Geoff Sayers, Simon Wood – Carswell Farm & Well Hung Meat, Holbeton
‘Mooving’ Megabytes – You can’t avoid online activities if you operate a business in 2012. Many businesses in our region have diversified their operations, and Carswell Farm and The Well Hung Meat Company are no exception. Hear about their challenges as we find out more about what they do:
Farming is in Geoff Sayers’ blood. Carswell Farm is an organic dairy farm (with a few sheep and chickens) that he runs on the South Devon coast at Holbeton. Like many farmers, Geoff has had to diversify to remain in business. He now runs a thriving holiday-let business alongside the farm, having converted a number of farm buildings into six well-appointed holiday cottages. Carswell Cottages have been awarded the gold award by the Green Tourism Business Scheme. Visitors are welcomed with fresh local, organic milk in the fridge on arrival and can treat themselves to local organic meat from sister company, the Well Hung Meat Company. Geoff formed this company in an effort to reduce some of the unnecessary waste in dairy farming and to ensure his sheep were processed properly.
With such a diverse operation, online business requirements are varied and many. For the farm, cattle have to be registered and all their movements traced; sourcing new equipment such as tractors often starts in an online search. The holiday cottages are marketed and often booked online; photographs, availability, tariff and other details must be kept up to date and customers’ queries logged and responded to.
But the greatest need for broadband sits with the Well Hung Meat Company as Managing Director Simon Wood explains:
“Our whole business is Internet-based. We take orders online and dispatch meat boxes all over the UK. Our customer relationship management (CRM) system is online and so is our stock management: we scan items in and out, so that we have a current view of availability. We have five computers in the office and two more in the production area connected by a long cable and staff need to be able to access the Internet on all of them. There could be as many as seven of us needing to get online at a time. We don’t have fibre-optic here and we’re right at the end of a phone line. When the phone line goes down, we’re completely stuck. That doesn’t happen often, but the last time it did we were without phones for almost three days. You can’t run a business like that. We’re now looking at installing another phone line because we simply can’t operate without broadband.”
“On a good day, we can achieve download speeds of 3Mbps, but that would be with only one person online at a time. Life isn’t like that and when we’re all trying to access the Internet, the system slows down to a virtual standstill.”
“If we take a phone call from someone just wanting to change the date of an order for example, we have to access the online CRM system. That should be instantaneous, but it almost never is. And it can get really embarrassing having to keep apologising to a customer, telling them that you’re just waiting for the computer to catch up. Sometimes it’s only a delay of 15 or 20 seconds, and that doesn’t sound much. But that’s 15-20 seconds on every single transaction, which creates huge inefficiencies for the business. It’s even worse if we’re trying to upload material, for example embedding a video on YouTube. We pride ourselves on being a really forward-thinking and innovative online company, but we’re hampered by something as basic as access to fast and reliable broadband; access that people in cities just take for granted.”
“We also really suffer from peaks and troughs in service – you can tell when the children get home from school and start their online gaming, listening or viewing: the system just slows right down.”
Geoff agrees wholeheartedly: “These are all frustrations that businesses shouldn’t have to deal with. We need a good infrastructure to support a buoyant economy. I hope that Connecting Devon and Somerset can help to deliver that. The programme certainly has my support.”