Join us for a chat with Neil Tolley who discusses life in lockdown
How are things going for Fourteen and how have you all been managing throughout the COVID-19 outbreak?
We are a couple of months in now and after the initial shock and heartbreak, we reviewed the situation and all the government advice and took the steps needed to protect our company, our customers, and our wonderful Fourteen IP family as best as we possibly could. It has been horrible to see so many of our customers shut down, tens of thousands of people laid off, and many of our friends across the hospitality industry so badly affected. We are all in this together though and we have given support to our customers as much as we possibly can and we have used the government support schemes in the UK, EU, and the US that are there to assist businesses at this time.
As we head into the summer months, we are now seeing hotels opening back up and we have a lot of projects to complete, the key thing for us and for many businesses around the world is being able to travel again, not for pleasure, but to do our jobs. Luckily, you can’t do everything on teams or zoom meeting. We are busy with lots of projects through to the end of the year, assuming we can get to them! The cloud has also come to the fore during the pandemic, even for hotels. So we can see this expanding further – as things steadily start to go back to normal. Solutions like EVA are also moving well as they help hotels to improve service to guests, whilst also keeping operational costs down.
Is there any advice you could give another company at this time?
That’s very hard as there are so many companies in different situations, many are thriving whilst others, like the hospitality industry, are suffering greatly. I have always been an optimist and keen to look on the positive side wherever possible. We need to take advantage of the support the various governments are providing, be honest with staff and communicate regularly, they can all see what is going on, and plan for the next 3,6 and 12 months using the best people you can to help with the plan. This time of home working is a great one to join some of the many webinars that are available to help share ideas and also to see that you are not alone and many have the same challenges. You cannot be afraid to take tough decisions no matter the turmoil and heartache they create, much better to have a business to run at the end of all this.
We are very fortunate to work in an amazing industry with some of the most amazing people imaginable, right now going through something none of them ever expected. You can be sure when they come back they will be better, more hospitable, more friendly and more amazing than ever.
What challenges have you overcome when working from home?
None really. I worked from home before and am fully set up and of course, we have telephony wherever we want it! The biggest challenge, if it is one, is not working too much and remembering what day it is. The fact we are all at home and easily contactable, nobody is out or on holiday means you have to try not to work longer hours or still be calling people on a weekend. On the hair front that so many people are challenged with, I am in the no-hair club, so this has not been a problem. I actually got genuinely excited when I went to the office for the first time last week (in the car and on a motorway!!) and am looking forward to going in again this week. It has been great to have more time at home with my wonderful wife and daughter, but we do really need to get to over to Orlando
What methods are you using to stay motivated?
April 14th was Fourteen IP’s 9th Birthday, so we are now in our 10th year. It’s not exactly the 10th year we hoped for, but we have an amazing family of people, that work for our company who are dedicated to our customers and to one another. Truly amazing people. Our customers and our friends in the hospitality industry are going through pain and we live and love to work with them and help them at the best of times, at the worst of times we need to do even more.
My wife and daughter, our amazing Fourteen IP family and our customers and friends in the hospitality industry and the countless kind, positive, and simply amazing things we see and hear every day. Human beings are amazing and I am very positive that we will be out and away from this sooner than some people would have us think, things will go back to how they were because that’s how we want them. I am very motivated to do so many things we still want to do as Fourteen IP. I don’t intend to let a pandemic stop us.
Have there been many challenges in communicating with your team?
I don’t think so. We all speak regularly on teams and the telephone and we have been communicating companywide openly and as much as possible since the start of the pandemic. Communicating is more important than ever at times like these. People understandably want to know what is happening both good and bad and we have tried our very best to do that.
Are there any working strategies you have implemented so far which you have found successful for Fourteen?
We have taken the opportunity to review quite a number of systems and processes. All of which we were reviewing or planned to review anyway. The pandemic has given us the opportunity to review numerous processes and adjust them, based on customer feedback and other internal feedback. We are also reviewing many of our internal systems and rather than shutting down all spend, we decided to go ahead and use the time to start projects, that will enable us to automate and be more efficient. This has started with our CRM and ticketing systems as we make a move to Salesforce Service Cloud Lightning and then on to other systems. We are also training as much as possible. New systems like our Magic portal are light years ahead of what we had before and this is a great opportunity for the team to learn this and other systems in advance of a full return.
Finally, how are you finding the work-life balance when working from home?
It depends on who you ask! For someone who travels a lot, my Wife said during the early days of the crisis they actually saw less of me than normal as I was simply in my office for hours on end! Over the past few weeks though that has eased and it has become much better. Recipe books have been out as have good old fashioned novels, I have not managed to read a book for years and I have done two 600 pagers in the past couple of weeks. As we are very lucky to live on the seafront we aim to hit the beach chalet soon too (2m apart and with hand sanitizer of course but mainly just using common sense)
I feel sorry for the pets, over the coming months we are going to have some sad dogs who will miss their owners and wonder what has gone wrong!