CEO of Silver Fox Limited, Nick Michaelson on what impact COVID-19 is having on manufacturing in Hertfordshire.
Nick Michaelson is the owner and CEO of Silver Fox Limited, a manufacturer based here in Hertfordshire who develop and supply cable specialist labelling solutions to engineers around the world. Their sectors include Oil and Gas, Mass Transit, Renewables, Data and Telecom. Reaching from Australia to the Middle East and across into North America, Silver Fox have a global presence in the market.
Silver Fox have been open for business in Welwyn Garden City for 40 years and owes part of this success and longevity to the staff and support they receive from the local area. Although everyone is in a difficult patch right now, Silver Fox are looking past the current situation and laying strong foundations to what can be achieved in years to come.
Despite working remotely, the Silver Fox Marketing team were able to speak with Nick and understand his thoughts on the current “hidden opportunity” as he puts it.
Q: Do you envisage your business being impacted by the current COVID-19 situation?
A: Of course, one way or another all business is impacted by COVID-19, either positively or negatively. I know a lot of companies that are doing very well at the moment, the sort of company whose services are required specifically in response to this crisis. And as such they have been given a tremendous opportunity. It’s not just manufacturing or pharmaceutical, it could even be smaller local businesses like agency drivers.
Of course, we are all aware of the more badly affected business such as retail, entertainment, travel, holidays etc…
What I would say about Silver Fox is that we probably sit somewhere in the middle. Naturally, as we support such a wide range of industries in the UK and across the globe – some will be up and others down. But rather than fret about whether our glass is half full or empty. We adjusted the size of our glass to match the business. Some staff are furloughed and other costs have been cut. But even through that we remain fully open and with more marketing activity have been getting fresh inquiries from North America/Italy/Germany and so on….
Q: What sort of feedback are you getting from customers about the crisis?
A: Truthfully our customers could not be better. We’re still very much open for business and operating to nearly full capacity with a reduced overhead. If a customer comes in with an order we are able despatch, in most instances, on the same day.
This is all down to the team. Our facilities are in Welwyn Garden City, and we employ a lot of staff from the local area. Without the risk of public transport or long commutes, a slightly reduced staff are able manage and service all the needs. I think actually they are all working especially hard, supporting our business. So, my thanks to them! We have weekly zoom meetings for all the team and the question keeps coming up. When can we come back? All I can say is - shortly shortly.
Q: How important do you think it is to keep manufacturing here in the UK, supporting local economies?
A: Essential. Critical. We have always been proud to manufacture here in the UK, it’s on all the content we share, our emails, everything. If the recent events should have taught us anything as a nation, it’s how important it is to keep manufacturing in the UK and in communities like Hertfordshire. Manufacturing in the UK not only ensures jobs and wages for the population, but also increases the skills of those operating. We love it!
Q: What advice would you give other SMEs about steering through this period?
A: As the owner manager I have been through some very tough times in the last 40 years. 2008 was particularly testing, but by the end, our brand was even stronger. If I had to give some tips to my fellow SME owners? I’d say:
- Watch your cash and overheads like a hawk. A lot can change in a week, keep at it.
- Dare I say – although don’t tell my wife. Live and breathe it. Your livelihood may depend on it.
- Involve your staff in as many decisions as possible, quite often we like to think as SME owners we are an island alone, but the staff are there and in it with you. Involve them!
- Use this time to take stock. We’re spending a lot of time on the R&D side of things at the moment. So, when all this clears, we’ll be in an even stronger position.
- Learn new skills – We are encouraging all our staff, furloughed or not, to learn new skills online from languages, to excel, to cooking. Use the time to get better.
- Ask for advice from your network. I’ve got a lot of friends, associates, and acquaintances in similar positions to me. We’ve been speaking about what steps we’re taking next to learn from each other. As I said, you aren’t an island.
Nick and the team will continue to work hard to provide jobs to the local area, demonstrating the quality and value a Hertfordshire based business can add to the world stage.