It’s all too common these days to see people making big career changes, taking new jobs to seek out the greener grass on the other side of the fence. This was true for Nic Baltas from Bayside Gardening – but in his case, the old adage was much more than a metaphor!
Despite starting out as a chef, the lure of sun, sweat and smiling satisfied customers was too strong for Nic to ignore. He made the move to gardening nearly 10 years ago, and hasn’t looked back since!
He now handles mowing, weeding, hedging and full property clean-ups, but his speciality is irrigation. Using smart technology, Nic manages all of his customers’ gardens remotely, so he can catch any small issues before they turn into a tsunami of trouble. It’s no easy task – but with that kind of dedication to customer service, it’s no wonder his clients come back again and again.
By simply doing what he loves, Nic’s built a thriving business with roots (get it?) in his local community. And he’s also been able to share his passion for gardening with others. Bayside Gardening is proud to be an equal-opportunity employer, hiring disabled workers to give them a much-needed foot in the door. How good is that?
No matter what gardening or landscaping jobs you need done, you can definitely leaf it all to Bayside Gardening. We sat down for a chat with Nic to find out a bit more about how he grew his business.
Hi Nic, thanks for taking the time to have a chat to us. How long have you been in business?
We’ve been gardening and landscaping since 2007. We were originally called Cheapest Gardening, and then we started using Local Gardening, but we changed our name to Bayside Gardening in 2013. At that time, we decided to pick one area of specialisation and brand ourselves accordingly, and that’s where everything changed for us.
Changing our name really changed our business. Now we focus on quality over price. That’s not to say we’re expensive, because we’re probably one of the cheapest upmarket gardening businesses (who also do horticulture). Education also came into it, of course – the more knowledge we had, the more we could give to our customers.
Now we’ve just started our second business, called Landscaping Group. It’s a separate sister business that will slowly but surely come to fruition.
Why did you become a tradesperson?
I used to be a chef, and then went into food manufacturing with my father. We won awards for our donuts and muffins, but there’s no customer satisfaction in food manufacturing. Plus, every day was a long day, stuck inside with no windows. That’s why I changed – I wanted to work outdoors, during the day, and get to actually meet and greet customers.
I was doing a lot of earthmoving and truck driving, and I have licences for all of that – so it just started from there. I started mowing and gardening to see how it went and then gave up the excavation to focus on gardening. I wasn’t qualified at the time, but I’ve always liked designing and creation and I learnt as I went along. I’m in the industry because I love what I’m doing – and my customers know that.
What do you love most about being a tradesperson?
I love being outdoors. During winter it can be a bit rough, but you enjoy the seasons. The physical side is very demanding and it keeps you fit. If you’re mowing for a day, you’ll easily do 20 kilometres of walking. Your job is your gym membership!
What makes your business unique?
Honesty, reliability and professionalism. That’s pretty much our motto. If we stick by those three principles, people will trust us with their homes and respect us as a business.
What is your top piece of advice for someone about to start up a small business?
Be present. If you’re thinking of getting into business because you want to walk away and be the big boss, it ain’t gonna happen. Customers need to see you and speak to you. They buy you at the end of the day, so you have to work in your business – it can’t run itself.
There are also a lot of areas of business that you need to be skilled in. Admin, bookwork and printing are things people don’t think about, but if you’re not knowledgeable in those areas, take the time to learn. You have to be willing to put in the long hours. I’m always working at night to research how I can improve my business and make things better, and you can find me responding to customers at 10:30pm to ensure we’re quick and efficient.
Asking for reviews can be tricky at times. What are some of the ways you ask your customers to provide feedback?
We guarantee satisfaction on every job – so after the work is finished, I’ll always go back and follow up with the customer to ensure they’re completely happy with the level of service and quality of the work completed. Once I know they’re satisfied, I then ask for a review.
I introduce them to True Local and explain why it’s important that we get reviews. I tell them what it means for our business, and how it’s like word of mouth for us. Reviews enable people to understand what you do, how you go about it and how trustworthy you are.
Once people understand this, they are more likely to leave feedback for you.
What advice would you give to other local businesses who might want to increase their online reviews on platforms like True Local?
Never get disheartened if you can’t get a review the first time – sometimes it takes four visits before a customer will leave any feedback. Little reminders help us get over the line eventually.
We are currently looking at incentivising our customers to refer a friend through an offer or marketing channel. We’re working on this to be our next step – it’s not currently active.
What types of content do you upload to your True Local listing? How often do you upload things?
We constantly add photos of completed jobs, and adjust the description with any new promotions or campaigns we’re running. We also create more lifestyle type content – fun facts and silly things that connect us to day-to-day life and keep people interested. Changing up the content makes it look like there’s movement – it’s not a stagnant page.
We also filter everything through Facebook. Even though we direct people to True Local to see our reviews, we make sure that content is available elsewhere so we can reach a potential customer wherever they are browsing.
If you can’t do any of this yourself, you just have to employ someone to do it – marketing is a key area that I wasn’t familiar with, so I brought my sister Georgia on board to manage it.
Do you have any tips and tricks on your True Local listing for other small business owners?
Customers want you to be easy to connect with and to understand what you do quickly – we have become impatient and everyone is time poor these days. So you need to create visually engaging content, and share this across all platforms. And be mobile – you’ll lose customers and potential customers if you aren’t.