March 23rd 2020 – a date which we will never forget. Our Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered the country to go into lock down.
Many thoughts went through my head that night – but I remember thinking as I always do – practically. So March 24th, I went into the studio, removed the computers and delivered them to our team members so that they could work from home.
March had been a strange month for us at IDEAS. Martin had already been in quarantine for 2 weeks due to a persistence cough and Suzanne also ended up in isolation due to her partner falling very ill.
Little did I know, my plan of the team working remotely was going to be short lived. Rishi Sunak announced the furlough scheme shortly after lock down. I had no intention of using the scheme – naively I believed we could all continue as normal to some extent. However, as thousands of businesses started furloughing their staff, this had a knock on effect on our business and overnight our income fell off the edge of a cliff. I was left with no choice but to start running the business alone.
I was grateful for the work we had in progress as this kept me busy and gave us a source of income. However, new leads and enquiries were far and few. Some would think, at the pace I normally go at, that this would be a welcome rest. It wasn’t. I seemed to be working more intensely than ever before. I was now solely responsible for all the “doing” as well as keeping the business afloat, ensuring my team would have jobs to come back to. Naively, I also believed lock down would only last 3 weeks and we’d spring back into normality.
As the weeks went by, I soon realised the end of the pandemic was not near. I continued to work on average 12 hour days – projects which had been parked, were picked up by clients who wanted completion quickly. I started feeling exhaustion from Zoom meetings. I had no breaks from my screen whatsoever. With all this in mind, I still felt relatively positive… although I felt lonely, I knew I wasn’t alone. I was in the same boat as many small business owners across the country. In a strange way, this provided me with some comfort.
As many of you reading this, I felt ups and downs through lock down. As someone who is slightly introverted, I welcomed the space. However, I knew that this space came because many people were losing their lives – I found this really difficult to handle. I did however keep a positive attitude the majority of the time. As I saw families spending more time together, people finding a love for the outdoors, exercising or picking up hobbies either new or old – I felt comfort – wondering if the world as we knew it was somehow going to become a different place but in a positive way for many.
As things settled into April and the country realised that this was not going to be over any time soon, I noticed orders picking up again. People had become settled into a new routine and working from home. We had new clients – a quarter of what we normally have in a month – but the fact that new people were finding us and wanted to work with us without meeting in person was incredibly promising, especially as the projects we were gaining were branding and websites.
We also helped a well known catering company with packaging for their ready meals after their usual printer let them down. We did our utmost to ensure we delivered on a very tight deadline with a bespoke product – the client was delighted and has since used our services again.
As the weeks progressed, the phone started ringing more and new clients were finding us and wanted to work with us, it was apparent that branding and web were overtaking our print orders. Businesses were realising they needed to pivot in order to survive and this was truly inspirational. I helped clients create online programmes and also helped retailers sell their stock online – to provide some level of income whilst their doors were closed. Clients who I had tried to convince to have a website in the past, who didn’t feel they needed one, contacted me and wanted to get going – quickly.
Moving forward to June 15th 2020 – we finally opened our studio on a part basis after 12 weeks. The studio felt cold and dark as it has not been used. However, it did not take long for us to settle back in and bring back the high energy that the studio was always known for. I started bringing team members back, slowly and on reduced hours… but this was positive. I knew we needed to take a slow and steady pace in order to build business back up.
As a team, although we are not all working full time (yet) – we are positive and feeling energetic for us and for the businesses we support and those in our local area. We have launched our new website (finally), have a whole new print campaign which is ready to send out, our social media strategy is working and we’re providing more advice and support to businesses across Yorkshire than we have ever done before.
We would love to re-connect with you, have a chat (virtual or face to face whilst observing social distancing) about your lock down experience and most importantly engage with you on your marketing ideas, how you will now focus on thriving after just trying to survive.
We’d love to hear from you… After all, when people talk the magic happens