Something to think about in June

The promised complete easing in Lockdown is imminent but there is obviously still work to be done.

Many businesses still have staff on Furlough. Others have staff members they need to be working in the office, because their jobs involve dealing face to face with customers (receptionists etc.), but worries about COVID mean these staff members are still working from home.

Hopefully these businesses have a clear plan of action to get staff back in the office and have been having a dialogue throughout Lockdown to ensure that staff are available again to do the jobs for which they are paid.

There needs to be understanding on both sides. Businesses need to understand that it will take time for staff to be comfortable again with ‘back to usual’ and staff need to understand that businesses have had it very tough over the last year and need their full support to survive.

A little tip in May

Remember if you have fulfilled your part of a contract with a client, and the agreed date for payment has passed, that money is yours. You shouldn’t feel embarrassed about chasing for it if they are slow in paying. After all your organisation is not a bank – so your customers should not expect you to behave like one.

To help you ensure you don’t have a large amount of outstanding payments a) have a clear contract with customers detailing your payment terms b) invoice promptly c) chase payments that are overdue as per your terms

Getting back on the horse

One of the things I am really looking forward to over the coming months is a return to meeting clients, and connections,  I haven’t seen in person for months. Zoom, and other online tools, have enabled us to keep in contact, and virtual meetings have become an integral part of our business lives. I doubt that, once life returns to ‘normal’, we will revert back to business exactly as it was before COVID, because it is undeniable that virtual meetings save us time and money. 

However, I, for one, have missed the ‘water cooler’ conversations we have when we have face to face meetings – but rarely happen when using an online tool. Being able to chat over a coffee and cake, allows trusting relationships to build gradually in a natural and  authentic way. So I will definitely go back to ‘offline’ meetings when I can.

I am also really looking forward to getting back to my Metwalking networking – great conversations in the great outdoors!

Something to think about in March

Many businesses have financial problems because they do not review their prices regularly. Even though their costs are increasing they find increasing their own prices difficult – and so their profits continually decrease.

They might then have to increase their prices by a large amount in one go to catch up.

It is good business practice to review your prices annually and to increase prices by a small amount to keep up with inflation.  

A little tip for February

When your business is facing challenges, and there are many factors influencing it that are not under your control, having a clear plan for your business will help you to keep focussed on your goals and take control of the factors you can influence.

Businesses that struggle often have no clear direction or strategy, and so their growth, stagnation or decline is determined not by the owners but by the winds of fortune.

Let’s all plan for success in 2021 and put the challenges of 2020 behind us.

Also, make sure you are up-to-date on any Government help you can take advantage of to help your organisation survive. Many local councils have extra help available and there are grant organisations who want to help in specific areas.

Some well directed Google searching could pay dividends. But be careful not to overextend your commitments to repay later

Time for a change

If you have been a regular reader of my blogs, and if you are thank you, you will have noticed that in the past I have regularly written two blogs a month. However, in the last two months this has dropped to one a month.

With the imposed restrictions to us all and the lack of variety in our lives at the moment it is very difficult to be creative and come up with new material that will be interesting to others.

I have therefore decided to restrict my postings to one per month in the hope that I will be able to ensure that the quality of my posts remains as high as I can get it.

It is part of a rethink I have been having with regards to the marketing I do and the way I connect with my lovely network. This is something I think we all have to do from time to time.

It is easy to just continue doing the same thing month after month without taking time to review what we are achieving and whether it is worth the time and effort we are expending. Every now and then we should take stock and shake things up.

A Christmas like no other

Gosh what a year it has been.

It has been a bumpy one to say the least and we are not yet in a situation when the immediate future looks brighter.

At this point in my year I would usually be organising the Billy No Mates Christmas lunch(the office Christmas lunch for those who do not have a staff or co-workers to have a Christmas party with) and looking forward to catching up with people I often only see at our annual get together. But not this year!

I had thought of doing a virtual BNM but to be honest I am just not in the mood for yet another ‘virtual’ event. I think I would rather catch up with everyone in a one-on-one way.

It’s a bit sad I know but I think we are all ending the year a little battered and bruised with many of us with friends and family who have been laid low – or have even died – during the pandemic. I think if we are able to get together with our immediate family to celebrate Christmas we will be happy.

Personally and professionally I have been very lucky not to be too badly hit by the pandemic. Living in Somerset has certainly meant that our lives have been much less impacted than those of you who live in cities. 

I normally do a lot of work from home so have always been set up to work in an efficient way from the house. The main difference has been my husband Jeff also being able to work from home too – which he much prefers.

However, there are many businesses across the UK that are either hanging on by a thread, or have gone under, after two lockdowns and the general restrictions imposed due to social distancing. Of course those in hospitality, sports and entertainment have been very hard hit.

But there are also a raft of self employed people, especially those who took the plunge into self employment at the start of the year, who have had real problems supporting themselves and their families.

As we go into the Christmas season I think we should spare a thought for any families who are unable to have the Christmas they deserve – for whatever reason.

A virtual conference?

If, like me, you are getting a bit of Zoom fatigue after so many months of restrictions to face-to-face events and meetings, the thought of a virtual conference is probably not appealing.

However, in the world we currently live in it is a case of a virtual conference or no conference at all. So in that spirita large number of CIMA Members in Practice attended last week’s virtual conference. 

For me, it was particularly interesting from two view points. Firstly, I was a speaker so I was interested in how it would feel to present in the virtual conference environment and secondly, as an attendee I was interested in how the networking side (which so important with these conferences) would go.

On the first point I have done various webinars and workshops on Zoom so I wasn’t too phased by presenting into my computer. However, I am usually using a tool I know well and know exactly what to expect. Fortunately in this case we were able to have a dry run and were well supported by the conference team on the day.

Networking was certainly a very different prospect to usual. Much of the networking at conferences happens in the bar or over lunch. Or you see an old friend over in the lobby and can easily catch up over a coffee. Of course these types of face-to-face networking are unavailable at a virtual conference.

Instead you have to do a bit more work to find the people you want to connect with. There was a virtual lobby with all the names of the people at conference so you could message them. There were also virtual tables in a virtual lounge so you could have Zoom style chats with people around the table.

I was very impressed with the conference platform and the support given by Fresh Start Events who hosted the event. Although there were some technical hitches due to presenters’ varying access to broadband, this didn’t detract from the content delivered.

In all the conference was a great success. It delivered great CPD for the delegates in a way that is becoming all too familiar. Whilst I do not think that this format in anyway replaces face to face conferences, I do think it has enabled great training to happen in challenging circumstances.

We do need to keep our skills up to date and to connect with our peers – perhaps this is more important than ever – so we have to be open to alternative ways of doing so.

What have you learnt lately – part 2

Last year I wrote about learning and keeping our skills up to date. At the time I had just taken part in a Charities and Not-for-profit series of workshops run by my professional institute CIMA. Before the course I had not had much to do with the charities sector but was interested in the possibility of working more in the third sector.

However, it is very interesting how the world works.

The last couple of management accounting clients that have come to work with me have, indeed, been charities and I am loving the opportunity of working in an environment where the focus of the organisation is altruistic rather than profit driven.

So, would I have taken on these clients if I had not done the earlier training? Probably. But I am much more aware of the issues around accounting for charities than I would otherwise have been. This meant that I was more able to get on the same page as them from the outset, than I would otherwise have been.

You never know where opportunities will come. So my message is the same as it was last year – up-skilling will increase your confidence and you ability to maximise the value you offer to clients.

Fiona

Sharing is caring?

I am a great advocate of LinkedIn as an easy to use and quick way of keeping in touch with my network. It is particularly useful at this time when doing face to face networking is a challenge.

For many it is the only way, with the country moving inexorably into more lock down scenarios, to keep in contact with our strategic introducers who are vital to finding new business.

LinkedIn, and other social media platforms, can also be a way of getting much needed information.

But…

There is a lot of unsolicited advice out there packaged in a way that says “read me, read me!!” Some of it is useful but much of it is “fake news”. It is distracting and designed to worry the reader into taking action that may not be appropriate to their business.

Just because someone has written an article and posted it on social media does not mean they are an expert or that their opinions are particularly valid. 

So how do we decide what to read and what to ignore? After all, if we read everything that came up in our feed, or was written as articles and posts in the groups we follow, we would never get any work done!

I think the first thing we need to do is to consider who we want to be hearing from.

This means tweaking our timelines and taking out posts  or unfollowing people we feel are either not on the same page as we are, or who just put too much out there  for us to follow.

There may be people we love to follow, not because we are looking to learn from them, but because they are fun or great contacts for our businesses. These are the people we want to spend our time with. Following these good eggs quite often brings a positive glow to our day.

Of course there will be people that appear on our feeds who we know know their stuff. Again following what they have to say can be a productive use of our time. 

Working from home – as most of us are doing now – can be a difficult juggling act and it is very easy to get distracted by all the noise out there.

Don’t let yourself be way laid by social media – make it work for you.