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Sarah Chapman talks exclusively to Kingston First

November 19th 2020 By Kate Paton

Our member spotlight this week is on Sarah Chapman of Chapman Consulting. Sarah has kindly offered up to ten 10-minute free marketing clinics for Kingston First members – appointments can be booked via the office  (Tel: 0208 977 3200) for Friday morning sessions. Make sure you mention you’re a Kingston First member when booking. 

I moved my marketing consultancy, Chapman Consulting, to Kingston a year ago. Suburban office rentals are considerably cheaper than central, it’s a shorter and more pleasant commute and there is a vast pool of qualified and capable people on the doorstep. It was a no-brainer.

Before the 23rd March lockdown, our market – Property and Construction – was healthy. The economy, in the first quarter of 2020 bounced back from the economic slowdown ahead of the Election and Brexit, and with Boris Johnson’s win, business confidence returned. We were entering our new financial year, 1st April 2020, in great shape.

 

On March 23rd, our world changed.

In my 35 years of business, (through which I’ve overcome all sorts of challenges, including three recessions), this was unprecedented.

Within the space of a week, I had clients who couldn’t pay, and others that asked us to cease all activity. To save jobs I immediately furloughed most of my staff. It was extremely difficult to do this to such a highly qualified and valued team.

I shut the office within a couple of days following government advice and began working remotely. Negotiating payment schedules with suppliers and reducing costs was a key part of my first few days.

I was in survival mode. I like to think that my resilience and resourcefulness, helped me navigate a way through, and I am pleased to confirm we are in a strong position in Q3.

As a marketing agency, ours, and other’s inability to conduct face to face (F2F) meetings led to a massive demand for digital services. Customers turned their marketing spend towards newsletters, E-bulletins, website updates, and TEAMS. We have seen a big demand for virtual training on LinkedIn and increased spend on social media.  As well as “Net-walking”, an outdoor alternative to office-based networking.

Since lockdown we have also had to brush up our skills in front of the camera.

We are engaging with people, and doing business with people, who we have never met, and that first impression is now virtual and on screen. We must do it, and be mindful of how we do it, otherwise we will not survive.

Conscious of others struggling in the early months, we offered, and still do, a free marketing advisory clinic to the local business community.

My team have been fantastic in dealing with a seismic shift in the way that we work, adapting to flexible hours and we chat regularly about how they are coping with the ever-changing situation. Hand sanitiser is everywhere, and we all sit at 2m distance when in the office and minimise visitors.

One young member of the team even asked, “How could she help me?”. To all employees reading this article, I would say support your boss where you can, they are coping with immense stress trying to save jobs and livelihoods.

Whilst I think the Government could do much more for small-business bosses, exhausted by the events of 2020, its Job Retention (JRS) scheme, Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) loan scheme, together with the rent rebates have been a massive help.

I am also very thankful for the loyalty and continued support of all my clients past and present. Although we have all suffered, we have seen our sector (property and construction) rebound as residential and infrastructure markets are seeing significant growth.

Moving forward I suggest that businesses look at de-risking their company by spreading their customer base into different sectors or different channels.

Should we face a second lockdown I will remain mindful of the US marine mantra: `Improvise, adapt, overcome” which helps me personally through most of life’s challenges; and to motivate my team I quote film producer Sam Goldwyn’s famous quote: “the harder I work, the luckier I become”!

Although our Christmas party in Kingston is unlikely this year, Chapman Consulting will find a way to celebrate. I definitely want to thank my team for supporting me through such a difficult situation.

To read the article on the Kingston First website, visit:

https://mailchi.mp/kingstonfirst/confirmation-of-our-christmas-in-kingston-plans?e=d85da3b7ad

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