Lewis Brown, a Somerset-based geospatial company, has been turning ‘obstacles’ into ‘opportunities’ during its 25th year in business.
Back in September 1995, from a basement office in the Crescent, Taunton, Lewis Brown, Chartered Land Surveyors was formed by Ian Lewis and Rob Brown. They built up a strong reputation among a loyal client base throughout the South West and moved to bigger, purpose-built, offices on the Westpark Estate in Wellington back in 2004.
With 12 staff, everything was going well until the financial crisis at the end of the last decade – 40% of the work disappeared overnight. After a very long and difficult two years the company emerged from the recession three staff lighter and £80k poorer.
Ten years later, Covid-19 has put the firm in a very similar position, but for very different reasons. There is no doubt that the health of staff, clients and their wider families has been the first priority, but everyone took a collective deep breath and talked through their concerns and ideas of how they might be able to continue to work safely.
The nature of the work means that people are on site for 60% of the time. Now, with just nine staff, there is rarely more than four people in the offices at any given time. Lewis Brown produced a ‘Covid-19 Safe Working Procedures’ document detailing both office and site based activities, all in-line with the Governments and Public Health England’s guidelines. With the exception of occupied buildings, the company has been able to continue working if the demand was there. Updated five times since first produced, these procedures have created a Covid secure workplace for all staff.
When work inevitably declined and staff were furloughed, other members of staff learnt news skills to enable the company to maintain high quality across all services. Staff have had the ‘opportunity’ to develop their skills in various software packages, including specialist photogrammetry, 3D modelling, accounting, social media and the Microsoft Office 365 platform.
Rob himself decided to share the company’s journey after taking part in a Somerset Chamber webinar on improving public relations skills. He has also participated in other Chamber webinars including help with Small Business Grant applications, Job Retention Scheme payments, understanding Microsoft Office 365 and simply benefited from networking and talking to people outside of the organisation.
Rob said: “Covid-19 ‘The Obstacle’ has created ‘opportunities’ for Lewis Brown. By embracing them, we are now able to communicate with each other remotely with visual interaction via Teams and Zoom. Our work schedules are accessible from mobile devices so staff can see live updates whilst in the field or at home’.
“I have taken the ‘opportunity’ to pick up the phone and talk to clients I would normally deal with via email. Others that I have previously struggled to develop relationships with are talking openly about their issues and we are sharing ideas to help each other.
“I’m quite aware that this is a very difficult time for Lewis Brown and most other businesses and individuals alike. We are suffering mentally and financially across the board. But the lessons we have learned, past and present, are helping us to remain focused on the opportunities that lie ahead if we continue to remain positive in these uncertain times.”