE to track our billable time and expenses against to dos to enable accurate and timely invoice raising. I am really interested in how EGG use the system for managing emails and other comms as this is something we are struggling to crack in an efficient way.

    • Hi Ian – we’d be happy to have one of our frontline guys to run some training for your team (no cost).

      • That would be great Dan, – thanks for the offer. Please get in touch with Charlotte (her email should be in your records) to arrange a time. Thanks!

  • John Belchamber

    Some great tips in here for further enhancing my use of WE.
    I’ve found that the integrations with gmail are great although I’d still like to see email dealt with outside of WE marked as read within WE as well so that I don’t have to double up. That said, the saving I make i time makes this a minor inconvenience and I know the WE Team will get there as they always do!

    • Will be included in a future release of the Gmail add-in, early next year. There’s been some other improvements/changes in the Google Cloud API’s we’ll be incorporating at the same time.

  • David Jones

    Great tips and great product. We consolidated 4 disparate systems into one WorkEtc implementation and have never looked back. Being able track the progression of a lead, to a proposal, to a won account and though projects and support was a major step forward for us.

  • We’ve been WORKetc customers for years, but we weren’t really making proper use of the system.
    We do a lot of project work and we are currently going through a massive expansion in our workload.
    We put a challenge forward to our staff members to discover how we could make the best use of our existing platforms to help improve our processes.
    The solution: A custom defined sales process in WORKetc with clear demarcation between sales, finance and operations.
    The result: Now everybody knows where we are up to with everything. Each team member has a clear picture of when they are required to do something and what they are required to do. Nothing falls between the cracks, and regardless of whether our staff are using MACs, PCs, Android, Gmail or iPhones – everything is plugged in and working together. No more processes slipping through the cracks.
    WORKetc ensures we stay on top of our workload and move each discreet project through the project life-cycle ensuring that we deliver to our customers and most importantly – get PAID for what we do when we should do.
    Well done Daniel and team!

    • “We put a challenge forward to our staff members to discover how we could make the best use of our existing platforms to help improve our processes.”

      This is a great idea – we’d love to write a story up about this approach.

      • No problem Daniel,

        Just get in touch with Rhonda Harling from our Marketing department, it was Rhonda and Verity, our National Relationship Manager who really drove the change process.

        Cheers,

        Cliff

  • Jason Royals

    How to end the email ping pong. Using Work [etc] to communicate with employees via discussion and via email through the app. We quickly leave messages and response remotely. The messages are tied to other notations and tasks within a project or task and then we are able to review important points to ensure we are all on the same page. Excellent tool to use with the ability to respond and review the subject at hand.

  • I will fully admit i struggle with a little OCD. I am of the mindset that email in boxes should be kept clutter free and empty. This way i use my email inbox as a to do spot. Using work etc has helped me to keep mine at a zero and not have all these emails scattered all over my inbox! I am also like this when it comes to project tasks and papers o needless to say my life is a lot happier with work etc in it!

    • “I am of the mindset that email in boxes should be kept clutter free and empty”

      I can relate to this, but it is just so hard to full let this go!

  • Tracey

    I am an executive assistant. My client and I have only been using worketc for a few months so we’re still experimenting and learning how it best suits his business. But for email, I do manage his email always attaching messages to contacts’ names in Worketc, assigning tasks, or just adding info to projects. This has made it possible for us to keep his Inbox to zero. I will also occasionally start draft emails for him for messages he needs to respond to. Now all he has to focus on are actionable things instead of getting bogged down in reading every email. We also tag all tasks and have created “smartlists” so he can quickly compartmentalize actions. For example – if he needs to read something then I’ll create a task with “read/review” tag. Then when he does a search on all tasks that are “read/review” – he just has a short list of action items. It make it easier to get several things done!

  • I. Like Brittany, love to keep (ahem try to that is) my inbox zeroed out and clean by the end of the day. I found the challenge I had was that I’d flag and file so many items I would forget about them. It’s great to be able to keep track of so much from a client, lead, or project file in W[e]. As long as I keep up with keeping those entries up to date the less falls through the cracks. I will be the first to admit that I am a work in progress when it comes to the consistency factor, sometimes the day get a little ahead of me but it’s great to know you can go back and get caught up a little easier with W[e]

  • Joey Gilbert

    Queue’s, queue’s, and more queue’s. I found myself calling my inbox a queue. This along with a tech support queue. On top of that instant messaging became a queue as well. 3 queue’s makes it difficult to focus on the task at hand sacrificing quality support. I probably won’t be able to fully replace instant messaging. However being able to centralize this with WORKetc’s support cases, discussions, and app integration’s makes my life much easier by eliminating multi queue’s.

  • e2llc

    I’m envious of those with the zero inbox at end of day. Based on a few other plugins for google apps that I discovered today I think I can start progressing towards it but … I really think I need to have some more time with the worketc team working out business flows as to how it relates to regular customer email, project email, support email and things of the like. The only email box presently that worketc monitors and sucks the messages in automatically is for our support@ email box.

  • @Andrew – its seems like a big step but the one you need to take is to completely stop giving out your personal mail and ask all your customers and suppliers to stop using it (we have a pre-filled reply in WETC explaining why we are doing this and the benefits it will bring them thanks to improved efficiency, keeping everyone on their project informed – even the people they don’t perhaps know NEED to be informed etc…).
    Send all your mail out of WETC – its sufficiently personal having outgoing mails sent with your avatar in the footer… and the return address is back to “support”. (I must admit this frightened me to begin with but you’ll get over it and nobody objected with us).
    I had the same battle for a while – trying half in half out and using the plugin like a madman to add the mail outside WETC back inside – but it was unmanageable. It takes longer than before. I eventually had a breakthrough and drove everyone in our company mad for a fortnight pestering them to take a hard line on this and make the switch. Now NOBODY gets my private mail: All our active existing contacts were asked to use the central mail. We reprinted all our business cards (yes – don’t forget this!) and the only person who mails my personal business mail is my brother (who runs the business with me) and my wife! Everybody else toes the WETC line.

    75% of my mails now go straight through to projects thanks to the subject line tag, many of the others are dealt with by my secretary out of the “unhandled support” bag, and the remaining… well I deal with wearing a smile on my face. (OK – I exaggerate – but you get the idea).
    Feel free to ping me if you need a pointer on anything – we have even figured out how to deal with suppliers who are persistent offenders in sending update mail’s into the central mailbox without a subject tag.
    You can take a guess on which mail I’d like that… admin@ of course!

    Apologies all for the extended post – but what Andrew touches on is, in our opinion, one of the most CRUCIAL aspects to get to grips with to get the most out of WETC, and probably the hardest to even understand the need.

  • Well thanks to WORK[etc] we have a lot less email to deal with as almost everything gets into our system first. Those few items that don’t I can easily get them into the system with the outlook plugin. It’s great reading about success stories and seeing just how much a lot of us have in common in our WORK[etc] beginnings.

  • Louise Roberts

    The Outlook plugin is a very useful tool, I love that I can attach me outgoing emails to the specific leads or suport tickets if I’m not working directly in WORKetc. It also means I don’t have to check other people’s inboxes to see client correspodence. A good way to manage email activity all in one place.

  • I am still scratching at the surface of Work[etc] but have used many other CRM products in the past. As a trusted source of information on IT products and software to my clients I am often asked to provide information on systems.

    From what i have seen so far Work[etc] really does assist with reducing double up of data and provides for a really smooth workflow and transition for projects.

  • We primarily use Gmail which already has great search functionality – but WorkETC takes outbound email to a different level – like a good PM software it attaches the emails to the project or task stream and its easily seen at any point in time.

    Our next task is to integrate the inbound emails into WE – that will be a huge step forward in being able to track client communication.

  • Megan Hill Vangelist

    I agree with Brittany. I have a hard time focusing with there is a ton of email in my inbox. Worketc has helped to stop client’s emailing me directly, which in turn helps keep me organized and on top of my tasks. It’s also great that others can see the progress that has been done on tickets instead of having to rely on me to email them with any updates.

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