One of the reasons many people start a business is to take control of their lives. As a company owner or director, you control most aspects of your business. But occasionally something will happen that you have no control over, something that affects your business or your life. What do you do then?
At Durham Hens, we are in that situation right now. The government have imposed temporary restrictions on poultry keepers in an attempt to prevent the spread of bird flu. All poultry must be kept in sheds or under cover. The restrictions will be reviewed at the end of February and new regulations will be put in place from March.
Obviously we have to comply – it’s the law – but doing so has had a detrimental effect on our business. Hens that are used to being outdoors don’t adapt well to being kept inside. Our hens are not happy and are losing condition and therefore value. Sales are down; customers are reluctant to buy hens until they know what changes will be made in March.
It’s hard to watch your business take a hit, but even more so when the reason for it is out of your control. The risk of bird flu in our area is extremely low and, given a choice, we would take that risk rather than suffer the consequences of the government constraints.
We couldn’t just sit by and do nothing. So what have we done to try to regain some control of the situation?
- We’ve kept customers informed through Facebook and Twitter, so they will trust us and buy from us when the restrictions are lifted.
- We’ve talked to the press and have been featured in The Northern Echo – all publicity is good publicity!
- We’ve lobbied the NFU (National Farmers Union), our MP and the Secretary for State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, clearly stating our views and experiences on these matters, and hope that we may have some influence on future policy.
And now that we’ve done what we can, we're just waiting to find out what will happen in March. It’s not easy…