Lockdown Stories: Jonathan Straight, Planet Straight

As a Non-Executive Director, Consultant and Creative under his umbrella brand, Planet Straight, Jonathan Straight has been a trusted advisor to a diverse range of businesses throughout the pandemic. Sitting on several boards and advising numerous organisations, Jonathan has seen first-hand how this global situation has impacted companies large and small.

As a result, Jonathan confirms that his feet haven’t touched the ground for some time now, being busier than ever providing guidance to businesses while also working on two rather special projects of his own – completing a photo book and writing a business memoir to be published later this year.

With such a wealth of experience under his belt, we couldn’t think of a more perfect person from which to gather some valuable insight and experience for the next instalment of our lockdown stories series. Here, we explore just a few of the pearls of wisdom that Jonathan has gained throughout this challenging period.

There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach

Being involved with a range of organisations from The Tetley, an art gallery and eatery; We Are IVE, a charity which connects young people with the arts; right the way through to online retailer of surplus food and drink, Approved Food – Jonathan has seen how different each organisation’s response has been.

“The Tetley closed completely, and many staff were furloughed. The senior team worked from home, keeping everything ticking over and planning the re-opening which happened in August.”

As a charity, We are IVE needed to take a slightly different approach.

“Much of the work for them continued remotely but, in this case, the more senior team were the ones furloughed in order to conserve cash.”

Meanwhile, rather than winding down its operation, Approved Food faced a different challenge entirely – how to keep on top of a spike in demand, while maintaining the safety of its staff.

This contrast in approaches demonstrates that, at a time like this, there is no ‘one size fits all’. But what each organisation has shown, is the agility and resilience required to survive.

Adaptability is key

Companies have had no choice but to adapt during this period, and Jonathan has seen this first-hand.

“There has been a range of responses from each organisation. None has needed to pivot the business model, but they have had to change the way they work. For example, The Tetley now requires bookings to attend and the eating and drinking experience has changed in order to accommodate social distancing. Fortunately, there is a lot of space there.

“I am also a director of Waterwise. They had to cancel their annual conference which is one of their biggest generators of income. From a position of losing £20,000 already paid to a venue, they turned things round, moved the event online and maintained their audience. I would be surprised if this happens as a physical conference again.”

Always expect the worst

Though it sounds a little doom and gloom, ‘always expect the worst’ is a professional observation that, Jonathan says, has always stood him in good stead – and never more so than right now. Not just in terms of responding to Covid, but also in how we plan for the future.

“What if we had no customers? What if our supply chain collapsed? These are questions all businesses should be asking... My advice to all at the outset was the same: if you don’t need to do it, don’t do it and save your cash. You have no idea how long the recovery will take, and you need to be able to weather the storm long term.”

Let’s face it, never in all of our scenario and business continuity planning would we have ever dreamt of adding a global pandemic to the list!

Make the most of some downtime

In Jonathan’s case, he has had to learn to prioritise an even busier than usual workload but, working from home, he has also taken the opportunity to balance this with making the most of any downtime.

This began with ensuring that he ‘switched off’ at the end of each day. Having mastered this, Jonathan is pleased to report that he has made good use of it! Despite limited opportunities for his usual passion of street photography, he has used the additional time to edit previous shots and as a result, his Instagram output (@straightpix) has continued to flourish!

Jonathan has also made some positive, personal strides which he hopes to continue to build upon post lockdown:

“Six hours sleep a night is much better than five, I’ve also found that taking some exercise every day is a really good thing – I did Joe Wicks with my son each day when it was on.

“Morning walks have allowed me to discover podcasts, which I love. No unhealthy meals out has been a bonus, and having to plan food deliveries means more fresh food consumed and less food wasted!

“I did intend to learn mindfulness but I haven’t quite found the time to do this yet. Still buying books faster than I can read them though – a habit that will most likely continue.”

Well, Jonathan – you can’t win them all!

And a final word of advice…

“Take care of yourself and take care of your cash”

– incredibly wise words if ever we heard them!

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