Eddie Black was a fisherman for 20 years. This is where he developed the problem-solving attitude which would become the foundation for his numerous businesses. “I’ve always had to solve problems, and when you have a problem at sea, it’s really a problem. I have an inability to say no when someone asks for help.”
Eddie established Eco-Genics, a dry ice cleaning company, 11 years ago. Since then, Eddie’s problem-solving attitude has seen his family business evolve into Eco-Group, a growing portfolio of companies including a communications business, a workspace business and a construction business, and more.
When Covid-19 struck, it was an ‘awakening’, according to Eddie. The dry ice cleaning, which had been the foundation of their company, was suddenly in high demand due to the increased need for sanitisation. Using their existing capabilities, they turned their production to assist with the production of PPE.
But the pandemic also prompted Eco-Group to make strategic internal changes. To make the business more efficient, it went through a process of restructuring and focusing on its employees, resulting in an influx of new talent and a re-organised management team.
Then, with support from Aldermore, the business invested in new facilities, updated equipment and even developed additional products and services offerings. While many of the UK SMEs struggled in the wake of the pandemic and lockdown restrictions, Eddie and his team saw an opportunity to focus on growing their operations.
While the business had been built on helping problem-solve and prioritise client needs, Eco-Group spent the last 12 months focusing on making itself an efficient company. With an increased focus on employee wellbeing, client meetings that had previously been postponed or reprioritised were now back on the agenda and the staff and business was in a better place for it. Along with this came an opportunity to give employees more autonomy; as people suddenly had to work alone for the first time: as a result, previously untapped talents and skills started to emerge, which the company was quick to support with additional investment in training.
“The most important lesson we’ve learned is to be agile and be ready to change your business model at the click of a finger”, Eddie reflects as he looks ahead to the future. Eco Group used their diverse supply chain to move into new, different markets quickly even in the midst of confusion and uncertainty caused by the ‘unknowns’ as a result of the pandemic. While cashflow didn’t initially present a problem for Eco-Group, they credit their close relationship and collaboration with Aldermore in inspiring confidence that they could continue to pay their staff, secure their business and remain stable no matter what the pandemic threw at them. The ongoing relationship with Aldermore will also be a help to the business as it pursues opportunities in future to ensure it is sustainable in the emerging ‘recovery’ market.
Despite a challenging year, Eddie and his team have maintained a positive outlook on the experience: “The pandemic has been a positive for the company, the things we’ve taken for granted, we’ll never take for granted again.”
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