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There is no manual for this

29 April 2020

HSS spoke to Charlie Shiels, CEO at ArrowXL to find out about some of the challenges the business has been facing during the pandemic.

Did you ever consider closing the business?

From the outset of this pandemic the Government made it clear that home delivery was vital to the fight against Covid-19 and that companies like ours were doing essential work. It made sense – home delivery enables people to get the items they need while self-isolating or following the government’s guidelines to stay at home. So, with the decision over whether to continue to operate was, to a certain extent, taken out of our hands.

Did you feel that you had the right experience to lead the business during this unprecedented time?

There is no instruction manual for leading a business during a pandemic of this magnitude and the total disruption to everything that we have taken for granted. Yet some of the lessons I have learned during my 30-year career in the sector are proving useful. Probably the most important is that having the right people around you is key. My executive and leadership team have all been carefully chosen to bring something different to the party both in terms of skills, experience and approach.

Early on it became clear that the way forward is to ensure that every decision is made with integrity and guided by our moral compass. This makes some of the decisions easy and for example the board was unanimous in its decision to immediately send all staff who would count as shielded (due to underlying medical conditions) home on full pay until further notice. Home working for everyone else, who could possibly work from home, was also straightforward. This included a large contact centre population that required IT/technology solutions designing and implementing almost overnight.

Has anyone challenged whether you were right to continue deliveries?

There is a small group of people who believe that we should not be delivering ‘non- essential’ items to households and that we are risking the health of our staff. They are pushing for us to close our doors regardless of the strong health and safety processes we have put in place based on the latest guidance from Public Health England. 

The thing is, I get it to a certain extent. We are all frightened for ourselves and our loved ones but at the end of the day I agree with the Government that home delivery is a critical service and I know that the safety measures we have put in place are robust and support the fact that the safety of our staff & customers is a priority. 

What kind of measures have you introduced?

We are no longer delivering into homes but to the doorstep or a nominated safe place on the property instead. Our crews are advising consumers to remain at a 2+ metre distance and there will be no signature needed. We have also stopped wet connecting/disconnecting appliances and all product collections. Our vehicles and hand-held technology are cleaned and sanitised every night and we are talking and listening to our people on a daily basis. Other steps included 2-metre spacing is marked out on all our warehouse walkways/communal areas and every room has a person limit clearly marked out. 

We very early on staggered start/finish and break times to ensure we limited the opportunity for clusters of colleagues to gather. It was clear that during these extraordinary times our priority was the wellbeing of our colleagues, clients and consumers.

Will ArrowXL make any profit during this crisis?

No, we will not make any profit during this period due in part to much larger operating costs as a result of new safety processes we have put in place which inevitably affect productivity and our greater need for agency support.

Do you have a message for your people?

I am so proud of every single colleague in ArrrowXL, who have pulled together in such a demanding and challenging time. Its been awesome to be a part of a great team and watch great people deliver great service.