It’s been two months since I started my new business as a Regional Director and franchisee of Tidy Green Clean. The planning of it all, the discussions, the raising of finance, had all taken months and it just so happened I had decided to launch on Monday 6 April 2020, just into the third week of lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It was really unfortunate timing – or so I thought at the time.

Yet two months on, I can see there have been both positives and negatives to starting the business then, and actually the advantages have almost certainly outweighed the disadvantages. I know lots of people have been blogging about business during this time and I wanted to share my thoughts so that people can understand what I have been experiencing in the hope that it encourages other people in a similar place to me.

Positives

  • I’ve had time to prepare, to suggest the CRM system, to prepare all my contacts and finalise the business plan and start it fully prepared rather than just to the timetable I set myself
  • When I look at the phone calls and video calls I have made and the emails I have sent, the fact that people are working from home has really helped. People have been far more responsive than I was expecting because they’ve had more time to think and talk. The world has slowed down a bit, so it’s been good to get a hold of people and I’ve found I’ve been able to go deeper with people on the phone or on Zoom and have had a lot longer with them – 40-60 minutes with some potential clients – than I would have had if circumstances had been different. We’ve not just been talking about work either, but I’ve been able to see if I can help them in any way – so things have just been more human and personal in that way.
  • Softer skills have really come to the fore at this time too. People have been more responsive and open to that kind of approach. That’s going to be the new normal from now on, I think. It won’t be about going in for a hard, hard sell, it’s definitely more about selling to people – and you need to be a real person yourself to sell to them. There’s been an element of that in Aberdeen across the industry anyway but now it’s become really apparent that it’s okay to see if people are okay, and fine coming across human and normal.
  • The other thing I’ve had time for has been training – the last one I had was on new tech and I have enjoyed having the time to learn a lot about new and innovative ways to help improve the cleanliness and hygiene of businesses in Aberdeen. It’s given me the time to be that little bit more informed and do a bit more research than perhaps otherwise would have been possible.

In business, we’re expected to sound hard-hitting and be quite driven in the way we behave and the language we use. I have realised that during lockdown, people have been employing different skills, perhaps our softer skillset – asking how people are doing, listening more, showing more empathy, tolerating kids or pets disrupting a call. I think that’s to our benefit because it’s made people more open and more willing to share things about themselves. In the end, we do business with people we like, and it’s been easier to get to know, like and trust people during this time, than in previous business roles that I’ve done.

Negatives

  • Being restricted to the four walls of my home has meant no site visits or face to face meetings, it’s all been virtual, although that has been a massive positive too
  • Being restricted as to where you can go has been a massive impact on my business plan
  • Working from home has been OK, probably not a negative or a positive but having a clear designated office area (my dining table) and then walking away from that area when I’ve finished work for the day has helped with that.
  • I’ve been pretty good at staying on track and not just binge-watching Netflix and my targets have been challenging enough to keep me focused, although when it’s been sunny it’s been different; then I’ve just wanted to go out for a glass of wine
  • Potential prospects have been furloughed so there are a lot of people not available to talk to so that side of things has been swings and roundabouts – some people I can get hold of but with others it’s been quite difficult because they’re not working for various reasons.

It’s definitely not the start I expected. Previously, I envisioned it was going to be very different – not what I thought was around the corner at all. It’s made me realise the small things in life, which may sound corny, but it’s made me realise that going out for a meal at the weekend is not the be all and end all of things. I have been incredibly impressed at how NHS staff and key workers have behaved with such pride and diligence and such a can-do attitude throughout this. Cleaners, and notably our cleaners working for Tidy Green Clean, particularly, have been underestimated. They are doing their work, day in day out, to maintain the hygiene and cleanliness of premises; it’s been a real moment to recognise that I’m – we’re – in an industry that’s on the frontline as well.

We are living wage employers and it’s something we’re immensely proud of. Yet it’s clear to see that lots of sectors are still only offering minimum wage, to vital key workers who we obviously can’t do without. I would like to see that change.

One of the things I’ve missed is being able to come into head office to bounce ideas off other people or just get that pick you up when you’re down. Actually, TGC has had daily Zoom team sessions, which have really made us all pick each other up and encourage and motivate each other, rather than just rely on a WhatsApp group where things can be misconstrued or there’s pressure to be part of the banter.

We’ve come up with a lot of ideas just through being on Zoom. In the future, Alex and Hugh, Regional Director franchisees who work further afield, and future Regional Directors, aren’t going to be able to come up for meetings as much as I might be able to and I think we’ve probably bonded far more quickly than we might otherwise have done.

Anyway, for me I wanted to share some of my experience; the good and the bad. We’re all only human and it’s been a difficult period for everyone. Here’s to the next stage and whatever it brings, I hope we can bring a lot of the positives we’ve gained with us.

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