Client Interview – Life in lockdown

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We have been in contact with all our clients about support and survival and lots of pretty scary and negative things recently. So we wanted to assure you that it’s not all doom and gloom.

Many of you have asked us how other people are doing, so we thought we would bring you some insight into some of the more positive voices we are hearing.

Here are some snippets from three of our clients on their pandemic experience:

Bunker Creative – Supercharging brands. Enabling clients.

Recipe Design Limited – Strategic creative agency – experts in creating product, packaging and brand pipelines from concept definition to commercialisation.

Liveforce  – An end-to-end event staffing platform built to streamline the management and scheduling process. 

What are the effects of Covid 19 on your business?

“Some of our clients have been impacted by COVID19, and in turn, some projects have been pushed back. We’ve managed to ride it out pretty well and although there are challenges across the business landscape, we continue to make monthly profit and have actually been winning new clients. I think the single biggest challenge we face is collaboration, of course there are lots of platforms out there but when you are working on strategy / concept generation, you can’t beat people in a room. Below is a summary of internal and external factors as a result of COVID19.

Effects on business internally;

  • Collaboration is a challenge on certain projects.
  • Recruiting is a challenge as conduction interviews purely through Zoom is not as effective.
  • From the start, we looked to reduce costs by engaging with business partners to see if discounts were available.
  • The hours we are working has gone up as Zoom calls take up time you need to catch up on.
  • Positive mental attitude of the team has driven good results.

External effects;

  • We’ve found that some clients are taking this time to review their digital presence.
  • Due to the social distancing, some clients are thinking of new ways to reach and engage with their customers.
  • The new informal approach to video calling has actually deepened our relationship with some of our clients”.

“We’ve had to rapidly adapt our working practices ensuring that the team continues to communicate regularly and that all employees have the best home working environments possible. The team have embraced newly adopted IT platforms including Zoom, Teams, Slack and Miro to bolster effective communications.

We quickly realised that a structured working day needs reinforcing and that a collaborative approach is nurtured and maintained to ensure the wellbeing of the group. We have put several strategies in place to enable that, including blocked out lunchtime breaks across the week, regular resourcing meetings, open group and 1:1 conversations about Covid and its impact on the business and individuals, holiday and return to work planning sessions, and of course the ubiquitous group quiz session at 4pm Friday to bring a close to the week.

Keeping a very close eye on financial planning has been amplified, with the board reviewing and managing cashflow more frequently than ever before. To supplement this a non-exec director has joined the team bringing extensive financial and business experience to help improve profitability, operational and financial controls to accelerate our business development and overall performance. We’ve also been reflecting on our London studio, which up until recently provided a level of credibility to our offer. Those times have now changed and we’ll be looking at what physical environment requirements will suit the new scenarios and working practices that lie ahead. As a result there’s an opportunity to seriously reduce overheads and save staff commuting time and associated costs.

Recipe has a diverse portfolio of international clients, which has helped lessen the impact of the Corona situation. Yes some projects have been postponed and some work streams curtailed, but in the main our clients operate in sectors that find themselves seeking new opportunities. Many of our ‘Healthcare’ clients are looking to quickly react with several programmes starting that otherwise may not have been conceived pre-Corona. ‘Home’ clients too are reflecting on the new normal of domestic work practices which again builds a new and exciting perspective on future pipelines”.

“Our client base is primarily staffing agencies that supply the events industry. The event sector has taken a massive hit with business stopping literally overnight when we first went into lockdown. This has had a massive impact on our revenue with clients not in a position to continue paying their monthly subscriptions. We’ve had to offer reductions to help them with their cashflow”.

How are you staying positive?

We’ve been staying positive by;

  • Get outside and enjoy what’s around you.
  • We have PT sessions everyday at 5:30, which is a great release.
  • Adam and myself are always sending each other funny videos and finding new music discoveries.
  • Looking at how we are performing during this time is a great motivator for us as we are continuing to do well.
  • Don’t watch Piers Morgan or any news, limiting the news time has had a big impact on staying positive.
  • Do video calls often with friends and family”.

“We have a very upbeat team and have always fostered a culture of optimism. We keep the team up to date with all our commercial and cultural activities, and have a very open policy to answering direct questions from anyone across the business. We are extremely transparent with staff about our financial plans and status, with WardWilliams Creative playing a significant role in that approach. We are doing all we can to maintain a ‘work as usual’ approach and to provide a stable platform across the board. Emphasising the benefits of Covid and managing the negative aspects helps us maintain a generally positive vibe”.

“Initially, it was hard to see where our revenue drop would end and it was hard to stay positive. But we know the events industry will return and all our focus is on survival and preparing everything we can ready for the new push – hopefully later this year!”

What are you doing to ensure you are ready for when things/the economy gets moving again? Or are you still busy now?

“We have continued to be busy, but the main thing we will be doing is recruiting. We are developing our site, our CRM and our portfolio to enhance and project what we do and what we are best at. Continuing to engage with our clients through the whole process is key. Visibility is also very important, as once the economy gets going, we need to be in people’s mind”. 

“Coinciding with the outbreak of the pandemic came a company structure and name change. This is a transformation that we’d been working towards for some time. As a key part of our strategic plan for this year, we have geared up for future growth changing the business structure from a company limited by guarantee to a company limited by shares. This opens up new opportunities for investment and unlocks the opportunity to incentivise and reward the people driving our vitality.

In addition we have in the last few days invested in a new business manager who will start in early July. We’ll be supporting her with newly developed digital marketing tools and aggressive PR plan to help build a robust pipeline”.

“We’re continuing with product development and have spent a lot time on our inbound marketing activities that are already starting to pay dividends. The plan was always to move focus to this area of the business but it would have taken us a lot longer – so this has been one positive out of this situation”.

Any funny stories from your time in Lockdown?

“So we started to potty train my 2 year old son a few months back, I was on one of my first Zoom lockdown calls to a very important client which we had won recently (Christmas 2019). There were 9 of us on this call, I sneaked away to my bedroom so my son couldn’t find me so I could concentrate. Half way through the call, he walked in mid way through wetting himself saying ‘Daddy poo’, I turned around to notice that he had nothing on and it was essentially a fountain of wee projecting all across the bedroom… with a poo on the way. The client saw everything. I just turned back to them and said, ‘this is my son… say hello Freddie'”. 

“We had a very senior pharmaceutical R&D client Zoom meeting where we all agreed to come in fancy dress. The client dressed as Ironman. We also had a pussy cat and a sailor attend. A last minute rummage around my daughters old dressing up box only provided me with a multi coloured tutu which I wore as a head dress. Better planning required next time!”

Any uplifting thoughts?

“What has become apparent is the number of clients that have an “in this together” mentality which is not only helping us stay positive but having an impact on the wider industry.”

Your experience with the government loans.

There are two types of loan available to business generally.

The 80% backed business interruption loans.  All the feedback on these loans have been the same. It was hard to get. It took time, the rates given have been varied, not all very helpful in the circumstances and the exact terms have varied between banks and different customers within the same banks. All of the clients that wanted one do seem to have ended up with one but it was not straightforward and not as supportive as the government had indicated. To be fair to the banks, they have a large exposure here as they cannot reclaim it all from the government and the amounts they are extending are significant. So we can understand why they have been the way they have.

On the other end of the scale is the bounce back loans. These are for much smaller amounts, maximum is £50k but the process and speed to pay out has been simple and rapid. With some clients receiving the funds in their accounts in under 24hours. These are mainly self-certified and 100% government backed. As this is backed by the government we assume the banks have just decided to just go with the flow on this one.

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