We caught up with our 2019 Young Entrepreneur of the Year winner for the first of our ‘My Covid-19 Journey’ member interviews, Andrew Johnstone of Loft Boarding Scotland Ltd to hear how business has been for him during the pandemic and what he’s learnt along the way.
What does your business do?
We install loft flooring above insulation for storage, loft ladders and loft lighting in new-build and traditional homes throughout Scotland.
What impact has COVID-19 had on your business?
We have been required to cease all of our installations nationwide for a combined total of around 8 months in one financial year, and to operate in reduced areas for around 3 further months in order to fully comply with the Scottish Government guidelines. We had to furlough our team and take on gargantuan borrowing just to survive.
What have you found most challenging during the pandemic?
There have been so many. Our working and personal lives were turned completely upside down almost overnight! Even just managing the amount of new information being circulated daily took a great deal of time and effort in the beginning. Decisions needed to be made, funding secured, COVID processes implemented and jobs protected. Meanwhile, everybody is looking at you for answers!
What changes have you implemented in your business as a result of COVID-19?
It was clear that despite lockdown, the demand for our services was unaffected. In fact, we noticed a significant spike in interest. As a result, we implemented an online remote survey process, where customers could show us their lofts and we could direct them in order to provide as accurate a quote as possible. I also implemented a set of COVID-safe procedures for our installers and surveyors to follow when we resumed.
What’s been the most important thing you’ve learnt during the pandemic?
I promise I have not been cajoled into saying this – but the importance of having a highly supportive network of like-minded business owners going through similar challenges was completely invaluable – particularly at the start of the pandemic when the proverbial was hitting the fan for a lot of people. Figuring out furlough, obtaining grant funding, and even just venting to sympathetic ears did me a lot of good in keeping going.
How is the future looking for your business post-COVID?
Surprisingly rosy. The increased demand has even made it necessary for us to take on 6 additional staff and 3 new bright orange vehicles to keep our waiting times down. Our customers, many of whom have been waiting for installations since before the lockdown, have been incredibly loyal and patient. We are a long way from being completely out of the woods due to the additional borrowing we had to take on – but with 5 installation teams now on the road and a full order book I’d say we are cautiously optimistic.