Challenge Anneka

Do you remember Challenge Anneka? It was a staple of Saturday evenings in the Bevan houshold. The premise, if you don’t know, was that Anneka Rice had to complete a challenging task – often to aid a charitable cause such as building a play area – over a limited time period.

Whilst this is not something we are likely to do personally, setting ourselves challenges is a great way of feeling a sense of achievement. They motivate us to higher things and test what we are capable of.

In May we walked the West Mendip Way in a day (well – 12 hours). It is 30 miles, 4000ft of climb and the last 5 miles were just a hard slog! But we did it.

Although this was not a business test, I think that any challenges we set ourselves make us stronger in all aspects of our lives.

In a challenging year for the wrong reasons how about setting yourself some challenges for the right ones?

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

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.

A time to be thankful?

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!

Here comes the summer

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.

Missing you already!

At this point in June I would be looking forward to two events.

Firstly, I would be travelling up to the CIMA MiP conference for an evening the bar with old friends and new. Then I would be spending two days acquiring some great CPD and mixing with other MiPs, getting their take on business life. I even got to speak on the main stage a couple of years ago (hence the piccie).

The conference is a key event in my business life and is a great opportunity in the year to review where I am at. I always come away with some great plans – some of which I implement and some of which lose their lustre by the time I have made the journey home. But either way it is an event I would not miss for the world.

The second event is Glastonbury Festival – and this year we actually got tickets. It was to be the 50th anniversary and, as a local, it was due to be a big deal.

Of course, this year has not turned out to be at all normal and so I shall be attending neither of these events!

And my year will be all the poorer for it!