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How Welsh Firms are Coping with the Covid-19 Outbreak

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Businesses around Wales have been taking steps to protect their staff and continue operating during the current crisis.

Here’s what some businesses we contacted told us they were doing.

Digital marketing agency Spindogs has had all its staff working from home since last Monday. Liam Giles, Managing

Director of Spindogs, said:

Here at Spindogs we took the decision last Monday to cease all work-related travel, switch to virtual meetings and ask all 60 people within the team to work from home with immediate effect.  As a business, we have always worked hard to ensure that we have a robust remote working capability.

In fact, we tested our Business Continuity Plan (BCP) in December by asking our entire organisation to work remotely, to prove that we could still successfully support all of our customers during a week-long exercise. Little did we know at the time just how valuable that exercise would prove to be, as we are now confident that we can operate in a fully remote manner for the medium to long term.

We’re now keeping our spirits up by doing team meetings by video and having a daily virtual end of day check in. These are small things that actually make a big difference to morale and team spirit.

AskEmma digital accountants in St Asaph has taken on an additional bookkeeper on a permanent contract and have an additional five temporary staff on stand-by as it helps its clients deal with their financial issues.

Emma Modinos, Director of AskEmma, said:

So far we are updating the social media numerous times with any updates we receive from HMRC and banks, urging the self-employed and business owners to remain calm as there is help available, and be in touch with their insurance providers and HMRC to use the help they have on offer.

If or when the Government makes quarantine compulsory or construction sites opt to close, our self-employed clients won't have an income so they will be relying on the CIS Tax Rebate to assist seeing them through the financial obligations.  So, we have had our IT guy set up laptops ready for home working with remote access to the internal servers, we have purchased new software to speed up the processing of our CIS Tax Rebate client accounts, and purchased additional mobile phones so we can remain as contactable as we always have been.

Even if we did not fall in the bracket of HMRC's listed key workers under the finance sector, we would still continue to work to help our clients.  We do our upmost every day to ensure our clients are looked after and we won't stop now.  We will work as best as we can for as long as we can, and being a digital business we have the facilities to do so.

Building contractors Pave Aways, at Benjamin Road, Wrexham, has closed its head office to visitors with staff based there working from home. The company said:

As the coronavirus outbreak continues, we are taking proactive steps to protect the wellbeing of our staff, supply chain and our clients whilst we continue to deliver our projects.

Our head office is closed to visitors. Staff based there have been asked to work from home with a core team in place to handle enquiries. Internal and external meetings are being reviewed and, where they are necessary to take place, they will do so online.

We are following Government guidelines and advising all staff and sub-contractors to self-isolate for 14 days if they, or a family member, show symptoms of coronavirus. At head office and on site we are encouraging the appropriate hand washing and social distancing protocols.

This is an evolving and extraordinary set of circumstances and we are constantly reviewing our approach in line with Government advice. As a leading construction provider in Shropshire, Mid Wales and the surrounding counties, we are actively encouraging a positive approach to maintain our works programmes and meet the demands of our loyal clients and, at the same time, work with our employees and supply chain to keep everyone safe.

Monmouth-based So Social Media has used social media and video chats to reproduce office discussions remotely.

Director Sam Perry said:

A forward-thinking mentality has been paramount in ensuring that we have been able to make the transfer from an office-based company to home working in a matter of hours. We have been able to replicate the office environment by utilising video calling through WhatsApp and Zoom to create a digital version of our daily environment; this allows us to work in precisely the same conversational way.

Not only has this benefited the company, but it also provides all our staff with a sense of stability, which maintains individual morale and therefore productivity.

To support those clients for whom the outbreak has completely removed their primary income source, we have created a crisis package which is fundamentally a repurposed version of our three-month free trial. In doing so we hope to be able to sustain a working relationship with these clients and re-establish a profitable connection once this is viable.

Gareth Sanders of Bristol-based Sparkle Cleaning has pledged to help some of the many people in the UK who have lost their jobs from the coronavirus outbreak. Gareth is pledging to gift some of his cleaning franchises, worth £10,000 each, in a bid to help those who are in need of work and income.

Gareth explained:

Over the last few days I have witnessed friends lose jobs and have to close down their businesses, I've had clients who are concerned for their staff who they have had to let go.

Sparkle Cleaning is in a fortunate position, we are a growing company that pride ourselves as being ‘the cleaners that care’. We want to see everyone in a safe place right now, which is why we have decided to waive the cost of buying a Sparkle Cleaning franchise for those who have been let go during the COVID-19 crisis.

Cardiff’s Business Improvement District FOR Cardiff is supporting businesses in the capital by helping them to promote their online sales and delivery services. FOR Cardiff said:

FOR Cardiff knows that the challenges facing our members at the moment are unprecedented and heart-breaking to many who don't know where to turn or what to do. Advice is changing hourly, but we have noticed and been alerted to many businesses who are changing their business models to offer online and delivery services.

To support our members we are creating a directory of any business that has an online offering. Promotion of this platform and the need to continue to support the local economy where possible will form a key part of FOR Cardiff’s communications during this difficult period.

Following on from creation of the ‘Shop Cardiff' page to promote existing online offerings, FOR Cardiff are developing an online sales tool to help businesses sell products online during the COVID-19 outbreak. Orders received and payments made will be passed directly from FOR Cardiff to your business – this is known as drop-shipping. All of the money we receive through this platform will be returned directly to businesses in Cardiff.

We’re particularly encouraging businesses to sell gift vouchers and other small items that they could continue to process should shops be compelled to close completely.

If you’d like to list a product for sale or ask any questions please contact [email protected]

At Rees Astley, Independent Financial Advisers and Insurance Brokers with offices in Newtown, Aberystwyth and Shrewsbury, most staff are working remotely. The company, which celebrated its 50th birthday last year, is taking calls from worried customers asking if their business insurance policies cover coronavirus.

Director Alan Hughes said:

We are all trying to get used to working remotely as we have, to all intents and purposes, closed our offices. We still have a skeleton staff in the offices taking calls from customers.

In addition to receiving calls from business customers asking if their existing insurance policies cover coronavirus, we are expecting enquiries about life assurance and critical illness insurance policies to increase in the coming weeks.

We are here to support our customers through these challenging times the best we can.

Robert Lloyd Griffiths, Director of IoD Wales, said the organisation had suspended its normally busy events programmes. He said:

The fight against the spread of coronavirus means that we are all facing some very uncertain times. Our collective priority has to be to protect each other and do whatever we can to support the efforts to contain this pandemic.

Here at the IoD, we have taken the difficult decision to reschedule our 2020 awards that were due to take place on Friday, 22 May. We very much hope that the awards will now take place on Friday 23 October, and the deadline for entries has been extended to 28 May. We have also paused our busy programme of events, but are busy planning a new schedule that will help our members to get back up and running as quickly as possible.

Our offices may be closed for the foreseeable future but our team is busy working from home, making the most of technology so that we can continue doing all that we can to support our members and the wider business community.

The IoD has also launched a Covid-19 support hub on our national website to help members with advice, guidance and access to Government support. This includes a specific section for Wales. We are also partnering with local businesses to deliver virtual events and keeping in constant contact with our members and Government to feed through information. It’s a very dynamic situation.