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. 

All hands on deck – again!

This month I am definitely been lacking in inspiration. It may be because work has been busy, but also because the holiday I have recently taken was to do DIY jobs around the house.

So, I hope you won’t mind that I am revisiting the theme of an article I wrote in 2017, because it is pertinent to the holiday jobs I we have just undertaken. The biggest of which was replacing half of the roof of the cabin that houses the HQ of Bevan Financial Management!

Planning is important so we started off by  asking ourselves some key questions:

  1. What is our budget?
  2. How will we get the materials to do the job as availability of wood etc., has been effected by COVID 19?
  3. What time will we need for the project as we needed to ensure we would not be caught out by rain when the roof was off!
  4. Will we do the job ourselves or get someone in to do it for us?

As you will know from previous articles I am a great believer in getting a professional to do a professional job. However,my husband Jeff is pretty handy at woodwork – and we had built the cabin ourselves originally – so we decided we would do the work ourselves. This decision handily reduced the budget needed – but would hopefully not come back to bite us! 

Our son Alex and I would be Jeff’s labourers! Happily we are both very good at taking instruction from other people – NOT! 

Last week was D day!

We had to make sure we had all the tools and materials we needed before the we started as the time we had available to complete the job was limited. Google came in very handy for finding the supplier of felting and shingles. Luckily, we were able to use a local supplier for the wood who delivered everything in good time and for free! 

The day we chose for the job was sunny and hot with no sign of rain. This helped immensely but it was THE LONGEST DAY OF OUR LIVES!! But it was relatively stress free because we knew exactly what we were doing and were focused on the time we had to do it.

The job came out well and I am tucked up tight for another 8 years (hopefully).

The lesson from all of this? If you have a project, whether business or personal, plan for success and you are much more likely to get the results you need.

A reminder to feed your cats!

I thought I would take this opportunity to remind you about the sales and marketing book I wrote with the fabulous Trevor Lever.

Although my name is on the cover and I did the actual writing, all the great ideas included in the book are Trevor’s. So if you are looking for some inspiration on getting your business kick started following Lockdown this may be the book for you.

It is available on Amazon – just type Catfood Trevor Lever in the Amazon search box and you will find it. It is even eligible for free delivery if you are a Prime member!

A few tips for these challenging times

I thought it would be useful to give some tips to help your business weather these strange times. We have been in lockdown for several weeks now so you may well be looking at how your business may begin to move back to business as usual – or as close to usual business as the easing of lockdown measures will allow.

It is more important than ever to keep on top of your cash flow. Try to do a cash flow forecast (you can download a free guide on forecasting from my website) and predict when critical dips in your bank balance might happen.

It is worth remembering that a ramp up in business out of lockdown will often mean a further dip in your finances. For example, you may need to buy stock or fully fund staff before sales increase.

Claim as many of the government aid measures as you can. 

If you are in retail, hospitality or leisure you should already have applied for the £10k or £25k grant and rates relief. If you have not already done so make sure you apply for this aid.

If you are a VAT payer you can defer all VAT payments due between 20 March and 30 June for VAT returns ending February, March and April. You must submit a VAT return as usual but cancel any automatic payments so the money due isn’t taken. If you are a net VAT reclaimer just carry on as usual.

If you have had to cease, or reduce, trading for the duration you will probably know about the job retention scheme. The portal is now fully functioning so get your claim in as soon as you can. Remember furloughed staff are not allowed to do ANY work for you whilst they are furloughed. However, the government are talking about an adjustment to the scheme to allow for a phased return to work of furloughed staff.

There are three government backed loan schemes available so check them out to see if they are appropriate to your circumstances: the business interruption scheme; the coronavirus future fund; and the Coronovirus bounce back loan (you cannot apply for this loan if you have already taken advantage of the business interruption scheme loan).

It’s the little things

With our world turned upside down, little things can make a big difference to those around us.

It is easy to become so absorbed in our own lives that the we forget to spare a thought for others.

However, a positive to come out of the Coronavirus lockdown has been an increased sense of community. As we are constantly being told, “we are all in it together”.

Some things we have found ourselves doing are not really the way we Brits do things. The clap for key workers is an example. Who would have thought even two months ago that every Thursday we would all be outside our houses clapping?

But the funny thing is that every one in my street seems to enjoy the opportunity to come together and give thanks to people most of us don’t even know. We are just grateful that they are there.

Acts of kindness are springing up all across the country. The number of voluteers putting their names down to help the NHS alone has been overwhelming.

We all want to do our bit to help everyone get through this crisis as best as we can.

Like many of you, my family have been shopping for an elderly neighbour who, until recently we did not really know, but hopefully will get to know better over the coming weeks – all be it from a distance!

As business owners we need to do our bit to help our staff, suppliers and customers weather the storm.

Many businesses are struggling to cope with having to furlough staff, shift their working pattens or even shut down completely until lockdown is lifted. No business will remain unaffected by these unprecedented circumstances.

Some businesses will not survive without help – whether it is financial or practical. If we can look to help wherever we can, we might make the difference between a business failing or surviving.

I am trying to support local businesses wherever possible. It might be as simple as picking up the phone to shoot the breeze with a supplier or customer, or offer support – even the printing of this newsletter is helping a local business. 

If we can help with the little things, and the big things if we can, there is a chance that we may all come through this threat to our local (and national) economy relatively in tact. 

It will take all of us doing our bit to weather this storm. Good Luck everyone!

We are in unchartered waters

Gosh what a time we are having at the moment. The whole world seems to be on a course that none of us could have predicted even a couple of months ago.

For some of us who work from home work has not markedly changed. But for anyone who is running a business that attracts groups of people (retail, restaurants, cafes, travel, and events and entertainment in particular) it is an extremely worrying time.

Although the Government has announced measures to help small businesses to access sick pay for staff and more funding to help businesses weather the storm, it is difficult to see how some businesses will come out of this crisis in tact.

Wherever possible business owners need to try to think creatively. If you own a business where customers generally come to you – is there a way you can deliver to them? Are there ways you can use the internet more to reach your customers? Can you collaborate with other businesses to your mutual benefit?

You should be thinking of making the necessary changes to your business practices as soon as possible. I think the more nimble businesses will be able to seize the new opportunities that invariably arise from times of upheaval.

Whilst any business that fails to adapt to the new world we find ourselves in will struggle.

But cool heads are needed – panicking will not help the situation.

For business owners who work from home but rely on networking events to get out and meet people – and so remain sane – there are opportunites for online meetings and gatherings. Take the opportunities to connect whenever you can.

In our home lives I think that we should try to support our suppliers and local small businesses (if they are open) as much as possible so that they can survive the coming months. 

We also need to look out for each other and offer support where we can. This is particularly true of elderly and vulnerable people around us. Although we are told to avoid mixing – we can offer to shop or do other jobs they are unable to do themselves.

Yes, it is a challenging environment for us all but we can and will survive if we pull together and support each other!