Wear business leaders tell Wear Business what the biggest challenge their organisation has faced during the Covid crisis…

Lucy Elliott, managing director, Elliott Westland Insurance Brokers, Houghton-le-Spring

“Our biggest challenge has been dealing with the many enquiries from our clients regarding cover under their business policies. In late March, the government mistakenly suggested most businesses would be covered under the business interruption sections of their insurances. Clients, quite rightly, have been in touch since to pose the very same question.

“Having read through full 100-page policy wordings from over 50 of our providers, in the majority of cases there is, unfortunately, no cover for this disease. Some wordings are somewhat ambiguous, however, and we are currently in talks with a legal team to fully understand our clients’ positions.

“Whilst this has been hard and time-consuming work, we’ve also appreciated the opportunity to touch base with our clients and have honest and informative conversations with them about how they are dealing with the problems thrown at us all over the last few months. We are all in the same boat, after all.”

Jon Chadwick, director, Durham Distillery, Langley Park

“Energy! The biggest challenges facing any business during this crisis are still to come and everyone is going to need plenty of energy as we come out of it.

“There are plenty of things that organisations can do during the lockdown phase of the crisis to prepare for when business is able to reopen. Businesses can see this as an opportunity to refresh their marketing strategies, review their product range and work on branding.

“An additional problem for leaders throughout this period is ensuring that people in their businesses stay motivated and have plenty of energy. It is too easy to find lockdown sapping the energy from everyone and that will be one of the main challenges as we move forward.”

Sharon Appleby, head of business operations, Sunderland BID

“As an organisation working with a diverse range of city centre businesses, it has been important for us to find ways to communicate important messages, offer reassurances and guidance.

“Most of the BID’s businesses rely mainly on face-to-face contact – restaurants, bars, shops, professional services – so we have supported those who have diversified and moved online or offered delivery and take-out services.

“We have ensured businesses know we can be contacted virtually if they need any support or have any questions. At the same time, the wellbeing of our own staff is a high priority and we have found new ways of working which allows us to continue to offer our services but in the safest way.”

Al Yong, director, Rymote Communications, Sunderland

“Who could have planned for this? The effects seem to have been a bit of a lottery, depending on your business sector but in terms of what we do at Rymote – which is business network systems and internet access – we are in the small group of businesses that are lucky never to have been busier.

“A knock-on effect of the pandemic has been vastly increased demand for faster, more reliable internet services as well as homeworking technology. A side-effect of isolation has been a dramatic increase in the demand for internet services which we have had to respond to so this has been a challenge.

“Many of our clients have introduced home-working policies from scratch meaning that we’re having to come up with new innovative solutions to improve consumer broadband performance for homeworkers in rural areas. It is, however, a challenge to address what has been historically a long-running problem for rural areas. It’s not hard to see how Covid-19 will change the way many people will work forever.”

Steve Green, director, JND Solutions, Sunderland

“The Covid-19 crisis has had less impact on businesses that work primarily or entirely in the online world and indeed many digital companies have had a ‘good’ crisis.

“As a provider of CRM and data management systems, our System365 clients have been able to use the system without any changes from our side as it is a cloud-based solution.

“No substantial increase in access has been noticed which implies clients have been successfully running their businesses remotely.

“Our first-level support mechanism has always been via telephone, email, video and remote access and all queries have been answered this way since lockdown, except for one which was a networking problem. This construction sector client was locally based and a quick trip to the site allowed me to park in the car park and jump onto the local wifi network to perform the fix.”

Martin Williams, Saggezza

“As a digital business, we were able to adapt quickly to the crisis, moving our team to remote working efficiently, and taking decisions about what resourcing we would need during lockdown, to continue to support clients to the usual standard.

“Saggezza is performing well, and we continue to push forward with our recruitment plans. There is no doubt that the crisis has impacted on the jobs market, and recruiting virtually poses more of a challenge, but we are working hard to overcome this, conducting conversations through video conferencing where we can.

“We’re keen to emerge from this on the front foot, so finding a way through that allows us to attract more talented people to join us when we are back to the office will be important.”