Coronavirus: how one business adapted and thrived in lockdown

The UK lockdown has had a devastating impact on many small and large businesses alike. We talk to Hayley Smith, director at Boxed Out PR, about how the company adapted during this tough time, including ditching the office for good.

The lockdown may ending, but it has made a lasting impact on the economy as most companies were forced to temporarily close their doors.

As Brits were forced to stay home, many businesses were forced to change how they operate to survive.

Some changes were so successful that these changes have been made permanent.

We talk to Hayley Smith, director of Boxed Out PR, about how the company was able to adapt, change and grow during this difficult time.

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Getting rid of the office for good

In line with the UK Government’s guidance, all employees at the company started working from home in March – and it wasn’t long before it was decided to let them work from home permanently.

Of course, there were some things to consider before making this vital decision.

“[We needed to ensure] everyone had their own equipment and the right communication tools were put in place,” said Smith.

So, the company implemented check-ins, usually via WhatsApp, alongside a health and wellbeing policy to support employees through this difficult time.

“I find WhatsApp one of the most efficient platforms that allows you to share documents and files,” commented Smith.

“My team use it predominately.”

The director also revealed she had to make sure she was up early to plan out the day ahead to make sure both staff and clients had the support they needed. 

She quickly realised that streamlining communications was essential as clients were using several platforms, so she decided to limit them to one.

On top of this, she also set up stronger work/life boundaries, so clients don’t call outside of working hours – unless it is an emergency.

For Smith, this was important dedicate time to her other roles as founder of the Flow Aidcampaign, which makes sanitary products free for homeless women, and deputy head of PR for Pride in London.

During lockdown, she started a partnership with Home-Start Ealing to distribute sanitary products to women and girls living in poverty, as well as NHS health workers, while also helping out with Pride in London.

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Hayley Smith. (Image: Hayley Smith)

‘We had our most successful quarter’

The company lost some clients during the turmoil, but lower costs and new opportunities helped the company achieve its most successful quarter ever.

According to the director, the success of the company was ‘mind-blowing’ as it hit a ‘six-figure profit’ during lockdown.

But there was a lot of hard work needed to grow the business.

Smith says a strong network of clients helped drive growth for Boxed Out PR as they could keep in touch with clients, asking for business and encouraging referrals.

“Your network is your net worth,” said Smith.

Staff were rewarded with a bonus when they signed up a new client, which boosted morale as the company also became more proactive in marketing their services.

As always, there were some difficulties to navigate in lockdown.

For example, Smith said managing clients’ expectations was important, particularly as the news agenda – which continues to be dominated by Coronavirus – impacts what exposure they can get.

Boxed Out PR also had to figure out new ways of growing the business, which involved a lot of investment.

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‘A flexible working culture’

Smith believes the transition to fully working from home was not a huge change.

“We’ve always had a flexible working culture,” she said.

One downside of the switch was that there was no longer the option for staff to use the office, so internal communications had to be strengthened.

While Smith encouraged good communication, she wanted to make sure all meetings were beneficial for everyone, which is why she decided not to get a paid account for Zoom.

By restricting meetings to around 40 minutes maximum, Smith believes productivity has improved.

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‘You need to adapt’

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Smith thinks businesses will have to change how they operate.

“It’s not all negative,” commented Smith.

“There are definitely positive changes to come from Coronavirus in terms of how businesses operate.”

While change is risky, Smith encourages businesses to get out of their comfort zone, flagging that some of the hardest decisions she has made have often been the right ones.

“The way you’re running your business has to change post-COVID,” she warned.

Looking to the future, Smith feels confident that Boxed Out PR will continue to thrive thanks to the ability of the business to adapt to the changing economic conditions.



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