- Robert Faulkner, Managing Director, Datadial
- Anna Middleton, Founder, London Hygienist
- Mark Tremlett, Director, Naturalmat
- David Truby, Managing Director, Greensleeves Lawn Care
- Vanessa Arbuthnott, Owner, Vanessa Arbuthnott
- Carla Lett, Founder, MyBump2Baby
- Simon Daukes, Owner, Ash Barton
- Simon Young, Managing Director, Institution
- Sergio Afonso, Managing Director, Absolute Translations
- Jeremy Stern, Managing Director, PromoVeritas
- Freya Blount, Founder, Gather and Graze
- Polly and Alex, Founders, We Are Studio
- Abdul Shakur Managing Director, Etica Leaders
With lockdown restrictions being gradually lifted in phases, many businesses are getting ready to place their post lockdown plans into action. 13 UK business owners across industries talk to Real Business about their plans and hopes for the new ‘business as usual’.
From social distancing in offices to changing the tactile features of a showroom, business across the world are coming to terms with changing the way they operate. Many businesses including large retail chains have fallen at the unpredicted pandemic and the entire world has come to a loss. Here’s what 13 business owners are doing to manage their businesses as the economy eventually opens up.
Robert Faulkner, Managing Director, Datadial
“As a web business that has invested in technology prior to lockdown we have been able to work from home reasonably effectively and we foresee this continuing for the time being in terms of maintaining the status quo with existing clients and businesses. Meetings via Zoom and Teams can be more effective in terms of screen sharing, recording what has been said and focus on the subject in hand (and being able to dip out when you don’t need to be 100% involved!). In terms of returning to the office it’s important that people don’t feel at risk and that coming back is voluntary. It’s a great opportunity to review what is an office, what makes an office and why we sit here 7+ hours a day?
I would envisage that business development teams would need to convene first, to re-find the symbiotic energy required to drive the business forward and not to let Covid be an excuse for stagnation or regressions.”
Anna Middleton, Founder, London Hygienist
“Things are about to become very different; the future of dental/hygiene visits is still holding a question. Appointment time has now increased to 1 hour per patient and a ‘downtime’ period in between patients will now be in place. The number of patients I will see in a day will now be decreased to around 6-8 max, I used to see between 12-16 a day. PPE has changed significantly with the addition of gowns, shoe/hair covering and the type of masks I will now wear to carry out aerosol-based procedures.
It will currently be 1-2 room max and a limit on patients waiting in the premises.”
Mark Tremlett, Director, Naturalmat
“Our showrooms have been closed to customers since the advent of their respective lockdowns. During this time, our in-store colleagues have been sharing their expert knowledge with their customers via phone and email consultations. As a homeware store, UK Government guidelines allowed us the opportunity to reopen fully from the 13th May, but we instead opted for a cautious, phased approach.
From the 25th of May we opened our Chiswick showroom up to individual private viewings, with strict social distancing and disinfection measures in place – including a fresh sheet and pillowcase per customer, combined with a large airy showroom with space to relax and experience our range of beds and mattresses. From the 15th of June we will be reopening our Chiswick and Topsham showrooms to the public, with a continued focus on providing a safe and relaxed environment for our customers and colleagues.”
David Truby, Managing Director, Greensleeves Lawn Care
“We usually are a tight knit office setup but have found ourselves being forced to change – which is showing us some real benefits. We have managed to partition our offices to enable everybody in our Head Office to have separate working offices. Zoom has become our new normal and enabled us to stay engaged with customers, staff, and franchisees throughout the UK without getting in the car. The miles saved so far is approaching 10,000 between us and the hours and money we are getting back as a result is proving a real bonus in both private lives and to the business. It makes me ask myself why we didn’t do this sooner!”
Vanessa Arbuthnott, Owner, Vanessa Arbuthnott
“We are coping with COVID-19 with a reduction in staff, each member has their own room presently. They have their own fabric roller, workstation, and scissors! Doors and windows open for loads of ventilation. I am working from home and using FaceTime to talk to my staff. We have closed the shop and showroom, so we have no customers coming into the space and all suppliers leave the goods at the door.
I’ve started Zoom and FaceTime design consultations which I can run from home. This is a free of charge service so I can help people from their homes.”
Carla Lett, Founder, MyBump2Baby
“MyBump2Baby is UK’s leading pregnancy – pre-school directory. Currently, expectant parents and new parents are missing out on classes and groups. We have adapted the directory to show online classes available for local parents. They can obtain the support they need whilst supporting local businesses from the comfort of their own home and without risking their health. I am in the process of launching my two podcasts and instead of meeting guests I am conducting all interviews via Zoom. I am nervous about things returning to normal but at the same time eager to return to a routine.”
Simon Daukes, Owner, Ash Barton
“Ash Barton has taken this enforced closure as an opportunity and has used the time to do a further £100K of investment including a full-sized cinema screen video! Everyone has been offered a full range of no cost options and nobody has been asked for more than the 2021/2 rate-card figures. Every booking also has the option to revert to their original dates at zero notice should the situation improve in the forthcoming months. Transparency and honesty will be key. Couples will prefer wedding venues with a high degree of flexibility and where they are free to do what they want. After all, they would have waited 1-2 years to have their DIY dream wedding, so they deserve to have magic around every corner.”
Simon Young, Managing Director, Institution
“We as a business are completely changing the way we work, getting rid of the office for good and all working flexibly from home and remotely! I’m going to be building in complete flexibility into the working day for our staff, they are saving on average an hour of travel a day which is saving some of my staff over £300 a month in travel costs. Prior to lockdown, I would have had a trust problem with remote working, now I’ve seen more productivity, happier healthier people, and more communication using video.”
Sergio Afonso, Managing Director, Absolute Translations
“We are planning to continue working with a mix of home and office, rotating when staff come in so we can ensure social distancing happens. We are also helping many customers gain new reach globally by having their website translated. Working internationally, we were already well setup for the change of working practices across the world.”
Jeremy Stern, Managing Director, PromoVeritas
“We are returning to the office on the 15th June, but with staff split into two teams. Team one will come in on a Monday and Tuesday, team two will come in on a Wednesday and Thursday and the rest of the week, work from home, this will allow us more room in the office. On a desk unit of six, only three desks will be occupied each day with most of the chairs in the staff room are being removed to limit overcrowding.”
Freya Blount, Founder, Gather and Graze
“We are a grazing company based in London and Manchester, brand event catering was the core side of the business (clients include, PLT, Samsung, Twitter etc.). We are pivoting out of lockdown to a Grazing Box delivery service which essentially means we are focussing on high volume, micro orders directly to consumers rather than brands. It’s been super successful so far and means we can run the business at a social distance.”
Polly and Alex, Founders, We Are Studio
“We will be keeping our staff furloughed for at least the next two weeks while we trial and work out how to make our studio space work safely with distancing. We will be zoning all the spaces to make that a simpler process and will be keeping our retouch WFH. We have trialled and are now able to offer socially distanced model shoots – unrecognisable (where it is cropped below the nose) so no hair and make-up is needed – and clients attending on zoom with a rig of cameras throughout the studio so they can be completely involved. We are also investing in PR and marketing as we see this as a time to try generate new business, as many brands will have had their access to studios limited by those that have been and remain closed.”
Abdul Shakur Managing Director, Etica Leaders
“The community of new staff have allowed to utilise the time in lockdown to get better at what we do and review our systems so we can focus on growth post lockdown or Covid-19. Etica has focused on growing their online community and creating more content or adding more value through podcasts, webinars and insights whilst changing its target audience. Etica have taken the challenge of home-working and been very successful with their team even working from different countries! This effort has helped nurture new ideas and focus on the tech driven industries to maintain a core service and then expand outwards.”
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