“If someone had told me in February 2020, that I would be sleeping in the office until November, I wouldn’t have believed them” says Gareth Dillon, chief operating officer (COO) of RDCP Infrastructure and managing director of Killingley.
Gareth relocated from his home to be closer to the business as the pandemic emerged. “As a business leader, when something like this happens, you have a responsibility to make sure that you're doing everything in your power to look after your business and maintain financial security for every employee and their families”.
Killingley was started in the 1970s out of the back of a van, as a landscape gardening business before organically expanding to cover engineering, earthworks and groundworks, hard and soft landscaping and grounds maintenance. Gareth joined the company in late 2018 when it was in a difficult position and made changes during 2019 which helped to turn it into a profitable business once more. When COVID-19 hit, there was “disappointment, then fear because no one knew what was going to happen” according to Gareth. It was through hard work and personal sacrifice of the entire workforce that Killingley continued to remain strong. “You just take a big deep breath, you listen to the advice and you put actions and safety protocols in place… it was a very stressful time for everyone in the company because no one understood what was going to happen.”
Cashflow was crucial to the Killingley team’s survival as they faced the pandemic, but its strong relationship with Aldermore and bespoke finance solutions ensured they could meet the challenge. “Our relationship with Aldermore massively helped when the pandemic hit. Instantly some of our clients pulled their shutters down; we had jobs that were paused or cancelled, so we had an instant drop in turnover. At exactly the same time, our cost base went up due to the enhanced protocols we had to put in place to operate safely, which put a massive strain on cashflow. If we hadn't had the relationship with Aldermore, it would have been significantly more difficult to navigate a course to recovery. To put it simply, if we had been with a traditional bank we would have been in trouble.”
Looking ahead to the future, Gareth acknowledges that there are lessons to be learned from the pandemic. “The common phrase at the minute is the ‘new norm’… we would never have contemplated before the pandemic that we would allow so many people to work from home but now it's just natural…delivery is now the focus, not the hours that you're doing in the office; it's about what you're actually producing, so that's a positive.” The impact of COVID-19 has also seen a change in the way the works are delivered. “The phrase ‘working bubble’ didn't exist before March 2020 but we now only think in working bubbles and the pandemic has forced us to improve the way we plan and allocate resources, so out of this really difficult situation, we’ve benefitted from a more efficient project delivery.”