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Starting from the Ground Up

Things I've learned in the first year of owning a groundworks business


The Castlemain Groundworks van

Starting a business wasn't ever in my career plan.

At school I was most likely to be found at the back of the class, firing spitballs at the girls (little did I know one would become my wife one day). I left at 16 with a few GCSE's and did a variety of jobs; from running my own window cleaning business to working in retail. It wasn't until I began as a labourer for a local groundworking company that I found something that I wanted to stick at.


Years passed, and as my experience grew, so did my skill. It wasn't long before I was running sites (alongside a talented team). Life was good. Then one day, out of the blue, we found out that the company was closing. It was a horrible experience for everyone - my boss was devastated but was left with no options. My wife had just given birth to our son, the fifth child of the family, so I couldn't be without work. After a couple of days of thinking, we decided that we'd be the masters of our own destiny, and took the bull by the horns. We incorporated Castlemain Groundworks and that was that.


I'm not ashamed to say I had no idea what I was doing! I mean, on site I have all the answers but put me behind a PC and it all goes to...well, you know. So I enlisted help and got an office team in place to manage the day-to-day. It means I'm free to focus on the jobs, while the invoicing, communication and social media is someone else's job. That's my first tip - delegate. It comes with an expense but in time (and stress) saved it's a worthwhile investment.


Next came growing the team. We've had a few occasions where we've been recruiting. Facebook has been useful; you can easily post job ads and vet potential candidates. We also used Indeed, and although we did get real interest it was a chore going through the applicants who applied just to meet job-seeking criteria. Over the past 15 months we've gone from a two-man set up to a six-person groundworking team and two-person office team.


Work/Life Balance

It's safe to say, in the first months of setting up a business, there is no work/life balance. Days were spent on site and evenings were dedicated to writing quotes, following up with leads and all the other admin that goes with a business. Even on days where I wasn't working, I was always thinking things through - what materials I'd need to order, who was waiting for a reply, how was I going to grow the business. You never really stop 'working'. As time has marched on, I've found better ways of managing and delegating but I'm always learning. That's the thing about owning a business...every day is a school day.



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