If this global pandemic has shown us anything, it is that the largest corporate organisations aren’t immune from the economic anguish it has caused simply by virtue of their size and scale.
In many ways, you could argue they are even more vulnerable. The bigger your cost base and overheads, the more difficult it is to make colossal savings without drastic structural changes, even for those operating from a position of unswerving profitability.
We have certainly had a taste of this in the catering equipment sector. At the start of last week, Nisbets announced it had begun a 45-day consultation period that would see up to 800 staff laid off.
With a monthly wage bill of around £5.5m (based on its most recent accounts) it is not hard to see why the company felt it had no choice but to take such extreme measures following a severe downturn in business.
Most of those cuts are expected to be in the UK and it will represent around 40% of its total workforce once the exercise has finished.
Scrolling through LinkedIn last night and digesting the vast number of posts from Nisbets employees that have sadly being served their redundancy notice this week was a sobering read and brought home the dreadful impact of this crisis.
Many expressed pride for the service they have given and their sorrow at knowing it has come to a sudden end; some appeared to display a sense of shock at the situation, which is completely understandable.
But I was equally heartened by the sheer level of good sentiment these posts received from within the industry.
Dozens and dozens of comments from suppliers, ex-colleagues and even direct competitors – messages of sympathy, support and encouragement, and offers of advice, endorsement or just a friendly ear for those who might need it.
Whatever your opinion of Nisbets – and, let’s face it, over the years few businesses have divided market opinion quite as much as it is – there is clearly an overwhelming sense of empathy from within the industry for the livelihoods affected by this situation.
It has wider implications for the catering equipment industry too, especially when it comes to skills retention.
Many of those individuals who were given the news they really hoped they wouldn’t receive this week are people who know the industry inside-out, have years of experience behind them and have forged the sort of relationships with customers and colleagues that last a lifetime.
They will inevitably go on to become valuable assets for other companies, but there is no denying that this is a difficult time. Businesses are not recruiting at the moment and many won’t be for some time.
Some Nisbets staff will be forced to look outside the industry or towards other vocations where transferable skills they have developed and honed within the catering equipment sector can be deployed.
Having spoken to many senior market figures over the last 10 years who cite the development of talent as the biggest problem this sector faces, it will be a real shame if the industry is to see so much knowledge and experience fall between the cracks, however unavoidable it is.
I am sure that many former Nisbets staff will be desperate to stay in the catering equipment industry one way or another – perhaps it is all they have ever known.
I genuinely wish them all the very best and hope that suitable opportunities come their way as soon as possible.
Judging by LinkedIn, they certainly have a tremendous amount of goodwill from their industry peers behind them as they look for a new door to open.