Can you guess why I’m sitting around again this morning? Surely it’s not because of another rain day today….We’ve had our share of them this year so far for sure. But it’s given me some time to reflect on last year. Covid. Increase in trade demand. Massive increase in our services. I touched base on this slightly in my last article recognising an area that needs improvement after receiving some bad feedback, then sitting down with Camilla and doing some self evaluations on our business to understand the problem and try learn from it.
You see, I’ve been around a long time now, over 23 years in fact in and around the Gold Coast concreting. The business has been operating here for about 16-17 of that, at a rough guess, and we’ve always been at worst steady, leaning towards very busy at any given time. But last year was something I’ve never seen before and to be honest, something I’m only coming to terms with now since we’ve been a bit slower from the constant rain delays.
I’m always someone who tries to look further into situations, evaluate them as a whole and not just what I’m seeing or hearing on the surface. Analytical I suppose. But the whole Covid debacle had me completely confused. I saw so much of the country going into a recession, similar to what I saw in 2008 with the GFC, but then for us, business kicked along running at probably 150% greater capacity then normal. I really couldn’t make heads or tails of it, all we could really do is put our heads down and asses up and make hay while the sun shines. We went from being booked for around 3-4 months at a time and getting maybe 10 calls a week for quotations, to having to stop bookings at 6-7 months because anything after that was unrealistic, while we were still getting 40+ calls a week for new work.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not complaining about being busy while a large chunk of the world had slowed down dramatically, or stopped in a lot of cases, completely first world problems. But it had me in a position where 70 hours a week on the tools was common place. That amount of work hours on the tools is no problem, I’ve done that hundreds of times, but it was the consistency throughout the entire year of doing this that I nearly broke down from, both physically and mentally. This reflected back through our scheduling and some clients at times, getting long delays in their bookings, which of course caused frustrations to them as well, which we completely understand (although didn’t appreciate being yelled at on a few occasions because of it.)
I wrote a few articles about this at the time throughout the year as well, but feeling as though we’ve finally settled down a bit, I can reflect and try and make heads and tails of what was happening, trying to improve our booking and scheduling process in the future.
It’s a really difficult situation, because although mentally I wasn’t at my best last year from stress and burn out, some of the work we put out was by far our best overall. The quality of work remained, that did not drop away, which I suppose I can take a positive from doing everything I can to keep my standards high. But it was the back end of the business that dropped away. Camilla did a great job holding things together, she really is my rock, but we just inevitably found ourselves with scheduling problems throughout that we just couldn’t overcome.
The funny thing is, this is exactly what I didn’t want the business to become when I moved away from commercial work and into the mind set of, “quality over quantity”. We want to be the “little guy”. We want to provide residential customers with something that isn’t overly available in this industry. We have worked really hard over the years to deliberately not grow and not be the business who simply takes on mountains of work and throws sub-contractors at it to complete it. The quality of work and customer service goes completely out the window when that happens.
I guess you could say last year though, that exact thing crept back into my business that we don’t want where we simply just took on too many jobs and Camilla and I couldn’t realistically handle everything effectively. Something had to give and on this occasion, it was our customer service on a several occasions.
Although we are still heavily booked for a long period, we have stretched our schedule out with more room in between jobs, which not only helps with the rain delays we’re getting at the moment, but also helps with us coming back into the business model that see’s our customers receiving the best of us again, on all occasions.
I really do enjoy still learning hard lessons at 40yo. Or am I just dumb and have already learnt this lesson? Camilla thinks I’m just dumb. :p
Hope you’re having a great 2021 everyone and if you got this far, thank you kindly for reading. Take care.