I've run a digital business in the village for almost 25 years (in June). We've been through a lot of ups and downs in that time and this probably qualifies as a down. I'm sure that people in the future may ask why a business that specialises in helping other businesses transform their online processes might struggle in a period where online is the only saviour for many businesses? That's a good question and the answer has two parts:
- We're a people business and the people we employ are all highly qualified and well paid
- Our customers aren't immune to the effects of this virus. We have a number of travel and aerospace companies as customers and they have either failed or gone into deep freeze
This leaves us with a revenue drop of a scale that we had not planned for. We're confident that once things relax, the customers will emerge with us and projects will continue and perhaps even increase. The problem is, how to survive?
This is the problem that the Government's Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) has been designed to alleviate for businesses. We are allowed to 'furlough' employees. A word never used before mid-March, 'furlough' is now known countywide. In effect it is a temporary change to staff employment terms such that they stay employed, don't work and have a proportion of their salaries claimed for from the Government by their employer. The idea is to protect livelihoods, jobs and help businesses survive.
The rules and calculations associated with the process are a little bit 'government' BUT all of the information is available online and with a bit of commitment an employer can work it all out themselves. The gov.uk website has a simple calculator on it for making a the most basic of calculations, but if you want to do more than the minimum you just have to work through the range of examples they give to work out what fits for you.
Today was the day that the Government opened their online claim system and so I spent a significant proportion of the day making sure I had the calculations and eligibility correct. Then, with some trepidation, I logged on to the Government Gateway to make our first claim.
Over the years I have launched thousands of online services and I fully appreciate how difficult it is to get scaling right, especially where there is huge pent up demand. On the other hand, we are also a Crown Commercial Service supplier with the capability and expertise to deliver such projects to Government. I know how much effort has been put into Government digital programmes and the suppliers who deliver them.
The system worked faultlessly with no hint of stress or latency. That's pretty impressive, so a big thumbs up to the development and implementation teams responsible. I will also give a thumbs up to the current Government for the Job Retention Scheme idea, it will save a lot of jobs and businesses. What is a shame, however, is the time it took to announce, the rule changes and the number of clear loopholes that many will fall into. Par for the course for our shambolic leaders I'm afraid.
The Furlough Dividend
Having, sorted out what we can do to help survive in the short term I will be turning my attention to how we can come out of this stronger than we went in. I'll be doing a lot of overhead reduction through process change. I'll also be doing personal training and skills acquisition.
I'm pretty confident that furloughed staff will be doing the same as well as taking some 'me' time. I have a 'one-day' list of things I'd like to look at and it looks like 'one-day' is today!