Case study | OFTEC oil and renewables registration schemes

Weathering the lockdown - a heating business' experience

Friday, May 15, 2020 By OFTEC

Weathering the lockdown - Guy Crabb's experience so far

We spoke to Guy on 14th May 2020 to get his thoughts on weathering the lockdown storm. He's put extra measures in place, secured government support and is confident about the post-lockdown future.

Guy has put most of his 18 technicians and 5 office staff on furlough, keeping just a couple working to cover emergency call outs only. His priority throughout is to keep employees safe, but also to provide a safe and efficient emergency breakdown service. Talking about the furlough scheme Guy said:

"It really is an incredible scheme and gives businesses like ours a fighting chance to survive this interruption to normal work. The extension to the scheme until October takes us through until the heating season resumes which is really helpful."

To help cover ongoing overheads, Guy has also secured a business interruption loan. Despite Boris's announcement this week about easing the lockdown and getting people back to work, he has no plans to bring technicians back from furlough just yet – he's working towards restarting on 1st July and intends to hit the ground running then as long as it is safe to do so and householders are happy to allow tradespeople back into their homes. He, and a small number of office staff, are having a good 'tidy up', getting paperwork up to date and ensuring new working practices are in place.

They introduced a number of extra precautions for the technicians working during the lockdown, to keep them and their customers safe whilst carrying out emergency heating repairs. This includes providing the technicians with hand sanitisers and masks, and emphasising hand hygiene and social distancing requirements. Customers are informed that the visit will be completely contactless and that increased ventilation will be required and that the customer will have to keep to a different room. The technician has been empowered to leave the premises if the customer does not stick to these requirements.

Guy is very confident about the future, although doesn't think that the situation will settle down until next year. He doesn't feel that this a 'normal' recession, rather an interruption to trade because, for many householders, the money is still there – although being on furlough means a reduction to their income, there's been none of the usual expenses on leisure activities. He feels that business will pick up again very quickly once consumer confidence returns and, in the meantime, the government support schemes will help keep cashflow healthy whilst business income is down.

Update 

We spoke to Guy at the end of September to see how the return to work 'as normal' had gone. He was very pleased to report that they had re-opened as planned on 1st July and had been very busy ever since making back lost ground from the spring. He feels there is plenty of work out there and remains optimistic that the heating season will be as busy as usual and is looking forward to 2021. 

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