In our second client story of the series we talked with Alex Smith from Outpost Buildings about his experiences during this time. He shares the impact and effects his business has experienced along with some valuable learnings.
What was the determining factor in purchasing Outpost Buildings?
A couple of years ago my wife and I were looking for an established business that we could purchase as my wife was pregnant and there was going to be an obvious transition from her communications role at a national charity to a different lifestyle altogether.
We wanted to diversify our income and cement the future and Outpost Buildings fit the bill.
Tell us more about the Outpost Buildings and the team.
We’re a relatively small but highly capable team built around strong family values creating a real kiwi product for real kiwis. It was the perfect opportunity to get hands on literally on a tangible business that is NZ centric.
We get a real kick about the fact that from “forest to gate” so to speak it’s NZ made from the timbers we source to the manufacturers we contract providing employment and delivering quality hardware to our customers.
2020 has been full of challenges around Covid-19; what has your experience been like during this period? Even before lockdown hit we noticed a 40% drop in sales in March. You can’t control sales but you can control costs and I took a rather aggressive approach to managing our costs effectively.
For staff those challenges presented themselves differently. Staff that could work from home were set up to work remotely but that brought about its own challenges for those with young children at home and the obvious demands there.
The next challenge came around focusing on the key messages we needed to send to our customers and potential new customers. With our marketing and communications backgrounds we wanted to send a very clear message that for every dollar you spend with us it has the ability to support multiple companies; manufacturers, contractors, timber companies and more.
Post lockdown have brought further challenges as we play catch up with our builds. Our normal delivery time is 2 - 3 weeks but pushed out to around 5 weeks. Freight companies have been overwhelmed so as an integral part of our supply chain that impacts our deliveries, both incoming and outgoing. We tackled that issue by being upfront and honest and we believe we need to focus on preempting any issues ahead of time.
On reflection what’s some helpful advice you can share?
You need to address any issues quickly - for us that was around delivery dates being pushed out so you have to have the courage to pick up the phone or meet people face to face to explain what is going on.
Leverage communication platforms like social media to address issues so you’re not on the defence. Like any communications strategy you need to set the tone, be preemptive and strike first - it’s better to be proactive than reactive. Actively listen to your customers concerns and address them confidently.
One of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt during this period is I know for a fact if I had done the things I should have done prior to March, it would have been a completely different experience. It would have made lockdown and coming out of lockdown a much smoother transition. No more complacency now - if we say we’re going to do something in the business we’re going to do it.
Any highlights over this period? Top business standouts? Local support etc
I believe we have a better business now. Actions we have had to take; watching overheads and costs to name just a couple, means we have a stronger framework allowing us to be more flexible and robust going forward.
I’ve got a greater passion for the business now; I get involved when needed and push things forward to progress quicker. We’ve never lost sight of the fact that our business is part of a much bigger picture and if we can be successful that means all the businesses we touch have a better chance for success in the long term too.
What services and support have you received from Grace Team?
Michael Grace was very firm; we needed to be all over our costs even pre lockdown as the writing was on the wall. Whatever data you have, has to be solid. His ability to critically evaluate the numbers alongside us as business owners has been vital.
Working with Michael as part of the Regional Business Partners Programme has allowed me to set documented goals and gain valuable insights. The critical evaluation process from an independent body who has no agenda and the best possible opinion based on experience and expertise has been invaluable.
One stand out has been working with Michael. As I mentioned previously he’s very firm and insistent and this further drives our commitment and motivation. We got our overheads under control and part of that was the fact Michael just didn’t back down around accountability.
To find out more about their business visit their website here
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