The Hudson Group has been supporting organisations to promote their brand since 1966. From promotional merchandise and clothing to vehicle graphics, printed materials and signage. A local company, employing 38 people, based on two sites in Suffolk, and one in the Midlands, providing support nationwide.
When the Government announced on 20 March that entertainment, hospitality and leisure businesses were to close and that if you can work from home you should, Steve Flory, the Managing Director of Hudson Group and Hudson Sign Solutions, had to make a decision. A decision that millions of business owners throughout the UK had to make: did he close, or work out how to keep going.
Twelve weeks on Steve is proud to confirm that they have stayed operational throughout, paying all suppliers and commitments in full and on time, and have experienced growth during a period when many businesses have closed.
“I realised that the majority of our clients were legally obligated to close, and with people being told to stay at home, there would be very limited demand for our normal products. I closed our promotional materials department and furloughed about 70% of the team. We already had orders waiting so I decided we would get ahead of the game and fulfil those orders so the materials would be ready for when the clients re-opened. It meant we would have no backlog to cope with and it kept us busy in a time of uncertainty”.
After about three weeks, all the orders had been completed and again it was decision time. Steve opted not to furlough the rest of the team but to stay open and operating. The team got involved in some volunteer work to support the NHS and a local hospice. They printed patterns to support the community sewing scrubs and produced name labels to help patients identify staff members wearing full PPE. In later weeks, the team have been volunteering to support a local cancer hospice by providing transport to move life-saving equipment around the region.
“Just at the time we had cleared our orders the telephone rang, and it was an enquiry from the NHS needing mobile bed screens to provide protection on a Covid-19 ward. We had never made anything like it before but after a discussion felt confident we could, and gave it a go. A second order was placed a few weeks later, and it opened the door to other product ideas”.
Making items such as “sneeze screens”, sanitisation stations and bed screens was certainly not in Steve’s business plan for 2020 yet he took the opportunity to diversify, keep his team in work and ensure the business is in a strong position moving forward.
“I had no idea back in March what the future would bring and I’ve got no idea what the next three months will be like. We have shown we can develop and change, and will continue to do so. Whether our new clients will remain loyal, once their normal suppliers re-open remains to be seen but adversity creates opportunity. I’m proud we have stayed active, and indeed proactive. We are working with new clients, and new sectors, which has to be a strength going forward”.
Steve has taken advantage of applying for a “bounce back loan” and as mentioned, has some staff on furlough. “The future is still very unclear. Having the bounce back loan sitting in the bank gives me some financial security should business become more challenging. I’m hoping that our normal sectors will pick up their activity as our Covid-19 response work tails off. We will continue to look for opportunities and will continue to adapt”.
It seems apt that The Hudson Group’s vision states that they pride themselves on being responsive and flexible: two qualities which have clearly stood them in good stead during this period.
Steve contributes their success during this period to two elements. “We have been getting contracts and work simply because we have answered the telephone. Clients have told us that they have been calling around and we have been the first to answer. As simple as that. We have also stayed visible and positive on social media. Companies are placing orders who we have not worked with before, from all over the country, because they have seen posts on social media sharing what we have been doing”. The second element, he puts down to his work ethic and tenacity which he encourages in his team. “The team have been brilliant. We have all adapted and learnt over the last three months, and continue to. We are now starting to design and propose Covid-19 safe work aids, such as screens for hairdressing salons and beauty salons, anticipating that will be the next demand. We want to work and we want to know we have a business going forward”.
The Hudson Group has grown its client base, product range and the team’s skillset since lockdown has started. They have needed no Government financial help, other than furlough, and are in a good financial position. An excellent example of how diversifying to meet new business demands is possible, even at the peak of a pandemic.