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Q: How did Baulch Services start and how did you make sure it stood out from the crowd?
Stewart Baulch: Before starting Baulch Services with my wife Megan I was a licenced plumber working in maintenance plumbing. We had decided to focus on smaller bathroom renovations, kitchens and laundries, which I found quite rewarding in comparison to digging holes. Entering into the renovations market, we found our point of difference in Megan. She is a project manager by trade and brought her expertise into our business, running our schedule to perfection. Our customers really appreciate her being behind the scenes meticulously planning their projects.
Q: Baulch Services looks after the entire renovation process from design to execution, how did you make it as efficient as possible?
Megan Baulch: Our process was definitely far from perfect initially and we had no idea how to incorporate design into our business until we joined forces with Giulianna del Popolo – director of GDP Interior Designs. We met her at a Reece bathroom designer range launch when we were still finding our feet. We felt so out of place but we went there with the right attitude and were fortunate enough to meet Giulianna. We knew we wanted to incorporate design into our process, we just had to work out how to build a product and process to do this. Once she joined our amazing team of subcontractors and suppliers we perfected our now three-step design process to include both face-to-face and virtual communication options.
We bring designs to life with a complete set of CAD drawings and 3D layouts into the mix to help our customers visualise the renovation before we lift a tool. I couldn’t imagine our business without design in the process. It’s a small investment to ensure our customers love what we create for them for years to come.
Q: What is the key to success in running your own business?
SB: We are a part of a male-dominated industry and guys can sometimes have trouble asking for help or advice, but it’s important to remember that doing so is a good thing. More people would benefit from letting go of their ego and fear, and accept that they don’t have to know everything. Having a positive support network and the confidence to ask for assistance with areas that aren’t your expertise is just as important to your success as applying the knowledge you do have.
MB: Times were tough for us this time last year and we decided that we were only going to give it another 12 months to make it work. To help us ensure we gave this 12 months the best chance of success we hired a business coach. In my opinion, our greatest business achievement to date was recognising that we needed help. Since then, we have gone from strength to strength. The team at Business Benchmark Group are amazing! The program is intense but effective, they have an incredible depth of knowledge and are so inspiring. We are also doing a Masters in Small Business to further our knowledge. Our business is now doing better than ever – we won’t be closing anytime soon.
Q: How has COVID-19 impacted your business?
MB: COVID-19 has actually helped massively. It was very concerning at the start, we took a massive dive in sales and we thought our whole business would collapse, but in hindsight we see that people were just uncertain and scared. We worked hard to keep our minds and actions focused during this time.
COVID-19 has been devastating to the world but if we can find a silver lining it’s that it has forced us to refine the way we conduct business and work as a team.
SB: Most of our clients are responding really well to shifting the business process online. The technology available has allowed us to continue having face-to-face meetings so to speak, rather than having conversations over the phone, which we find can be very detached and impersonal. Recently, we had a Zoom meeting with some clients who were comfortable enough to dial in wearing dressing gowns and holding a glass of wine – that was a huge positive in our eyes.
It has also helped us complete projects faster because the whole team’s on the call and can answer any questions raised in a single meeting. Our first virtual design meeting was the quickest design we have ever done. The clients were walking around the house FaceTiming our designers throughout it, adding much needed visual to the design process that we didn’t have when conducting meetings in the office. We have nearly finished that project on time and to budget. Zoom is our new best friend and using it has become standard business practice for us.
Q: How do you stay on top of all your jobs?
SB: We have a project management software program that took us a couple of years to customise but it now holds all communications, from initial quotes to completion. It’s all created and stored in a portal that clients can access remotely. They get notifications when changes are made and receive daily updates. If there are ways things can be done better or ways to make life simpler it’s worth the effort to make sure it suits you. For us this software does it all.
Q: What advice would you give to those looking to start their own business?
SB: The idea is the easy part. It’s tough to start off, but you have to have confidence in yourself and not be afraid to ask for advice. You have ups and downs, some days we think we should just go and work for someone else because you don’t have the constant responsibility sitting on your shoulders, but then we remember why we started working for ourselves and the fun we have doing it.
MB: In the tradie world, small businesses are often husband-and-wife teams, and that can be challenging. We’ve had disagreements in the past around who does what and when work finishes. To try to resolve this we hired a business coach and it has been the best thing we’ve done as a couple. It’s such a good investment having someone less involved but who still wants your business to succeed as much as you do. For us he is like a psychologist as well as an investor and we definitely wouldn’t be in business today without him. We feel like we have grown as a couple as well as a business.