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My Back To Business Strategy
By Danielle Holmes, co-director of Black Nova Designs, based in Calne, offering web design, hosting and IT solutions.
Summarise how Covid-19 has affected you?
Our business has been one of the lucky ones, we were affected in a positive way.
Being an IT service provider we saw an influx in new and existing clients needing a much higher level of support. Websites needing to be created, products added urgently, special offers and so on.
Laptop repairs requests almost tripled overnight with customers suddenly using laptops they had at home or children needing them for home learning, our staff and our business in general were required to operate on an appointment only basis. We also had to initiate a cleaning procedure for all devices coming into and leaving the premises.
We hired extra staff to cover demand and did our very best to maintain a high level of customer service while demand for our services increased.
What has been your plan to continue?
We are very grateful our staff can work from home and continuity of the services we provide have been maintained, just with a little more flexibility with the younger children being at home.
Weekly staff meetings have been a priority and ensuring customer expectations can be managed and met, with a lot of clients having a very tight deadline and minimal funds.
Being able to continue our business has meant tighter controls on projects and project management to ensure customers and staff can maintain a level of support that caters for all.
How has business changed for you over the last few months?
This experience has certainly opened our eyes to the possibility of busier times. We have hired a full time member of staff within lockdown which was something of a shock to us all.
We even felt a large feeling of guilt as so many were suffering a huge crisis in this time, we needed more hands in the office to cope with demand.
We have noticed a change in attitude towards IT equipment and a lot of new clients, and some existing have realised quite how much they rely totally on some sort of technology or equipment to run their business or at least the children’s online learning programs.
The wider society has become more aware that IT equipment, a good laptop, good wifi and a responsive website is all part of a long term investment instead of a drain of resources.
Our target audience is far broader than we had ever imagined and now with extra staff we have implemented more structure within the business, with escalation processes, ticketing systems and the implementation of a structured support and payment plan for new clients.
As lockdown eases what measures have you put in place to get back to business?
Our business has put new measures in place throughout lockdown, and will continue while the children are off school to allow staff to continue to work from home where possible. Our offices are now equipped in hand sanitiser by the door, taped areas for distancing measures to be adhered to and continued measures of high cleanliness.
We have purchased some room sanitiser cans from Zero Dry Time Swindon, this ensures the office as a whole including the surfaces and areas that are difficult to reach are sanitised weekly, this keeps the staff and visitors safe.
We will soon be offering more information on how companies and individuals can protect themselves and there IT equipment with simple measures for Cyber Security, including how to keep children safe online.
What has been the most challenging aspect of all of this?
For us, the challenge came in two parts – one of the most challenging parts of accepting that things are still busy and no time off was available, no government grants or the ability to put anyone on furlough.
We felt incredible amounts of guilt for other companies and individuals losing jobs, changing of routines and unable to continue to fund items that were previously so easily maintainable.
The second most difficult challenge was child care, we have two young children in our home, and all staff have school age children, therefore flexible work hours, timetables and a lot of understanding was required. The children did not understand the new lack of routine and their anxiety at times sky rocketed.
We are not teachers, and unfortunately no matter how hard we tried, the pressure of home-schooling was building and stress levels for adults and children were ever increasing.
With flexibility and changes to staffing in and out of the office, our main priority was the welfare both physically and mentally of our staff, our clients and their families.
Albeit between calls, emails and online meetings, we worked things out between us. I have to admit we used to think six weeks summer holidays was a challenge, turns out 3 months down the line of no school, we are all still alive!
What has been the most positive aspect?
By far the most positive outcome for us was being able to support, help and provide advice to more new customers. It has been our absolute pleasure to rectify issues, bring four businesses back from cyber breaches, create new blogs available for free on our website with marketing tips, cyber security top tips available to all.
We are passionate about helping others and providing an approachable central place for all your technology needs and requirements. Creating a new staff opportunity, supporting more people and overall watching others succeed with software, websites and laptops you helped provide or maintain – there is no better feeling.
Has it made you consider how you feel about other businesses/suppliers/customers/clients for good or otherwise?
Life is a journey, and there are lessons that can be learnt daily and in these times it is important to reflect on each day and how things are changing.
It turns out, that not every enquiry is your ideal client or prepared to pay for the quality of service being provided and that is OK, discounts and movement on prices is not always the best solution.
How important is this phrase to you – ‘buy local, supply local’?
Without the local support we had when we started back in 2015, we would not be where we are today. Local businesses, parish councils and individuals in our local village and town were and continue to be the most supportive clients we have.
Connections we have made locally have been central to the creation of our business, and watching a small business thrive is the best feeling.
Local village services are invaluable to the community, there is not much we could wish for that is not covered in our local area.
We are very lucky to have such an array of skills, businesses and opportunities available to us, including pet care, child care, activities, sport centres, farm shops and even pop up gift shops.
What are your top tips at this time?
1. No matter what your circumstances, there are always opportunities to come out any situation, Be prepared for the unexpected, get your equipment (including your IT equipment and website) checked, updated and ready for some good news.
2. Stay active with your PR, your advertising platforms, social media pages and blog – it is more important than ever to have a online presence, keep your customers updated with the latest news, offerings and prices.
3. Stay connected, have a support group of friends or business connections that can keep you motivated, and can be your biggest fan. This has not been an easy time mentally for many and building a group of supporters is really important.
Your parting thought?
Our passing thoughts would be to learn from every experience, good or bad.
“The bird who dares to fall, is the bird who learns to fly.”
For more information visit https://www.blacknovadesigns.co.uk