If you have been a reader of my newsletter since its inception you will know that I attend the CIMA Members in Practice Conference each year. In 2020 and 2021 the conferences were virtual and, whilst good, weren’t as good as the in person events.
This year though we were back together again and it was so great to see all of my peeps. It certainly brought home that, whilst you can get some great training on the internet, if you want to network and build relationships there is no substitute for the quality conversations you can have in person.
Of course, we have to be mindful of the ecological impact of our businesses and try to reduce our CO2 emmissions. We need to balance our need for face-to-face events and meetings against environmental considerations, so I don’t think we should get back to the level of travel we previously enjoyed.
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.
There is no end in sight to the current pandemic and it is likely that our lives will be affected by it until a vaccine is found. This means that planning is particularly difficult. Our world of certainties has been destroyed.
In truth,the certainty we think we can rely on in life is often just an illusion. Whilst we can control how we react to the issues we have to face in our personal and business lives, and the decisions we make along our journey, we have very little control over the world around us.
The pandemic has reminded us that the big things that affect our lives are out of our control. We can do our part in ensuring we do not get, and then pass on, COVID-19. We can try to reduce our impact on the planet by reducing the rubbish we produce and the emissions we are responsible for. But at the end of the day our impact will always be minute.
It is because of the enormous impact our environment has on our lives that we are in a very lucky situation.
We are incredibly lucky to live in a wealthy country that is relatively unaffected by blights and famines. Our economy, despite the hammering it has taken in the last few months, is still pretty strong when compared to many other countries’.
Even the weather, that we love to complain about, is pretty tame – no hurricanes and tornados for us. Although global warming has meant that some coastal residents have lost houses, the vast majority of us can be confident that the homes we live in will survive us.
Like our European neighbours we live in a politically stable country where the impacts of any election on our day to day lives is pretty minimal. We are highly unlikely to have to live under a military dictatorship where we could lose our lives, or loved ones, at any moment.
And yet the news is full of how badly off we are as a nation. Politicians play on peoples fears that we are being swamped by immigrants who will take our jobs and diminish our lives.
The fact is that the reason refugees want to come here is that they have sussed something that we often forget – this is a pretty great country to live in.
We are all incredibly lucky and have much to be grateful for – we just need to remember that fact!
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.
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.
It’s that time of year when we come up with fantastic ideas and resolutions for the year ahead. Unfortunately, these ideas and resolutions, which seemed so fantastic in 2019, will have been forgotten very early on in 2020 The reason for this is that we tend to come up with woolly, general thoughts rather than a real plan for change.
How about making this year different? If you really want to change your business, your work/life balance, your effectiveness or any other aspect of your life, you have to think through what you want to achieve.
What are your timescales? What are your specific goals? How will you measure change? What resources will you need? Who do you need to help you?
Once you have thought through all the aspects of your idea write them down so you have a point of reference – and then DO IT!
By taking the time to plan you will find it much more likely that you will keep your resolutions and move forward.
For many businesses the last few years have been really tough – and the next couple may be just as challenging with continuing uncertainty around the Brexit decision.
If you own a service business there are things you can do to make yourself as resilient as possible and I include my take on the most important ones below:
In a service company the level of customer spend can be quite high. For this reason it is vital that you review the level of credit you are prepared to give clients and stick to it. My payment terms require that clients pay either by monthly standing order or on date of invoice. Even if they don’t pay immediately at least I can chase from the earliest possible point.
Ensure you invoice promptly after work is completed, and, if the job spans several months, agree stage payments with your client so they don’t owe you more than 1 months worth of work.
Bear in mind that none of us really knows what is going on in another company. A seemingly sound company can be on the verge of collapse due to cash flow problems. Credit checking services can help you assess the credit worthiness of a business, but remember their information is out of date to some degree and they don’t pick up the full picture. The only way to ensure you don’t get caught out is to collect the money owed to you as quickly as possible.
Remember, even the banks are reluctant to be banks at the moment – so don’t fall into the trap of acting like one!
A key way to thrive is to provide the BEST service you can and be as close to your customers as possible. I see many service providers who think they can get away with average service and who assume clients will stick with them regardless. This is an arrogant assumption which will lead them, quite rightly, to lose good clients to much more customer orientated businesses.
For any business, but particularly for service companies, the relationship you have with your clients is king. A client who knows you well, and believes you are giving him the best, most focussed service available, is unlikely to shop elsewhere, even if he has the possibility of getting the service ‘cheaper’.
Build your referral network
We all know that people buy from people. You are much more likely to engage a supplier who has been recommended to you by a trusted advisor/contact than one you have met fleetingly at a networking event.
For this reason I think it is important to build up a network of people around you who:
– although they are not competitors to you, have the same types of customers as you do.
– understand exactly who an ideal client is for you so they can spot one when they meet them
– understand exactly what you do and the problems you solve for your clients
– are people you would be happy to refer to your contacts so the relationship is mutually rewarding
If you have a strong network you can be much more focused in your marketing and will be much more likely to get the type of new clients you need.
Clearly groups such as Met Walking are a great way to build a strong network of like minded people!