Smallwood, Managing Director, Britannia Anchor Removals
To share Chris 14 Removals & Storage June 2020
Chris Smallwood: Since the
Government announced lockdown
restrictions it has been quite a
rollercoaster. The initial trauma of
deciding to close down and informing
clients we couldn’t move them was
followed by a short lull as we waited to
see how the Coronavirus Job Retention
Scheme would work out. Then it was
back to trauma as we fought hard for
business rates support, a reasonable
loan agreement and business interruption insurance. I don’t think I’ve ever
worked so hard, read or learned so much!
R&S: Have you been working during the lockdown?
CS: During the first two weeks of government restrictions we were asked by our
local NHS Trust to clear several decommissioned and unused wards of office
furniture, plinth beds, files and gym equipment to make space for 100 new
intensive care and palliative care beds. Several members of the team also worked
tirelessly with our local community centre to make sure food supplies reached
vulnerable people during the panic-buying. Although we continue to offer help
delivering healthcare equipment, that work has died down now.
R&S: How have you been preparing for a return to
CS: We’ve put in place a number of measures, but nothing is more important
than training. Educating all members of staff on what this virus is and how it
spreads is absolutely critical. In our internal training programme we’ve ramped
up the emphasis on personal hygiene – regular handwashing, avoiding hand-to-
face contact, catching coughs and sneezes, etc. – as well as general awareness
of Covid-19 symptoms. To keep our crews safe on the road we have also notified
all our clients of their obligations to deep clean their property, limit the number
of people on site during a move and maintain a two-metre distance at all times.
‘Normal’ will involve being disciplined, assertive, pleasant and understanding
all at the same time. Goodwill from all parties will no doubt be crucial from now
on, and hopefully mover and customer will be able to take a more compassionate
view of each other.
R&S: What’s the situation with regard to staff?
CS: We’ve been in continuous contact with all our teams throughout the
restrictions, and the atmosphere has been really positive despite everyone being
forced to make major sacrifices. I’m very proud of how the workforce has reacted
to the situation and how we’ve become a close-knit community as a result.
In preparation for returning to work, the team is pleased with the training
they’ve received, and we are confident that we are being as safe as we can in the
circumstances. It’s very much been a collaboration, and the input we’ve received
from our operatives and admin teams has been superb.
R&S: Do you have any messages for fellow BAR
CS: When applying for a grant, don’t take no for an answer! If you get rejected,
write to your Member of Parliament, the Government, go public, whatever it
takes. It’s clear that the grant payment is discretionary, so you need to make a
strong case for support.
Also, before resuming operations, consult health & safety professionals, train
your teams extensively, give them a chance to speak and listen to what they have
to say. It could save you time and money.
Finally, remember that this is a health crisis, not a war! Don’t necessarily be
afraid of the virus but do respect it as well as those who are treating the ill – they
need your support.
For more information, visit www.anchorremovals.co.uk
Matthew Ballard, Group Managing Director, Ballards
Matthew Ballard: Without doubt it has been a time of adversity, although
I think we’ve been less quiet than other firms. Ballards is a relatively large
company that is still run as a family business, and that has perhaps allowed us to
be more agile and flexible with regard to our work during the lockdown. To some
degree that’s a result of the last recession: the realisation that we need to diversify
our business to stay secure in times of difficulty.
R&S: What have you been doing to keep the wheels
MB: We SORNed all our removals vehicles in the lockdown period, but the
haulage side of the business has kept up good levels of work. Our trucks have been
busy virtually around the clock, either carrying containers out of Felixstowe or
supplies for supermarket chains to help manage the surge in demand caused by
the initial panic-buying.
We tried to fully capitalise on the lockdown as an opportunity to regroup and
do the maintenance and admin jobs you normally put off. For instance, we used
the time to play around with the storage configuration of our Markham Moor
warehouse in order to use the space more effectively, and this allowed us to clear a
half-acre yard which we then let out to tenants. Just before the Easter weekend we
also launched a new self store site in Lincoln, which has since seen an uptick in
walk-ins. We’re not yet at capacity but business is growing steadily.
R&S: How have you been preparing for a return to
MB: In addition to our risk assessment documentation, we’ve drafted three
separate action plans that give guidance on safe working for staff (both at the
depot and on the road), customers and surveyors, and we’re taking steps to ensure
social distancing measures are enforced within our premises. We now have
1,000 masks of different variety, all of which conform to the necessary standards.
I trialled the full kit when I recently delivered an essential move and found
that my mask steamed up as soon as I started breathing heavily, which is often
during a taxing removal. So it has been a process of testing what combination
of equipment works best for our different teams and taking steps to mitigate any
problems to make sure our staff are as safe and comfortable as possible.