A Question Of Balance

Jayne & Dan Sullivan discuss with Windows Active how finding the balance – not just for them but the industry as a whole – is the key to surviving COVID-19

A question of balance

A successful business partnership could be compared to a good marriage.  When things get tough, the individuals pull together and find solutions based on mutual trust, understanding and appreciation for each other skills and traits to get through. Jayne & Dan Sullivan, are well versed at dealing with business issues over the years of working together, and it’s this and DOORCO’s extended family team ethos that has helped over recent months.

Jayne We have always viewed the team as extended family. They share our ethos and passion for the business, so selecting the team to work through the lockdown was easy and hard; easy as we are lucky to have experienced leaders to choose from, hard as we couldn’t keep everyone from Furlough . Those that remained, brought the skills we felt were necessary to support the business and add value through the unprecedented (overused, but still true) situation we faced.

Dan: The team have been amazing throughout.  Each facing their own set of circumstances, they’ve bought perspective to many Zoom discussions that have been on a ‘warzone’ footing. As it has been for every manufacturer, these discussions centred on how our business would survive in the short-term and how we’d restructure and remodel to achieve this.

It was vital for us to stay open remotely for numerous reasons: communication to our customers and suppliers, making payments to the supply chain, planning and preparing for a return, supporting colleagues and peers, and overall making sure people knew we were there.  Our ethos has always centred on being open and straight, confronting issues head on, and “picking up the phone” even if in this scenario, we didn’t always have answers. The main office phone was diverted to my mobile so we could communicate first-hand. These conversations took place in our hastily re-configured dining room (or more often than not in the garden, thanks to a new daily annoyance of poor mobile phone reception). We got on with steering our way through a whole new set of challenges and tried to remain positive (mostly), be supportive, work together and think creatively.

Jayne: This adage of family can also be widened out to the entire supply chain.  The biggest strength of the industry is its community spirit, and although still present through lockdown, some interesting variations emerged as the situation intensified. The true ethos of any business – good or bad – is totally exposed in difficult times, and there was no place to hide with this one.

Dan: Some businesses never left work: fielding calls, taking online orders and working out a way to get back to normal as soon as physically possible. These companies were amongst the first wave back and their spirit was clear to see.

In contrast, some procrastinated. Waiting for someone to tell them what to do and following the majority but shooting down from the side-lines by questioning those who were trying to make decisions and pave a way forward.

Then there were those that have simply disappeared. Having furloughed most of their staff, there was no one to talk strategy with, and even worse, no one there to deal with customers.  There was little compassion: if money was owed, they wanted it now.  If orders were on the books, they were just cancelled. No conversation.

Jayne: Our view was that it was only down to us to make the right decisions for DOORCO. All the talking and planning can only result in action.  The balance of protecting the workforce from health risks, whilst ensuring financial security and ultimately their jobs, was a tough call for every business owner.

Dan: A very fine line to navigate for certain, but to me, those that demonstrated strong leadership and kept the lines of communication on and at volume 10 will be the ones that survive. Or at least, will not go down without a good fight.  These companies have shared direction and strategies, but most importantly have listened carefully to the needs of customers and suppliers. Never has a true entrepreneurial spirit been more important.

What happens next?

Jayne: The impact of COVID-19 has interestingly led to a much more complex set of dynamics, situations, decisions, relationships. None of which can be approached in any one way and has really put the spotlight how the ‘whole sum is greater than its individual parts’. As of May 4th, we were back up and running.  There are strict Safe Working Practices in place, and many of the team continue to work from home. We are monitoring the business every day, ensuring we have the correct level of staff against the orders being received.  Some staff remain furloughed, and some are unable to return until lockdown is over – the situation is fluid.

Dan: Business is far from back to normal, but the green shoots are there, and orders, although creeping up, will not return to normal for some time. The decision to come back when we did was not one made from greed, it was to practice and stress test all our planning we had done during lockdown, a safe time to instil best practice for the new way of working with a small trusted team with minimal risk.

There are lots of question marks over how consumers will behave and how we will recover financially. We are all still watching the daily bulletin and hoping that the plans the government have outlined can be adhered to; Our son returned to school this week with mixed emotions, shops can open, people will start spending. Broadly though, we are still here, and we will do all we can to remain so: take every opportunity that presents itself, keep the lines of communication open, and have conversations, especially the difficult ones. Our key take-away from this situation is to find the balance that keeps your business moving forward through the short-mid-long term…whatever that will look like.