Lockdown was a wild ride, wasn’t it?
For many companies, Covid-19 has undoubtedly been the biggest challenge they’ve had to face as a business. With the uncertainty in the first few weeks leading up to lockdown about whether it would actually happen here in the UK, to then having to create an office like set up in their living rooms, to all events being cancelled, to staff being furloughed and company cash flow drying up, I think we can all agree that it’s been a pretty tough 2020.
We reached out to three founders who are members here at Runway East; Miguel at Heirizon – an employment marketplace, Tony at Grey Green Media – an event production company for the Life Sciences sector and Chris at Three Plus Consulting – a Workday Optimisation Consultancy, to check in and find out how they weathered the lockdown storm.
Despite these challenging times, they’ve all found different ways to still drive business. Some are upskilling in areas their job was not previously focused on, others took advantage of the opportunity to experiment with their business model and one company had only started trading in March, and took on an office at RWE London Bridge, just after lockdown regulations started to lift. – We love to see it!
Let’s talk pre-lockdown, how was everything? You were sailing into the sunset, and things couldn’t have been better, right?
Miguel: To be honest, we’re doing better now. Lockdown forced us to slightly pivot our business model and experiment with different outreach methods.
Tony: We had completed a record year in 2019 and Q1 of 2020 was smashing it. We moved into larger offices to accommodate the additional hires we were planning in Q2. Then we heard about a virus in China, and our customers in South Korea and Australia started to worry about attending our event in California in February. So we had some advanced warning.
Chris: We only started trading as a business in March so we were putting the sails on when lockdown started.
Covid-19 hits, lockdown is in place and all of a sudden the world comes to a standstill. How did you react?
Miguel: The only thing that upset me was leaving RWE. (Disclaimer! – No, we didn’t ask him to say that!)
Tony: We had events scheduled in Europe and the USA so immediately postponed them. At first we thought all we needed to do was move them to Q3/4 but as it became apparent that this would still be too early, we started working on pivoting to virtual events. We conducted a huge amount of research, which was a lot of work when the majority of the team were on furlough.
Chris: We were fortunate that the clients we were working with were not too adversely impacted by COVID and so our work and revenue streams continued to operate as normal.
So survival mode kicks in, you batten down the hatches and ride the wave into what we now see as a possible end to lockdown – how are you and the company now, compared to back in March?
Miguel: We are better and stronger than before Covid-19 hit. Now we are motivated to grow internally and start mass outreach again.
Tony: We’re slowly coming back. Bookings for our virtual events are growing and we are confident that our events for 2020 will be successful. We’ve become broadcasters with a mini studio and running events attended by people from 26 countries. We’ve learned new skills in IT and particularly in producing online content. We’re stronger than we were before as we now have a wider product range.
Chris: Better than we could ever have imagined. We picked up additional work during lockdown through our network, who trusted us to deliver remotely at critical points in their programmes.
Let’s talk about office space – overall how do you feel about the WFH phenomenon? And don’t worry, you won’t offend us, promise!
Miguel: I don’t like working from home personally. As we are an early stage company and slowly growing, I will need the space to guide new employees over time. Working remotely, can work well when you have senior key members working. But for new employees, it doesn’t work.
Tony: We took to it well. Home wifi being the only real problem. I cannot see us returning to full time in the office.
Chris: I don’t like it – for me, there is no substitute for face to face contact.
So, what have Runway East done to support you during this time?
Miguel: The Slack group has been instrumental as it gave us access to communicate with other members whilst on lockdown.
Tony: RWE have been exceptional to be fair. From immediately cutting the membership fees, to working with us to return to work. We are happy to be part of the crowd at London Bridge and look forward to working here for a long time to come.
Chris: We were in the unusual position of being able to join Runway East towards the end of lockdown. The team at RWE were fantastic in allowing us to view the office spaces safely during lockdown and facilitating a seamless onboarding process.
Finally, you made it! Is there anything we missed, anything you would like to add – wanna grab a beer soon?
Miguel: Beer any time!
Tony: This has been a huge challenge, but as founders we’ve seen plenty of bumps in the road in the last 3 years. This one was a big bump, but a bump nevertheless, and we know how to adapt. We’re looking forward to the time when we struggle to get a meeting room! And of course, a beer is essential.
Chris: Beer, please!