At Fairland Contractors, like many businesses, we started 2020 brimming with enthusiasm. We felt fortunate to have a full order book for many months ahead. Our strong and loyal workforce, both in the office and out on site, were raring to go.
We’d even finally got round to giving our Head Office a much-needed update, and we were looking forward to the year ahead celebrating our 30th anniversary in the pub refurbishment industry.
Fairland Contractors – Facing the Future – A message from Jim & Louise.
By February, the news of this mystery virus was gaining momentum. With hospitals being erected in record time in China, it started to dawn on us that something extraordinary was going on out there. While work remained reasonably busy, it wasn’t on the scale we were expecting. The large refurbishments we were due to start were being slightly delayed. With the takeover of EI Group by Stonegate taking place in early March, this felt understandable. So, initially, we remained unphased.
Things began to change as headlines continued to be dominated by the growing concerns over Coronavirus. We have friends working in Harley Street who weren’t dismissing these stories as scaremongering. I (Louise) had an unusually organised thought process that I wanted to keep my food cupboards very well-stocked at home. I quietly made sure we had plenty of tins and pasta in place as well as more cleaning products than I would usually have. Additionally, I started to wipe down the door handles and surfaces in the office regularly – I think some of the team thought I was mad!
March – Everything changes:
By early March some of our clients were putting their capital expenditures on hold. By the second week of that month, some shelved all future projects. Then suddenly everything changed. We were enjoying a few days in Cornwall when the Prime Minister announced that people should avoid restaurants and bars, even though they could stay open. All of our work disappeared overnight.
Keep Calm & Plan – The Fairland Contractor’s Motto:
We stayed calm, came home and did what we always do… We started planning for this uncertain future. Jim came up with plans to support our staff. We were implementing wage reductions for the foreseeable future that would be paid back over time. Our team took comfort, knowing we were doing everything we could to protect their jobs. Then when the Chancellor made the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme available the next day, Jim and I felt relief too!
On March 23, almost without realising the momentum of what was going on, we locked up our office and set up to work from home. A couple of clients still wanted to complete projects. This didn’t sit comfortably with us. We didn’t want to compromise our staff’s health and safety by travelling to jobs, particularly on public transport, so we closed sites too. Strangely, the announcement that evening of total lockdown was a relief to us. All decision-making was taken away, and we did what everybody else was doing. We stayed home to protect the NHS.
We diverted the phones and kept one member of staff in Accounts working from home so we could continue to pay suppliers. We did what other businesses have done, hunkered down, and looked at every penny coming and going out of the bank account. We’ve put measures in place to continue to run our company as frugally as possible.
As the weeks have gone by we’ve kept to the routine of a pared-down working week. We catch up with all our Contracts Managers regularly via Zoom. (Who had heard of Zoom a few weeks ago?) Additionally, we send out a weekly bulletin to the entire team.
Many people are asking us why we aren’t carrying out pub refurbishments during the lockdown. After all, in many ways, an empty venue seems like a perfect opportunity to complete works. But, from our point of view, we feel it is more important for our staff to stay home and stay safe. As much as we take pride in the work we do, we are fully aware that it is not an essential service.
Additionally, with no customers at the moment, our clients are not in a hurry to spend money on non-essential refurbishments in the short term. We believe that any works in the coming months are more likely to be mostly emergency, safety, and maintenance projects rather than expenditure on more cosmetic ventures – but you never know!
That said, we feel ready to move on from the initial shock of this situation. Rather than looking back, we are now planning for the future.
Diversifying in the ‘New Normal’:
With the news that hospitality is (unsurprisingly) likely to be the last sector to come out of lockdown, we appreciate the need to make changes moving forward.
Our experience in the pub refurbishment industry means that we are comfortable with a fast and intense pace of work, bringing many different trades and products together.
We know we can put these skills to use elsewhere. We have, in the past, carried out office refurbishments. And with social distancing becoming a ‘new normal’, companies will need to make changes in the layout and design of their office spaces when people return to work. This is something we are confident we can help with.
We are now working hard to secure projects outside our much-loved pub refurbishment industry over the next few months. We are also working hard in our specialist sector to come up with workable blueprints that will assist pubs to open safely when the time comes.
Fairland Contractors have faced many challenges in this industry over the last 30 years, but nothing quite like this. Not for a moment did we think that our thirty-year milestone would be marked in any other way than doing what we love. However, we stay positive in the knowledge that business will evolve and move forward and we will continue to work towards the new normal.
We are in the midst of securing some projects outside our usual sector to see us through this Summer and Autumn. If we can help you adapt to your new normal, please contact us HERE.