The Pandemic resulted in a lockdown the like of which has not been seen in this country before. For many small businesses, it caused chaos and required some quick-thinking and entrepreneurial flair if they were to survive it. Even for those businesses largely unaffected by it, things have changed over the last two years.

In this article, babel Monkey Troop Leader, Sarah Marsh-Collings talks about her role, how things have changed since March 2020 and what’s to come.

Please describe your overall function: What do you do?

Ultimately, I’m responsible for the growth and security of babel Monkey. It’s important to me I support my team in delivering work to the standards our clients expect of us in the pursuit of solving their problems and helping them to achieve their goals. I’m also I’m responsible for long-term financial planning where I work closely with our Accountancy firm as well as with my own Business Coach. I’m passionate about building environments that are inclusive and full of opportunity for everyone,  so I take personal responsibility for leading our culture and values. To that end, I also ensure babel Monkey is represented at a number of local events and involved in charitable events particularly with the local Rotary clubs.

Rotary Club West Wickham Swimathon 2021

Rotary Club West Wickham Swimathon 2021

How does a typical day start for you?

There isn’t really a ‘typical’ day as my days are quite varied. Some mornings, I go for a swim and a sauna which really helps set me up for the day, otherwise I have a session with my Personal Trainer. Apart from answering emails and performing a number of marketing functions for some clients, the rest of the day can be taken up with meetings with clients, prospects, collaborative partners, networking events, diary planning, and coaching calls.

How has your typical day been impacted in the short term by the pandemic?

We have been incredibly fortunate not to have been adversely affected by the pandemic. Given the online nature of our work, we were well prepared to work from home. Our team has responded to the situation brilliantly, and we have been able to continue our efforts for our clients without interruption of service.

Unsurprisingly, my schedule changed – international travel was off the menu for a while! I found initially, the sense of strangeness led to many phone calls from clients, network contacts, friends, all looking for reassurance, generally rather than work-wise. Many people were coming up with ideas they want to run past me – so much time to think does give rise to a whole spate of ideas! My days were stuffed with phone calls! I, along with three friends, set up the Business Continuity Support group, a twice weekly morning meeting where we invited speakers to share knowledge that would help small business owners weather the lockdown. That was time-consuming but rewarding and gave people a much-needed sense of purpose during what was a scary and isolating time. All our regular networking events went to Zoom which, for both the BNI group and the BoB club I belonged to, I helped facilitate.

When the final lockdown was finished and restrictions eased, I was pretty happy about it as I guess most people were! I missed the human connection – after all, monkeys are social creatures! I’ve had a period where my relief at being able to be out and about again led me to being out and about a lot. A bout of COVID gave me some time out and allowed me to refocus and limit my activities somewhat. Too much running around is draining, not to mention, time-consuming. I’m enjoying benefiting from some quieter time and the headspace it gives me. After all, that’s where the ideas come from!

What are your favourite tools and techniques to help you get your work done at the moment?

I’m planning my diary more careful and prioritising time for myself. Too much ‘in’ the business is counter-productive, so I’ve reset the focus to allow ideas and collaborations to develop and I’m pleased to say, we have some projects in the works I’m genuinely excited about.

Which companies have impressed you during the pandemic?

I’m beyond impressed by the renewed sense of entrepreneurship particularly amongst the one-person and small business community. They’ve come out of the stocks raring to go and keen to help and support other local business. I love this sense of collaboration.

Chandra Sharma, Elmcroft Business Services & Sarah

Sarah with Orpington businessman, Chandra Sharma of Elmcroft Business Services. We use Chandra for our office supplies and branded workwear both for ourselves and for our clients.

What trends have you seen in the last few months in your sector?

The pandemic has triggered a focus on local; buying local, supporting local businesses and the local economy and this filters down to how brands are marketing themselves. It’s as though by being separated during lockdown, we’ve gained a heightened awareness of our environments.

Small businesses have realised online-marketing is a necessity, particularly following the pandemic when so much of our lives is still virtual rather than in-person. We’ve seen smaller businesses wanting to embrace digital but needing support and guidance on how to use it. Facebook has become a less popular option for most, and we’ve seen a big rise in demand for help with LinkedIn and Instagram.

What advice would you give a marketer right now?

Invest in yourself, in your training with keeping up with the changes on various platforms, especially for those with customers using Facebook, and learning about newer and alternative platforms.

What does long-term planning and strategy look like now at your company?

The long-term strategy for babel Monkey remains unchanged though we’ve had to take a look at some of the interim milestones to take into account changing customer requirements. Our end goal remains the same: help ambitious brands build their reputation quickly to drive sales and support their own growth. Good for them, good for us, and good for the local business community and economy.