By Johnathan Dudley, Partner and National Head of Manufacturing at national audit, tax, advisory and risk firm Crowe
Fortunately, as a pretty tech-advanced business, we were already in a good state of preparation going into lockdown. Our phone system and video conferencing through Skype were already pre-loaded on people’s machines and almost everyone already had laptops.
We had protocols in place for data security at home, a secure client portal and the relevant hardware in place. The only additional matter was to furnish people with second screens that they very quickly missed, being at home, and after a couple of weeks, to supply office chairs, as dining chairs became increasingly uncomfortable.
So, when lockdown came, all we needed to do was to ensure we had sufficient VPN licences and we were set up to work from home immediately.
What was needed though, was the establishment of a means of frequent and regular communication with our teams who, though many are used to working in groups away from the office, were not really familiar with sitting at home working – we needed to take steps to address this. I established a daily morning irreverent email for all our people which includes key notices but also, gossip, competitions, “This day in history” and also reflections on life in lockdown in a light-hearted way. Coincidentally, I had watched “Good Morning Vietnam” just a short time before and I decided to call this bulletin “Gooood Morning Crowe!”, in the style of the late great Robin Williams in that film.
The bulletin also enabled us to give more personal updates to our people. We sadly lost our colleague, VAT Partner Keri Pay to coronavirus. That was for me a very difficult daily update. It did however, allow me to speak more freely, less formally and convey what we were all feeling at the time. Aside for a brief break during my leave, this email continues and it’s great to see feedback in our employee surveys and in direct emails. It seems to have helped people feel part of something bigger from their spare bedroom/loft/dining table.
After a couple of weeks, as a national firm we decided to update and revamp our national bulletin, This one is called “We are Crowe” after our twitter hashtag and is circulated fortnightly by our internal communications team. More recently, as we moved to limited return to work procedures, we now have a weekly status update for each of our locations across the country, taking into account various geographical restrictions.
We have, to date, undertaken employee pulse surveys and invited feedback from people returning to work, about how safe they feel and whether we can make further improvements.
Clients and Client Work
As soon as the announcements began concerning support packages back in March, we immediately noted that, for most people, the help on offer was both complicated and potentially confusing. We also realised that the regime would regularly change as the events of lockdown and its effects unfolded.
So we devised the Crowe Funding Flowchart which we posted on social media, just an hour or so after the Chancellor’s first announcement. We have constantly developed and updated it since, with the latest version including employment support for businesses instructed to close due to local restrictions.
In addition, we built a COVID-19 hub on our website and embedded links to the detailed advice including, government websites and our “Getting Back on Track” documents – a holistic suite of assistance to help clients through these unprecedented times.
I’m also immensely proud of the 100% CBILS application record that we continue to have on behalf of clients.
The last six months of client-related work embodies all the reasons I became an accountant in the first place. Our values are ‘we care, we share, we grow’ and we absolutely have demonstrated them over the last six months.
We learned how to and have delivered regular zoom conferences, webinars and most recently our new podcast “Crowe Casts”, to share insight and knowledge across sectors as of course, we are all in this together.
From the very outset, we have worked alongside the Confederation of British Metal Formers, Chambers of Commerce, Make UK and ICAEW to lobby government about changes needed to the help available to business and our Funding Flowchart – which we know has been widely used and shared and has given us collateral in this.
I have to say, we have found the government departments willing to listen and in many cases they have acted. This process continues and it is a privilege to be involved.
Looking to the Future
Having lived through the past seven months, no one can say that they know how the next 12 months will turn out. Until an effective vaccine is in place, the future is flexible and business must learn to be flexible too.
At Crowe, we are constantly updating our knowledge on what is available, and we aim to make sure our clients have the clearest understanding of the challenges they face, and the options they have to tackle them.
Until then, make sure your glass is half full!