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Rebecca Frain, Managing Director, and Charlotte Milne, Project Coordinator, discuss how they tackled a critical period in their business and have transformed how they operate.
"We were in a difficult place, and we’re now going through this period of growth. All achieved in just a month or two.”
Says Becky: "We are a family business. My father Michael ran it for 12 years, and I was an administrator here, involved mainly in developing the training side of the business."
Says Becky: “We used to run our business on lots of spreadsheets. It was time consuming, error-prone and the spreadsheets were created by different people, not all of whom were always in the office. It got to the point where I could only do financial planning on Fridays, because the person maintaining that spreadsheet was only able to bring it up to date that day. By our Monday meetings it was out of date again."
Becky: “Engineers did their work without having to consider the financial side. Engineering and Finance were like two separate organisations. There was an artificial divide that no one intended, which meant that job decisions were being made that had all sorts of implications that each side was completely unaware of. For example, sometimes an engineer would be working on a project and inadvertently keep on working past the point of approval and funding. There wasn’t any system to set off an alarm."
“There are actually two sides to our business: Consulting and Training. They need different processes. You simply can’t give a proper level of focus to the two elements using dozens of scattered spreadsheets. And it would take me hours to decipher all the spreadsheets to know the relative profitability of the two groups. Meanwhile, we constantly had to spend so much time searching for information."
“Billing was often late. When part of a project was completed it took time and effort to pull together all the costs and times and check for accuracy. There was very often a delay of two or three weeks before the invoice was sent out, which of course hurt cash flow.”
“We worked with Magnifeye [part of The Agency Works team] for the implementation, which was very good. We did it on a fast track. Most of the training was done for us online, which worked well for us. At the end of that we did request one day of training in person here to tidy up any loose ends. Tom came to do that, and he was excellent. So we were up and running really quickly.
“I can’t believe how much of a change it made for us in just the first month alone. We’re now two months in, and we’ve seen all the following changes:"
2. No repetition. We only have to enter information once now, and the information is prompted and logic-checked where possible, so it’s far more accurate.
4. Costings. It's helped us to cost jobs better. Previously we wrestled with very complex spreadsheets to work out the costings, and that’s all been replaced now.
6. Scheduling. Our jobs are scheduled properly now. No more need for people to yell louder than other people...
8. Mobile use. The Synergist mobile app is great. One engineer in particular loves it! He’s on the road a lot, so it makes it easy for him to check jobs and enter time wherever he is.
9. Integrating the financial side. The financial implications are now part of our meetings with engineers. We’re all going in the same direction at last. Everybody benefits.
10. Targets. We're much better at set ting targets now because it’s backed up by data. Before, it was all a bit top-down, and not always realistic enough.
13. Client conversations. When we have an issue we speak to the client and show them the data. It makes it so much easier to resolve.
14. Purchase invoices. Supplier invoices are all fully tracked now so all costs are allocated properly. There’s far less risk of something slipping through the cracks.
17. Job profitability. Many of the new improvements are as a result of us now seeing the profitability of each job. So much flows from that. And we can now see the profit margins of the two sides of our business. It’s even prompted a restructuring of our business in some ways.
“Is Synergist good value for money? Absolutely. It’s saved two admin people for a start, so that’s £30,000+ saved before all the other gains are even looked at.”
Credits. "We’d like to particularly thank Jay Neale and Tom Hirst from Magnifeye / The Agency Works. Especially to Tom who has endured our phone calls, emails and silly questions. They took the time to understand our business yet got us up to speed in such a short time.”