Nick Boulton: Lessons from running a business during lockdownPosted about 4 years ago by Nick Boulton

The longer this state of flux and uncertainty goes on, the more I realise how hard it is to run a business remotely. There are some companies uniquely suited to remote work, but full time WFH is not a tonic for success in recruitment.

Funnily enough, interviewing candidates and generating new business is less inhibited than I thought it would be. Although few clients are recruiting right now, people are very happy to talk to you, especially if you are sprinkling a bit of market intelligence into your conversation.

(Note to anyone doing BD calls: Please be smart, don’t just cold call people. They have enough to worry about, so how about giving them some valuable insight?! It’s not rocket science.)

Still, you don’t get that ‘buy-in’ you get from a face to face meeting. You may still build relationships and do a good job for clients and candidates while sitting at home, but I can’t help but feel there is something missing.

Maybe it’s small, but that element of personalisation a handshake, direct eye contact or a reassuring smile brings doesn’t exist over video.

Maybe you miss some of those nuances or ‘tells’ you get at a F-2-F meeting –  the subtle body shift, nervous glance down or the look of sweaty palms – which prompts you to ask the next question and the next and the next and the next, until you winkle out that precious bit of information that separates you from everyone else.

Despite the challenges lockdown has brought, a quality recruiter will still perform their job to an extremely high level with discipline, attention to detail and a focused day plan.

The biggest difficulty of running a business like Client Server from home is maintaining the culture, environment, comradery and buzz of an office. Especially in our offices, which are primarily open plan sales floors, where banter, atmosphere and human interaction is the primary driver to productivity, success and momentum.

I certainly have taken for granted the effect colleagues have on you when you are having a bad day. The ability of people you have worked with for years to sum up your mood, slap you with a quick one liner, that makes you laugh (or my case be laughed at), but lightens the mood, lifts the grey fog of despair and gets you back in the game.

This will be our challenge as we move forward. There is no point harbouring after days gone by and hankering for the day we get back into the office. Those days are gone, and the future of businesses and their success will be different for everyone.

So, the real question is:

How do we replicate, or at least try and emulate this environment and team spirit while people are spread across multiple locations?

It’s tough, but I think we are having a pretty good crack at it, especially seeing we hadn’t planned for this. We were thrown into isolation with no warning, no preamble, no “alright matey” get your shit together and prepare for 8 weeks+ of lockdown. We have had to come up with and adapt to all of this on the fly. It’s amazing really when you think about it.

Two months ago, and for the last 20 years, we didn’t have any ability to WFH. Now we have our entire workforce working from home. We struggled to coordinate and organise meetings in a timely and efficiently manner in the office, but now we conduct:

  • Company meetings
  • Sales meetings
  • Advertising and marketing meeting
  • Employee reviews
  • New business meetings
  • Leadership and management meetings

The list goes on, but all from home and on time. (Mostly…)

The really telling factor over the coming months will be, how will this environment effect sales? It’s already had a catastrophic effect in the first couple of months, almost entirely down to most clients putting hiring and projects on hold due to the uncertainty.

But with a dawn of a new world and the green shoots of a recovery popping their little heads above ground, we must find ways to adapt and (hopefully) thrive in this new world.

I believe we have some of the best consultants in the business, a company community second to none and the foundations to thrive but sticking with the theme of my last blog:

How will they cope on a new wicket? It’s all very well being a flat track bully but when the new ball is swinging round corners, the cloud cover is low and the slip cordon resembles the ring of steel, that’s when the real quality will stand out and you find out what people are made of.