Getting the Team Right to Go
How Team Changes got Expert Electrical through a COVID crisis
Someone has to have the guts to make the difficult decisions in a crisis. In a rapid plummet of sales caused by COVID-19 restrictions, Expert Electrical had to act quickly. It turned out that having only half a team was not such a bad thing after all.
It’s not beyond Ben and his team to pitch their tents around a fire somewhere miles away from the city, to complete a job. They’ll be up in the early hours to kit out a bush or beach property with off-grid power—solar panels, inverter, batteries and generator. Because they’re electricians, they’ll also fix up the switchboard connections to get all the home appliances, like air con, operating on green energy.
Expert Electrical is Ben’s baby. A reputation, evidenced by multiple Google reviews, of being an ‘honest’, ‘professional’, ‘very helpful company’ that is ‘easy to talk to’ has seen the company grow substantially over its 10+ years.
I’m interviewing Leesa. In the leadership team of three business partners, she oversees business administration alongside Joran who takes care of operations and Ben who is the head electrician. We’re in an arty cafe in the middle of industrial Brendale, North Brisbane, and though I’m only an acquaintance I feel like I’m talking to a friend. Leesa’s role frees Ben to be out with his team doing what he does best: custom designing solar and electrical systems for homes and businesses.
Leesa is wholeheartedly supportive of her team.
‘In a saturated industry, we are so much more than just solar. Our team has knowledge beyond the standard solar retailer. Our guys do best where more complex solutions are needed… Customers are starting to recognise us for our experience.’
When COVID hit
The impact of COVID-19 restrictions in March 2020 changed everything. Since working from home was a requirement where possible, the office that usually bustled with six people contained Joran alone, working hard to hold the fort.
Electricians were permitted to carry out essential visits with the appropriate precautions of masks, hand sanitiser and social distancing, but their scheduled visits shrank. Online communication robbed the sales team of their usual face-to-face rapport and they felt hamstrung by working only on phones and screens.
Working from home introduced a new stressor for staff with children: homeschooling.
“The dual role really pushed our boundaries,” Leesa said. “My routine was to help the kids until 1pm, and then start work. After work, I’d help the kids with their homework, and then pick up the last of my workload for the day. I was usually working until about 9 at night.” The team soldiered on despite limited availability from their usual support staff.
Making It Work
Keeping Virtual Company
With the imperative of social distancing in the battle against the virus, a team accustomed to the friendly comings and goings in the office – a chat and a joke here, a phone message there, a quick lunch together – began losing touch with each other.
They had to find other ways to keep the communication lines going.
Team meetings via Zoom twice a week was a good workaround.
Customer visits also had to change. Usual services to inspect solar systems with testing equipment became a collaborative effort between clients and technicians on Zoom, searching together for numbers and data that could give the necessary story. That wasn’t easy for everyone, but Expert Electrical coached even their elderly clients through it. In a short space of time, the company had transitioned to performing 95% of their work online.
Cutting the Overheads
Leesa went straight to the company financials to scrutinise fixed and variable costs. All overheads needed to be cut. Debt needed to be managed and the company needed to make use of reprieves where available.
She knew these decisions needed to be made quickly, before the company bled too much revenue and could not be saved at all.
As an accountant in a previous role, she had seen the sorry state of clients in the GFC of 2008 who held on instead instead of cutting costs. Those that took quick action fared best. Now it was Expert Electrical’s turn to do the same.
Difficult decisions were made. Since there was no government support yet on the horizon, the business had to let staff go to survive. The team was reduced from thirteen to six.
A New Staffing Structure
With a much smaller team, roles within the company had to be restructured. Drawing on the strengths of each team member, leadership, warehouse, admin, servicing and sales roles were developed and training was provided. It paid off—Expert Electrical started to get better outcomes.
Clear staffing roles meant less uncertainty around who did what, and that meant less tasks slipped through the cracks.
A new CRM (Customer Relations Management) software system also helped. It soon flagged areas lacking efficiency, and these were given more attention. Queries were filtered via the system to the person best suited to resolve it, rather than the first available person tackling any and every query. It also enabled customers to approve quotes online – great for CovidSafe practice.
The Resilience Factor
Leesa’s business experience stopped her from panicking. Knowing she needed to stick to the formula of getting back to basics and cutting costs paved a clear path of action. As the streamlining of staffing and operations gained traction, company efficiency showed a marked difference and sales picked up after a worrying plummet. For Leesa, the good fruit of difficult decisions was assuring. It felt like a worthwhile cleansing.
It was also a comfort to Leesa, Joran and Ben that Expert Electrical could lean into their relationship capital.
More than ever, they relied on word-of-mouth referrals and worked on retaining their customer focus, and that got them through. Maintaining quality service as a priority was a helpful anchor in steering the business into their new chapter.
Tips from Expert Electrical
Design staff roles to be proactive rather than reactive
Without designated roles, only the squeaky wheels get the grease, and whole sections of business can be neglected. When Expert Electrical restructured their staffing, maintenance and servicing avenues came to life. Taking time to analyse business tasks takes a small business to the next level of efficiency, which strengthens a team in crisis.
Where there’s stress, go back to basics
In business there are things you can control and things you’ll never control. A panicked state can blur those differences. Stopping to re-evaluate your practices and getting back to the bare essentials can be just the cleansing your business needs.
“Work out what your bottom line is and what you need to do to keep the doors open, and maintain that as your first priority.”
Every customer interaction is an opportunity
Whether it’s following up a sales lead, installation, a phone call, or after sales care—all are opportunities to show a customer that someone cares about their concerns. An unhappy customer can damage a business, but happy customers are the ones who spread the word to friends and family.
‘We’re not the cheapest providers, but we win work because of our interaction. Sometimes we make a sale just because we spend half an hour answering questions on a phone call. Customers tell me, “You guys will do the job and care about it.”’
Expert Electrical has made a huge turnaround since the pandemic dented their sales in March last year. Their dynamic streamlining of business operations resulted in record-breaking numbers in the last quarter of 2020 and onwards. Now they’re on to new things. Look out for their roadshows—a new development to show off their off-grid, mobile tiny home independently powered by solar energy.
See For Yourself
Read the numerous five-star reviews that Expert Electrical has on Google, coming in thick and fast.
If you’re looking for solar or electrical expertise Expert Electrical is ready and waiting to treat you with friendly and professional service.
You’ll find them here:
(07) 3195 3633
(Look out for their new website launch in March)
Or find them on Instagram