As I sit in the car park of the business centre that’s home to the office of Craven Financial, with the blistering August heat beating down, it’s surreal to think that this is my first member visit after lockdown, and that the last time I visited Craven was a snowy February morning.
But that’s how long it’s been: an entire season, six months or 180 days; it feels like an eternity since my suit made its way out of wardrobe, slightly tighter than before…!
So, what’s changed?
Everything and nothing really, in equal measures. At Sesame we have put in place pre-visit protocols, using a checklist we run through everything, from ensuring the coronavirus (COVID-19) compliance of the premise we are visiting, through to the health of those we are meeting to ensure its safe and secure for a face-to-face catch-up to take place. The checklist then passes under the careful eye of our Health & Safety team, before permission is given for each visit.
As you’d expect from Sesame, this belt and braces approach truly puts people at the heart of every decision.
As I made my way into the office complex, mask on, things had definitely changed. I passed the numerous social distancing signs before heading over to the newly installed hand gel station, and then on to the screened reception desk… but the familiar smile was still there to greet me, ask how I was and sort out my parking permit.
Once signed-in, I was back on the new one-way system around the building to Craven’s office, to finally see the principal Simon Craven.
Catching up with Craven
Craven started 2020 on a real growth trajectory, having recruited two new advisers back in January to support their ever-increasing introducer base. But no sooner had the new team members completed their Sesame induction course, and begun to settle into their new roles, lockdown began.
Despite the unexpected, Simon’s coped really well, and has ensured that his advisers could continue their training online. He even managed to get them both to CAS during May!
Throughout the lockdown period, Simon and I have kept in contact with phone calls as well as Teams meetings and Skype calls, but chatting face to face allows for a different dynamic – there are no screen freezes or loss of signal either!
Of course, COVID-19 has forced us all to rethink how we interact with each other, and screening pre visits will continue to play a huge part in how we interact with our members going forward. But as humans, face-to-face interaction gives us those infinitesimal clues to how someone is feeling, reacting through those subtle changes in body language… and it’s so much easier to get a “yes” too.
One step closer to normality
So, after two hours of non-stop chatting what did we achieve?
On a personal level, both of us parted with a sense we were a further step back to normality, and with a reaffirmed confidence in the friendship and companionship that comes from the close working relationship between Sesame’s Regional Development Managers (RDM) and their principal contacts.
From a business perspective, as Craven Financial continues to grow, we achieved the completion of an application for a new Building and Contents Adviser, and finalised a plan to recruit another Mortgage and General Insurance (MGI) Adviser to the firm. We also reworked an evolving plan for the firm to transition to composite, and a discussed the firm’s excellent achievement of their 50% protection business mix in July.
I walked away feeling that, after six months, I was back to work properly, in the role I love, working in our members’ businesses with them.
I will continue using Teams for ongoing catch-ups with members, but my diary is starting to fill-up with essential face-to-face meetings as members look to sit down and plan how we harness the unique opportunity ahead of us – not to just bounce back from COVID-19, but to leap forward and make the most of every opportunity in the months ahead.
From the stamp duty holiday and rising house prices, to surging customer demand for home moves, to making sure the health and finances of customers and their loved ones are protected… the list of opportunities goes on, and Sesame’s Regional Development Management team is here to support!
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