In a new feature for the UNTHA UK blog, we catch up with managing director Marcus Brew to hear his highlights and learnings from the last business quarter. First up, he reflects on arguably one of the toughest three-month periods the economy – in fact, the world – has faced in modern times.
What a quarter to start with! No pressure MB…
We stepped into 2020, as a team, feeling buoyant and bold. The last 12 months was a solid continuation of our journey to working smarter, being slicker and delivering an even better service for our customers. Don’t get me wrong, we all needed a well-earned rest at Christmas, not least because we’d been through the biggest digital transformation in the company’s history, but we returned in January to close our financial year off with a bang.
And we did just that. If we look back on our last three years in business, we’ve seen turnover rise by 81% – a statistic which doesn’t just reflect the growth of our own organisation, but also that of our clients and the status of the environmental sector as a whole. This is now an industry widely recognised for its innovative stance and its sheer determination to drive change – and those involved are benefitting at the same time as protecting the environment.
February marked the start of our new financial year and the mood was high. Targets for 2020-21 were tough – as always – but we knew we’d spent the last year, if not longer, gearing up for sustained and scalable expansion. Team spirit would therefore prove a key ingredient to our onward growth, as much as our robust product range.
I am going to repeat the same line that I bet virtually everyone in the country has at least fleetingly contemplated over the past few weeks – nobody could have anticipated this. COVID-19 has had a huge impact on so many people, on both a physical and psychological level, and I don’t think anybody would dispute that it has been an extremely sobering time (I’ve penned a blog on COVID-19 if you want to take a look!)
From a business perspective, we of course switched to homeworking for the majority of our team, as soon as the Government’s guidelines meant we had to do so, and we adjusted the working practices of our engineers so that they could remain safe while working at our HQ and on customers’ sites. Our marketing team also swung into action to ensure clients knew where we were, how we could help and what we were planning in the months ahead.
And for me, this whole period has been about communication. I thought I appreciated how important it was before, and the extent to which our digital infrastructure was integral to our operations. But in truth we hadn’t even scratched the surface. What we did have though, was a solid foundation on which to build.
We’ve accelerated our switch to a new telephony platform so that our team can communicate with each other – and customers – exactly as though they are in the office. We’re working with a new social media tool too, to enable colleagues to amplify their voices during the lockdown period.
Sadly, we had to cancel our first shredder showcase of the year, but are now busy planning our first webinar instead (watch this space!) We’ve switched to offering remote trials too, instead of people needing to physically visit our HQ to watch their materials being shredded. And we’ve worked closely with our suite of lenders to open up even easier access to our assets at a time when it is hard to get hold of cash.
Over in our Austrian innovation centre, R&D is continuing at pace, and we still plan to unveil an exciting new machine within the next six months. Plastic recyclers – keep your eyes peeled!
Whether it’s luck, fate or whatever you’d like to call it, the phones are still ringing at UNTHA UK and we feel very thankful to be in talks with a number of organisations, about live projects in sectors ranging from confidential waste to metal separation. The creation of waste and therefore the need to manage it effectively and sensibly, will remain a constant, COVID-19 or not, so we will continue to support industries as best we can, to ensure maximum environmental and commercial gain from their plants.
While 2020 may therefore pan out a little differently in comparison to our initial projections for the year, we are still maintaining a degree of positivity for the year ahead. When we experience quieter days, we’re knuckling down and forging ahead with some of our internal operation projects that will enable us to come out of the other side of this, even stronger. And we’re using any final spare time to keep talking, to customers, partners, and of course each other.
Sometimes it’s about sharing knowledge or advice. Other times it’s simply a case of being a considerate ear.
The sense of camaraderie I mentioned at the outset though, remains more important now, than ever.