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A Baptism of Fire

I have been asked on numerous occasions: ‘What has it been like for you as a new Managing Director during COVID-19?’. By way of a short blog, I am sharing my experiences of the first 3 months in the ‘hot-seat’ at Bullet Express.

The 9th of March is a date I will never forget – for 4 key reasons:

  1. Excitement - After 12 months of protracted negotiations, this is the date I stepped into my new, exciting role as Managing Director of Bullet Express.
  2. Derailment - COVID-19’s assault on the Global Economy quickly squashed any pre-plans I had for rapid growth.
  3. Game change – The survival of Bullet Express, protecting everything built up over the 30 years is the top priority.
  4. No regrets – Naturally, I was left thinking, what the hell have I walked into?

‘My Turbo-charged Induction’ is the most appropriate description of my first 3 months in the job. Due to the COVID situation, I rapidly became intimate with every aspect of our business, this includes really getting to know my new team. We leave no stone unturned, to ensure we adapt and survive this unprecedented situation.

As the UK went into lockdown, many of our customers closed their doors, with no notice of when they planned to reopen. This was deeply unsettling as business levels dropped to an alarming level. This quickly develops into a fight for survival. Furlough reviews replace staff reviews – at our Board sessions, we were not even sure if we were pronouncing this new term properly, ‘furlong’ – LOL!

Government guidelines had to be adopted including social distancing, PPE, cleaning regimes and staff rotations. All physical operations were adapted, including warehouses, driver rules, walkways, signage, and vehicle marshalling. As if this was not tough enough to implement and manage, these government policies were changing by the day. As a result of panic buying, there was toilet-roll-shortage, loo-roll became a valuable commodity!

Cash is always king! Despite being in good shape, our cash is a top priority, more than ever. Daily departmental P&Ls are instigated to provide absolute clarity on the tough decisions we are making. Our bank wants to throw money at us, interest free, with zero payments for one year! WOW!! - now this really is unprecedented!

There are several positives that have come out of the COVID-19 situation. Unlike many other unfortunate businesses out there, our wheels kept rolling. From the commencement of the lock-down, we have managed more than 150,000 pallets and maintained a clean record throughout, with no confirmed cases of COVID-19 throughout our workforce.

Our relationships with our customers and staff have developed to a deeper level, stoked by the sentiment of ‘being in it together’. Rotational working policies, between home and the workplace is now the new way, along with Teams and Zoom meetings. This communication forum has proved to be extremely effective and we are winning business!

On a personal level, the net result of COVID-19 has had a lasting effect on me. I left the security of a stable environment within Maersk Group, at the worst possible time, yet I am loving it! As for my team, market forces and unprecedented circumstances drew us together in a way we could never have dreamed-up.

I can say with confidence, Bullet Express is emerging out of this experience a much stronger, resilient enterprise. As restrictions ease and business levels increase, it is with the support of our People, our Customers, and our Suppliers alike, we will all ‘Come Back Together, Stronger’!


About the author

John McKail

John McKail

Managing Director


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