One month in:
How we’re coping with the effects of the Coronavirus…
It’s February. Order book bursting at the seams. One of our biggest video production bookings ever on the horizon. Life was good and the outloook was extremely positive. Then, all I can remember was the imminent movement of a dark cloud that started moving faster towards us.
It’s one of those things that didn’t seem like it would actually affect us. Despite the increase in problems in Europe, somehow, we felt immune. And then one project at a time, they postponed, they cancelled, clients asked if we were still open and if we could accommodate. Some cancelled with less than 24 hours notice as clients started to display symptoms, and sensible decisions were made.
Now, I’m writing this to share our perspective in case anyone else can pull from the positives – we’ve all been hit by this. No matter who you are or what you do, this virus has impacted our daily lives.
So here are the steps that we took at the beginning – what we’ve prioritised, and how we’ve manoeuvred in order to look after our team, our company and our clients.
The moment that the effects of the virus on normal everyday business started to become apparent, we started to make changes.
- We offered our clients alternatives: moving shoots, shooting and editing remotely
- We moved our team to home working: edit systems were installed into our editors’ homes, video and photography equipment was moved into our creators’ homes, and the rest of us can happily work from laptops to mange the business
- Current projects continued. Aside from slightly slower internet for remote video delivery, we were able to offer business as normal for our video clients who had projects in the edit
Business As Possible
As a new norm in the way of working and operating has taken hold, we’ve aligned ourselves with the ‘Business As Possible’ mentality. Clearly, it’s not business as normal, but this statement is designed to instil confidence that we’re still working, albeit within the restrictions that follow the advice we’ve been given.
- We’re using #BusinessAsPossible across our ramped-up social media releases so that companies know that we are still open and still working
- We’ve adjusted our approach to be able to edit, shoot and deliver from our homes, which is helping our food-based clients who are in some instances getting busier!
- We’re supporting our negatively-affected clients by sharing their content and creating quick short-form content for them to share, helping to generate more interest in their business at a crucial time
- For our own promotions, we’re doing more content marketing, the writing for which has been spread across the whole team
- We’re speaking with clients who are anxious to shoot about spending this period of time in lockdown to fully prepare new projects, so that when filming is able to resume this can be done quickly and we’ll be better placed for fast turnarounds
- In order to help generate as much new business as possible, we’re offering more deals and discounts than we otherwise would, including deferred payments where we can
Looking After Ourselves
Looking after our team’s wellbeing is our first consideration, and it was heartbreaking to see companies having to lay off staff so early into their difficulties.
We made the decision to retain our team at all costs – it’s taken a lot of graft and energy to get Pocket to where we are today and we have no intention of allowing that to slip away from us. No criticism is intended to any other business, incidentally – we all have different ways of running our companies and we’re lucky enough to be lean in terms of running costs, which makes this relatively easy by comparison to many others.
But, that now means that we have 6 people dotted around London who need to be able to work.
- We’ve built a new routine into our working day
- We have a 9.35am call to chat about who’s doing what in the day to come
- At 4.35pm we have a video call to discuss any difficulties, problems or needs, and talk through what we’ve done during the day
- Friday drinks (or vrinks!) by video was a great success on its first Friday. Not having to talk about work stuff made it feel a little more like an end of week chat in the bar, albeit from a distance
- We’re trying to advise on wellbeing – from taking regular screen breaks, encouraging walks around the block, and generally to let us know if anyone needs anything
- There’s also plenty of work still going on, so for some the day’s work isn’t that different, whereas for some others we’ve had to work out what the most useful tasks are and allocate them
- We’re also encouraging online training – something that we’re normally dreadful at finding spare time for!
Not ones to shy away from a challenge, this is going to be a huge achievement to come through this, with reduced income, and the limited government support that’s out there. Happy to be candid here, cash flow and having enough money to live is the biggest issue outside of people’s health right now.
- We very quickly added to our business overdraft, and Barclays have been incredibly supportive in helping us to set that up
- We’ve reduced all non-essential spend, by cancelling some service subscriptions that we need less amongst others
- As a team, we’ve reduced all of our wages, including directors – we are generally all in this together and we’ll only take what we need to live each month for the time being
- We’re now also investigating the CBILS loan that the government has offered, and we’ll then take a view on how much we actually need from one month to the next
- Lastly, and thankfully, we have lots of projects that we’re still expecting payments in from
This is our plan, and it has given us months of life as a business that we can keep under review, being agile and brave to make the decisions that we need to.
I said from the beginning that we have to be mindful of the business that we want to come back to, and guide the path towards it, dodging the many boulders that are being thrown in the way. If we surrendered services, staff, our office, then our business will suffer for that immediately when the restrictions are lifted.
So we’re taking this time to do a full business review: looking at our pricing options, the services we offer, how we can improve, whether we need new suppliers to help cover any gaps.
As you’ll gather, always the optimist, we will get through this – and so will you. Far from me to lecture or advise anyone else, but my biggest piece of advice if I were asked, is to try to stay positive – tackle one challenge after another, and if the way ahead is blocked, find another way.
Let’s see what the next months bring, and we’ll see if the optimism holds!
Good luck out there, and stay safe.