Jacqueline O’Donovan, managing director of O'Donovan Waste Disposal, offers a first person perspective on leading a waste management business through the coronavirus crises.
Wow! Now I know how a goldfish feels - all eyes on me. Working in a family-run business, my biggest task in these uncertain times has been managing and balancing my team’s reactions to the coronavirus pandemic. My role has been centred on reporting and reassuring our 185 employees and my siblings as the situation changes daily. It is at a time like this, as a managing director, you can feel like a goldfish in a bowl.
After three years of uncertainty due to Brexit, the black cloud had lifted in January. I had hoped that downturns and unpredictable times would be in the past; at least for now anyway. But sadly not. Little did I expect that a few short months later, we would be experiencing a worldwide pandemic and my days would be spent reminding people to self-distance and that washing your hands can save lives. It is all so surreal.
As a waste management company, we are crucial to keeping waste moving in these uncertain times. The work that the NHS and front-line workers have being carrying out to date has been nothing short of amazing and it is commendable how many leavers and retirees have returned to work following the Prime-Minister’s request for help to tackle the coronavirus.
They have a daunting task ahead as they strive to relieve the pressure on the NHS and work together to save countless lives. The realisation of that task really hit me when I saw the 4000-bed field-hospital being readied in the Excel Centre in London. The fact that the virus is indiscriminate and it could affect anyone, was brought home when our Prime Minister was admitted to hospital.
For the business world, when this is over, we are most certainly going to come back ready to hit the ground running, as so much work and so many projects will have been put on hold or left incomplete. However, it is important I feel, that businesses are not lulled into a false sense of security. It is in the months after normality is back that the tax/VAT deferrals and loans will need to be repaid, the financial breaks will come to an end and businesses will need to factor this into their fiscal models. Planning for these repayments in advance will ensure that there are no surprises ahead.
Unfortunately, for business owners, we have no control over when that time will come. No one can tell us how long this crisis will go on for because no one knows. All we can do is wait and hope for the best.
I will use some of the time ahead to play out the different scenarios and weigh up all the likely outcomes and plan for every eventuality. It is more important than ever to know that this will pass and when it does and some degree of normality returns, we must be ready, prepared and in a strong position to tackle whatever lies ahead – as business owners, as a community and as a nation.
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