We asked local business leaders for the best bit of advice they could give their fellow businesses during the coronavirus crisis?
David Henderson, executive director, px
“Covid-19 has presented many challenges. PX operate some of the most critical national infrastructure in the UK. Our job is to produce gas and electricity to power hospitals, homes and ensure other essential services can be provided. Teamwork and trust has never been more essential than it is now, within our business, our industry but all businesses and sectors too. Our teams are working together in a way that continues to impress us, meeting government guidelines around hygiene, social distancing and isolation whilst still remaining operational.
“Also, our support teams are all working remotely, meaning our people pulling together like never before to deliver. That’s the same for all businesses – everyone has to work together. We work within an industry where contingency planning plays an intrinsic role, but the Covid-19 crisis has certainly highlighted the importance of this. It allowed us to mobilise quickly and I’m sure more businesses would benefit from contingency planning.”
Claire Preston, Tees Businesswoman of the Year 2018-19
“Agility is often referred to in business and a lesson I share is from insight gained from Lean Startup philosophy by Eric Reis. In brief, the philosophy is to aim for a Formula One vehicle, but start with a skateboard and adapt. The same concept is presented in a multitude of ways, but essentially means ‘Don’t let perfect get in the way of good’ – keep moving, keep listening and learning.
“So many businesses are now seeking new ways of working, adapting their offer in order to maintain business continuity and survive through the identification of new opportunities. Now, more than ever, innovation is emerging all around us, proving that necessity really is the mother of all invention.”
Peter Snaith, partner, Womble Bond Dickinson
“Reputations are forged in a crisis. It’s important to communicate with furloughed employees because they will be anxious about their jobs, particularly when colleagues begin to return to work. Agree a communication plan with staff – such as how often you will keep in touch and what information you will send them. Check in with them to see how they are coping and send them links to resources that may help. Also let non-furloughed staff know what’s happening. If no decisions have yet been made, tell employees this to reassure them.
“In order to be able to claim the available grants, employers must make sure that no furloughed employees do any work. They should therefore consider using employees’ private email addresses to keep in regular contact with them, but always confining this to non-work related matters.”
Carla Keegans, director, Ethical Lettings Company
“The best bit of advice I could make at this time is to keep calm and look after your staff A clear head is essential to deal with any challenging situation and this is an unprecedented crisis so it is even more important right now. Keeping calm enables you to better prioritise, better judge changing situations, and ultimately make sound decisions.
“Passing this calmness onto our teams is also vital. Staff may not be used to remote working and may have health or financial anxieties. In times of challenge, business leaders need to step up and that includes looking after staff – make the right decisions, don’t make hasty short-term decisions. Be the boss you’d look up to!”
Ken Devereux, director, Devereux Transport and Distribution
“Our company is operating at around 70%. Our domestic removal guys are furloughed, as are a percentage of our transport people. We have customers within the food sector, manufacturers, retailers and suppliers to the food makers, and as such have been operating this work as normal.
“Our drivers report that the roads are a lot quieter, congestion has disappeared but unfortunately so have most of the facilities they rely on as well, with hot food very difficult to obtain. We appreciate the work our truck drivers and indeed all drivers are doing, as do the Government. Hopefully, when these terrible times are over the work that has been done by these ‘Knights of the Road’ will be remembered and the poor infrastructure that exists will be improved. There should be a truck park in every town, as was the case prior to the eighties.
“The Government is doing a good job, in the face of it all, and look to be supporting as many people and as many companies as possible. There will always be someone or sector left out. The people in power are not slow in admitting that and trying to help. I suppose I will be the same as most people and worry about what we are left with in our country when the dust settles and hope it will be enough.”