31-year-old Leeds entrepreneur Jordan Woods is leading a BigChange in Building Maintenance.
27th March 2019 - BigChange: Tell us a little bit about your background, how you got started in the industry and some of your most significant accomplishments?
Jordan Woods: I left school at the age of 13 and joined a Work-based Learning programme in Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC). After persuading Daniel Robinson, a Director at Industrial & Commercial Heating in Leeds, to let me work for free for a number of years I was finally they given an apprenticeship at 16. Without Daniel giving me that opportunity, I would never have got into the HVAC industry. It just wouldn’t have been a possibility. I was named Apprentice of the Year at college and went on to gain a degree in Mechanical Engineering (HVAC).
I was fortunate to launch Woods Building Maintenance nearly 8 years ago in 2011 after being made redundant in my previous position. I had a young family to support and times were tough. My first client was a plumbing job in Harrogate that made me a profit of £13. But I was determined to succeed and kept working hard to grow my business.
Within 7 years I was employing 35 people and had transformed Woods into a £1.5 million-revenue business. I sold Woods to B38 in November but have stayed on as Head of Operations, so for all intents and purposes, nothing has changed and I am still the driving force behind the business. I am also currently recruiting up to another 20 gas engineers, plumbers and electricians.
I consider the number of people I have employed as one of my most significant accomplishments, as well as hitting the one-million-pound turnover mark. Most companies don’t achieve this so early and it was a really big moment for me and the entire organisation.
BigChange: How has your relationship with BigChange enabled you to give over your experience to young businesses and entrepreneurs?
Jordan Woods: I am a young entrepreneur myself so for me it’s about being able to show young people that age is not a barrier to success. I truly feel that If you have a great idea and you have a real determination to succeed, then anything is possible.
Working with BigChange meant being mentored by its CEO Martin Port. Martin guided me in the early stages of my business and I found it extremely beneficial. I have learnt from his extensive business expertise and knowledge about strategy. It has shaped how I view our business and its potential growth. Having Martin’s support behind me has been really productive in navigating the common challenges our business has gone through to grow even stronger.
BigChange: Can you talk a little bit about your experience in Building Maintenance and how you have personally seen your industry evolve over the past 10+ years?
Jordan Woods: I was apprentice-trained from the industry and, as a direct result of starting so young, I now have nearly 20 years’ experience and knowledge in the HVAC industry. I have seen HVAC change from paper to digital and have been fortunate to have been part of that big change. Indeed, Woods Building Maintenance was one of the first companies in the UK HVAC industry to go fully paperless with BigChange back in 2012.
I’ve have also seen gas compliance change from CORGI to Gas Safe and witnessed how industry standards and enforcement have significantly increased because of this shift.
More worryingly, I have witnessed a massive reduction in apprenticeships. I think this is something the whole industry needs to address. We need to support apprenticeships again!
I also believe the government should get behind this and create incentives for companies to employ a percentage of apprentices in their business depending on their turnover and size.
BigChange: How has your time working at Woods Building Maintenance shaped your vision to be more globally aware and receptive to diverse customer needs?
Jordan Woods: On the question of diversity, I have always employed workers from diverse backgrounds. In my view, as long as they can do the job at hand and can drive the business forward, they are part of the team, no questions asked.
From a customer point of view, we are fully digital, so our clients are not getting mail and other paper post potentially lost through the letterbox.
We find we have better customer interaction with technology – and we can track our engineers and let our customers know when they will arrive.
As we are fully paperless, it also means we can do our part in saving the environment. It’s something we should all be doing and at Woods, we are always looking at ways to reduce our carbon footprint.
BigChange: What advice can you give to small and medium sized businesses trying to scale up operations?
Jordan Woods: My best piece of advice would be to ensure you have an excellent implementation team behind your mobile force. It’s great to win business and to have engineers to carry out the tasks at hand, but you need to be able to streamline all your processes and systems to suit the clients’ requirements.
One thing I have learned recently is that you should never be frightened of change. If one thing doesn’t work, just try something else. You will always find a solution, but if you’re not open to change, you will never succeed.
I would also advise business owners to surround themselves with people who are smarter than them. It’s so important to find the right people who want to help you grow your business and who want to help others succeed in their careers.
BigChange: What trends are most impacting your sector & how has Woods Building Maintenance taking steps to resolve and integrate these trends into your day to day operations?
Jordan Woods: I would say the most common trend in the industry is how engineers move about from company to company to company, before ending back at the first one they worked for. I have had conversations with so many other CEOs and Directors who all say the same.
In order to combat this and to retain the staff we train, we now carry out ‘exit interviews’ as a way of finding out why someone wants to leave and what we can learn from them about how we do things. Since doing this, our retention levels have dramatically increased.
We also get all of our staff to interact with each other more – so we get our engineers into the office to spend some time with our accounts and administrative staff and similarly the office staff have been going out into the field to see what our engineers do every day. By getting everyone to understand all aspects of the business and what issues each role may come up against, it makes for a much happier workplace which can only be good for business!