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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/.

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