Ray Johnson of the Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce, describes the support offered to businesses and how different businesses have responded to the crisis.

During the Coronavirus lockdown, the Chamber of Commerce have been working to ensure that businesses can access the right information and all the help that is available.

Webinars are available to help those struggling to fit current guidelines into their business model.

As we know the coronavirus is an extremely challenging and unprecedented situation. During this time businesses have struggled and have had to adapt and change. In my view, those who grasp these difficulties by being proactive in the circumstances and who closely liaise with customers, stakeholders and indeed the employees will be the winners in the long term. Also, being exemplars within their respective sectors by showing best practice can only be a good thing!

Some companies have been proactive in obtaining relevant information, for example from the Chamber of Commerce, to seek guidance and support on funding, staff issues, strategy and obtaining support and joining webinars.

Through my work with businesses, I have seen some good employee engagement from employers: encouraging community work for those who may have been or continue to be furloughed and working proactively on mental health issues are two examples of best practice which may well become more important issues in the future. Equally, I have seen other sectors with clear examples of poor (or zero) communication to customers, and some who have tried but have not performed particularly well in this regard. It will be interesting to see whether this will have a negative impact in the longer term as some customers may consider purchasing elsewhere.

Nonetheless, despite the difficult situation I have discovered some incredibly positive stories including:

  • Clothing retailer: showed versatility and took training on website development, quickly improved website offering, and called all his regular customers who would normally visit his shop. Through word of mouth and clever use of the internet, he has increased his income by 200%.
  • Small café: Was awarded funding which enabled an alteration of the shop to provide a new take away service. Showed versatility, has been able to continue operating as a business during lockdown.
  • Office, walk in centre: funding £10K huge relief as put into a Shielded category and the amount secured this facility for 9 months and took substantial pressure off.
  • Medical supply company: Turnover rocketed from £1.1M to £6.5M overnight!
  • Local school in Folkestone: Initiative making Visors led to provision of over 1000 PPE

Ray Johnson is on the Board of Directors for the Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce.