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Paul Pavli, All Together Advisor

I have been a volunteer advisor with All Together for a couple of months now and have supported two businesses through their own COVID-19 lockdown journey. I wanted to get my thoughts down on paper about this- I hope you get something from them as we start to see the light at the end of the lockdown period for the hospitality industry.

Strategic thinking, business planning and responding to crisis are all part of a business leader’s role and responsibilities. They also have a desire to understand what’s going to happen in the future, within reason, for their business under different scenarios so that it has the best chance of success.

But no one could foresee or plan for COVID-19. The only certainty in this uncertain world is that business as usual (BAU) is no longer an option and adapting to a new world order is reality.

Behind every great leader is a great team. That determination to plan and achieve great results comes from listening to trusted members of their team. Drawing on their past successes to help shape a strategy is sound business practice for most business leaders.

But this is not ‘normal’. No business leader has operated in this kind of environment – where their business has zero sales coming in with no immediate clear path for the future and worst of all, they are not in control of that future, not yet anyway….

Good leadership is also about asking for help. There are times, such as these, when having a mentor, coach or someone you trust or admire from the outside is invaluable when navigating this challenging journey. The All Together Company is a voluntary organisation that has a collective of talented and experienced people who are ready to help and support business leaders. Whether the decisions you need to address are financial, marketing, HR or operational, All Together founder Jamie and his team will find the right person for your business, drawing on their years of knowledge to help. I am honoured to be part of this collective supporting business leaders as they navigate their journey.

Asking the right questions

What I have been able to do for the businesses that I am supporting is listen and ask those questions the senior people in their team might not have asked. This is not because they don’t know the questions or understand the issues they face, but because they might be too close and too emotionally involved.

How a volunteer advisor can help

We all wish we had a crystal ball right now, but we don’t. An advisor might not be able to tell you what’s going to happen, but they can listen and share their insight and experience. Having an ‘outsider’ give you impartial feedback on your plans for the business and offer honest, sound advice on what else you might want to think about, is invaluable during this unprecedented period.

Rebuilding trust

It’s unlikely that hospitality businesses will operate at full capacity once the lockdown is lifted, as they will not only have to adhere to social distancing measures, but also reassure consumers that it’s safe to visit again.

One common factor is that all operators will have to win the hearts and minds of consumers to get them back. Those with high levels of loyalty will do this quicker than those that didn’t engage well before and during the closure period, with consumers possibly asking what that brand has done for the national ‘cause,’ and them, during these difficult times.

I read an article recently (Peter Backman, in Propel) which talked about three stages to the coronavirus impact:

1. The first stage is where we are now and will last until lockdown restrictions are lifted sufficiently for people to visit venues.

2. The second stage is from then until consumers feel comfortable about visiting these places, and this is likely to have to wait until there is a vaccine or some mitigation on the effect of the virus.

3. The third stage is from then onwards, in what many are referring to as ‘the new normal.’

For this reason, businesses will need plans for different scenarios over the next 12-18 months and as they move to their new ‘normal’, when it becomes BAU.

Brand relaunch

It’s possible that some businesses will have taken the time during lockdown to review and revise their brand values, what they stand for, as well as their product and offer. This next phase will be about planning for and re-educating consumers in what’s going to be a challenging market, where money is tight and the ‘fear’ factor is high.

Calming the choppy waters

As I said before, it could be 12 to 18 months before we get anywhere back to the levels of business we had before COVID-19 hit (or whatever the new normal might be). There’s also the strong possibility of a second wave, and another lockdown, so business leaders will be navigating difficult waters for some time.

What is certain about the future is that business leaders will have extremely difficult decisions to make about which path to follow for their company and their teams. It can be a lonely and anxious time for even the most experienced and broad-shouldered of leaders, who may want to shield their teams from the worst case scenario in order to keep them motivated, so a Volunteer Advisor, mentor or coach from All Together might be just the person they need right now.

Paul Pavli is a Volunteer Advisor at All Together. He works as an NED and consultant, and was Managing Director of Punch Taverns. You can find out more about him at

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