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What a year 2020 was! Lockdowns, disruption, tiers, restrictions, COVID-secure measures and overwhelming uncertainty kept retail leaders in the industry constantly on their toes.

To call it a testing year for many dealers in the sector would be putting it mildly, however, individuals’ dug dig, reacted quickly and remain resolved to overcome.

After all the challenges, losses and triumphs of 2020, five retailers reflect on what they learned about themselves as business leaders over last year.

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All thoughts were submitted to THIIS in December 2020…

Mike Williams, Managing Director of Ableworld

Ableworld's Founder & Managing Director and Founder Mike Williams“An interesting one. I don’t believe it’s just about running a business, it’s about life in general. In running Ableworld, you realise, even stronger than before, how important your colleagues and business contacts are. The ones that rose to the challenge of supporting the company, let that be our great staff or the suppliers that kept open and supported us throughout the period.

“I must admit, I have got a bit more impatient with those in the country (luckily very few in our company) that had hoped to be furloughed, straight onto Facebook to celebrate the fact with a glass of Prosecco and then party on Bournemouth beach spreading the virus!

“So, I have become even more resolved to support those that support us and this period has strengthened my concern of making sure the business is successful. It’s always a worry at a Christmas Party (remember those?) when you look out at all the families and realise how important the success of the business is to all those people in paying mortgages etc.

“So I’m now even less tolerant of those who believe they are owed a living.”

Billy Finnie, Operations Manager of Mobility Scotland

Billy Finnie Mobility Scotland“The COVID-19 impact throughout 2020 was brutal; you do not need me to tell you that. Never did we think it would have gone so deep, so quickly. However, like many of my counterparts and colleagues, we adjusted quickly and restructured longstanding business models in response to the fast-moving virus. In a way, COVID-19 accelerated change within the workplace and forced a rethink on traditional methods and values and routes to market.

“The monumental fight for survival started in earnest the night Boris made his announcement with the subsequent disruption and chaos which ensued in the wake of the government’s ever-changing rules. We had to contend with logistical issues, supply chain disruptions, furloughing, fluctuating lockdowns, track and trace, PPE and the debilitating impact of self-isolating, as well as not forsaking the ever-present risk of infection as we delivered our service. But we generally rolled with the punches and adapted to change.

“Personally, my aha moment was realising the need to become comfortable with uncertainly whilst increasing my capacity for empathy.  Consultation and communication were other positive areas for the team and allowed anxieties and concerns to be addressed and aired, as well as improving team productivity over a shorter working week whilst always adding value to our customers who now needed our services more than ever – and, of course, still do.”

Karen Sheppard, Managing Director of People First Mobility

Karen Sheppard People First Mobility“A business leader requires a whole range of skills. There is the responsibility that it brings, how to be resilient and adapt quickly, staying and keeping team members, having good communication and possessing a diverse set of skills and qualities.

“You are told to expect the unexpected and be able to adapt and change plans to the current climate. I already knew I could cope with what life threw at me as a person and now I know that I can be adaptable and cope with unforeseen problems in the business world too.

“COVID to the business world was the same as what cancer was to my body – always a possibility but you never expect to witness it. They both came without any warning and to go through it and out the other side can be painful, tiring and takes time to recover.

“I have also learned that to be a good leader, you need to take time out for yourself – even if only half-hour a day. My mental wellbeing was suffering and until lockdown, I didn’t even know until I had some time out.

“Being a good leader doesn’t mean working round the clock.”

Alastair Gibbs, Managing Director of TPG DisableAids

Alastair Gibbs TPG DisableAids MD“As a managing director of a modest business in the world of equipment for the elderly and disabled, it has been humbling to see the efforts put in by all of our team when the chips were down. It would have been easy for some to have stepped aside and said ‘not for me’ when we asked them to go out into the unknown to do a job of work.

“It has shown that we have an exceptional team and they get the concept of service to our customers. I guess the question is, what makes this team work so well?

“I strive to be a leader rather than a manager and offer to educate rather than assume knowledge.

“If nothing else, COVID-19 has taught us all that we are not immortal, we do not stand alone and we must take a positive approach to the provision of solutions.”

Richard Holland-Oakes, Managing Director of Recare

Richard Recare“It is not something that occurs often in business, having the opportunity to stop business for nearly four months to revitalise and review your processes. Being able to analyse issues and problems, strategies and infrastructure clearly and the development out of the pandemic is crucial to success.

“We have reinvested in vast areas – supply, software, hardware, marketing and website development. Recare is a fast-moving company and has seen extensive growth in recent years and have had to make many adjustments during that time. This often leads to very quickly implemented systems and processes that had their limitations; however, got us through the hectic times.

“It is much like getting off your bike, looking back at what you were doing and what you need to do, and getting back on it with the problems eradicated.

“We are now prepared to make changes following the lockdown opportunity. We have maintained open communication with our team on our commitment to not only Recare but to them as employees. We have informed them on investments and even the challenges that have been addressed.

“Due to the changing of processes, every job here has somewhat changed. When the new systems have been built and implemented, the team are prepared for further changes.”

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We respect your privacy BarnettAnalysis & InsightsCoronavirus NewsCOVID-19 Trade NewsNewsroomRetailer NewsTrade NewsTrade ThoughtsAbleworld,Alastair Gibbs,Billy Finnie,COVID-Secure,disruption,Karen Sheppard,lockdown,Mike Williams,Mobility retail,mobility retailer,mobility scotland,People First Mobility,Recare,restrictions,Richard Holland-Oakes,tiers,TPG DisableAidsWhat a year 2020 was! Lockdowns, disruption, tiers, restrictions, COVID-secure measures and overwhelming uncertainty kept retail leaders in the industry constantly on their toes. To call it a testing year for many dealers in the sector would be putting it mildly, however, individuals' dug dig, reacted quickly and remain resolved...News, views & products for mobility, access and independent living professionals