Ward Wood Design: How one Cork-based business managed through a pandemic
Turning a dream into a reality is easier said than done. Many people, in fact, aren’t willing to take the risk of pursuing that goal they’ve thought about for years. For Cork man Gerard Ward, his dream became a reality when he founded Ward Wood Design following the recession of the late 2000s, and spent his days doing what he loved for a living — designing furniture.
But for Gerard and others, the coronavirus pandemic has threatened to turn dreams into nightmares. A new approach to work was necessary.
“When lockdown hit, we were one of the businesses that had to pretty much shut down. I had to rethink how I could keep the business going.” So how did Gerard navigate the difficulties presented by the pandemic, and which tools did he use to help him to do it?
For the majority of Irish SMBs, the coronavirus pandemic has meant one thing: rethinking how business is done. From being forced to close their doors or adjust to social distancing measures, adaptation has been a must for businesses throughout the country.
“It wasn’t easy,” says Gerard. “Not only did lockdown restrict business opportunities, my wife was also on maternity leave. We’d just had a new arrival. Bills had to be paid.” But while being effectively restricted to office work while working from home, Ward saw that with the challenges came opportunities.
“I had to look at the ways I could bolster the business while all this was happening. I couldn’t visit clients; I couldn’t go on site. And without new business, there was no need for me at the workshop.” And with physical restrictions in place, Gerard turned his attention to online.
Using the right tools at the right time
“Setting up my Business Profile on Google has been a huge help,” says Gerard. Despite there being a lockdown in place, Google My Business allowed him to keep his customers updated on Google Maps and Search, as well as show people what he does, and prepare for post-lockdown business. “I didn't have to go out cold calling. Customers could discover me — it was a completely new opening for me. People could set up appointments for when lockdown was lifted, which was great too.”
As well as keeping his Business Profile updated, Gerard used the quieter period to improve his digital skills. With “digital maturity” being vital to business growth today, learning about tools and gaining new skills has been a huge help. Attending Digital Garage classes to learn about website best practices and creating a YouTube channel were top of the list.
“These were big steps for me,” says Ward. “To get that information was very valuable. I watched a video for an hour and afterwards I’d felt as if I’d climbed a mountain.”
It’s about more than business
And while improving his skills to bolster his business in the long term has been a lockdown highlight, keeping the focus on clients has always been top of mind for Gerard.
“I’ve still been able to interact with clients, old and new, while not being able to be there physically, through video calls and messages on Google. And that’s the part of the job that I love the most: collaborating with people to bring their vision to life.”
The lockdown may have meant Gerard couldn’t do business as usual, but he was still able to add to his digital skillset and, more importantly, continue to engage with consumers, ensuring that he can still deliver on their expectations, and do what he loves, despite the restrictions in place. For Gerard, that’s the dream as reality.