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The Stationers' Company
The City of London Livery Company for the Communications and Content Industries


19 MAY 2020

Rising to the Challenge #1 - how three Members are rising to the Covid-19 Challenge

On Tuesday,  12 May the Industry Committee presented the first of its Rising to the Challenge Webinars.  Here Liveryman Jonathan Grun reports on the event.   Members will find a recording of the webinar here

Has the coronavirus crisis created a new generation of “pivoters” – business leaders who seize the opportunity to dramatically change direction to keep their companies alive?

The idea that the devastating Covid-19 crisis could drive radical change was proposed by industry committee chair Carol Tullo during a Rising to the Challenge webinar that told the stories of four members of the company who have been faced with the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic.

Carol said: “The new word that we are going to get used to is ‘pivoting’ - grabbing innovative opportunities to look at other ways of doing business.

“There is this feeling - probably slightly optimistic - that the pandemic is going to bring a wave of new innovation as we pivot to do different things. Necessity is the mother of invention.”

The webinar brought stories of plunging sales and furloughed staff – but also shining examples of innovation.

For freeman Iain Bullock, managing director, of Renz (UK), Monday, March 16 heralded a week to remember.

On that day he came to Stationers’ Hall to become a member of the Company – and then spent the rest of the week preparing his business to work from home as the gravity of the crisis became apparent.

“By the following Monday - within a week – there was a complete sea change in the way the company worked,” Iain said.

And within weeks the company fought back by starting to produce face shields. Soon the company had sold 200,000 good quality face shields at a time when the country was crying out for personal protective equipment.

Liveryman James Duckenfield, the CEO of Hobs Group, said his company had also helped with the response to the Covid-19 crisis, including printing signage for the new emergency sites.

“We have helped to set up at least 35 new test centres and we have helped with Nightingale Hospitals,” he said.

The company had produced a visor for the NHS, care homes and construction companies. And a 3D-printed valve had been developed to allow two patients to share one respirator in intensive care.

One positive from the crisis was the way his team had pulled together. “The inter-branch spirit that has built in the business has been really encouraging and lovely.”

Corporate member Dave Jones, group marketing director of Premier Paper, reported that the crisis had led to sharply increased sales in some critical areas. The demand for social distancing in buildings had led to a huge demand for floor graphics.

Looking ahead, Dave suggested that permanent changes might result from the lessons learned as a result of the lockdown.

He asked: “Can we work differently? Can we have more people working from home?

Is there a work-life balance that we can achieve by having more home working, rather than spending half your life in a car or on a train? What can you do differently, what can you do better?”

Liveryman Tyler Carey, who is based in the USA, also reported one positive lockdown trend that might be a pointer to the future. “Children’s books sale are very much up,” he said.