Sitting here in France (where I live) starting my 5th week of COVID-19 lockdown with all our UK based venues closed for the immediate (and uncertain) future, I find myself reflecting on the journey so far.
There’s been too much that has happened to recount in one go so this is part 1 of the journey. As much as a cathartic release as sharing for industry perspective interest.
So here goes….
Back in Feb we received notification that some friends of ours, in the same valley, had shared their chalet with a ‘Super (virus) Spreader’. The world was starting to wake up to this new threat and suddenly it was right on our doorstep. To make matters worse a few days later I had shared an airport transfer with a virus carrier and had to isolate myself for a while thereafter. I remember thinking that this was ‘a situation coming to a place near you’ and that this was going to be impossible to avoid for long. I don’t think any of us really thought (or wanted to believe) that the world would shut down as dramatically and speedily as it did.
Once the closures began there was no stopping them. It started with our climb operation Up at The O2 and then several days later our 80m abseil the ArcelorMittal Orbit and then our 140m drop at the British Airways i360 closed shortly thereafter. Staff were sent home and suddenly the veil was lifted on the harsh reality of the situation we (and many other business owners) were facing.
I think most business leaders were looking at all continuity options and I know I was desperately searching for the way forward. The focus for me was business survival (which basically means cashflow in these times) and the duty of care for our staff. Undoubtedly I felt a strong sense of responsibility to ensure we could provide for our staff, however, to be brutally honest, if the company collapsed there would be no vehicle to provide this care and so, initially, it looked like some difficult decisions might have to be made.
As the leader I felt this weight heavy on my shoulders. I had to protect my staff from the consideration of the potential (worst) outcomes whilst looking for ways to keep things going. Leadership is a lonely place most of the time and although I’ve a terrific team around me this was one situation I had to deal with alone. I don’t know how other business leaders responded to the notification that furloughed staff would be paid by the government but I have to say that the announcement gave way to a huge sense of relief. It’s at times like these you realise the pressure you are under and how much it can affect you.