A BUSINESSMAN who launched his firm a week before the coronavirus lockdown began has described how he was able to survive during the pandemic.

Mitre Oak Ltd, based in Kempsey, which makes oak framed buildings, opened on March 16.

Owner Andrew Christopher said the business went through its highs and lows as it attempted to navigate its way through unchartered territory to find its own “new normal”.

Mr Christopher made the decision to not furlough any of his 11 employees as the business was constantly evolving to adapt to the global pandemic.

“The immediate challenges of lockdown spanned from how to complete existing works and reach potential customers to socially distanced and safe working practices," he said.

“Much of the ambiguity around the government guidelines left many small business owners feeling insecure and the future was very much a blank canvas.

“All employees were made a part of the decision making process and enabled the business to move forward as one tight cohesive team.

“Everyone was motivated to keep the business going and protect livelihoods, although it seemed more than that, they valued the business itself something that is reflected in how hard they work and pride in their craft.”

Working procedures were adapted at the Kempsey site which has the benefit of a large workshop incorporating machinery, tools and oak and a small workforce of carpenters and joiners, so social distancing measures were easily adhered to.

The oak frame installation work is outdoors and is completed away from client’s living spaces, so social distancing was not a problem.

However, as lockdown continued into May, supply chain issues did raise a new set of challenges, sourcing glass was particularly difficult and delays had a knock-on effect on the progress of some builds.

Mr Christopher said the ability to adapt was the key to businesses surviving during the pandemic and beyond.


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