Our world towards the end of 2021 remains as uncertain as it did at the end of 2020 – even though the powers that be are pretending business as (the old) usual has returned.
COVID-19 continues to dominate out lives and in many ways has made us more introspective. We are worried about our own financial security, and since the 9/11 anniversary and Taliban taking back control of Afganistan, perhaps our physical security too.
However, if we are to have a successful future we need to face tomorrow in a more positive way than perhaps we have done in the last couple of years. There are many people in the world living with far bigger problems than we can ever imagine encountering. The pictures of Afgans throwing themselves at planes in a desparate attempt to leave the country is proof of that.
Yes, plan for the worst but let’s really HOPE for the best. After all, a positive attitude is rewarded with positive results.
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.
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.
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:
What is our budget?
How will we get the materials to do the job as availability of wood etc., has been effected by COVID 19?
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!
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.
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!
But it is a summer like no other – holidays are looking doubtful and there are additional COVID 19 issues
Generally at this time of year we are looking forward to summer holidays both here and abroad andbusinesses with staff are planning how to cover for their holiday absences.
But for many businesses where staff have been furloughed the issues are not around what to do when staff are away but what to do as they return after 3 months away.
It is important, if your business is in this situation, to plan carefully how you will manage staff members return to work.
Firstly, there is the question of when you need them to return – or even if there is a job for them to return to. Remember some of your team may be worried that a return to work may not be safe for them. Others will use this as an excuse to have some extra paid time off (although I would hope this does not apply to your team you must be prepared for this reaction).
Secondly, there are the changes you will need to make to the workplace to ensure that you are properly safeguarding the employees as they return – and, of course, any employees who were not furloughed. It may be that some expensive PPE is necessary.
Remember staff will have accrued holiday whilst they were furloughed so have a clear policy on how staff are to take holiday – you don’t want to find that just as staff are returning they are off again!
For those of us who have been working hard during the Coronavirus lockdown a holiday cannot come soon enough.
With lockdown easing it is likely that many of our holiday areas will plan to be back to some semblance of business as usual. But it is difficult to predict what amenities/attractions/hospitality businesses will be open. No one wants to spend hours in the car only to find virtually nothing open.
If you are a business in the hospitality sector there are real issues that need to be addressed. In particular, at what point is it worth your while to open your doors at all? We cannot assume that even without the two meter distancing rule, people will flock back into pubs or cafes. Many people will be very conscious that COVID 19 is still out there.
Featured is a picture I thought I would share – with friends from pre-lockdown days! Remember those? This was during our cycle ride from Wells to Paris in 2018.
Is it too early to find things to feel positive about in these unprecedented times?
It is certainlythe case that for many business owners the current situation is one of great stress and uncertainty. Many businesses will not be able to survive the period of inactivity – and that is a tragedy.
However, I think there are opportunities too that have come out of our enforced changed circumstances, which I would like to explore.
For many of us the slow down in the pace of life has meant we have had time to reflect on our lives – both professional and personal. We have had some space to put things into perspective and to plan for how we would like our post COVID-19 lives to be.
The futureis uncertain for all of us, that is for sure, but then the future is always uncertain. If we wait to plan and review until a time when decision making is risk free, we will be waiting for ever.
Maybeyou have found that your business is more robust than you thought. You are weathering the storm and life looks ok. In which case you are in the lucky position – perhaps – that you don’t have to get as stressed as you used to about your business.
On the other hand, if business was a constant challenge before lock down, and is even more stressful now, perhaps now is the time to reconsider the path you have been taking. Is there something else you would rather be doing to earn your daily bread?
Sometimeswe can find ourselves trapped in a set of circumstances that are not positive for either ourselves or our families. This can often be a result of letting your business rule your world rather than you ruling it.
If you are in this situation, don’t you owe it to yourself to question how you might make serious changes so your future is much more positive than your past?
One thing lockdown has given many of us is a better work/life balance. I am certainly spending much more time doing proper exercise – long walks and bike rides, static rowing… I feel healthier for it and have even lost weight!
This is possible because I am not spending any time travelling to meetings or events. All my work is done from home – I have more productive hours in the day!
I can’t waitfor lock down to end but I will need to find a way to hang on to the balance I have found.
Goshwhat 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.
Althoughthe 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 businessthat 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 ownerswho 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!
A business person who is successful in their field but starting to get bogged down in the day to day running of their business. In particular, administration and bookkeeping are starting to grind and take the shine out of their enjoyment of their businesses?
This is a common story but one that has a simple solution – DELEGATION.
We may have many ‘good’ reasons why delegation is hard and why we should do all the ‘easy’ jobs in our businesses:
– it can be expensive to pay someone else
– perhaps they will do the job wrongly or prove unreliable
– it will take time for them to settle in and the process will be distracting
However, you cannot escape the truth that however much you try to ‘create’ time by managing it better, there will only ever be 24 hours in a day! We cannot, like Superman, create extra time just by wishing for it.
So I would answer each of the objections above like this:
– You are much more valuable to your business than you may credit. Your time is likely to be worth much more to your business per hour than the £20-£25 per hour you might need to pay an administrator/bookkeeper.
Also there are jobs which only you can do in your business. These undelegatable jobs include creating business strategy, and leading and managing your business (even if you work alone your business needs to be managed!). If administration and bookkeeping are keeping you so occupied you do not have time for strategy, or management, then your business will suffer considerably.
– Are you really sure you are the best bookkeeper/administrator anyway? Surely you did not start your own business to play around with the books or to file!
– If you engage a trained bookkeeper they will settle in very quickly. Also, because they already know what to do as a bookkeeper you won’t have to spend time showing them what to do.
So do yourself a favour. If you have too little time to do the important things in your business – DELEGATE!
With all the uncertainties businesses are facing, how can we make our businesses more resilient?With all the uncertainties businesses are facing, how can we make our businesses more resilient?
I think the few years are going to be the least predictable, and most uncertain, since I started my business.
None of us know how Brexit will impact the environment in which we are running our businesses. Even if we do not trade directly with the other 27 EU countries we will be impacted by how the split with the EU effects the UK economy.
Also there is the increasingly urgent issue of climate change. I think we will have to (and should) increasingly consider the environmental impact of the business decisions we make on a day to day basis.
This may mean that we change: the way we travel; the resources we use and how we use them; and the scope of work and the spread of clients we serve.
And then there is the ever increasing speed of technological advances to keep up with.
I can see that each of these issues will cause the costs of running our businesses to rise and the speed of change in the business environment to increase.
So what can we do to make our businesses as resilient as possible given the challenges ahead?
I have often talked about business planning and I am a firm believer that businesses which have a plan are more resilient than businesses run on a more laissez faire basis.
There are several reasons for this. A business run by someone who is very clear on their personal goals will be more focused than one where the business owner is less clear about what they want to achieve. The process of business planning encourages a review of personal goals, which are then reflected in the goals of the business.
Once you have a distinct goal it is easier to decide on the best direction for your business and you are better able to make decisions quickly in response to the changing environment because you are confident about the path you want to take.
This means that you can properly assess the resources you will need to employ get you to where you need to go – whether that’s people, money or training.
In short business planning helps you to build a business that is fit for purpose.