You can teach an old dog new tricks

The Rugby Fitted Kitchens boss Trevor Scott is ecstatic that he can now work remotely while at his holiday home in France

By the time my partner and I began this year’s summer break to our rural retreat in the south of France, RFK was as busy as ever, but a man down, and the Brexit vote had just come in in favour of leaving the EU.

A man down as, although we have been advertising through an agency, we had yet to find a new designer to join the team.

Consequently, my confidence in leaving the country, and the company, to its own devices for over a month was under some strain.

Our holiday home is so rural that to make or receive a phone call usually involves walking 50 metres up the lane. The internet is accessible only by driving the 4km to the village bar and having a pression, which usually leads to another two or three, then generally not a lot of work gets done.

So, this year I planned ahead and organised the installation of satellite broadband. The kit awaited me on our arrival and two days later the installer arrived and sweated through a hot afternoon to get it all set up.

Once online, I contacted our external IT support provider, who duly set up remote desktop access to my PC back in the showroom at Rugby and, hey presto, I was back in touch – amazing!

Now, I know that in this age of 4G connectivity throughout much of the UK, this little miracle of technology must seem fairly trivial to anyone under 35, but don’t underestimate the benefits to an ageing business owner who can’t quite let go. Now, on a daily basis, I had not only access to the internet, but to my complete office desktop and was able to continue working, albeit for only an hour or so a day, as if I were sat at my desk.

E-mails, which are the bane of our lives, I could now filter, bin or respond to – delegating actions, where required, to the appropriate member of staff or responding personally myself.

This alone probably saved other showroom staff at least an hour or so a day while I was away – time they could then spend more proactively.

As an experiment for this first year, I even took a design on holiday with me and put together the entire quotation, which was then presented successfully to the client in my absence.

Don’t get me wrong, I was still very much on holiday, but as the business owner, I now felt much more in touch and, therefore, still somewhat in control.

In the meantime, back at the ranch, the IT gurus were hard at work setting up our all new cloud-based servers and transferring all of our data to a massive Dropbox account that automatically saves all our documents to the cloud via NAS boxes (whatever they are!?).

EQ is now accessible across all three sites and our planning system, which is a bit more problematic to make cloud-based, but at least has all the DAT files saved on a daily basis, which means they are accessible from other computers in any location that has access to the cloud account.

This has made our existing single site hard servers redundant, but has meant we can now all access the system from wherever we are, subject to permissions. Moving forward, this had to be done, so that as a business we are operating as one cohesive whole rather than three independent sites loaded down with a lot of paper files doing the rounds.

Already the benefits are being seen as our stores, which are in a remote location from the showrooms, now has electronic access to all client files and can check off confirmations and chase progress in a much more efficient way than ever before. This, and much more besides, will inevitably lead to us becoming more profitable, as fewer costly errors will be made.

Although, by the standards of any mid-sized distributor or multi-branch chain these improvements must seem pretty trivial, I wonder how many independent kitchen retailers have yet to move beyond the basics of a paper-based management system?

Although painful, I can’t stress enough the importance of investing in this kind of IT infrastructure, as without it any retailer hoping to expand is going to struggle.

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