Interview | John Behan

In Conversation With...

Issue 64

A Director of Team Valley-based office technology company, SOS Group Ltd, with clients from local start-ups to the IAAF World Athletics Championships

In a sentence, how would you describe the year 2020?

A tough but enlightening experience.

How has your company adapted to the Coronavirus crisis?

We invoked our Disaster Recovery Plan and Business Continuity Plan straight away. That worked pretty much perfectly from day one and was a great affirmation of both planning and use of technology. We adopted more of the mobile applications we have at our disposal, using the Amazon WorkSpace system and unified communications to achieve a seamless home office work environment.

What are you currently working on?

By the time this article goes to press we’ll be in the middle of our Stage 2 audit for ISO 9001 and 27001, very demanding indeed. We’re also driving forward staff training to ensure we have the best qualified and most capable team possible when we reach the ‘other side.’

What have you learnt about yourself this year?

I’ve pushed my mental and physical endurance very hard and, so far, I’m still in one piece! I’ve also learned that people can be both incredibly resilient and incredibly fragile at the same time. A peculiar

paradox indeed.

How have you found remote working and how has this affected your team?

Remote working is something I’ve previously been very used to, so I slipped back into it very easily. I

actually find I’m more productive. As a team, it’s been more of a challenge though. We’ve coped well but I missed the daily personal interaction with team members and customers. During the first lockdown, we had virtual coffee mornings three times a week to maintain some contact and this was particularly valuable for staff who lived alone or were working from home. We learned a lot of new facts about each other that we may never have discovered otherwise, hobbies, interests, skills etc.

Which regional businesses have you admired in their response to the pandemic?

For me, it’s the unsung heroes who often go unnoticed and unappreciated, the bin men, delivery drivers, bus drivers etc. It goes without saying that every NHS worker deserves a huge amount of our collective gratitude, but I think we should also recognise the value of teachers. After having to home school children, our staff frequently commented on how much more they appreciate the job teachers do.

What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve been given this year?

Be positive. Take time out and silence the noise of social media and the news, which can tend towards

focussing only on negative stories. There are always aspects of positivity to find. Step away and allow

your mind to relax.

Have you developed any positive personal habits as a result of lockdown?

Exercise. I managed to get back into my cycling in particular throughout the summer months. A 10 mile

cycle before breakfast two or three times a week was a brilliant release. My golf, too. I didn’t get any better but at least I could focus my frustration into something a little less stressful.

And of course, spending more time with my partner and our dogs was a real bonus. She’s such a source

of strength and inspiration to me and our dogs just make me smile.

Has 2020 been the toughest challenge of your career?

I think so. While there have been many challenges over my working career, the challenges faced this year have been so much more diverse. Often as a result of factors we couldn’t control or influence in any way. We just had to adapt and stay agile. It’s been essential to be proactive, not to sit back and wait for change, but make the change and drive the change. We’ve learned a lot about our business and staff that might otherwise have gone unnoticed. And we’ve been aware of the challenges facing our local community organisations, too, and have continued and adapted the support we offer. It’s always been a focus for us and this year we celebrated donating £250,000 to charities, talented young individuals and community organisations since SOS Group launched 18 years ago.

What will 2021 bring for yourself and your company?

On a personal note, hopefully a little less pressure and a little bit more predictability! As for our

business, we’ll keep driving forward and making our decisions decisively and positively, even when they’re difficult.

We’ll maintain our positivity and look to grow our business. Even though there are challenges there are always opportunities, you just have to see them. If this year has given us anything, it’s a renewed focus

to succeed.

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