To understand more about the impact of COVID-19 on our clients and the local Brighton community, we have decided to ask them some questions.
This week we speak with Caspar Field, founder of Talk Management (http://talk.management), he is a former CEO with over 20 years’ experience in the video game industry, who now helps creative, media, digital and game businesses in a variety of management areas. Caspar holds regular mentoring calls with studio leaders, as well as running specific projects for companies to improve aspects of production, operations, budgeting, planning and more. He is also well-versed in successfully claiming Video Game Tax Relief (VGTR), and able to assist with the process and documentation for this.
When did COVID-19 affect your business and was it immediate or gradual?
- The coronavirus pandemic affected my business very immediately and noticeably, as I consult for a number of game development studios, helping them with management and leadership. So as you might imagine, there was an immediate hiatus while everyone raced around sorting out their teams, and then there was a need for founders and managers to talk about the situation, to decompress, to share some of the load.
How did you communicate this impact with your team and clients?
- I hold regular mentoring calls with a couple of my clients, and so it’s just become part of our agenda, where needed. And although I’ve managed teams of 80 and owned a company of 35, right now, it’s just me, so the ‘team management’ is easy! I do keep having to remind myself to dress appropriately for work some days, but it hasn’t needed disciplinary action yet!
What decisions have you had to take in respect of your business?
- I’m one of the lucky ones. My wife and I already worked from home on a flexible basis, and so we were mostly geared up to carry on as we were. But like a lot of working parents, we’ve also had to deal with our two children (8 and 12-years old), being here and needing schooling and exercise. I think the good employers are recognising the load on parents and giving them lots of flexibility and time to deal with what is suddenly a very stressful and busy time.
Have you accessed or will you be accessing any of the Government support schemes and grants?
- This is something that I’ve not needed to consider. Suddenly, there’s a bamboozling array of new acronyms to learn – CBILS, CJRS, SEISS and SBRR, to name a few. Thankfully, my clients have, in the main, successfully carried on production of the projects they had in progress. For video game companies in particular, there is already the Video Game Tax Relief system, and the team at the BFI are working hard to process applications as efficiently and swiftly as possible – but it still helps to make sure you’ve supplied all the required materials and paperwork to a good standard. This is something I can help with, having completed several major claims in the past.
Do you think the Government support goes far enough?
- I think Rishi Sunak has listened and responded quickly to feedback from businesses and unions, bringing in additional help as the crisis has developed. Like a lot of people, I will be watching how things develop over the next 2-3 months, and I agree with Kier Starmer that a clear exit strategy is now needed, so business and individuals can begin to plan for what comes next. The ‘five tests’ are too vague. Even if the plan is a slow transition out of lockdown, it is better for business owners to know that, so they can make further contingency plans, if needed.
What effect will this pandemic have your business in the long term?
- The video game sector has seen a boost in activity since the lockdown began. For one of my clients, that’s been reflected in an enviable excess of new business interest. I’m working to ensure that people strike good deals that put them in strong positions for the future.
What decisions are being made now for when you are able to get back up and running?
- If I was planning for this kind of thing, assuming that my revenue stream seemed reasonably likely to return, I’d be refining my operational structure, policies and processes, as this is a good chance to do that while the business machinery is paused. And keep talking – to your clients, your team, your customers – as silence leaves a void that is too easily filled with misinformation and speculation.
How do you think the business landscape will change in Brighton?
- My parents had a successful furniture retail business while I was growing up, and so I look at the situation on the high street with empathy and concern. I hope the rates relief will go some way toward keeping Brighton’s wonderful array of small retailers going, as they are so much part of the fabric and character of the city. For creative/ digital companies like the ones I work with, there’s obviously the question of how much they might retain more of a remote working element to their productions once the crisis is over; and that might help alleviate some of the pressure on finding good quality commercial office space in the city, which has been a problem for years now.
What tips can you give other businesses currently going through the crisis?
- Most of all, I’d say, it’s critical that business owners and managers – because it’s really people that we’re talking about here, not a faceless corporation – keep communicating. Sharing problems with mentors, friends, contacts, professional advisors, colleagues, team members, even customers and clients if appropriate, is so important. You don’t know where a great solution to a problem might come from, where a connection could be made that will bring a benefit. Look out for online conferences and networking events. Make sure you are taking advantage of all the available relief packages and most of all, look after your health and loved ones, because those are forever the most important and irreplaceable things in life.
Author: Caspar Field, Talk Management