What is it like to build a successful international business for 25 years and then nearly lose it all within a month? That is what happened to Founder and MD of Emerge Development Consultancy, Gillian Jones-Williams.
Gillian says: “When I left the UK for a skiing holiday last March to get my annual winter respite from the craziness of my job travelling all over the world to deliver training courses, I had no idea that when I returned my life would never be the same.”
In January 2020 Gillian was set for her best year ever; she had been announced as one of the #iALSO Top 100 UK Female Entrepreneurs, business was booming and, as she had turned 60 in January, she had the most amazing year of holidays and treats planned.
But as she watched the world lockdown, like so many other companies, Gillian saw her business disappear before her eyes. It was devastating, booking after booking being cancelled as people waited to see how long the lockdown would last.
“At one point I even considered closing the business, but after 25 years of pouring my heart and soul into building it up I decided I wouldn’t be beaten by a virus. So, along with my amazing team, we set about switching the business offering to virtual delivery.”
It was a long hard slog for 6 months and whilst they battled with trying to bring in the little income they could, Gillian spent her evenings documenting every moment of lockdown from March until October. The book, titled ‘Locked Down but Not Out’ details every event that happened during the first part of lockdown and her struggle to save her business and her sanity. It covers monumental moments throughout the pandemic in the UK such as: the clapping at our doorways in support of the NHS, Captain Sir Tom Moore completing his 100 garden laps and Gillian’s perception of the daily news bulletins, Government announcements and even her love-hate relationship with Piers Morgan.
“At first, I wasn’t sure why I was writing each day apart from as a memento for my family, but as the lockdown continued and I watched the NHS staff working so hard to save us, in the most dreadful conditions, I wanted to do something to support. I heard of so many NHS workers dying from Covid-19 and I wanted to give something back to their families.
Gillian launched a Crowdfunder in December 2020 to raise money to publish the book which exceeded all expectations and she was able to begin donating to the charity.
The story isn’t over yet as she continues to fight to rebuild the business but the lessons that were learnt from Lockdown 1 are standing her in good stead to face Lockdown 3 and January has been a particularly busy month. Gillian is also sharing lessons that she learnt whilst she completely re-modelled her business to move it from face-to-face training to virtual delivery, and also how she needed to alter her thinking, her leadership style, her approach to clients and strengthen her resilience.
The book is dedicated to the NHS workers. Gillian is determined that they will always be remembered, long after the pandemic is over and that the families left behind by NHS workers who died will be supported.
“They gave their lives to help our families. Now we must help theirs.”
100% of proceeds from the book sales will go to the Family Fund set up by the Healthcare Workers Foundation. The book will be released on amazon.co.uk later this month - watch this space.