Efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus have impacted all of our lives but there are plenty of Liverpool city region businesses that are continuing to offer a full service. Tony McDonough reports
Businesses and business support organisations across the Liverpool city region are working hard to maintain their services despite the restrictions caused by the coronavirus outbreak.
Many companies, where appropriate, are now asking staff to work from home and are using technology and telecommunications to continue to offer the same service to their customers, clients and service users.
Based at St James Street, just outside of Liverpool city centre, The Women’s Organisation has become a thriving hub for small businesses, offering office space, advice, support and training. It is one of the most successfully organisations of its kind in the UK.
While its headquarters at 54 St James Street is still open to the public it has also reorganised its services so they can be delivered on a virtual basis. In a message to all its stakeholders, it says: “We understand that this is a worrying and uncertain time for individuals and businesses and as such we would like to assure the local community that we are here to support you in any we can.
In response to the coronavirus outbreak we have now redesigned our services to operate on a virtual basis. All upcoming business advice meetings and training courses will be delivered via telephone, email, individual and group video links. We will be updating all our current and new clients in the coming days with more information on how they can access these services.
“Please be aware that our building at 54 St James Street is still open to the public. If you have an appointment with any of our tenants here, please contact them directly.
“While 54 St James Street is still open, please be assured that the safety, health and wellbeing of our clients, visitors and staff is our absolute priority and we are maintaining the highest hygiene standards possible.”
Based in Birkenhead, close to the Cammell Laird shipyard, Mersey Maritime is the voice of Liverpool city region’s £4bn maritime sector, that employs around 52,000 people. It has hundreds of members.
Similar to many other organisations it is asking staff to work from home but is urging its members to stay in touch. In a message to its members, chief executive Chris Shirling-Rooke said: “Given the current challenges we will for a short period of time be decamping from the Maritime Knowledge Hub.
“Whilst this may seem like a disengagement, the opposite is actually true. We want to hear from you more than ever.
“As you know, Mersey Maritime sits on the board of Maritime UK as well as leading the Department for Transport’s national Regional Cluster Development programme. This gives us unparalleled access to the Government and as such we want to hear from you.
“We want to understand your fears, your opinions and perhaps some solutions to the current challenges. We want to make sure your voice is heard in Westminster and have meetings this week which will allow us to represent your views – direct – at the most senior level.
“Even though we won’t be in the office much over the coming weeks, we’ll be calling you to find out how you’re doing. In the days and weeks ahead, if you’d like to have a face to face online Skype-style call with any of the team, please let us know.
“We appreciate this is a challenging time for all members, their families, businesses and communities. We remain committed to ensuring our fantastic maritime eco-system comes through this unprecedented situation as robustly as possible.”
Bootle-based brand marketing specialist Wild Thang is one of Merseyside’s fastest-growing a dynamic SME. It was founded 20 years ago by Andrew Dwerryhouse with a £1,500 grant from the Princes Trust.
It now employs more than 30 people at its headquarters and manufacturing site. The base has just undergone a £2m overhaul and the business aims to grow staff numbers over the next 12 months.
In a message to its customers from Andrew, Wild Thang has said it is still operating at full capacity. He said: “At this moment in time we have not had any staff directly affected or showing symptoms, however we suspect this may change over the coming days and weeks, if so any staff member will self-isolate immediately.
“We have given clear guidelines to all our staff and suppliers which include posters throughout our premises giving the best current advice. We are running additional cleaning and sanitising rotas of our office space and production facility to keep our hygiene levels to the maximum.
“As a company we are doing all we can to limit the impact on our office and production operations, and at this moment in time we are still operating at full capacity, however this may change in the near future so we will be sure to update if and when it does.
“Our sales and admin teams have the capability of home working when the need arrives to keep ‘business as usual’ as much as practically possible with IT resources already in place for this to happen.
“We are in a fortunate position as a business that a lot of our production team are cross trained in all processes from embroidery to screen print and everything in between, so should we have staff who need to self-isolate we are confident we will still have capacity.
Finally, we have a strong balance sheet and have started to model the financial impacts, we have a clear business continuity plan so that we can successfully navigate this period of uncertainty.”
Accountancy firm BWM, based in Castle Street in Liverpool city centre, is one of Merseyside’s best-known professional firms, with many SME and charity sector clients. It has also decided that its staff should work remotely as much as possible while still providing a ‘business as usual’ service for its clients.
Managing partner Peter Taaffe has told its clients: “Health and wellbeing are the most important things right now and we have made the decision that our staff will be working remotely whenever possible.
“During these times we would like to reassure you that we have procedures in place to enable us to continue providing our usual services. We will continue to complete your accounts, VAT, Payroll and tax returns in a timely manner. Where face to face meetings would normally be the norm, video conferencing is an alternative we are using successfully.
“Systems are in place to divert incoming calls to our mobiles, but wherever possible we ask that you email us so we can best deal with your enquiry. If you are working remotely and/or struggling to keep your records straight, then please let us know. We can install a variety of Cloud based solutions to help and if you can scan and email documents to us, we can help in posting them.
If you need anything, please let us know. Our business depends on your business and we must all pull together during the next few weeks.”