Traci Wilson-Brown, Office Manager at WWOOF

3 min read

Life isn’t easy, but adversity can be a good thing.

Traci Wilson-Brown, Office Manager at WWOOF

When the summer bushfires made accessing the WWOOF office in rural Victoria not just tricky but unsafe, Traci had to act fast to keep operations as smooth as possible. It wasn’t long before the bushfires impacted her not just professionally, but personally too. But Traci is bouncing back and adjusting to the new normal of life outside of the office. Traci shared with us the importance of embracing technology, how life has changed for her customers and volunteers and what her team is doing to keep the business on track.

WWOOF stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. It’s a worldwide program, that started in England back in 1971, by a secretary who wanted to get out into the country on weekends. She and a group of friends would go out onto organic farms and help out for the weekend, and then go back to town for the rest of the week.

Gradually, it grew throughout the world and there were more and more countries coming on board. There’s now about 65 countries with WWOOF groups, and we’ve been running here since 1981. We’re up to our 39th year this year.

WWOOF is a volunteer exchange program, so we have volunteers from all over the world and host members. To be a host, you have to be growing or producing something organically, and you have to be able to provide meals and accommodation to anyone who comes to help you.

Basically it works on an exchange of information, skills , knowledge and English.

The volunteers have an amazing experience where they can walk in someone else’s shoes for a while. They learn where their food comes from, and how hard it sometimes is to get food on your plate.

Volunteers also learn what the hosts go through with droughts, bushfires and floods. They actually really live them. The bushfires in January and February affected not just our office but mine and my colleague’s lifestyle properties.

We had fires everywhere. Both of our places were burnt but we managed to save the WWOOF office. The bushfires in January and February affected not just our office but mine and my colleague’s lifestyle properties. We had fires everywhere. Both of our places were burnt but we managed to save the WWOOF office.

We’d been evacuating off and on for a month and a half before the fire actually got to the office. There were times when the road was cut, and we couldn’t get to work – so we actually got quite good at working from home.

Fortunately, because we’d set the whole WWOOF program up so that it was web based, we actually realised that we could do everything from home.

Embracing technology made a huge difference, and meant we could streamline our work. It prepared us really well for COVID-19, because we had spent weeks not working at work.

Web has become such an essential part of our business. We’ve had a few of these COVID-19 kind of situations to deal with, and we do things a lot differently now than we used to. We’ve worked hard to embrace technology.

We certainly tried to embrace the suck and learn from it. Resilience is being flexible and creative, and driven in your passion for your business to survive, adapt and improve. When something goes really bad, you need to embrace it and work out how you can do whatever it is you do better.

Life isn’t easy, but adversity can be a good thing.

The key is to try and see the positives. I think if there are things in your business model that aren’t working, anything like this is going to really show them up. It kind of makes it easier to see them.

We looked at our monthly expenses and asked ourselves, “Do we really need that?” We did a thorough analysis of all our expenses, and we sat down and worked out what we really needed to have, and what we really didn’t.

We can really look at those numbers, and the numbers are everything. If you don’t know where your numbers are, you don’t know what your expenses are, and you don’t know what your income is, then it’s really hard to plan.

We used Reckon One a lot to work out where our money was going. It’s a really good way for us to get quick snapshots of where our money is coming in and what cost centre it’s coming in from – whether we’re getting more money in from our hosts, or our WWOOFers from overseas.

At any second, and particularly with COVID-19, I can look at every single day, and tell you how much our income has dropped from last year.

I’ve got a handy report set up on our dashboard that shows me where we’re sitting. So I can tell at a glance exactly where we are at, and I know what our year-to-date figures are. I always keep an eye on those numbers.

COVID-19 has forced us all into isolation, but it’s a good time to reflect, implement, and action changes.

For us, resilience is about really having time to reflect and work out what we can all do better.

Find out more about Reckon One software and our extensive reporting capabilities here.

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