What’s changed at Make Do since the COVID-19 lockdown?

4 weeks ago the UK was locked down because of the global COVID-19 pandemic. It has been a challenging few weeks for a small agency like ours but we’ve managed to adapt quickly to the change and remain productive in the ‘new normal’.

Always Remote

This has been the least noticeable change for our team. We have been fully remote from day 1 with most of our team choosing to work from home.

This continues to be a successful and productive way for our team to deliver work and with some process change we’ve been able to only see a slight adjustment in our output.

Flexible Working

All team members can now choose to work flexible hours. This is actually something we have ALWAYS tried to offer but it is now forced for some team members who have childcare responsibilities during the standard 9-5.

For me personally this means I generally only work 3 full days per-week. Filling in at evenings and weekends if needed.

Stressful? Yes. Especially as you can never really be sure how many hours in the week you have to dedicate to some of the more in-depth tasks but overall I’m really impressed with the way our team have adapted to this way of working.

Freezing Hiring

This was a pain. Since the start of the year part of our growth plan has been to hire a new team of Senior and Mid-Level Engineers to bolster our service offerings and assist with onboarding of new customers and projects.

At the time of the lockdown we had 2 promising applicants on-trial for full-time positions at Make Do, both of these have had to be frozen indefinitely and we are now no longer accepting any new applications.

We are hopeful that the hiring machine will kick back into gear very soon.

Predictions for ‘stability’ are around the end of Q2 2020 at which time we’ll open back doors for anyone looking to join our growing team.

Marketing Shifts

You’ll notice that the blog on our site is pretty light in 2020. Not ideal, but there is a reason for this.

Behind the scenes we switched to a new marketing partner back at the end of 2019 and have been working on improvements to our website content, copy and sales strategy. This was all done as part of a big picture plan that would open up new prospects for our Q2 and Q3 period.

Since the pandemic has hit a lot of this content does not seem relevant so has been temporally shelved while we work on new angles.

For example, we had planned to get back into the events space in 2020 and pivot our experience to be more client-focused offering seminars and workshops to help up-sell our current service offerings and help us to gain new leads. Clearly any form of event ‘gathering’ in 2020 is NOT going to happen so we’re now looking at online options.

Going ‘Async’

Our remote team rely heavily on a new delivery process that was put in place last year. Key to this is our use of a large shared ‘Programme Board’ in GitHub which is the point of action for our digital Daily Standups.

Our internal Programme Board – All tasks greyed out to respect client privacy

Because our team are now working different hours or part-time our Daily Standups are now a thing of the past. This means our team have to self-assign and manage their workflow to their best ability.

In no way is this a BAD thing, it is something we have encouraged for many years, but the discipline involved in this keeping this process as efficient as possible is clearly something that needs a constant check.

As an alternative to daily team meetings I often now do a quick ‘Daily Briefing’ using the excellent Loom application. This allows me to quickly fire off a 5-min video showing any new additions to the board and handover tasks to the right people.

Screenshot from my ‘Daily Briefing’ video (powered by Loom)

The lockdown has proved that our process is flexible enough to evolve and although at times frustrating the changes we are putting in place on a daily basis are helping us to get things done.

New Work

Another pain. But to be expected.

All NEW WORK has stopped. Any new leads or proposals, RFPs, pitch meetings, even some client onboarding has all stopped. We are now 100% happily working on our current client base of SLAs, retainers (Flexible Packages) and support and hosting services.

This is actually just fine from a business perspective for the time being but it does obviously have an impact on future growth. Without new project work our capacity does not need to grow and we cannot grow our revenue streams.

This is just a blip and optimism is high that as soon as the world adapts to the pandemic and starts to open back up we’ll be here.

Positive Points

I will end on this – around 2 weeks ago I was very down and frustrated by this whole thing but things are really not that bad when you think about it. For example

  • Nobody in our team is sick
  • No friends or family members have been seriously affected
  • Our current client base has more than enough work for us at the moment
  • Our SLAs and hosting services offer us enough in the way of recurring revenue to cover the majority of our costs
  • This is a good time for reflection and thought that is very helpful to anyone who runs a small business and in need of a chance to work on strategy
  • We are financially secure
  • As a remote team we were built for this
  • Our size is a benefit, small, agile, nimble and able to adapt
  • Work is getting done, the team are doing great considering!

Stay safe!

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