Navigation is a learnt skill; I don’t think anyone was prepared to face a situation like this, but we are refining our practices daily and we continue to remain flexible as so much of what is happening is largely untested. A large part of our business is export, built on face-to-face relationships formed over many years, and while future international travel could provide a challenge we stand ready to adapt to that. It’s a case of continuing to learn from every moment and explore opportunities.
What has the situation taught you about leadership?
The Cleave family is a close-knit group. Most of us have worked together for a long time. The management structure is collaborative and built on trust, working together for the same aim; in testing times like this it illustrates just how important those values are. At Cleave we have a ‘roll your sleeves up’ attitude that permeates through the company, our collegiate atmosphere is core to the foundation of the business and our success.
And what has it taught you about your business?
We are still learning, but we are happy, we feel ready to expect the unexpected and be ‘light on our feet’. We know we can adapt to anything as a team, and it’s important to keep in mind our company values as this is our bedrock. As a small company we didn’t have formal disaster recovery planning, but we are lucky because we travel a lot - we have always been able to access our server from anywhere in the world and are used to very remote working.
How are you – and the wider business – supporting your people?
We work hard supporting each other, empathising and encouraging. Under normal conditions at the end of the week we open a bottle of wine, push back our chairs and chat as a group about the week and plans for the weekend. We have continued to do that remotely and it's good that whatever happens we can get together, relax and laugh every week.
What do you see as the potential long-lasting changes to your business?
Over the decades we have provided our exceptional, unique and diverse skills to Heads of State, Governments, Royal families and National Institutions. We have long held an ambition to work closer with discerning individuals who appreciate the true meaning of bespoke. This a renewed focus for us in 2020 and beyond.
Our designers and workshop have always employed cutting-edge technology in tandem with traditional hand skills, but now we need to employ cutting-edge technology alongside our traditional sales skills to ensure Cleave is no longer one of London’s best kept secrets. It's time more people had the opportunity to enjoy something completely unique.
How are you, on a personal level, dealing with lockdown?
It has been a revelation; I have been going out to work every day since I started my apprenticeship as a jeweller more than 45 years ago. In addition, in my current role I typically have events and functions a couple of nights a week and travel internationally about a week or so a month. I have never spent so much time at home as now, and I am enjoying the novelty. I like to have a routine and instead of rushing for the train, I walk round the garden and see how things are growing before starting work and at the end of the day when I finish, there is no commute needed before I can sit on the terrace with a glass of wine.
I do miss face-to-face interaction with colleagues and clients and am now looking forward to my return to the office and resumption of international travel, visiting clients in interesting places, but not as much as my wife: the novelty of having me around 24 hours a day, 7 days a week is wearing a bit thin.
They say the world will never be the same again and we will certainly be looking at how we use technology to work effectively while ensuring a work-life balance. In the meantime, I have invested in an electric bike so I can get back to the office as soon as possible without using public transport.