With the latest phase of Covid restrictions lifted this month and society returning to some form of normality, we are seeing this easing of the lockdown present both challenges and opportunities to many of our business clients. Here are a number of key business areas where opportunities may lie for you to review and improve your overall business performance.
Many businesses have utilised the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to some extent to help them survive. This has meant that many team members have been on furlough for some, if not all, of the last year. The majority of office workers have been working from home and not attended their workplace at all during this crisis. As we see the economy re-open, employers will need to carefully re-introduce employees back into the workplace or new working arrangements.
- Improve employee communications – use the time to refresh and reinvigorate your employee comms, foster greater team spirt and aim for a more motivated, informed and purpose driven workforce.
- Nurture talent – can roles be expanded or filled internally by employees who have acquired new skills and/or demonstrated abilities and leadership potential during the crisis.
- Continue flexible working – if this has worked for most people in the business then why not offer them the opportunity to continue? If employees feel more empowered over when and where they work, then they are less likely to leave, which has a knock-on effect on the future saving of recruitment and training costs, as well as wider team morale.
For many sectors, traditional ways of working have changed forever and the commercial property market is adapting to accommodate this. The use of technology has rapidly advanced during the pandemic and is likely to accelerate further. Opportunities include:
- Many businesses won’t need as large a property footprint in the future which will save significant resources and it also presents an opportunity to reconsider geographic location to be closer to your workforce or key markets.
- Embrace the green revolution – encourage a paperless office and use cloud-based technology which will create many benefits as well as helping to reduce storage space needed in the future.
- Reduce travel time – travel between locations can be reduced or eliminated by the greater use of online meetings and this will make better use of time as well as save unnecessary travel and subsistence costs.
As economic growth returns, it is a good time to revisit your business strategy, and for each sector there will be a range of new opportunities, for example:
- Have you found a new income stream as a result of the lockdown? A good example of this is for restaurants selling takeaways, meal kits or own branded products when previously only in-house service was provided. A decision will need to be made whether this will continue despite being able to open indoor dining again, generating more income streams for a business previously limited by seating capacity.
- Have you found a more direct route to market? There has been a huge rise in online shopping as well as people looking to support local businesses. Reward that customer loyalty and keep in contact with them to inform them of new products, special events and services.
- Supply chain efficiencies – many of your suppliers will have gone above and beyond the call of duty to help your business over the last year, so maintain goodwill in the supply chain and look at ways to work more closely with them in the future. Short supply chains allow for greater transparency and fairness. Where weaknesses have been exposed it is time to take action to build a strong supply chain in the future.
As the VAT that was deferred last year now becomes due, the phrase “cash is king” is more important than usual. A large number of businesses in the hospitality, travel and tourism and retail sectors have opened up under the government roadmap from a standing start. Cash is likely to have been exhausted during the period of prolonged closure whilst expenditure on stock is required to re-open the business.
For other sectors which have continued to operate and perhaps even been successful during the last year, cash will allow these businesses to take advantage of investment and growth opportunities as they arise. Focusing on sustainable sources of finance will be vital. There are various government support loans available, the latest being the Recovery Loan Scheme. To access this scheme, it will be key to have a well prepared cashflow forecast which can be stress-tested for various scenarios.
The decision will be to assess whether taking on further finance is affordable and, with all the uncertainty of a potential third wave, whether the business will be sufficiently profitable to manage the repayments.
We have all had the time to reflect and make change over the last 14 months, so make time to consider what changes are needed in your business to set it on a steady course for the future. To discuss your business needs further and the opportunities that await it, get in touch with our team today.
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