Wow, what a year eh!? apologies for being a few days late with this but, I’ve been relaxing over the Christmas period by putting a fence up in the snow and cladding the walls of my utility, the fun really doesn’t stop…….
January not only seems a long time ago but another age, I returned from a trip down under and we started off quiet, as we normally do after Christmas despite my best efforts to secure work after our Christmas holiday. I can never quite put my finger on what it is but we always seem to be kicking our heels in January and into February. We had some storage units for Compton Verney Art Gallery & Park Which kept us occupied for a week or two but nothing we could get our teeth into.
Thankfully a longstanding customer had a job for us which involved refurbishing an amusement centre in Leamington Spa that we had already fitted out 3 times before. With fittings and fixtures that included a bar with back fitting, glazed balustrading, new doors, architrave and skirting. Enough to keep the whole team busy for a good few weeks! We started on site at the end of February with the news of a flu like virus sweeping across China, we payed little to no attention to it and cracked on with the job in hand.
We made good progress as the news about Corona Virus became worryingly local and with a week left on the job everyone who could work from home was told to work from home. We carried on as best we could, I was receiving word from the other jobs we had in the pipeline that the sites were being closed, then we were told to wrap up what we were doing in Leamington and invoice the completed works and shelve everything that was left to do. I had no other choice but to Furlough the team and move my computer home.
With my computer at home I was able to catch up with everything that I was putting off because of all the urgent things that require attention right away. Producing drawings for upcoming projects, sorting out extensions to the website, planning alterations to our workshop and dealing with the acquisition of new premises. When the enquiries came in I dealt with them as best I could, offering prices that I had no clue if I would be able to get the materials specified or suggested, it was an odd time. The biggest question that faced me was; what was business going to be like after the country “unlocked down”? Which produced more questions than it did answers. Would we be busy catching up? Would the country be bankrupt with no spending, similar to the recession at the end of the noughties? Would we have more competition from other business trying to turn their hand to furniture making because their industry isn’t as lucrative as it normally is? My quandary was reflected in my pricing of the new enquiries that came in. I opted for keen pricing, keeping it on the lower side to ensure we had work to keep us busy, I would have to hope and pray that the cost of the materials that were quoted to me would remain at a similar cost.
As the end of April approached I noticed things starting to speed up and people starting to feel restless and plans were being made to open the building sites prior to any announcement that was imminent. Then the day came, “Go to work, Don’t go to work!” So, we went to work, slowly initially on a four day week with half the work force for three weeks and then the other half for the next three weeks with a view to all coming back once the virus was under control in 6 weeks…….. My naivety or positivity as I like to call it is laughable!!!
The 6 weeks came and went and the Virus was still very much out of control, but the work was piling up (I know, what was I worrying about?? If only I had a crystal ball) The whole team came back and we implemented a safe working environment as best we could. Paula continued to work from home as we would be travelling around the country installing all the furniture that we would be producing and it wasn’t fair on her.
We returned to the Amusement centre to finish off what was outstanding and then started work on everything else that had been in the pipeline before lockdown and all that had been ordered since we had returned. I shan’t bore you with a list of everything we had going on as you can catch up in previous blogs, but we had more than enough to do.
At the back end of 2019 we agreed a price to purchase the end property in the run of 3 industrial units which we call home. This would increase the space we have drastically, which would be a god send as we seem to be making larger and larger counters these days. We completed on this in July, and as soon as we could we were storing everything we had made in there before we could find the time to strip out the rabbits warren of office partitioning.
Summer was busy, busier than normal, we were fitting things out in schools, hospitals, churches, care homes, offices and peoples homes, every day was a challenge with all the restrictions but I am proud to say that the team smashed it and came through. So with a bit of a lull at the start of September we stripped out the interior walls of the new unit, moved the staircase and installed new timber walls exactly how we want them. The plan being to rent out 2 small offices downstairs, move Paula and my office up stairs which will have an adjoining meeting room and use the remaining floor space as workshop. This will improve what we are doing tremendously.
I have been putting in a lot of leg work behind the scenes to establish a working relationship with Dogs Trust, with drawings, proposals, materials and references. This all came to fruition this year with the installation of Dogs Trust Darlington in November (6 months later than originally planned due to the virus but better late than never) and the order for Cardiff which came through in December. This is great for us as we are now preferred contractor for this high profile charity.
Despite this year being very different, some things remained the same, Danny has been working very closely with Ben’s Cookies again in 2020, the original plan was for a couple of shop fits, but unfortunately Covid-19 put a stop to that. So instead Danny has developed a Covid-19 protection screen exclusive to Ben’s Cookies! These will be rolled out in the next few weeks.
2020 also saw us producing many different types of work for schools. We have fitted out a Kindergarten with kitchen furniture, bathroom furniture and a play area, all fully bespoke and unique! We have also supplied and fitted European Oak cladding to the School shop at Bromsgrove School, a very effective and aesthetically pleasing project!
Whilst working from home I predicted that we wouldn’t see much activity in the healthcare sector, I couldn’t have been more wrong! We saw healthy growth in this field, providing counters and nurse bases to refurbished wards and new builds, mental health centres saw the bulk of this work, with security screens and desks, if I am not mistaken we provided various items for 4 different clinics in 2020. Unlike hospitality the hospitals, clinics and surgeries have had to remain operational, so we have been producing protection measures for the frontline elements of the hospitals and clinics.
In 2019 we provided a counter for a care home in Warwick, in 2020 we provided furniture for THREE care homes, all new builds! I have also priced for 2 more this year! I just hope that everything going on doesn’t effect this.
We still received the call to erect the Nativity in Coventry City Centre, we gladly (as always) pulled out all the stops to get this done despite the restrictions. I feel that doing things like this are very important for the morale of a city (and for us)!
Joinery is not normally the sort of thing we get involved with anymore, but I really wanted to be a part of my cousins expanding successful property development business. He needed a company who had experience with this sort of thing and also experience in dealing with Town Centre Management companies and we had that experience. I thoroughly enjoyed designing, manufacturing and installing the shopfront for Ross Developments on Colehill in Tamworth! He has received a great deal of positive feedback including: “it the best looking shop in the town!” You can’t get any better than that in my opinion.
I can only assume that because we are unable to travel, people have been spending the money on home improvements. Because of this we were manufacturing and installing a great deal more furniture for domestic customers in 2020. From display cabinets to home offices we have enjoyed turning clients ideas and dreams into a reality! I do hope that we can travel again soon, but I do hope we can all keep a little bit back to make our homes exactly what we want them to be!
We finished on the 23rd of December, and I think for the first time in my working life we didn’t go to the pub. So, we got some beers in and cooked some sausages on the BBQ and celebrated a job well and truly done! Despite the restrictions and difficulties the team did better than I could ever have hoped. Apart from the occasional self isolation we didn’t miss a beat. Hitting every deadline and keeping the customers happy. My team already filled me with confidence but 2020 has increased it!
I tried my best to mention everything we worked on, but there was just so much! Even with 3 months out we produced a phenomenal amount of work in 2020 and have set a the bar high for 2021! Lets hope it s a good one!!!!