The impact of COVID-19 on Optima

“It’s only a cold”.  “It’ll all blow over a couple of weeks”. “What are people worried about”.  

All things that came out of my uninformed mouth in early March.  Back then I was convinced that the hangover I was suffering with from my stag weekend was much more newsworthy than COVID-19.

As much as the team began home working before lockdown, it probably took around a month, a cancelled wedding and a total nosedive for jobs and interviews for it to really sink in.  

Our clients were going to suffer.  Everyone was going to have their own individual mental battles. Revenue was going to drop in the short term. Without years of leadership experience and 3 recessions “under my belt” all that was going through my head was; “How do I cope with the stress?”. “How do I help others to manage?”. “How long can we last without making a placement”. “Where do we focus our efforts?”. 

The obvious move at the time was to try to sniff out new opportunities in food, pharma, healthcare and life sciences. Right? I mean, they were busier than ever so they’d definitely want to speak to us. Right?

All it’d take is a couple of hundred cold calls, a load of speculative CV sendouts and a few extra hours of effort for everyone and we’ve cracked it. Our team would just be happy to still be working so they won’t mind putting in a few extra hours and starting again from scratch. Easy.

… You’ve probably guessed that we decided against that particular “pivot” (who isn’t sick of that term?). 

It was time to look back at what we’re doing: Do our values actually mean anything? Does anyone we’re not already in contact with actually know what we do? Does our reward package actually reward the things that’re important to us? Are we structured in a way that spread responsibility for key tasks? How progressive are we in terms of working practices and do we ultimately have a business model that could scale? 

The answer to all of those: No. 

Brilliant.  Clearly there was a lot of work to do. So far we’ve:
  • Adapted our internal structure to make sure we have the right people in the right seats.
  • Re-written our values.  Now they mean something to everyone in the business and we’ll base all future decisions on them (honestly, even I probably couldn’t have listed our old ones).
  • Worked through our reward package including commission and bonus structure to make sure we’re rewarding the behaviours that matter – service before sales.
  • Trialled a 4-day working week (work 4, paid for 5) as part of our increased focus on mindfulness.
  • Had loads of Teams meetings, started providing Video interviewing services, developed a product offering, built and used our online training portal and automated basic admin tasks to free up more time for our consultants to do what they do best.
  • Worked on avoiding non-paying business and focusing on consultancy, not recruitment.
So, what has the impact of COVID-19 been on our business?  

Without question, it’s been horrible if we’re speaking in terms of short term revenue. On the whole the opportunity to come up for air and look at what we were building and make some much needed changes has been really valuable.

It’s been clear that our industry has needed a facelift for years. The reality of “the new normal” is that it’s going to get full reconstructive surgery and there’s going to be lots of “old school” casualties. 

Don’t get me wrong, we’re still far from perfect and there’s a lot of thing to learn as we go.  I’ve never been more excited about the future and the direction things are going in.
Posted by: Optima Recruitment 0 comment(s)

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