July 30, 2020

I stood in the Students’ Union listening to a doctor introduce the healthcare careers event I was photographing. Twenty seconds of hand washing and no physical contact was the advice. I immediately thought back to greeting a client with a warm hug just a few days earlier and regretted it.

A healthcare careers event – one of our final jobs pre-lockdown.

The diary remained full with a great variety of regular jobs and interesting new ones but the following week things started to change. Large events cancelled, a shoot on location at a local GP practice postponed. It felt like we were waiting for a wave to hit us but we didn’t know when it would  arrive or just how big it was going to be. Pretty bloody big as it happens!! 

We completed one final shoot in the studio before agreeing it was time to work from home. When it comes to editing film & photography, writing proposals or keeping on top of the business admin, this was an easy transition but it is shooting that feeds the editing production line and this was quickly drying up. 

Locked up for lockdown – our studio space

Back in September, eager to bring in some new clients, we started working with Marianne Smith from Doo Marketing. Her advice was always to look after your existing clients first and foremost and while this had been a helpful insight in normal times it became invaluable now. They were amazing, rushing round to raise outstanding purchase orders, offering to make upfront or partial payments and generally offering the kind of encouragement and solidarity that has now become commonplace in these difficult times.

Colleagues too, from our broader professional network, began sharing links to useful resources and interesting articles, while email updates from our accountant became more and more frequent. Chats with close contacts in the industry became very useful, if only to call BS on those people who were trying to peddle the illusion that all was well, “business as usual here”.

Keeping in touch with clients also meant that we could help them find ways to navigate the lockdown. Jimi was soon creating smartphone video tutorials and editing Zoom call footage in to mental health awareness content, to support people working from home. I found myself returning to a previous life as a copywriter, helping a client to bolster their web presence. 

Helping EMIS Group support their staff working from home

After a couple of weeks of uncertainty, we had a clearer idea of what support we could expect from the government, what funds we had in reserve and when we could expect outstanding invoice payments to drop. Like most companies we reined in overheads the best we could and formulated a plan to make it through the lockdown. 

It was time to try and find the positives, which for both of us meant spending more time with our families. Video calls with clients were often interrupted by family and on more than one occasion we virtually introduced the kids to our clients with great pride. Work was scheduled in around daily walks, bike rides and family meals.  

It would be easy to pretend that, like a good Instagram post, all was rosey throughout the lockdown but there were definitely times of huge uncertainty and occasions when I thought about what I might have to do if an extended lockdown simply meant the money ran out. 

As restrictions are eased and we start to rebuild, Simon Sinek’s definition of finite and infinite games feels timely: 

“In finite games, like football or chess, the players are known, the rules are fixed, and the endpoint is clear. The winners and losers are easily identified.

In infinite games, like business or politics or life itself, the players come and go, the rules are changeable, and there is no defined endpoint. There are no winners or losers in an infinite game; there is only ahead and behind.”

Simon Sinek

We are definitely a little behind where we thought we’d be this time last year. Money that might have been re-invested in the business was lashed together with a £10,000 government grant and a deferred VAT bill to create a life raft which, for now at least, means we’re still in the game.