“The past year has proven how well everyone can work together and collaborate. If anything, it’s definitely brought us closer together.”

It’s coming up to one year since we began to adjust to the new ways of life after the Covid-19 outbreak meant we spent the majority of 2020 in lockdown, and one thing that has been very obvious since the beginning of this pandemic, is the sense of community amongst our beloved Teessiders.

Today, we want to share with you the thoughts and feelings of eight Teesside business leaders to find out how they are feeling about the new restrictions and what has changed in their businesses and industries.

Dean Benson | CEO | Visualsoft

“I’m a big believer in data driven decisions, so while I can see the reasoning in the new lockdown, I really feel for the people and industries it’s affecting negatively. Within our business we support retailers to sell and grow online which has seen a huge year on year growth.
We’re helping as many organisations as we can and have employed more people recently to support the strategic advice we offer retailers. We’ve seen the web help so many people for whom trading online is now their only source of revenue. I’m so proud of our staff, partners, suppliers and clients – we’ve all been sticking together as true partners throughout this time and sharing what’s working with our network.”

Jess Tucker | MD | Social Allies

“The first lockdown gave me the time to reassess processes, structure, organisation, and gave me an opportunity to change for the better, both in my role as director as well as the business as a whole. You can do this in any job role or even personal aspects. Due to restrictions, people are turning to social media more to communicate which is great for the industry as the best way for businesses to reach audiences at the minute is through social media. We have found that some clients have started to use paid social media more as they have that disposable marketing spend that they would maybe be using for more traditional marketing methods.
The restrictions are hard for us, like everyone. We miss going for dinner, going to networking events and parties especially over the festive period as a team, especially face to face meetings with our clients! However, we will persevere and get through! We have exciting plans for 2021; it’s going to be bigger and better. A positive mindset and reaching for the stars will always get you where you want to be – I don’t do negativity. One huge shift we have also noticed is how ‘together’ everyone is. We had really great relationships with a lot of businesses in the area before this, but the past year has proven how well everyone can work together and collaborate. If anything, it’s definitely brought us closer together.”

Tom Atha | Director | Atha Developments

“Feeling fed up but optimistic to be honest… As difficult as the new restrictions will be to many people around the country, from mental health to financial hardship, I believe that this new lockdown is the only way we are going to combat the new version of the virus. Together with the rolling out of the new vaccine, I am optimistic that life can return to some form of normality ready for the second half of the year.
Our business has two parts, one being the student accommodation side. From a rentals point of view the impacts have not been huge and we feel lucky thanks to the efforts of the universities, student finance and the students’ personal dedication to make the best of a very tough situation. The main impact has been on our poor students and especially the international students who must be suffering from the lack of friends and family contact causing loneliness and anxiety. We try and help the best we can but it is a tough situation for everyone.
The second part would be the construction side of our business. Construction can continue, however we have had to bring in special Covid procedures on our sites to make them as safe as possible for all continuing to work on our sites. We have paused some building projects but we are very thankful we can continue to build and develop given the current situation.”

Karla Edwards | Principal | The Protection Parent

“The new restrictions are challenging, especially for those, like myself, who have children because although we are not key workers we cannot work with children at home. I’m sure most parents will agree it’s very difficult. In terms of business, mine has not been affected so far and, if anything, it has boosted the industry because the need for insurance has grown due to the fear of Covid-19.”

Max Freer | Strategic & Creative Director | OOK

“I am okay with the new restrictions and anticipated this would happen. The creative industries are responding well to Covid-19. Many businesses need to access companies like OOK to help them ideate and create new strategies to meet the needs of change. OOK are specifically working right now on a number of NHS Covid-19 projects. One has been to create an activation to reward all Tees Valley NHS staff in recognition of their combined efforts to keep us safe in the battle against Covid-19 which will launch later in January.
The other project has been to respond to an urgent need to develop welfare packs and products to meet the needs of vulnerable members of the community and those being discharged from hospital and going home alone. We have delivered both projects during the Christmas holidays.”

Anthony Kirwan | Director | Inspection & Maintenance Services

“The new restrictions are without doubt another huge blow to many businesses and people’s wellbeing. However, you have to keep telling yourself that this is only temporary and is the best decision the government could possibly make to suppress this virus.
In the Oil & Gas industry, robust Covid tests and self isolation programmes are being rolled out prior to mobilisation offshore. Risk assessments are being continually challenged to mitigate the risk of transmission on-board along with non-priority work scopes being deferred. This essentially has a huge effect on workloads resulting in fewer jobs available offshore.
IMS has been fortunate enough to secure a handful of workscopes offshore during lockdowns 1 & 2 and myself being involved with the teams’ work on site. In addition, we continue to operate our drones especially in the construction industry to carry out inspections. These are great bits of kit and only require one person to operate, eliminating the need to use teams of people and/or contact with people on the ground.”

Marie Ranson | Director & Co-founder | Key Wellbeing

“Like a lot of people, The Key Wellbeing Crew is back working from home, juggling homeschooling and trying to stay positive. This time around, we all have the wintry weather to contend with which can make it feel challenging to stay physically and mentally well.
From a workplace wellbeing perspective, we are, of course, still restricted to online-only support which can be a challenge from an inclusion and connection standpoint, however with the right tools and strategies, we have been able to provide opportunities for employees to connect and support each other through our digital workshops and wellbeing experiences.
We’ve seen an increased demand for our Employee Wellbeing Assessments and our online wellbeing support library, The Key Wellbeing Hub, which shows just how much organisations are wanting to prioritise the wellbeing of their people.
The Hub contains digital learning on important topics like Mental Health Awareness for Managers, Stress and Anxiety Management, and Effective Remote Working. Users also have access to a range of on-demand resources to help with their physical, emotional and mental wellbeing such as on-demand fitness, meditation and nutrition content.
I think one positive result we can take from the events of the past year is the fact that workforce wellbeing has now become a priority for more organisations than ever before, which is great news for employees.”

And the final message comes from The Tees’ very own Jessie Joe Jacobs

“I’m running for Tees Valley Mayor. At the beginning of the first lockdown, I stopped campaigning and started leading; I realised I can’t wait to be mayor to stand with, and alongside, our businesses and communities. I wanted to show leadership and start creating solutions to the issues we would face, so I started the Tees Online, helped get an online food market off the ground, campaigned on behalf of our hospitality, retail and beauty sector and brought people together to discuss and find solutions on a whole raft of issues from mental health to creative industries.
As a founder of a number of social enterprises I know what it takes to start something, to put your heart, soul, blood, sweat and tears into something. So my advice is simply to hold onto those early motivations, remember what drove you to begin, let it be your strength to succeed and remember: whatever doesn’t break you, makes you stronger. We are going to have a lot of strong people at the end of this crisis. So keep going. We can do this! Let’s keep supporting each other and standing together.”

Look out for our next article where we highlight tips and advice from these Teesside business leaders on how to keep yourself motivated during this third lockdown.

Sophia Gowland | Business Editor for The Tees & Owner at The Petite Agency.

Email: sophia@thepetiteagency.co.uk
Call: 07772695544


Do you have a story, something to say or an idea for what we should cover on The Tees Online? Contact us at hello@thetees.online.