Running a business like Blam this last few weeks has been an extraordinary experience, as it has for so many other business owners all over the world. Never in human history has there been such a huge upheaval experienced unilaterally across the globe.
Right now as I write this, 9.30 am 12th April 2020, we’ve been in Lockdown for 3 weeks 3 days and there is still no deadline for when we are going to be let out. The latest news tells us that the UK could be the worst effected country in Europe, a sobering thought and one that tells us we are no where near the end of this situation.
So this morning I would ask for your indulgence so I can write for the record what’s happened so far and what this experience has been like. Some of it may seem superficial, but it’s how I’m seeing it as a business owner, entrepreneur and family man. More importantly I’d like to record where my thoughts are right now, and maybe engage some debate and opinion. I feel acknowledging where we are in this now, remembering it and learning from it is important, as when the lockdown is lifted things will go crazy very quickly!
What is absolutely certain is, what comes after this will be different to the way it was before, things will never be the same again…
Working from homeBefore: Prior to the pandemic (it still sounds strange saying that) Blam had a policy of home working for some of the week. My feeling was that for at least two days, the team needed to be together in the office when possible to help build team spirit. I was even contemplating leasing another office nearly doubling the overhead. We’ve always done a lot of meetings online and most of our training provided to Blam Partners is via our online learning centre but we did travel to a lot to different parts of the world to meet and train Partners.
Now: We’ve used Google Meet extensively to meet online as a team daily and maintained excellent communication using our WhatsApp group. I did a survey of the team on Thursday this week asking them to score how they liked working from home and I had consistent 8’s and 9’s! Prior to this team members actively preferred to work in the offices. I am now questioning if we need an office at all? Is the new way of working remotely going to become more standard practice and accepted as the norm?
ShoppingBefore: Food shopping duties were mainly taken care of by my wife and consisted of big shop once a week and the a few bits and bobs shopping throughout the week. I generally bought my own breakfast and lunch, had a lot of take-out coffee and ate out a fair bit. For clothing, most of my shopping is already bought online with the exception of shoes, my shopping vice!
Now: We have to think carefully about when, and how often we shop due to infection potential, the shops having stock on the shelves and the huge queues. It’s made me realise that eating everything in the house is nearly as expensive as eating out! Our food bill has increased a lot and we’re still getting the hang of knowing exactly what we actually really need in the fridge. Clothes shopping has now taken a back seat as not going out means there is a lot less need to buy new clothes (for now). I can now be sat in my pants on a screen share and as long as I wear a shirt no-one will no, lol!
My houseBefore: This year was supposed to be the year we moved to our “forever” house. Nothing too grand, just enough to see a minor upgrade in the area we love and want to retire in. My perception of our home of the last 15 years was that it was not quiet big enough and long past an upgrade for the family.
Now: Living in the house for the last three weeks has renewed my affection for it immensely. Utilising the space effectively and appreciating the room that we have has made me acknowledge that moving house is maybe not the necessity the “rat-race” made me think it was! We’ve used the garden loads more, had BBQ’s more often, eaten together regularly, set up a gym in the conservatory, improved our office spaces for me and my wife and set up great spaces for our two children to work in. I now feel somewhat guilty that I would have complained that our house was too small when I see what some people have had to deal with in the lockdown!
HaircutBefore: My monthly trip to the barbers was always a bit of an afterthought for me, I haven’t got a lot of hair and taking time out to go to the barbers wasn’t high on my priority.
Now: I had my first lockdown haircut this morning and loved it! My wife applied the clippers all over on a number 2 setting and I am now getting into the full spirit of easter with an egg head! Best of all I’ve saved twenty quid!
DrivingBefore: Driving pretty much anywhere in a city was no fun at all, sucking in fumes, sitting in traffic and playing roulette with the speed cameras,
Now: I don’t drive! Once a week, on deserted roads to drop off the shop to my quarantined parents is no hardship and other than that the cars sit on the drive. Even if I did need to add fuel to my car (electric hybrid so only uses fuel on longer trips) it’s at its lowest price for years! I saw a petrol station selling unleaded at 95p per litre yesterday!
CyclingBefore: I’m a keen cyclist but haven’t ridden on the roads for years due to the traffic and inconsiderate drivers. My cycling endeavours were all offroad and I’ve loved travelling far and wide to experience mountains from the top down.
Now: Cycling on the roads is an absolute pleasure. We’ve been allocated 1hr of out of house exercise a day and I have been using mine on my bike getting plenty of road miles in on deserted roads. Alas, I am no longer allowed to jump in the car and travel the 1hr drive to Cannock Chase to hammer around the woods on purpose built trails. The trip to the French Alps is now postponed and the mountain bike relegated to the garage for the foreseeable future.
The gymBefore: Although me and my family were regular gym goers and have been for years, the cost does add up. The facilities are amazing our local Virgin gym but at over £100 per month for all of us the cost is now making me consider my options.
Now: No gym fees and some creative workouts in our makeshift gym in the conservatory. All of the family are training daily and with only basic tools we are really enjoying the different workout styles we’ve concocted up. Even though my dumbbells and bench were resigned to the scrap heap a number of years ago we’ve made do with only two kettle bells and some dyno bands and don’t feel any worse off for it!
Friends and extended familyBefore: We’re not the most sociable as a couple, but we have some close friends who we meet for drinks and dinner a few times a month and I meet up with mates at least once a week for a beer and a curry. We see our parents and siblings regularly and they are a big part of our lives and the children’s lives.
Now: We are Zooming our friends tonight to have a virtual night together. It’s going to be weird and I’m not sure how it will work! The socialising aspect of the lockdown is by far the most obvious hole in our lives, be it family or friends, let’s see how Zoom/Meet can make up for it! We’ve kept in touch with our parents every day via WhatsApp video, meaning that we feel like we’re staying. close even if we’re not actually with them. I’m definitely missing a beer with my dad and a cup of tea with my mom, screen shares are also a poor substitute for a hug!
EnvironmentBefore: On a personal level, I have tried to do my bit by buying electric cars, supporting Green Peace and dipping my toe in the vegan waters. However, I’m no eco warrior and a consumer as much as the next man.
Now: Our emissions must be at an all time low from the household. The birds are singing in the garden again, there is no noise pollution outside, the air is clean and the world seems to be repairing itself. Who could have possibly thought that a microscopic organism could have inadvertently had such a positive impact on the environment. It makes you wonder which virus is worse, Covid-19 or Homo sapiens.
StressBefore: Having a stressful job is something I am used to and for me I’ve always just accepted that that’s how it is. Rushing around, balancing work and home (usually badly) and making compromises is very stressful. I wouldn’t have questioned changing it before now though and wouldn’t have thought creatively about how I could change it.
Now: Working from home, having my family around me and getting more hours into the day due to no commuting and interruptions has reduced my stress level. I feel more relaxed than I have done for years, despite there being so many uncertainties hanging over us. I don’t know if I’m alone on this, but I’ve felt a renewed sense of purpose and focus in the last few weeks which is something I will always remember when I look back on this strange time in history.
This list could go on for ages but I’ll leave it there for now. I’ll have plenty more opportunities to navel-gaze no doubt over the coming weeks!
In conclusion, when examining all of these aspects of our lives that have been disrupted, I believe and hope that we will all be making some wholesale changes for the better as a result of this experience. I hope our gratitude to our freedoms, families and people who serve us will all be a lot greater and the decisions that we make going forward will be shaped by this humbling experience that we never could have imagined only a couple months ago.