Cathy Cockin from West Yorkshire started her own company, Little Miss Electrical, at the end of 2017 and the business has been growing at breakneck speed since. Currently, the firm has nine employees including Cathy.
Cathy admits that entering the industry as a late starter can be challenging. Many companies don’t want to take on apprentices over the age of 19 because employers have to pay them higher wages and fund a part of their college course.
The way she worked around it herself was by breaking up her 5-week intensive learning course for domestic wiring into single weeks, and between those weeks she worked with another electrician, Steve, as a labourer. “It was almost like an apprenticeship, but a quicker one,” she explains. She used her rewiring work on her own house for her NICEIC assessment. When she decided to become fully qualified, she also pursued a night course.
Cathy started her own company, Little Miss Electrical, at the end of 2017 and the business has been growing rapidly since. It didn’t take long before word of a female-owned electrical company got out and ever since, Cathy has been flooded with job applications from other women.
“I’ve hired a few male electricians when things were really busy, but we mainly get interest from female apprentices and electricians because they see we’re a female team. It can be quite scary to go into an industry that’s so male-saturated, so I think that’s why so many young girls and women feel safe to approach us. I am getting so many emails from girls that either want to retrain or get into the industry, which is incredibly exciting.”
All in one place
As the Little Miss Electrical team started growing, they first used a mix of Google Maps, Google Calendar, Apple Calendar and WhatsApp to manage their jobs and communicate with each other, and using Microsoft Word to send out invoices. By Cathy’s admission, it was hard to get anywhere with it.
One day, she was on a job when the customer said to her: “My son is also a tradesperson and they use this software called Fergus.” Cathy was intrigued and signed up for a free trial. At first, she was reluctant to change her way of doing things, even though she knew that the motley mix of calendars and messaging apps wasn’t the right solution for her growing company. However, she looked into Fergus and saw its potential for running the day-to-day operations of her business.
“As soon as I tried using it on a job, I realised it was actually super simple and I just needed to devote some time learning how to use it. It quickly made a massive difference because it organises everything in one place. Now I simply can’t imagine not having Fergus,” says Cathy. Thinking back to her time before using job management software, Cathy is amused: “I can’t believe how much harder I made it on myself,” she admits with a laugh.
“People see us as this really professional company now and so much of that is because we use Fergus – from how our invoices and quotes look, to the automated SMS reminders that confirm appointments to customers. It was such a big turning point for us.”
Cathy’s tips for success
Cathy recommends every trade business owner or manager to get field service management software – no matter how small or new to the game they might be.
“For a small company just starting out, even if it’s just you, it is so useful because you can go back to any job you did, no matter how long ago. You should definitely start off with Fergus because you’re never too small to use it.”
Accounting software is another thing you should get from the outset, she notes. She makes an excellent point: “A lot of people do their taxes at the end of the tax year and have to work it all backwards from there, but with something like Xero or QuickBooks, you have everything recorded from day one.”
Another trick that helped Little Miss Electrical spread the word so fast was customer reviews. They add a review request on every invoice email they send, and it links to the places where customers can leave those reviews. This way, they don’t even have to remember to ask every time.
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