Q1 – What have you been doing during lockdown and how has your business been affected?
Paul: During lockdown we transitioned to online classes, we launched a members only portal, made a new website.
We’ve had a few students stop but hopefully they’ll re-join once physical classes restart.
Richard: I have been working hard at home in the garden and at work in the family business. Our Job systems and paper work has been simplified due to the restrictions yet our communications with clients has been made more challenging due to not being able to see the client face to face.
Sarah: As we provide emergency eyecare under the NHS Acute Community Eyecare Service (ACES) we were expected to remain available for emergencies. Thankfully we were still allowed to supply contact lenses, eyedrops and eye health products and we could still do minor spectacle repairs.
5 days after lockdown it was just me left to hold the fort. I was in practice almost every day, on my own, checking the answerphone, sorting the post, delivering spectacles, eyedrops and contact lenses, seeing patients after DIY accidents or dealing with the usual red eyes and vision loss we deal with in normal times.
Q2 – What have you learnt?
Paul: I’ve learnt that I need to put myself first more.
Richard: a) I have learnt how to increase my ability to communicate over the phone. (As when you talk face to face you can read their body language and gage if they have taking in what you have expressed and communicated). b) Clear precise communication is key.
Sarah: It was a massively steep learning curve and I developed a renewed sense of just how important my support staff are and what they go through every day. It was lonely too. I usually work “alone” in my little dark room but they are always there, doing their thing and keeping the machine moving. We set up a work WhatsApp group and my lovely staff kept me on the straight and narrow and provided instructions when I didn’t know how to do their jobs. Best not dwell on the quality of the jokes……
Q3 – What have you got to do differently and what have you chosen to do differently moving forward?
Paul: We are going to have to adapt our syllabus due to no contact rules.
We have decided to keep an element of online training as we move forward through this pandemic.
Richard: There is nothing that comes to mind now but I am sure the further we get out of this pandemic thing will be made clearer, however, the way the paper work is done now with in the funeral industry will hopefully stay the and this will improve and modernise a dated system.
Sarah: I’ve learnt a lot about myself and my business during this time:
I am more resilient and capable, both as a person and as a manager, than I thought I was.
I am much more efficient if I start my day later and finish later, so I am shifting my working day by an hour. The business can handle it and will probably benefit from it.
I have a good solid business and a really great team working for me.
We have taken the time to talk in more detail about plans for the future of the business, rather than just scrambling to keep up with the daily grind and following the same old rut. We have not wasted this time in lockdown.
I still hate PPE but if I have to wear it then so be it. I’m putting on my big girl apron and dealing with it. We are back at work, albeit with a “new normal”.
Next step is to build up that contingency fund again and then buy some new tech toys so we can take eyecare in Wincanton to the next level.
Q4 – What would you tell your 2019 self if you could go back and prepare for this year?
Paul: Get the online platforms set up earlier as had wanted to do this for years, and save cash to see through the bad times.
Richard: Don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
Sarah: If I could go back and tell my 2019 self that this was going to happen, I am not sure I actually would! Nothing can prepare you for something that stops the economy around the world and changes, on a fundamental level, the way we interact with our fellow human beings. Would I have believed myself if I’d said “stock up on loo roll, yeast and flour. Oh, and invest in PPE manufacturing because you’re going to make a fortune”? Nope, I’d have laughed myself silly or worried myself into an early grave. You cannot prepare mentally for something this huge. My brain would have spat out a “does not compute” error message and shut down. Financially the business has weathered the storm. It’s a bit bedraggled but we will make it. Good planning or just good fortune? I think a little of both. Mentally it has been a rollercoaster that I would not have willingly ridden!