Saturday, 19 March 2016

Spring time... a time of renewal.

I have been meaning to write this blog for a few weeks but the past few weeks I don't even remember sitting down of an evening! It has been a really busy time with enquiries as a few weeks back we had this one sunny day and I think half of Surrey decided they needed to do something about their garden!

I have been spending every minute catching up with my quote writing, off on site visits, wrapping up our last project in Ashtead and starting the team on a new one in Horsham. All this and still managing to make an Easter bonnet with my middle son for nursery and chasing around a very mobile 11 month old who seems to be in the room one minute and the next has crawled out to the kitchen! Then I have a two year old who is very stubborn and wants to decide what she wears every morning and two minutes later take it off! Finally, there is my eldest boy who is 6 and wants to have conversations with me about possessive apostrophes and alliteration and is learning so much at school.

As you can imagine my life is quite full!

So this morning at 7am I decided to go out on a walk around the local woods with our dog and took my little bub with me. Aye had the other three. I needed to clear my mind as it had got so bogged up with work stuff. 

The walk really helped as it gave me a chance just to be and not 'do' anything or think about anything. 

Sometimes we need that. 


I felt a lot more 'me' by the end of the walk!


So, anyways, as I said at the start I had been meaning to write this blog a couple of weeks ago when we had a few days of heavy rain. We had quite a number of calls from clients who wanted their garden re-turfing, or to have artificial grass installed.

It seemed that a lot of people were getting frustrated with their boggy, muddy lawns and thought the only way out was to either rip it up and start again or get rid of the lawn completely!


It was around this time, and very timely too, that a lawn care company got in touch with us on Twitter. 

One thing we had never provided as a business was lawn care- in terms of regular treatments and scarifying and so on. But neither did we have anyone to pass these leads to or recommend. 

Tim, from Lawn master got in touch with us on Twitter and wanted to ask more about our business and also tell us about his. From our first conversation I could tell that Tim was passionate about customer service and providing a first class lawn care service to his clients. 

He too had come across clients who thought they would have to completely start again with their lawn after it had gone all muddy from a wet winter. Tim told me that his team spend their Spring reviving current and new lawns and with the right techniques and treatments they can rescue the lawn and bring it back to full health. Plus it costs about 1/4 of the price of re-turfing and the quality of the grass will be top notch and will fair through the winter better the next year.

There is obviously still a place for artificial grass and new lawns but I felt that it was great to talk to a knowledgeable and experienced lawn care professional whom had been able to turn many a lawn around to be a far healthier lawn than when they first started their treatments. 


A rescued lawn in Dorking, Surrey
A rescued lawn in Dorking, Surrey by Lawn Master.



A lawn brought back to health in Goring, West Sussex
A lawn brought back to health in Goring, West Sussex by Lawn Master.

Tim's team covers West Sussex and South Surrey for lawn care. I also found out about Scott who covers Sutton, Epsom and Banstead. Scott is very similar to us in that his wife does the admin side of the business while he concentrates on the manual side of things. 

While talking to Scott the other week he bought up a very familiar situation to us and that is the aftercare that a new lawn needs. I still remember one of the first lawns that we re-turfed and going back to see that the owner had hacked his new lawn with a Flymo and cut it too soon and too low! From that point we always gave out detailed instructions on how to care for the lawn in the first few months as although the responsibility to look after the lawn is passed to the client we didn't want our customers to waste their money getting a nice new lawn but not knowing how to care for it or worse for it just to go back to how their old lawn was!


Landscaping project in Ashtead, Surrey
A new lawn needs the correct maintenance to stay healthy. 

Scott can provide a great after care programme for new lawns so that mother nature doesn't take hold and turn it into the weed or moss bed it once was! 

Also, new lawns can struggle through the first winter but Lawn Master can improve and bolster them so that they are stronger. 
I am really happy that we have met a like minded company that are committed to an excellence and informative service. 

So this Spring, if your lawn is still looking a bit muddy and sorry for itself don't give up on it! Contact the guys at Lawn Master and see how they can help care for your lawn. 

Quite apt really writing this blog now as it is soon to be Easter which is traditionally a time for renewal and new life. I am planning to have some lovely time off with friends and family this Easter hols- a good chance to take a break and feel refreshed.

We have some great projects lined up this year, no project is the same and that is what I love about this job! 



Sunday, 21 February 2016

Paving and Patio Construction Service - Sussex, Surrey and London

Just over a week ago when we were at the SBS Event put on by Theo Paphitis, one of things, amongst many, that we picked up on was using more video for our business.



So...



uh oh I have lost Aye to iMovie! lol



Another one of Aye's creations...



Just got to get him in front of the camera now!





Monday, 15 February 2016

Aye and Susan at the SBS Event 2016

I have finally had some time to sit down and put together some thoughts on our second SBS event that happened on Friday 12th February 2016 at the ICC in Birmingham. 

(Here is our blog on the first SBS event after we won in 2014: SBS Event 2015 if you would like some background to our win)

As with any event that Aye and I attend a lot of organisation goes into actually getting us there in the first place.. organising school and pre-school drop offs and pick ups and who is going to look after our four. We have two boys- 6 and 4 and two girls 2 and 9 months old. Again my dad and our dear friend Alex helped us out. 

It was the first time we had left our youngest for a whole day, she is 9 months and seems to be permanently by my side! I knew she would be fine, it was me I knew would be missing her!
Aye and Susan from Ayegardening SBS Event 2016 with Theo Paphitis
On our way to Birmingham, feeling ready to be inspired!

But we managed to sort everyone out and set off for Birmingham in the morning ready to go and meet Theo Paphitis and 1500 other winners from the past 5 years. SBS is becoming such an amazing community. It is like a huge family of support and encouragement - just what small businesses need! Some people wonder what all the fuss is- but do you know- you get out of SBS what you put in. Like with anything you can't expect to sit back and let good things come to you if you don't put yourself out there and network. 

Before I start talking about the day, I need to give a bit of background into SBS and how it started and what it is. I think it started in around 2010. Theo Paphitis (of Dragon's Den fame and owner of a few well known high street businesses - Rymans, Boux Avenue and Robert Dyas) was sitting in his kitchen on a Sunday evening and keeping himself occupied by looking up something called Twitter. He soon discovered that it was an excellent tool for businesses to market themselves, but also to strike up conversations with other businesses and be seen and heard by thousands relatively easy. He tweeted that the first 6 small businesses to tweet him would get a RT from him. He was helping to give exposure to them through his thousands of followers. What he didn't expect was 100s of tweets to come in! So he changed and said he would look through the tweets and pick 6. Then the following Sunday people were actually tweeting him asking for RTs and so SBS was born. Now he has so many small businesses tweeting him that he reveals the 6 winners on a Monday and yes he does pick them himself. 

SBS (Small Business Sunday) is far greater than the RT from Theo. For us it has been invaluable. We have made friends with businesses all over the UK through SBS. There is a lot of support and encouragement. As a small business it can be quite lonely, you go through so many ups and downs- but this lot really understand and they help you to be strong and improve. There is so much to learn. 
Birmingham ICC for SBS event 2016
We've arrived!
SBS Event 2016
Looking forward to the day ahead




















The yearly (free!) event that Theo puts on is designed to bring everyone together, he always has something new to share with the SBS family. There are inspirational speakers and a question time with a panel who have started small just like all the small businesses there. 


After some speaking from the sponsors of SBS (thanks to them the event is free!) the main man Theo took the stage. He reminded us why we were all there and introduced a new element of the SBS family for 2016 which will be the SBS shop - an exclusive website to show case our products and services! 
As always Theo talked about being passionate about your business and letting that passion shine through- tell YOUR story- there is no one like you!


Theo Paphitis- Huge supporter of small businesses
Theo Paphitis- Huge supporter of small businesses

After lunch was question time and this year on the panel was Mike Pickles from the Really Useful Box Company and Holly Tucker who was one half of the creators of Not On The High Street.com
Holly Tucker, Theo Paphitis and Mike Pickles. Photo from Holly Tucker

I really enjoyed this question time and I was even brave enough to stand up and ask a question! Go me! I was so nervous inside but I managed it and hopefully didn't go bright red like I normally do. 


So, I could quite easily waffle on about the day's events but instead I have 4 main points to mention that we took away from the day. 

1. Don't underestimate the power of social media. 

For us as a landscaping company social media is predominately used to strike up conversations with other businesses and show case our work. We don't expect work from it, we just use it to be erm... social! However, you would not believe the friendships and relationships that can come from starting a conversation on Twitter and from Theo's simple idea around his kitchen table we now have friends that we would never have known otherwise. 


SBS winners
An amazing bunch of genuinely lovely people that we have come to know as a direct result of winning SBS. 
Surrey SBS winners
Surrey SBS winners!

2. Treat a complaint as a gift!
So as mentioned before, I was brave enough to ask two questions this year and one of them was: "In your experience what is the best way to deal with a complaint"
Straight away Holly Tucker answered: Treat a complaint as a gift. It is like free business advice! After all you want to get things right for your client's so listen to the people that matter the most! Yes it is hard to take it on the chin and not take it personally. But it will make you grow and get better. 

3. 1,2,3 action..... Use more video!
Theo confessed to being a YouTube junkie! He said video was hugely powerful in influencing a customer's potential purchase. Video is great for showing who you are, what you do and how you can help a client. We must make use of this, this year. I can imagine our team will be thrilled with me! I pester them enough for photos now I will be capturing them on film!

4. Move with the times
The world is changing, technology is changing. Keep on top of it. Keep your business current. What works today may not work tomorrow. A few years back everyone was talking about the high streets dying, then out of no where, click and collect started. People wanted to buy online but wanted the choice when to pick it up and not have to wait in hours for a package. Do what works for your business and for your clients. Make it easy for them to see what you do, how much it costs and how they can get that service.

Don't over complicate your business. Theo suggested stripping your company back to who you are and what you do. Mike Pickles talked about his boxes. They are a box for goodness sake he said! But.... they are a box that has intelligent plastic. They can organise your home and sort out your memories. When your home is tidy so is your mind. Gosh was he passionate about a box!!

He also mentioned that he has incredible machinery that makes his life easier. Once he was the one that took the orders, opened the post and packaged up the boxes and sent them. Now he embraces technology to do a job far better and has 100+ staff. 

Whatever you need to do to make your business run smoother then do it. 

Theo Paphitis SBS Event 2016 - Ayegardening
Enjoying the day!

Our heads are still buzzing from the day and I must start making a plan of my ideas for 2016!

I have started following Holly Tucker on Instagram as she posts some inspirational nuggets. 

I hope this post inspires others to join the SBS family by entering SBS every Sunday 5:00-7:30 and show your passion for your business in one tweet to Theo. 

Monday, 8 February 2016

Can I Use Artificial Grass On A Driveway?

I just had a phone call this morning from a client who had a muddy patch in front of their house that they parked a car on. They wanted to know if they could install artificial grass on this area and still park on it. 

My first answer was no definitely not as this would not be a long term solution. Turning on the grass would cause the grass to raise up, rip fibres up and generally be unsuitable for a surface under a car- no matter how good the sub base!

I advised the client that if they were going for a green look then stabilisation grids or a cellular system with real grass sown in the holes would be an effective solution for a 'natural'  and green look drive. A bit like the ones below found on pavingexpert.com

Grass filled plastic cells
Grass filled plastic cells

Turfstone by http://www.tobermore.co.uk
Turfstone by Tobermore

I then thought, I wondered if anyone has used artificial grass successfully on a drive and proceeded to look on Houzz and found the following driveways from the USA that had used artificial grass in the driveway design:


They actually look very effective. What do you think? Will these take off in the UK?