Thought Leadership

Managing a business through a global pandemic: my experience so far

By Paul Williams, Director

We first became aware of a possible need to adapt to the changing coronavirus global situation late in February 2020. We implemented our business continuity plan (“BCP”) and started to test the full team’s capability to work remotely in early March.

As a result of testing at an early stage, we ironed out some initial telephone issues, and quickly ordered a full set of audio headsets for the team to use at home.

By mid-March it was clear that the pandemic was set to have some significant long-term impacts on businesses across the country, and so, following guidance from the PM, we vacated our office in Deeside entirely on Monday 16th March.

Business as un-usual

It was at this point when I remember being incredibly proud of the way the Highstream team dealt with the situation, with a clear focus on the continued delivery of a high-quality service to our clients, right from the get-go. Our Technical Manager, Simon Jones provided continuity planning on a project delivery front to our clients while Phil Jones (no, they’re not related!) ensured that our support team didn’t miss a beat for our customers.

In fact, the team went beyond this – coping personally with the changing environment admirably whilst dealing with a 50% uplift in support call volume through March. Our phone lines  opened on time, staffed by our team exactly as if they were in the office. We continue to log support tickets within our helpdesk system, manage our customer’s infrastructures, communicate effectively, answer questions, and guide and strategise with our customers – as we always have.

We continue to provide support and consultancy services to our clients throughout this period.  We commit to our customers that we will always provide sufficient resource to them and their technology issues. We don’t dilute our support resource through giving ad-hoc help to other, non-contracted businesses, and we have remained true to this commitment.

This does not mean, however, that we’ve turned away businesses who are in need, as we’re helping them through other avenues of our team without sacrificing our existing customer’s support resource.

How are we helping?

As our customers change and adapt, we do too. Our conversations haven’t changed; they’re still very much face-to-face (through Microsoft Teams of course!) and we’re shifting our resources to accommodate requirements to remain agile, as they are. We’re helping some of our customers who are utilising the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme by making sure their communication channels remain open whilst staff are on furlough leave.

Actually, we’re going further than this by pausing  our support charge to our customers for users who have been furloughed, further easing their financial pressures.

It’s been great to see how the Highstream team has adapted to remote working too. We keep in touch one-to-one with colleagues and have multiple team meetings (through Teams) throughout the day. In some ways, the changes in our environment have created a closer bond. Who knew one of our guys has a pool table on his terrace?!

Where have we struggled?

As we’re a ‘cloud-first’ company, our key operational software works seamlessly from home,  and generally we’ve adapted really well but there are some areas which have caused pain.

It goes without saying that our ability to meet and talk to people has been massively impacted. As a team, we had a real desire this year to develop more relationships with businesses and to talk about how they do what they do. This current situation makes that more difficult, but it’s been refreshing to see many of our local networking groups continue to hold events and keep in-touch through virtual meetings. 

Granted, the refreshments haven’t been at the same high level as they have been previously (well, not in my house, anyway) but the quality of conversations and the incredibly important peer-group support through these times has been remarkable. Thanks to West Cheshire and North Wales Chamber of Commerce and Networx4Business!

Learning lessons along the way

Like many businesses are at this time, we’re constantly adapting and evolving our approach to dealing with the current situation, but one month in to our ‘new normal’, here’s some things we’ve learnt along the way:

  1. Business continuity planning. We had a plan and we’ve actioned it successfully. However, from here we’ll be that bit more focussed on the detail of our own BCP and we’ll test more regularly. Because you just never know…
  2. Trust your teammates. When times get tough, they’re amazingly resilient and will work incredibly hard to do the right thing. Worry about supporting them, not measuring them.
  3. Think about your home setup. My thighs are suffering from the ‘form over function’ pseudo-office chair I’m sitting on. I’m looking forward to getting back to the office for a number of reasons, not least a decent chair!

Whilst this pandemic has changed the way we work and will continue to do so over the coming months, I’m overjoyed that the Highstream team remain fit and well. We’re all continuing to adhere to government guidance and we’re persistently pushing on through such an unparalleled time in history. When you take a step back, that’s a pretty incredible feat, and one that should be recognised. So, from my home office to theirs; Highstream team – thank you.

I hope you and your families remain safe and well at this time.