The importance of good software when establishing a new business.
When Jon McCosh (38) started Greenwood Surveyors Ltd, a rural land agency and property management company, in January 2010; it was a crossroads moment. At the time Jon was in Carlisle with H & H Land and Property and his wife, Eilidh, was following her career in medicine. He had the choice of moving with Eilidh to Yorkshire or to take the more difficult but long term view and return to the family home in South Lanarkshire. They decided to make their home in Scotland; to start Greenwood, using the business as a vehicle to manage the properties which he and Eilidh owned, and to look for new clients.
He was well qualified to do this as in the five years he had spent with H & H, Jon had qualified as a Chartered Surveyor and become a Fellow of the CAAV. Within a year he then won a tender process to manage an estate in Staffordshire. It was here that he came across Landmark Systems’ KEY software and recognised it as a useful management tool.
“It was a slow burn to starting Greenwood as life got in the way,” Jon explains. “My father died suddenly the day after we moved home in April 2010 and sorting out my father’s affairs coupled with major renovations complicated the start.” In addition Jon gradually became more involved with the family estate, Kingsbeck Ltd; and he had to temporarily stop taking on new clients for Greenwood.
Roll the clock forward and today Jon and Eilidh spend an hour a day inputting data into KEYPrime Property and Landmark’s multi-owner module Client Accounting for Greenwood. The latter allows Jon an overall picture whilst keeping every owner’s finances tidy, separate and accountable.
Jon is managing around seventy properties for various clients as well as the day-to-day farming business of Kingsbeck and recognised the advantage of having a flexible, scalable software program so that as the business grows he has the option to scale up.
“The properties and their owners that we have within Greenwood are very diverse from owner-occupiers to
institutions with some private absent landlords. I believe that the best business growth comes through word of mouth recommendation,” he says.
KEYPrime Property linked to KEYPrime Accounts is used for the estate. The Kingsbeck property ownership consists of 36 rental properties; 9 commercial properties; two in-hand farms and a small forestry enterprise.
Jon’s knowledge of Landmark’s software meant that he was confident of KEYPrime Property
’s ability to help him to log on the property data such as EPC’s, schedule the maintenance and keep the diary whilst recording all the rent agreements and raising demands. But could it help to undertake a complete overhaul of the business by enterprise, with minimum duplication? His aim is to organise yet reduce the office workload, whilst satisfying government agencies and planning for the future.
“I was impressed by the newer software at a Scottish Land &Estates Demonstration Day and I talked to Landmark’s MD Nigel Parsons at The Royal Highland Show. This convinced me that I could satisfy the stakeholders within my business, HMRC, the accountant and my clients from the software.”
“The product is designed for somebody with a reasonable level of intelligence and not for ‘geeks’ with an intuitive user interface so anything new is either relatively easy to pick up or we can book a session with James Lutener, Landmark’s Training Manager.”
The business plan for Kingsbeck required the dispersal of the beef herd and modification of the lowland farm steadying to permit the creation of a 200 cow dairy enterprise to improve profitability. This continues to be time consuming but now Jon and Eilidh are determined to move their businesses forward in an efficient, cost effective and profitable way. The 6,600 acres of hill and lowland employs 7.5 full time staff; and supports two flocks of sheep: a pure Blackface flock on the hill and a steadily expanding commercial flock on the low ground.. Plans are well underway for an equestrian enterprise based on a 12 stable livery yard with plenty of horse ‘fresh’ grazing and a good network of tracks for hacking out.
Jon’s hobby, beekeeping, has grown into a commercial enterprise and he now produces prize winning Kingsbeck Honey for sale in local shops with plans to make honey available for order over the internet as stocks increase beyond the local market’s capacity.
The software has contributed to an ongoing cycle of steady improvement. Jon concludes:
“The detail which I can achieve from cost allocation has steered enterprise decision making which means that we can stay positive. Debtor reports help us to track cash flow and accurate monthly management reports, produced at the press of button, make business planning and monthly management meetings meaningful.”
– Jon McCosh, Greenwood Surveyors