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Ewan Dodds CEO - Covid Thoughts

Thursday, 17 December 2020

Ewan Dodds, CEO provides his thoughts on the Covid-19 pandemic. 


Standing in Malaga airport on the 13th March ahead of our return to the UK, the queue of passengers increasingly wearing scary masks, Spain with an infection rate of 6,000 and shutting down all their bars and restaurants the following day, I was wholly unaware of what was about to face the world and our business in the coming days.

One week later, I closed the office sending all our staff to work from home (wfh), quickly discovering the advantages (and limitations) of technologies such as Zoom amidst the turmoil of a major system changeover and the challenges of running a business wholly remotely.

Where had it all gone wrong- another story.

And what have I learned, what would I do differently knowing what I know now and what does the future hold for us?

Firstly, while difficult decisions had to be made, this is what management is about, and there’s little room for sentiment when you have bills to pay. People are our biggest asset, but also our biggest cost.

Having to dismiss long standing work colleagues is hard, because it’s not just the individual but their families too, but cutting quick was one of the best decisions. Lesson 1-Cut quick- cut deep.

When you’re facing a precipice, the size of which you cannot measure, making difficult decisions over who you must lose, however emotionally you want to keep and support them, who to furlough and who to retain, while working apart is gut wrenching.

While Quarter One,2020 remains a distant memory, those months since have been a blur, full of different things, one after the other, day after day, relationships to build, rebuild and develop reminding ourselves constantly and those we work with what “ good really looks like”.

“Good” in my book should never look different, it’s just good, what we should do each day, what we should aspire to and inspire others around us to deliver consistently- that 7-8/10 all the time.

But, “Good” now must be better. The old good is like the old “normal”, replaced with “new good” and “ new normal”.

I’ve been amazed at how quickly we have learned new stuff, how willingly my colleagues have been to take on new tasks, learn new skills without a moan, mostly with a smile, and it has been this willingness to muck in that has got us through, so far one of the worst experiences, worst seismic shocks our business, and the world has faced since I started out as a trainee surveyor back in the early 80’s.

And where to now? Well 2020 is a year I am looking forward to seeing the back of, in some but not all ways. We have won and transacted business, perhaps not as much as I would have liked, but having cut our cloth accordingly, I think we have done well, and I hope we can look forward to “21”, with some optimism, if not real confidence.

Our amazing staff have really pulled together, grown as a team and are taking on huge amounts of responsibility. Making mistakes is part and parcel of life, of growing as people, but learning from these mistakes is crucial. And, we are learning every day.

Every day we are making new relationships with great people and businesses which demonstrates both the resilience we have in the property sector, and how many see the downturn as an opportunity to thrive and prosper.

Some of our commercial sectors are clearly more badly affected than others, and these impacts will be felt more when many of the support structures are removed next year, but I am massively encouraged by the demand we continue to see. Long may this continue.

So what would I do different? Do you know, not much. Clearly I would rather that this hadn’t happened, but s... does, and you really don’t know what you don’t know.

Having fought to preserve cash,( its amazing how much cash is slipping through your fingers every day when you don’t really take notice- how many mobile phones and landlines does a business really need??), I feel the challenge of 2021 is a real opportunity to expand, grow and generate more business. We have been working in the office together since May, and while remote working has its benefits, working together has so much more and we have gelled so much more strongly than I would have expected in those darkest March days.

I love working together with my colleagues every day as I learn as much from them as they, hopefully learn from me. 

One of my tests each year is by how much people have progressed at the end of each year. And yes, every one of my colleagues has passed this test with flying colours. I believe they will.

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