Heather Gordon is chief legal officer at Martyn Fiddler Aviation. Heather joined the team in 2013 having previously practiced within a leading Isle of ...Contact Heather Gordon
Lockdown: A learning opportunity
Covid 19 has caused heart-break throughout the world and we, at Martyn Fiddler Aviation thank all those on the front line who continue to fight the battle for us. Everyone has been impacted in one way or another, and our business, has had to move rapidly to cope with dramatic changes in our industry (aviation) and the financial markets to protect jobs and clients assets.
When lockdown began we had the hopeful yet naïve belief that the situation would pass in a couple of weeks, but as reality set in we faced a range of difficult questions:
• How do we get 35 team members in the UK, Isle of Man and Ireland working from home as if they were still in the office?
• Was our business continuity plan robust enough for the long haul?
• What would this mean for our business?
Now, over 6 weeks in to our 'new normal' we have certainly learnt a few things about our teams, our clients, our systems, and ourselves.
Anyone who knows us will be in no doubt that we at Martyn Fiddler Aviation are "people people." Whether it's solving client problems, working on the regular office business or attending aviation events, I think it's fair to say we like doing it with others and as part of a team. Therefore this lack of time spent with each other has been particularly challenging, however we have amazing people at MFA and they have worked diligently, resourcefully and with good humour to work as a team in this new normal. I cannot wait to get back into the office to see them when this is all over; nothing beats face to face meetings.
We have also had to find new ways to keep morale up and non-work related competitions have been a great success (check out our fancy dress competition on LinkedIn here. Oddly we may now be closer as an organisation – lack of proximity has brought us together and is making us stronger as a team.
Unless you have managed to avoid all media you will be aware that the aviation industry (commercial and business) has been impacted significantly by the pandemic: 70% of commercial aircraft are in storage and charter flights have dropped by 72% world-wide. Both the short and long term survival of many businesses will depend on how quickly they can adapt and innovate in the circumstances.
Despite the lockdown, business goes on. Our business continuity planning coupled with the "can do" attitude of our teams has meant we have been able to continue servicing our clients during this testing period; and we have been fortunate enough to still receive new business enquiries. It is a testament to building long lasting relationships that even when times are tough we can work together with industry partners to find new ways of working.
It is in these unique situations where we have had to adapt and 'think outside the box' where we have found new solutions for our clients which add to our toolbox. For example, our tax and import teams have had to redesign our processes where aircraft are unable to travel to our normal customs processing airports. Similarly, cross border transactions on sale of aircraft are being re-examined where the sale of shares in the aircraft owning company is more efficient.
I do not think that we were alone in wondering whether our IT system would buckle under the new challenges of homeworking. It was with happy relief that, notwithstanding a few initial teething problems, our teams were phased into operating on VPN or Citrix networks right from the start and service to our clients has not been interrupted. Video conferencing has made the isolation easier and is certainly something we will continue with in the future to communicate between our international offices.
Working from home has allowed us to test our systems from different viewpoints. We have focused on what our critical actions are from a client and regulatory standpoint and reviewed processes to see if they really deliver. The lockdown has presented us with an opportunity to 'spring clean' our business and to improve our value to clients.
While I can only speak for myself, I have found that the lockdown has given me the opportunity to reflect on my own work processes in addition to how I cope in an isolated environment. My organisation and time management have been forced to improve, together with how I communicate effectively with each of our business teams.
The lockdown presents us with an opportunity to adapt, reflect and improve what we do and how we do it, so that we come out of this stronger and better than before. I cannot wait to get back out on the road once this is all over but I am grateful for the opportunity to stay still for a moment and take stock of what is important to our team, our clients and our business.