Great to see our commentary on what it means to be operating in a post-pandemic world, featured in the August edition of Removals and Storage magazine, to be read across the UK and internationally. Here’s the interview with Gary Burke, Managing Director:
• How have things changed since the pandemic? Have you adopted any new processes?
The longer term effects of the pandemic are continuing to be felt in a number of ways. The national HGV driver shortage has worsened with a current shortage of 100,000 drivers across the UK. Coupled with this, vehicles are more expensive and harder to obtain with longer lead times. Supplies, such as packing materials, are in shorter supply and increasingly expensive.
The lockdown gave many people the time and the impetus to re-assess their lives. Coupled with the UK’s withdrawal from the EU and the increase in documentation, we have found that customers are far more discerning in their choice of mover to perform the move and are opting for a professional moving company and as such the volume of our European removal work has increased. This has in turn meant that we’ve been able to invest more and secure more jobs.
The international shipping market was badly affected by the pandemic and it was important to take the opportunity to focus on the UK and European markets and also to meet the growing demand for storage.
There has also been a discernible change in people’s attitudes. The experience of the pandemic has bought us all closer together- be it staff, suppliers or customers. Everyone seems more respectful of each other and we’ve noticed that whilst our removal men have always been respectful and responsible- this seems even more so since the pandemic. The increased awareness that they had to have for their own health, their colleagues and our customers has continued to inform their working practices.
As an industry, we’ve come out of the pandemic flying. The demand for professional removal services has rocketed. We don’t have time to diversify as it is hard enough to recruit to meet the demand for our services. We have trained removal men and not agency staff or casual labour.
• Do you feel that there have been some positive changes in the way you work or run your business which may not have developed if it wasn’t for the pandemic?
During the pandemic the company adapted by introducing virtual surveys to enable pre-move surveys to be conducted without surveyors physically entering the home and this is an option that we’ve continued to offer as well as physical, in-home surveys. Virtual meetings have also remained a useful additional method for communicating with international agents, with partners throughout the UK and beyond.
• Have any of your staff adopted a flexible hybrid working pattern?
As a well-established international moving company, our Sales team are more mobile and more flexible as a result of the pandemic. In many ways the pandemic speeded up developments, particularly in IT and communications. As a company we adapted sooner than we expected to.
However, we also realise that we would never opt to have all of our office staff working from home on a permanent basis. As a traditional removals company in Wolverhampton, we are ‘people persons’ and want to have time in the office. Whilst the technological advancements were imperative for business continuity during the lockdown period and have their uses, the value of being physically on site can never really be replaced by remote work. There is a camaraderie that comes with working on-site and a swiftness of action which often can’t be achieved through electronic communication.
• What lessons have you learned?
The pandemic has exemplified the sheer unpredictability of running a business and the importance of being able to be innovative and flexible in the face of a challenge. Equally, being transparent and honest with customers and maintaining a dialogue with them has been key to success.