What have been some of the key learnings for you since the UK fully re-opened over the summer?
It is only now that businesses are beginning to understand the impact of Covid lockdown. Lead times to get things done have extended in many sectors; whether it is authorisations from Government departments, building supplies, postal delays, Chinese imports etc, everything seems to be taking longer. Many companies are now rethinking their approach to home working and flexible working, whilst maintaining higher levels of service. We have learnt we can’t do everything remotely. It’s difficult to lead people from a distance because of lack of emotional attachment.
As we move forward from the pandemic and look to the future, what business opportunity most excites you?
Business Online. The pandemic has definitely shifted the way people buy products and services. Because during lockdown online became a primary not secondary way to shop and this shift has normalised. As a result, those businesses who have invested in online capability have an opportunity to grow market share. Whether you are a large or small company you have an opportunity.
Given the important part that technology has played in all sectors during the pandemic, how do you envisage technology developing in your organisation going forward?
Without doubt our investment in technology will be focussed on continuous development of our online services. This investment will take us beyond order fulfilment and engineering services, to treatment programmes for our products and other support initiatives to help customers broaden their capability.
With sustainability and ESG being more prevalent on the Board agenda, what is your business doing to meet net zero carbon emission targets by 2050, if not earlier?
I split our actions into short term and longer term regarding environmental matters. For example, we are taking immediate actions to save on materials as a first priority, then to ensure what we use can be recycled. We ship millions of boxes to customers containing goods each year. We have introduced algorithms that calculate the space needed in each carton for the goods ordered. We now avoid shipping an item in a carton that is way oversized leading to a waste of materials. The less we use the less we need to recycle materials. As an example, for the longer term we are working to transition to electric vans for our engineers.
Our social responsibilities have become more top of mind. DD has been providing some of our workwear to local homeless institutions and we also provide products to help dental care for the less privileged. We also sponsor a number of Guide Dogs (imagine the challenge of finding hand sanitizers during this pandemic when you are sight impaired).
Governance has taken on a whole new meaning as a result of the pandemic. Nobody could have predicted the last 18 months. This period has strengthened most if not all companies’ crisis management/business continuity planning, as they were tested in one form or another. We are all stronger now.
How has your business changed in its approach to employee wellbeing during the pandemic and what will it continue to do more of in the future?
I think the question is broader: employee and customer wellbeing. Staff generally found the lockdown period difficult. Whilst we remained open for business throughout the pandemic, as we are an NHS supplier, some were working from home and some were in the office. To maintain contact, ensure participation, and maintain engagement, we created wellness evenings, quiz nights, yoga evenings, etc.
Then I think about our contact centre. We were receiving calls from customers looking to discuss the pandemic and the impact on them and their business. I am so proud of our staff who worked through this period offering support for customers when their world was completely turned upside down.
Who or what has inspired you recently? (They don’t need to be famous)
Rather than who, I was inspired by the recent Channel 4 drama Hope. Jodie Comer played a character who struggled to manage in a Covid ravaged care home. It brought home to me what those people working in highly challenged healthcare environments, who are paid at the lower end, actually had to deal with. We should all commend those people for their dedication and contribution.
Hopefully you managed to have break over the summer, either abroad or a ‘stay cation’ – what was the highlight?
I have a planned holiday in the USA that has been delayed until later in the year. Whilst sitting out the delays in travel to the USA, I did manage to take a few days in Jersey. I have to mention though, that trying to maintain business during lockdown meant holidays took a back seat.
Supplying the NHS, our original customer, then extending supply to Police, Ambulance and other government services during the pandemic meant many of our team sacrificed their holidays.
Which book have you read recently and why would you recommend it?
I’m not really a massive book reader, I tend to read media articles and white papers to keep myself up to date on the latest theories and case studies. In a leadership position I believe you need to constantly learn to challenge your perspective. The danger zones for management are assumption and righteousness. I have co-authored a book, ‘The Little Book of Change’, I plan to publish another. My approach is to provide a 45 minute read (Inspired by ‘Who Moved My Cheese’). We are all becoming time poor, so getting information quickly is important.
What are you most looking forward to doing in 2022?
I’m looking forward to the world getting truly organised regarding environmental issues. It is a huge topic, but we must take action. There are so many ways we can improve. We are not short of options!
Any words of wisdom?
Hope is useless in business. You must take action.