When Government, caught it has to be said between a rock and hard place, decided a hurriedly implemented lockdown was required in late March, 50plus, like a multitude of others companies, sat down, tried to understand the rules, looked at our customer and service provider needs, tried to understand the risks in general and for individuals and created plans for how to meet emergency needs and continue on a sustainable financial basis.
What became rapidly clear was that we had to continue providing services. Water pipes, electricity cables and components, gutters, appliances and the multitude of other parts of houses (and indeed in some medical and commercial establishments) don’t suddenly cease to fail or cause problems. We decided:
- We had to keep an emergency service going
- That the ’rules’ allowed for this
- Some customers and service providers were at increased risk and this had to be taken into account
- Appropriate protective equipment was needed
- That we had to investigate all available funding options
- That both practical and financial plans were required, including a few clearly understood ‘rules of engagement’.
In the first days we worked through all jobs that were in progress or about to start and decided which had to be completed and which could be put on hold and customers ‘re-contacted’ when normal service could resume. 50plus is fortunate in that we have invested in modern IT systems. This meant that we could implement changes and create new processes, procedures and communication channels quickly. We ‘tagged’ works on our jobs database that has to be put on hold so we could easily list them later, prioritised those that couldn’t be, started over with schedules using our shared staff calendars and contacted numerous customers with revised plans. Clearly some had to be disappointed but thank you dear customers, you nearly all understood the necessity. To make sure the majority knew what was going on we created additional web site pages and changed telephone messaging. From a practical perspective we were set and the plans worked pretty well.
Our staff were amazing. PAYE staff had to be furloughed; we are not the sort of business that builds up large cash reserves. Our contract service providers were wonderfully cooperative and a big thank you must go out to them. Emergencies and essential works were attended to, works which could wait identified and customers informed and subsequently re-contacted and most completed by August. The few exceptions were those where material supply meant we had to wait and in a few cases still are.
The financial planning was more complex. A new 50plus business plan was developed, the reporting data spreadsheet morphed into a cash flow plan, grants and loans applied for a recovery plan created. We are still using that today and it’s created a new level of detailed financial planning that is very helpful and will remain in place.
Ask us in a years’ time how it’s going. We suspect we’ll be living with the repercussions of Covid-19 for a good few years.