As we emerge from the pandemic, businesses are still not out of the woods yet. Effects of Brexit are being felt with supply chains and recruitment at breaking point for some sectors. It’s been a tough 18 months for four Bristol-based businesses who all chose to take a positive mindset over the lockdown periods.

Alastair Donnelly, co-owner of Inside Travel Group, a worldwide Asian specialist travel company, had to adjust massively to the challenges of the pandemic.

“Due to the nature of our business, we were receiving early signs of trouble when internet traffic dropped on our site in January of 2020. However, we would never have expected the level of business disruption the pandemic caused. Regular business just stopped and we had to accept that we wouldn’t be operating tours for the foreseeable future.”

Throughout the pandemic, Inside Travel Group worked with local business coach Gary Keating to come out as a stronger business.

“Gary helped us view the pandemic as an opportunity. Since we launched in 2000, we have grown to a multi-national company with offices in America, Australia, and Japan. This growth has been incredible, but it had started to feel like we needed to restructure the business due to its massive development. Applying our learning from Gary’s coaching, we used the lockdown to consolidate everything we have achieved, so no matter where you are in the Inside Travel Group network the same systems and processes are now in place for success. We then built a new website and set about developing exciting new destinations such as South Korea, ready for that bounce-back.”

Co-founder of NOCO Hair, Noel Halligan, saw his award-winning hair salon close overnight, “We were massively impacted – our sector was forced to close, and we were terrified about losing all the ground we had gained in the previous year when we had appointed Gary as our business coach.

“Rather than give up on our dreams, Gary encouraged us to purchase our second premises – a spa and beauty salon in Wells, which is four times the size of our original salon. We committed to establishing ourselves as the leaders in our market, spending lockdown attending seminars with some of the world’s best hairdressers, so when restrictions were lifted, we had built an expert network to collaborate with.”

Manager of kid’s soft play company Little Giggles, Laurie Coventry, took the business in an interesting direction as soon as their premises were allowed to re-open, “We decided to re-utilise the space by securing an alcohol license which we could use for night-time entertainment. The shows have been massively successful, and we’ll continue to use them as part of our revenue stream in the future. Without having the sounding board of a business coach to give us confidence in such a stressful time, I’m not sure we would have emerged from lockdown with a long-lasting business model.”

Sarah Cunliffe, Director of True Freedom Counselling, had just started the move to virtual sessions before COVID-19 hit, “Before I started coaching with Gary, all my business was in person. I love Gary’s radical candour – he told me that if I didn’t pre-empt where my sector was heading by moving online, I would be left behind. He always likes to say that winter is coming, you need to be prepared for when the unforeseeable happens – my goodness was the pandemic one heck of cold blast! As a result, before the pandemic, I’d already started diversifying my business model by moving some of my clients online. This new system ensured that when the restrictions came, I was able to continue working with all my clients with confidence.”

“Our team at ActionCOACH Bristol swore that no business owner would be left behind if they wanted our help over the pandemic. Since March 2020, we’ve gifted 150 hours of business coaching to Bristol’s businesses. To see the immense impact these businesses can now have on the local community is beyond fulfilling.”