As we ease out of lockdown, and the end of restrictions are in sight, let’s catch up with James Clark, Managing Director at On The Level, to reflect back on a period of time like no other.
Looking back to March 2020, what were your first reactions to the national lockdown and how did it affect the business?
Our first reaction was we really just didn’t know what to expect. Overnight construction work stopped, projects were pushed back and bathroom retailers had to close. We didn’t panic though and took the time to re-evaluate our business and look at new opportunities.
What has changed over the last year that you would like to keep on doing?
The break from the norm allowed us to take time, which we wouldn’t otherwise have had, to evaluate all our sales and manufacturing processes, and plan for how we want to move forward. The processes we were able to put in place during the last year are now proving beneficial as we see improvements in speed of manufacturing, amongst other things.
I’m a big believer in continuous improvement, and with a strong team in place I aim to continue to focus on reviewing processes going forward as well as having more time to focus on business strategy.
Has the pandemic changed/adapted the way the business has worked?
We have kept pushing forward throughout the pandemic, investing in the sales and marketing team, recruiting seven colleagues over the last year. The pandemic also pushed us to step outside our comfort zone and look at how we could be more versatile using our manufacturing experience to adapt to new possibilities.
We also quickly learnt how to build relationships with colleagues, clients and suppliers virtually!
Any interesting projects because of the pandemic?
Our Level Access floor system, and modular products lent themselves well to the healthcare sector, where we were able to support existing and new clients in the completion of NHS Nightingale Hospitals, and other much needed hospital refurbishment projects. Speed was critical for these projects, in the race to provide COVID-19 emergency facilities, and our products could be created to bespoke requirements in a matter of days, we were proud to have contributed to the efforts.
As hotels across the country unfortunately had to close, it did however provide an opportunity to commence work on refurbishment projects whilst rooms were unoccupied. Again, we were delighted to be able to work closely with our hotel clients and provide wet room floor solutions for their en-suite rooms.
How have OTL been able to support other businesses during the last year?
The biggest thing for us was to give our time, support and understanding to our clients. There was a great sense of everyone was in this together, and a common understanding and drive to keep business continuing as close to normal as possible.
We remained open throughout, engaged in conversations and built better and stronger relationships because of the situation.
Being a UK based manufacturing company, we were also able to react quickly to clients’ requirements and provide solutions to speed up install time on projects which had quick programme timelines.
What can’t you wait to return to normal?
Being back in the office with the whole team, some of which have not even had the chance to meet each other face to face so far. Whilst working from home has its benefits, and we like many others will support a flexible hybrid working routine, it’s also really important to bring everyone together to build a greater sense of belonging, make it easier for the team to collaborate together, and also for each of us to be able to support and learn from each other.