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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Getting back to business

Cory Brothers has weathered more than its fair share of storms during its 150 year history, writes Mark Bowden

Staying true to its “never standing still” slogan, the company is already guiding importers and exporters beyond 2020

Established in the mid-1800s, Cory Brothers has seen revolutions, recessions & recoveries, the good times and the bad. A repeat cycle with variation throughout the ages but always up and down and always, Cory’s remain.

It’s mid-October and throughout the company divisions, it’s business as usual – just with new safety practices, observations and protocols. We have the balance about right; all our divisional operations are fully functioning, we’re servicing our customers and most importantly, looking after our people. As always, we continue to plan, invest and adapt.

Looking back to March this year, it was very different. The UK was thrust into a very uncertain chapter of change. Covid-19 had fully arrived and the lockdown commenced, changing our daily lives for the imminent future. We’ve had a little time to react and get used to it. However, much of our business requires constant problem-solving so we partially went into “auto pilot” with how we approach most challenges: assess, address and implement.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing; foresight is a gift. Cory Brothers usually hope for the best but plan for the worst. Among the many things we have to our benefit are fantastic HR and IT teams who, together, helped to mobilize our entire workforce to work from home overnight in order to ensure that the business could remain productive and function suitably. Group Managing Director, Peter Wilson re-assured the entire workforce that they would all be looked after, cared for and kept informed; that their positions would be safe and that they would be paid as normal.

That seems like a long time ago now. Looking at our operational performance during the last six months, it is with true pride that the whole company faced the initial shockwaves caused by Covid-19 with a galvanised spirit, real togetherness and achieved admirable results. The commercial and operational teams have not only maintained business but added new cusomers, extended our working relationships with a number of existing customers, and taken on 18 additional employees, adding new talent to the business throughout the divisions: logistics, agency & hub.

Our company motto is “never standing still” and this has never been so apt. We haven’t stopped planning, investing & adapting in the future; in new people, new technology, new areas, new sectors and of course BREXIT. Since March, we’ve invested and grown our talented Ships Agency team (UK East) who have added more customers and business to an already busy division. We are learning from each other and despite the obvious challenges ahead, it gives the whole division a boost and more confidence; a welcome feeling of excitement for what we can achieve. Having a flat management structure has enabled the whole business to operate faster with quick decisions; a vital requirement during a pandemic when situations changes so very fast. Our Logistics division (ocean, road & air freight) has continued to further develop and grow during the last six months.  

With our people working more from home, the now standard formats of communication remain; the regular video conference meetings are here to stay. We’re used to them and they work. There’s even a new etiquette; hands up to speak, check the audio is on and even waving goodbye. Some of our people still use the offices and that is fine too: all are made very safe and we understand there is a mix of “wants and needs”. For Cory Brothers, office and WFH have both been successful. Naturally, we miss the buzz of the office when everyone is in together, you can pick up on other topics of interest, share opinions, ideas, news and help solve challenges together and a little quicker. The laughter, the birthdays and celebrations (and cake of course). We used to spend more time together as colleagues than we would with our families so you miss your work mates even though we all see each other in the virtual world mostly, on a daily basis.

Importantly, the work is getting done, our suppliers have risen to the challenges and our customers have been great: flexible and understanding. We have constantly enjoyed long relationships with our customers and for many reasons. Our focus on the future provides re-assurance that we want to keep improving; to be prepared and ahead. As such, we’re still investing in new digital platforms that will further transform our business, enhance our services and provide better, quicker, more adaptable solutions for ALL our customers. Our drive for progress has never stopped; new ideas, innovation, enhancements and upgrades. We’re rolling out more new business platforms later this year and early next year too.

Naturally, we are always looking for new talent to join our business too; for new ideas and new opinions. The balance of experience, expertise and new energy is always important. Our HR team have created a new learning and development programme that has already been rolled out this year. 

The core focus remains the same since March: to ensure that our people remain safe, cared for and paid for the valuable work that they do. Almost as pertinent, is our preparation for the UK’s official exit from Europe at the end of 2020. Brexit is a massively important issue, not just for us, but for the whole country.

We have a brilliant Brexit team who meet regularly to ensure that Cory Brothers is up-to-date with the latest developments and regulations, and that it we are in the best position to deal with the changing rules and legislation. Brexit is less than 80 days away so we are very geared towards final preparations and vitally getting ALL our stakeholders ready and organised in good time.  Even during this extremely tough time we’re guiding our customers and suppliers to make the changes that are needed. BREXIT can be as smooth as we can make it, if we ALL act now.  Cory Brothers are ready and can help importers and exporters with their supply chain – but please don’t leave it too late.


Mike Bowden is Cory’s Group Marketing & Procurement Manager

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