That was the overarching message at the latest online networking session from the newest East Cheshire business connections and publishing organisation, Marketing WAM.
Members joined for a bi-weekly status call last week and most were upbeat about prospects in the coming weeks and months.
Matt Galloway of Poynton-based family business Galloways Printers is spending his 150th year of trading in circumstances nobody would have foreseen, but after a total shutdown is now seeing some shoots of recovery. He said:
It’s not easy with clients either still working from home or furloughed, but there are jobs starting to come back in now. We’re managing the social distancing pretty well too – plenty of space in the factory to play with. We are going to use antimicrobial coatings on as many printed paper products as we can going forward. It will add another layer of protection to the standard Govt guidelines for safe workplaces. We have had quite a lot of interest in that.”
Sarah Jane Dunhill, Partner, Head of Commercial and Civil Litigation at Poole Alcock, said business had been pretty steady since lockdown and the team was getting used to a new ‘virtual’ way of working.
We have new enquiries coming in across all departments. Courts are still open to a degree. We are listening to hearings over the phone or via video link and we are getting used to virtual ‘ bundles’ of documentation. Conveyancing work has picked up now the restrictions have been lifted. People are on their way back into work or still working from home but broadly speaking it’s a positive picture. This is being supported by a regular narrative – blogs and webinars – to engage people online which is working well.”
Mandy Fazelynia, Director at All Communications from Zest4, said after being super busy setting people up to work from home they are now equally busy keeping them there and fine-tuning the solutions that worked best.
“Things like soft phones have become really popular. These work by installing a programme on your PC so that it becomes your phone, you don’t need a desk phone anymore and you can work from anywhere. You can access applications for your mobile phone, you can conference screen, share messages internally and there’s free calls between staff members.
“Our customers are telling us WFH is not temporary, and this new way of life could be in place until 2021 and beyond. A lot have said they will not be going back to having everyone in the office 9-5 Mon-Fri. So, our job now is get the systems working seamlessly across the whole business, wherever their workforce is based and do things better than before. That’s an exciting challenge for us.”
All Communications is offering a free review of existing comms tools for local businesses.
“We can come out and look, see what you’ve got, what you like, what works and what doesn’t and give you recommendations on the way forward.”
Carl Enser from Fabric IT does not think he will be back in his offices this year and is indeed debating whether he needs an office at all.
“Microsoft is not returning to its offices until 2021 and it makes you think. Can we run our business without an office of this size?
“We have been busy on security solutions in recent weeks. Cybercrime in small businesses is up 195% according to latest Microsoft figures, so we need more protection in place.”
Glynn Jones from financial services business Ascendis said panic seems to have subsided among the client base and he was busy navigating customers though the government funding schemes.
The Bounce Back Loan scheme is taking up time as we try to give guidance and reassurance on a constantly changing picture. The positives are that I think we’ve got clients through that process now, it’s obviously the cheapest, readily available cash you can get your hands on. In theory it’s a quick and easy way of getting £50K into a business that can be sat there and only used if needed.
“There’s also some chat now about funding requirements outside of those schemes and businesses seem to be thinking about the next stage and not just about the initial survival period. It’s more now about how we plan for the back end of the year and 2021.”
On keeping the company culture going during lockdown, and indeed beyond, with half in half out workforce Richard Higginson from Marketing Stockport recommended a printed newsletter – with Galloways doing it on super safe paper!
We are ‘onlined’ out and it would be good to read a company update at your leisure. I have seen them with key messages around client work / customer satisfaction in tough times, strategy for office return, what the new normal will look like, colleague news, fun quizzes and recipe ideas, as well as plans for the future longer-term in a column from the MD. Reassuring stuff.”
Marketing WAM’s next Zoom meeting is June 2nd at 10.30am. For details of how to join the session please email firstname.lastname@example.org