Welcoming Back the BDC – An Interview with CEO, Dominic Jones
The BDC has been up and running with social distancing and safety measures in place for three months now, so we caught up with Chief Executive, Dominic Jones to find out what he thinks of the new norm and how it’s going to impact wider practices at the venue.
How has the BDC adapted and been flexible in terms of adjusting to the challenges posed by COVID-19?
To start with it’s been a big change for our staff, many of whom have been here for a long time, some twenty plus years. Our business is about providing environments, either temporarily or long term for other businesses to trade and for events to gather and meet. It’s also a family business and we view our team as part of the family.
We have primarily been focusing on the wellbeing of our staff. We do this through open channels of communication, but in this time personal accounts shared to the team by me have ensured they knew that we were all in this together. Our teams worked from home throughout and we asked them in turn to check in on clients and ensure that we were operating in a way that would see them return to us as lockdown eased and events could return.
Half of our team including the Directors trained as Mental First Aiders last year and using these skills to support each other and those we work with has been key. Many of our staff took up our offer of a free subscription to either the Calm or Headspace apps earlier in the year and have fed back how beneficial learning to switch off through meditation has been for them in this time.
We’ve recently been promoting the measures the BDC has made. You’ve launched this ahead of many other office spaces and venues, why?
We made the changes early on, as a handful of our tenants were unable to operate from anywhere else due to factors such as their technological infrastructure. By May we had all the necessary steps in place to ensure people felt safe in the venue and launched our video guide to show how returning to the venue can be done safely. We held the comfort of all those who come to venue in the highest regard, removing any obvious repetition of why we’ve made the changes, and instead taking a creative approach and a positive tone of voice. It’s been key to welcoming tenants home as I’m sure will be the case with events in due course.
How are you going to be able to bring back a normal service in areas like the onsite restaurant?
We started with a takeaway service in Jack’s and can now accommodate seated guests. As our community returns to the venue, we are seeing meetings take place (at distance of course) and it’s truly a pleasure to see the familiar faces bringing back the buzz that makes the BDC special.
Event catering is already being prepared for, with individually packaged meals to ensure hygiene levels are upheld and our partners at the Good Eating Company have been accredited as a COVID secure business.
Surely using more disposables is going to impact your sustainability efforts?
Our newest Sustainability Policy launched last year eradicated single use plastics from our food service. We will not be diverting from our mission to ensure that we positively impact our environment and will uphold the policy through the use of compostable packaging where it’s required to maintain service levels safely. Now in our tenth year as a Carbon Neutral venue, we will continue with our commitment to ensure that all steps are taken in leaving a positive legacy.
What new business ideas and opportunities has BDC identified as a result of the last few months?
Undoubtedly there will be people that may require larger offices to operate under Government guidance or new event topics as a result of the past few months. Certain industries have contracted and others have flourished. One of our first events set to return in October will see contactless payments take centre stage and we’re welcoming a new launch event next year, The Podcast Show. We’re definitely seeing business take its first steps to a new normality and we warmly welcome it.
Our predominant focus at the moment though is to ensure the safe return of businesses who call the BDC home and to support the organisers whose events have been rescheduled into the 2021 calendar. There’s a long road ahead, but we are someway down it already with the preparations we have in place. We’d welcome anyone to come and see what we’ve implemented and use our learnings to help prepare themselves. Business now is far from a competition, the only way we can get back on track as a country is by working more closely and collaborating in areas such as this.
BDC has always been a great supporter of the local community, how has it continued to do this during lockdown and how will it moving forward?
As soon as we became aware that we were facing a national emergency, we volunteered funds from our trust (the Morris Charitable Trust) and our services to our local council and to Islington Giving’s crisis fund. We’ve made ourselves available for any need that we can meet for the local community and our staff have been fantastic nearer to where they live. Many have donated time, cooked for others, volunteered and helped neighbours, but this is just what they are like – always keen to help.
Closer to home our charitable arm, the MCT, has been funding causes that have been impacted as a result of COVID. The trustees are made up of members of the Morris Family and some of the BDC Board and we have continued to meet more regularly over Zoom to ensure all applications and causes are considered. We’ve saved community projects from closing and helped others to prepare for their reopening with one off capital donations. The Trust has also had an update allowing for applications to be made online for the first time; we hope that this will ensure more of those who need it will receive crucial funding.