Like lots of businesses who've been around for more than 20 years, Stopgap are used to getting through tough times. We survived the downturn post 9/11 and big 2008 recession, but the enormous impact this one is having across so many sectors is unprecedented. Our Operations Director Paulo discusses what it has been like for him and the rest of the leadership team to navigate Stopgap through these uncertain waters…
The first thing that stands out is the pace at which everything has happened, especially over the first few days and weeks. Even for an established SME, creating new policies and working strategies at a relentless pace has been a challenge. Luckily we are like one big family at Stopgap and we all support each other, which has helped drive through change. Also having an owner like Claire who lives and breathes every aspect of the business has really helped, not to mention the importance of having a good FD who has been able to put her financial modelling skills to good use, exploring multiple scenarios, giving us the confidence to make the right decisions.
There has been so much to think about and action. It’s some of the small things that you just wouldn’t have thought about, like organising the re-delivery of post! One of the more challenging aspects has been pausing activity with certain suppliers and renegotiating terms of contracts that were agreed in a very different financial climate. But everyone we work with has been extremely understanding and supportive, just as we have tried to be with our clients.
It has showcased just how integral good IT and systems are to a business. Luckily we already had a flexible working policy in place along with the technology to support it, which included everyone having laptops, mobile phones and a new VOIP phone solution that we implemented in January. The challenge was that our servers were designed for up to 50% of staff to work from home at any given time, so we quickly had to spec up our hardware before the lockdown.
One of the most important things to keep us going has been constant communication within the Leadership team, but also with our teams. Knowing exactly what is happening and the challenges the different teams are facing is vital in allowing us to make the best decisions possible. It's also been important to reassure staff that we have a plan in place that guarantees not only that we're OK for the next few months, but more importantly, puts us in a strong position to build the business back in the following months when life begins to return to normal. We chose to furlough about 75% of Stopgappers, which was tough, but in my mind, absolutely the right thing to do. The big unknown is just how long it is going to take to get back to BAU - the good thing for us is we're ready, even if it's not until September
Phone calls and emails are great, but like so many people, we've found real value in video conferencing tools such as Zoom and Skype. Seeing my colleagues (via video) during my working day helps keep morale high and further enhances our bond. Obviously we talk about 'work stuff' but also try to replicate office life as much as possible still having those 5/10 minute tea/coffee catch-ups to talk about life in general, whether it’s about what we've been watching on Netflix, or how you're keeping the kids busy and your sanity with all this time at home.
We’ve also maintained our Friday afternoon drinks tradition with what has become the virtual “Stopgap Arms” Zoom call. We know how difficult these times are, but sticking together, keeping a sense of humour and our spirits up has always been the Stopgap way and nothing will change that.
All of us at Stopgap are here to talk, whether it's about your current job search or if you are a business looking to recruit at the moment. Just give us a call - 020 8332 7656.
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