B&E Conference Centre rebuilds and rebrands after Covid rampage
After retrenchments and resignations, the company has formed a vibrant new culture and streamlined their business model — allowing productivity across three branches
It was March 2020 and business was booming. If you walked into the B&E Conference Centre, each venue was filled with the sound of facilitators teaching, discussions among delegates, tenants greeting each other, and a vibrant coffee shop.
There was a hum in the air and it sounded like the buzz of a working bee trying to collect nectar from every blooming flower. The company couldn’t wait to get into 2020 — the year deemed as “Twenty Plenty”.
However, when President Cyril Ramaphosa spoke and declared a national state of disaster because of Covid-19, it all came crashing down. The B&E Conference Centre's business, whose main success was to place as many people into a room as possible, was crushed by the lockdown.
Covid-19 hits SA
Going from a bustling business in March to a white elephant in April was a terrifying experience. Overnight the business turned and what it usually did to generate an income to feed employees suddenly became illegal.
Lockdown was extended and it became apparent that the company had to establish alternative ways of making money. At this stage, 15 employees were relying on the B&E Conference Centre to support them. The company was successfully granted the state’s UIF Temporary Employer/Employee Relief Scheme (Ters) funding, which alleviated the pressure.
Like many companies in SA and around the world, the B&E Conference Centre adapted and became a personal protective equipment (PPE) company. The company adopted a business model of including PPE in daily conference packages where you received a pack of gloves, three face masks, a visor, a thermometer and sanitiser.
When this ran its course, the company ventured into supplying safe and Covid-friendly communion cups for churches, and became a larger sanitiser supplier to various clients. The B&E Conference Centre workforce stepped out of their comfort zone to get through the stressful pandemic.
During this time of reinvention, many competitors closed their doors, and B&E Conference Centre empathised as it could have faced the same fate.
When December 2020 came, the toughest business decision had to be made — to close the East London branch and retrench employees. The news was devastating, but it had to be done to have some way of surviving the pandemic.
That was a difficult Christmas period for everyone. With little to no spare money for holidays or gifts, most spent their time at home, locked down and with hardly any wine left.
The second wave
B&E Conference Centre made it through the second wave unscathed and when the restrictions were somewhat lifted in February 2021, there was an increase in business. Suddenly, the team of two was not enough. The company hired interns and offered them on-the-job training. The demand increased, especially for the East London branch, and the B&E Conference Centre was fully booked again.
In April 2021, the East London branch reopened and started with a low-overhead and low-risk set up. This method worked. The basic service offering brought many previous clients back and attracted plenty of new clients. East London soon became a business worth keeping again while it welcomed back one of the employees who had been retrenched to manage the business.
By May 2021, the Gqebera ranch was booming again, with an overflow. B&E reached out to the competitors who had closed their doors during Covid-19. One of those venues was Elizabeth Place, 2km from the B&E Conference Centre, which ready to host their next event. Owners Ilze Roth and Pieter Rademeyer graciously opened their venue.
The third wave
When the third wave hit, it affected the business and emotional wellbeing of the team. The excitement of looking forward to the hustle and bustle of a busy conference centre was crushed overnight by another lockdown. Other industries were back and running at full capacity, but the conference industry was forgotten about. The B&E Conference Centre was forced to shut its doors once again, with no means to generate an income.
Though it was difficult for the business to go through the lockdowns, there were significant positives. All B&E Conference Centre employees had resigned or were retrenched, but the company was able to rebuild its foundation with a carefully selected team that brought with them experience, expertise and an energy which aligned to its values and vision. The business formed a vibrant new culture ready to tackle any project.
The business model was restructured to become more streamlined, allowing processes to be more productive while working with professional and efficient suppliers.
As the business was rebuilt into three branches, and the business model changed dramatically, it was necessary to rebrand and give each branch its unique identity. Partnering with Wide-Eyed Ears, B&E Conference Centre is pleased to introduce the new logos and brand.
The company wishes to thank the landlords in Gqeberha and East London for their support during the tumultuous two years. Bryan Knox from B&E Properties and Western Properties in East London were both instrumental in keeping the business afloat.
The loyal team played a vital role in moving the business forward.
This article was paid for by B&E Conference Centre.