How Clarence podiatry business survived COVID-19
Each week The Daily Examiner will present COVID-19 Recovery Corner - a Q&A with previous Clarence Valley Business Excellence Award winners on business resilience, recovery, and transformation since COVID-19.
While social gathering rules have forced the awards component to be put on hold for 2020, the awards committee has shifted its focus to support local businesses by inspiring resilience, guidance and support on business recovery over this challenging period.
This week, thanks to awards sponsors Clarence Valley Council, CVBEA marketing manager Renee Murphy caught up with Maclean Podiatry Centre owner and manager Amber Cook.
MACLEAN PODIATRY CENTRE
• Start-up Super Star
• Young Entrepreneur of the Year
• Clarence Valley Business of the Year
• Regional Start-up Super Star (only 18 months into owning and running the Practice)
Renee Murphy: We are extremely fortunate to secure some time in Amber Cook's diary to discuss the impacts of COVID-19. Amber, will you be entering the Clarence Valley Business Excellence Awards again next year in 2021?
Amber Cook: Yes absolutely. It's a little bittersweet at the moment. You have such amazing success one year which spurs you on to keep going and keep applying to better yourself and have your efforts recognised at such an amazing awards night. Bring on 2021!
RM: What was it like sitting there in a beautiful venue, fully themed, then called out not once but three times to collect your awards?
AC: I was just so proud of the fact we were invited to the awards ceremony to start with. It was very humbling, and I was immensely proud of our little clinic. We sat with other colleague health professionals and we all just went along for an enjoyable night. We went to celebrate all the businesses in the community and for those who had made it that far with the CVBEA. You do not know prior if you have succeeded or not, it's all a big surprise on the night. We were competing against some amazing businesses. We were just astonished and taken back to win three awards! It was a fabulous night.
RM: Wonderful to hear and we also look forward to bringing on 2021! And just to really jump into the first question about how your managed through COVID-19, did you have any plans or precautions in place to manage through such an event?
AC: I guess all businesses have disaster management plans, and if something were to happen to us and our practice, we had some written down as protocol and others may have been 'fly by the seat of your pants!' Having a really strong podiatry association however has been so beneficial for us as we are a small clinic and we received such strong support over this period. We were able to talk to likeminded professionals experiencing the exact same encounters as us. I couldn't commend our national body highly enough with the support they extended to us over this time.
RM: What was your immediate action plan?
AC: We managed our high risk and greatest risk clients first. So we made a list of those patients and made it a point to contact them immediately and advised to come in and see us as soon as they could while the information was unfolding.
RM: What are the plans to re-engage with your existing clientele, and establish new clients following returning to normal after COVID-19?
AB: We have been fortunate enough as health professionals and providers to continue practising during this time, making sure that our clinic had a one-in, one-out patient rotation. We were able to remain open safely following the strict guidelines. Podiatry is a very strict business operation already when it comes to sterilisation etc, however we have added additional surface cleaning such as door handles, bench top surfaces and additional general routine cleaning.
RM: You remained open during this period, which is fantastic. What do you think your biggest challenge might be moving forwards?
AC: Some of our clients are elderly and are a little hesitant coming back out into the community, which is fine and understandable. They may not be prepared to come out just yet which will make a little bit of a back log once they do, which most probably will be guided by the government. So we may have a bit of a bottle neck in the practice once this happens and we will need to manage this, possibly by extended trading hours to ensure we can see all our wonderful clients.
RM: Is there anything in hindsight that you may have done differently over this period?
AC: I remember personally watching Scott Morison and sitting there with a lot of anxiety, sitting there thinking, at some point, we could be the next business to close. I am really proud of our little business, mainly on how we have reacted and how we have managed through this. Communication with our clients could have been a little quicker, as our clientele aren't all on social media. We needed to be thorough across all levels of communication. We would have liked to communicate faster with the correct information that we were all waiting on really from the government and our health bodies. We did not want to go out with misinformation and so really needed to be mindful and careful with how we went out to our clients.
RM: What is the way forward from here for you and your practice?
AC: Looking at keeping extended trading hours, our business will return to a new normal as all businesses will. Ensuring that we run our business on time as we know that our clients have had to wait outside or in their cars, so running on time will be a key goal to ensure that our clients are comfortable. Communicating with patients that we have continued to remain open.
RM: Just out of curiosity who should see a podiatrist. Could you please give us a little bit of a snap shot?
AC: Being a rural location, we go through the entire spectrum of podiatry care. From older parents to young toddlers, helping with placing pre walkers or toddlers into their first pair of shoes, assisting with correct footwear for the start of school, young children with walking difficulties, to adolescents with growth pain or sporting injuries. Then on into those patients with difficulty walking or pain. We also see chronic disease clients with diabetes who come and see us for annual foot checks, then the spectrum of older generation who may have back injuries or no strength in their hands to place shoes on correctly. Anyone can benefit from coming to see a podiatrist.
RM: Thank you Amber, it's been wonderful catching up with you to learn more about your profession, how you dealt with COVID-19 and to get to know you.
AC: Thank you so much Renee.