As a CEO you spend a good deal of your time worrying not about the present, but what might happen next. The present is something you and your team planned for some time ago and will, God willing, take care of itself. Instead, like the captain of a liner you find yourself constantly surveying the horizon in search of favourable waters while trying to avoid the storms that lay in wait. Most of the time, if you’re diligent and have a good crew supporting you, this works well and everything is – more or less – plain sailing. But every now and then out of a clear blue sky comes a storm of such ferocity that it threatens to wreck everything and your focus instantly switches from a horizon-fixed, ‘What if…?’ to a prow of the ship centred, ‘What now…?’
COVID-19 is a classic example of such a storm. At the start of 2020 I was set on helping our offices to further enhance their services to our customers, to helping them build on their success and generally looking forward to a year of prosperity and growth after 2019’s uncertainty and challenges. No sooner had I begun, however, than the storm clouds started to gather and I found myself thrust into a whirlwind round of meetings as we set about answering, ‘What now…?’
With the speed of a summer storm, ‘What now…?’ raced onto ‘How do we…?’ The most pressing question was how do we maintain our service to our customers without putting our people in harm’s way? The short answer was let’s get everyone working remotely as soon as possible. But when you have 450 spread across 96 different locations, the answer may have been short but it certainly wasn’t simple.
Thanks to a combination of early planning, hard work, Group-wide co-operation and the adoption of an ‘at all costs’ attitude, we did it. Having convened the COVID-19 Crisis Taskforce on the 2nd of March, by March 20th we had our entire Group working safely and remotely and having battened down the hatches we were ready to give our customers the support we knew they were going to need.
Business As Usual In Unusual Times
COVID-19 and the lockdown that’s ensued are unprecedented peacetime events, and while every good business has contingency plans few, if any, had prepared for something of this storm’s magnitude. We’d acted quickly and I’m proud to say that our teams were ready to give our clients the assistance they required. This was just as well as from the word go we were inundated with calls and emails, but having adapted our systems and extended our hours of business from 8am to 8pm, we were there when people needed us most.
WHile I am happy to say we’ve managed to maintain our service to our customers, I have to admit that this has been a strange way of working for us. At its heart Coversure is a community insurance brokers and most of our 91 offices see themselves as offering an accessible, high quality service to their local communities. Their customers value the increasingly rare, traditional face-to-face provision that they offer and the fact that they can pop in for a chat when they need some help. The advent of lockdown changed all that. To try and keep things as personal as possible when we moved to remote working, we invested in video conferencing technology and so kept the option of face-to-face alive as part of our business as usual efforts. In addition to this we quickly revamped our website and added a live chat option – which has proved incredibly popular – to add yet another channel of communication.
Now, as we start to see the dismantling of the restrictions and as the infection rate continues to fall, my mind is starting to move back from ‘What now…’ to ‘What if…’ Thus far, these what ifs have centred on trying to draw positives from what has been a terrible and difficult time. Speaking as a CEO, I can see strategic opportunities that we can build on and operational goals that we must meet as we return to work in the ‘new normal’ world. But beyond the practicalities of business there are a couple of things that keep coming back to me: an enormous sense of pride and feeling of gratitude.
I joined Coversure in 2009 and I’ve always been incredibly proud to lead such a committed and talented group of people. From our customer-focused, entrepreneurial franchisees to the teams at head office who keep everything running smoothly the collective spirit is awesome – little wonder that we routinely refer to ourselves as a family.
Well Done, And Thank You!
High as the esteem I hold our gang in is, the past few weeks have taken this to a whole new level. Under extraordinarily demanding circumstances, and often under severe time pressures, they have risen to challenge after challenge to ensure that our customers have continued to enjoy excellent service. Business owners often say that their people are their greatest asset, so much so that it’s almost become a cliché. In our case I can say hand on heart, that its true, and that makes me a very fortunate CEO.
As for gratitude, I would like to everyone who has worked so hard to keep the good ship Coversure sailing on. I’d like to thank IT for working miracles in terms of system changes, the operations and HR teams for enabling everyone to continue to work safely, and the franchisees and their teams for their cooperation. As much as anyone though I’d like to thank our customers; thank them for their loyalty and for being so accommodating of our new, albeit temporary, ways of working. The way we have come through this together is a testament to the quality of service that our franchises offer and the value that our customers place on it. Thank you one and all, thanks a million.
Well I’m pleased to report that following the lifting of restrictions on non-essential retail businesses opening, as of Monday the 15th 11 of our offices have now reopened and more will follow in the coming days and weeks. But just as we were cautiously proactive when it came to closing, so our offices will only reopen when they feel its safe to do so and we’ll be following the government’s guidance carefully once they do. In the meantime, all our offices remain open for business via the ‘phone, the website, email and video calls, so if you do need any help or advice then please don’t hesitate to get in touch. As far as Coversure is concerned it remains business as usual, despite the unusual times.
So, here’s to us all getting back to normal, or at least the ‘new normal’.