We asked eight Tees business leaders what has been the biggest challenge to their business during the coronavirus lockdown – and how have they met that challenge. These are their answers…
Karl Pemberton, managing director, Active Chartered Financial Planners
“One of Active’s greatest assets is our culture – this is our people and the camaraderie we have with each other. Unfortunately, like most, we have moved from working in a buoyant and vibrant office environment, into a remote one that some may deem as stale, lonely and boring.
“Our greatest challenge has therefore been a leadership and management shift to ensure all members of the team still feel part of something special, and still feel connected. This takes significantly more time – which is limited – to do effectively, and great wifi, which is also often limited. Video calls are, therefore, essential and appreciated!”
Sharon Lane, managing director, Tees Components
“The biggest challenge at Tees was to feel confident we were still keeping our people safe and well. Our brilliant buyer Lorna organised a plumber to install handwashing stations, alcohol gel and cleaning products. We did lots of training sessions, and were able to quickly get high standards of hygiene in a shop which is usually pretty dirty!
“People have been very anxious, though, despite the measures. It’s difficult to concentrate, and our work isn’t the sort you can do with one eye on it. I temporarily closed the workshops at the weekend – we need to look after mental health and wellbeing.”
Mike Marsh, managing director, Group Industrial
“Group Industrial remain adherent to the ever-moving guidelines to achieve the ultimate goal of beating the Covid-19 virus. The health of our workers, their families and the general public must remain paramount throughout this unfortunate time.
“With Business structures continuously adopting different control measures, it is important that as a company we all anticipate the reality of a potential downturn in business requirements during this period. However, we can remain positive and structured to continue to deliver services that can be adopted within the guidelines. We sincerely hope that the region can overcome this period collectively and return to continue positive and thriving business success.”
Frans Calje, CEO, PD Ports
“As vital pieces of national infrastructure, UK Government deems ports critical to the Covid-19 response and all of our people have been identified as key workers. As a major UK port at Teesport, one of the biggest challenges we face is helping to keep supply chains moving and the country supplied with essential daily items such as food, fuel, pharmaceuticals and other vital materials.
“Our priority throughout the outbreak remains to safeguard the wellbeing of our people. Our business continuity management team is meeting daily and continues to monitor the situation, following guidance and advice from Public Health England and UK Government.”
Elaine McLaine-Wood, managing partner, Punch Robson Solicitors
“We retain a full caseload within Punch Robson’s commercial department. What was apparent shortly before the lockdown was that a number of transactions had been placed on hold. We had a very strong start to the year with more business than ever but once the lockdown was announced we had to provide for some staff to work from home, to reduce the number of staff and change the way we operated in line with government guidelines.
“We are now in week two of the lockdown and we are still completing transactions, despite some being placed on hold. We are also taking new instructions for transactions and matters of a non-transactional nature.
“Last week in particular was very stressful on both a professional and a personal level. However, it has got easier as days pass – and knowing we are a part of a strong network within Teesside. Punch Robson has traded through two world wars, the three-day week in the ‘80s and the recession but we certainly look forward to getting past Covid-19.”
Helen Stewart, business development director, Calm Digital
“One of the biggest challenges of the lockdown for us at Calm has been clients looking to pause their marketing efforts until things are stable again. We’ve specifically written a blog post around this, and have re-assured our clients that we are still here to support them when they look to restart their campaigns. It’s a very tough time for all businesses at the moment, but we’re all trying to remain positive and optimistic.
“Another challenge has been around communication with our team and clients. We’ve used the technology available to have regular daily meet ups and virtual meetings where possible. Our business is in a fortunate position that we are able to work remotely very easily. If any business needs support, we are always here for advice, expertise or help with any digital problem. Looking forward to normality again, hopefully soon!”
Chris Petty, managing director, Cornerstone Business Solutions
“Being in the IT industry, we have always been geared up for remote working, so to send all of our staff home to work remotely was quite a quick and simple process. We’ve utilised Teams – a free package as part of Office 365 – very effectively across different departments as well as a company group to encourage some kind of socialising, jokes and quizzes to try and keep some of the office banter going, as everyone is in the same boat and finding working from home strange and potentially lonely.
“Our biggest task so far has been the amount of calls we have had from our customers asking for their staff to be set up for remote working. We had to put all of our technical staff on overtime and weekend work to get the demand done as quickly as possible to allow all of our customers to continue as best as they could in this crazy time.”
Harriet Spalding, business development manager, Mandale Group
“One of our biggest challenges has been to keep the customer interest in our new homes’ developments at the level it always has been. For us, it is usually key to attract customers to site so they can experience our show homes first hand.
“However, since the announcement amounting to an effective lockdown, we have had to close our show homes until further notice. We arranged for a company to carry out virtual tours of each of our show homes, providing any visitor to our website with the ability to undertake a VR tour from their living room. We’ve also had a change in approach to the mix of media we would usually use for advertisements and a switch from face-to-face customer meetings to telephone appointments, so we have virtually made home buying a complete online experience.”