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The impact of COVID-19 with minc CEO Neil Franklin

Q1. 2020 has obviously been difficult for many people, both personally and from a business perspective. How have you found the past 4/5 months as a business owner? It has, and I have a huge amount of empathy and sympathy for people and businesses who have suffered through no fault of their own. At no point did anyone think we would literally have to shut down so much of our communities, our businesses, our offices, our shops, our cafes, and the places we go to meet and socialise. Our focus at minc is to try and support companies to get through difficult situations, especially with their staff. From a personal perspective, it’s been challenging as we have suffered as a business too, but not travelling to client sites has proven to be great for our family unit. Juggling home schooling with meeting client demands was tricky but we have adapted and found a happy medium. What I have realised is that everyone’s wellbeing is actually more important than anything else so we’ve focused on keeping everyone active, occupied, and engaged. For me personally, I’ve taken up road cycling and tried to get fit. Physical wellbeing is an important aspect of good mental health and lockdown has been a fantastic opportunity to make some lifestyle changes.

Q2. Being a company that doesn’t have a permanent office space, do you think minc was better set to deal with the changes in the way of working? In some ways, yes, but most of our work is down at client sites so we have been affected. I know the team has suffered a little bit of ‘cabin fever’ without that normal social interaction that we get at client sites. However, we do what we do to get through things in a safe and responsible way as possible.

Q3. Something like Covid-19 isn’t necessarily something you are able to plan for? But going forward will what has happened in 2020 change your approach when planning for the future of the business? For a business like ours, I think having a set of agile and flexible working arrangements will remain fundamental. We want to be responsive and approachable but the most important thing is to understand how our staff work best and not be prescriptive in the way we expect them to operate. We all have challenges, both professionally and personally, and it’s my job to ensure that the agility and flexibility are embedded in the way we do things. We’re lucky that the majority of our costs are people costs and we don’t have too much invested in bricks and mortar and I see that continuing for the foreseeable future.

Q4. How do you think having so many businesses adapting to working remotely will affect the traditional office environment and 9 to 5 going forward? I think it will definitely affect the way businesses operate. Remote working has been proven to work and enlightened employers will take the staff’s opinions into account when making office investment decisions. The days of travelling into an office to sit at the same desk for five days a week are coming to an end. You need a blend of office and home working, and the need for social interaction in a workplace is still an important feature.

Q5. What would you say are the biggest lessons you’ve learned with all that has happened with the coronavirus outbreak? Expect the unexpected! I think it’s very difficult to make hard and fast plans, but I do think a flexible and agile attitude to the way staff want to work will become more normal. We will also need to take a much more empathetic way of looking after our staff’s wellbeing. I’ve seen a lot of customers be quite intransigent to their staff and it’s caused a lot of resentment, which is never a good thing.

Q6. What advice would give to business owners who may feel as though there is no light at the end of the tunnel following the way they have been impacted by Covid-19? If you are happy to do your research, there are plenty of avenues still available to support small business owners. Sometimes its financial help but other times its practical advice to help you through. We’ve been very good at being able to impart that knowledge on to our customers. The most important thing though is to keep talking to your customers, try and be flexible in your approach and fight your way through it.

Q7. Looking back at how you have managed the past few months as a business owner, is there anything you would differently? I think on the whole we went into the crisis in decent shape and we’ll come out of it ok so I don’t think I would have done anything too differently. Looking back, I think we could have probably done more to support communities around us and charities that have struggled. Our approach to our team has been inclusive and supportive, we’ve kept in touch frequently with our customers and we’ve put growth plans on hold until sunnier uplands arrive.

Q8. What were your objectives coming into this year and how have they changed? We had some ambitious growth plans in our minds this year but getting through the crisis in one piece with our team and client base in one piece has overridden all that. I’m happy that we will come out of this a stronger, more emotionally resilient company and the team now know more about each other than we did 6 months ago.

Q9. While it is important to look back, the only thing we influence is what we do going forward. How are feeling about the rest of 2020? Positive. We know what our customers are looking for, and we know how to fulfil those demands. The team has performed fantastically, and I’m delighted we’ve kept everyone together. Our clients have been great for us, notwithstanding some of their own issues. And we are all looking out for each other a little more now, so I’m optimistic the world can become a nicer place as a result.

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