Home Business News Matt Lewis: Pole vaulters’ bed linen reminds me of why businesses must prepare for the Olympics now

Matt Lewis: Pole vaulters’ bed linen reminds me of why businesses must prepare for the Olympics now

by LLB Reporter
19th Dec 11 6:15 pm

Getting ready for the Games as a London business means more than just knowing who will work remotely. Matt highlights some of the less-than-obvious issues you might face

Matt Lewis is head of national markets for London at KPMG

I was in a cab going to Paddington this week when we got horrendously stuck at Hyde Park Corner. The taxi driver turned round and said: “Just wait until we get to the Olympics, it’ll be awful.”

I said, “Actually, I’m rather looking forward to it all.” And it got me thinking that since the initial euphoria of winning the Games, I haven’t thought much about them.

When we first won the Games, I thought putting on the Olympics was basically a case of building a big athletics stadium and somewhere for the athletes to live, and that’s about it. But actually when I went to visit the stadium, I realised the full extent of the logistics. Take the pole vaulters for example – they tend to be quite big people, typically more than six foot.  Which means they don’t fit that easily into normal-sized beds. On their specially-made big-sized beds you need big-sized bed linen, and someone to make it.  Which makes things a bit more complicated!

Then you’ve got the swimmers. Swimming is one of the first events, so when the swimmers have finished, they’re all out partying and making a fair bit of noise. But all the athletes still need to go to bed at 7pm – so you can’t have the swimmers and the athletes’ accommodation, anywhere near each other.

Those are just two very simple examples of what the logistics of London 2012 involve.

Then I was talking to a guy who rents out commercial space for short periods of time. I said, “You must be finding it hard at the moment, with so many businesses tightening their belts.” He said in fact he was already feeling the benefit of the Olympic effect. Big brands will be opening their stores for longer periods, having to handle the consumer opportunites presented by the Olympic weeks, opening pop-up stores, getting new products out – all of which they need to train staff to do. Hence the need for renting extra spaces, to have a location in London to train up all those people.

It’s the kind of thing that I hadn’t realised companies were planning for, and that level of detail has to be put in place now.

There are plenty of things that need consideration. Think of your supply chain: if you depend on deliveries, are road closures before and during the Olympics going to prevent or delay you receiving the stock or equipment you get regularly? Many roads will effectively become red routes, meaning no one will be able to stop or park outside your premises if you’re located on one and you may have to accept deliveries outside normal operating hours.  Do you have the staff to do that? Do conversations need to be had with local residents? Will you need extra stock ready for all the additional customers the Olympics may bring? Have you adjusted your cashflow forecasts to ensure you’ll have money in place to purchase that extra stock? Have you got the space to store extra stock? Have you talked to your suppliers about getting plans in place to accommodate all these things?

Will you need additional staff, and will your existing staff have to work longer hours? Can you track down a temp agency who can help out?

And do you know what your staff want to do during the Olympics? Who is taking time off, and when, to watch events? Will your team be able to get in to work? If you are going to let them work remotely, is your remote server able to handle the sudden surge in people using it at the same time?

It’s this huge amount of detail that people need to start thinking about now; business as usual will be difficult during the Games.  Our recent CBI/KPMG survey found that only 32 percent of London businesses are prepared for the Olympics. You need to think now about how your business might be affected as soon as possible, to work out where the issues and opportunities lie.

The London 2012 website features some very good guidance on how to plan for all this and create an action plan for your business, which I highly recommend. It is all manageable, if you start thinking about it now.

So remember the pole vaulters’ bed sheets! The knock-on effects of the Olympics could well affect your business in ways you haven’t yet anticipated.

Matt Lewis is head of national markets for London at KPMG.

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