1. 2021 CAN BE A NORMAL PRODUCTIVE YEAR
Stuart Crook, Wellers; Jonathan Walton, Whitley Stimpson
2021 can be a successful year for you but you need to get the fundamentals in place:
- Revisit your business plans, forecasts and budget but obviously build some flex into them
- Business sales are happening so don’t give up on your exit dream
- Get your ducks in a row – review all of your corporate documents, leases in particular
- Distractions reduce productivity, so it’s important to:
Equip your people with the ‘tools’ to help them to be efficient and proactive
Ensure your people are in the right state of mind by looking after their well-being and mental health.
Ria Shepheard, Charles Stanley; Geoff Pinder, The MGroup; Stewart Elliston, Freeths
2020 has hit team spirit, morale and everything that goes towards building a business’s culture, so you need to:
- Build and re-frame the team’s culture and the team’s ethic – we’ve had little or no face to face contact with our colleagues over the last year so we need to build back team spirit that had, in some cases, been built up over many years.
- Integrate new starters – a new starter would ordinarily change the team dynamic but they haven’t been able to do so working remotely. I joined the firm in September and I’ve had to connect with 50 or 60 people via Teams and Zoom. It’s not been impossible to build a relationship but it’s certainly not easy if you have new starters who are WFH right from the start. Moving forward, certainly our clients want a blend of working from home and working in the office so we have to get this onboarding right. Businesses also need to get the office environment right (as in safe).
- Managing the flow of work – with so much disruption to the flow of work we have to keep our colleagues engaged and productive. We have to make their health and happiness a priority because if they’re not engaged, fresh and focused then how can we expect them to be productive.
Geoff Pinder, The MGroup; Eleanor Moodey, Penningtons Manches; Jonathan Walton, Whitley Stimpson
Whilst most businesses would argue their teams are the most important asset of their business – with the right people you’ll attract the right customers – businesses need to be flexible and open to working with their clients in the ways they want to operate, or risk losing them:
- We have to be flexible – I have one client with whom I have tried everything to overcome the hurdle of video conferencing which he just won’t embrace. He is very traditional and won’t do anything other than a phone call or face to face.
- If clients have had that initial contact on video then that might be their preferred method moving forward which might mean we have more frequent contact with them, which means less travel time for us and possibly more client contact overall…could that lead to burnout or does that mean more business.
- Social media and regular briefings / newsletters as a platform are an ideal way of just reaching out with simple messages that can directly hit a client’s sweet spot and encourage THEM to contact you.
4. REAL ESTATE REVIEW & IMPLICATIONS
Stewart Elliston, Freeths
Because lots of businesses are now adopting agile working arrangements, many are reviewing their real estate and assessing their needs moving forward:
- A lot of the big banks in London are saying they might not have their staff coming back to the office for a number of reasons. But this means they need to consider a wide range of implications such as cyber security, mental health, productivity etc….
Stuart Crook, Wellers; Richard Rosser, B4
Whether we like it or not, video conferencing is going to be a significant part of our lives moving forward, so we need to equip ourselves with the tools to engage colleagues and clients and make sure we adequately compensate for the lack of face to face contact:
- Not everyone likes appearing on video but if you want to stand out then you’re going to have to find a way of getting used to it…or an effective way of getting around it.
- Appearing is one thing but making sure you stay there is another – reliable connection, ensuring that you set the ground rules at home if the rest of the family are draining the broadband at the same time is vital. If you’re not proving a reliable meeting attendee or presenter then how can you hope to have your say?
- Present and articulate yourself – the more you speak the better you’ll get. Take advantage of any opportunities to put yourself forward for speaking engagements and get known as an expert in your field.
- You will have to build different relationships with your clients now as you can’t look them in the eye. You have to build that trust in different ways and develop that bond of trust that you can’t do face to face any more.
6. BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT & STRATEGY
Stewart Elliston, Freeths; Stuart Crook, Wellers; Rupert Beazley, CMC Partners
Crucial for the direction of your business – revisit and review your business plan:
- Are your target clients and sectors the same with the new landscape? If you historically targeted the drinks, hospitality and leisure sectors, you may need to address what you offer that sector now and adapt it to their changing needs.
- Winning business: Business development in lockdown is already a challenge and it’s going to be even harder in 2021 if you don’t have a plan for it.
- Major emphasis on your sales pipeline – need to ensure cash is coming in…much more emphasis on marketing and advertising and demonstrating your expertise. Standing out from the crowd, sharing your expertise is vital now.
7. CASH & GOVERNMENT REPAYMENTS
Rupert Beazley, CMC Partners; Jonathan Walton, Whitley Stimpson
Cash has always been king, hasn’t it, but now it’s more important than ever:
- I’m coming across a lot of businesses that are drying up. Cash is paramount. There are quite a few clients who have foregone offices and downsized completely which has cultural and cash implications. It might save the organisation money but where is the team meeting other than online? So there’s a lot of consolidation required culturally, financially and from a working capital point of view. A lot of businesses are doing well and can look forward to a bright future. But there are a lot that have taken on loans and grants and have to pace themselves out of this situation. The implications of the VAT deferral and loan repayments that will come back into play in 2021 could have huge impacts on struggling businesses.
- For COVID related loans and grants, make sure the funds were applied in the context of the funding application and have not been misused. If funds have been mis-applied, seek professional advice immediately.
- Cashflow forecasting for short- and medium-term periods is straightforward to prepare and different from budgets because it focuses purely on cash in and out. Scenario planning such as ‘best case/worse case’ will help you plan ahead for the ‘bumps’.
8. TECHNOLOGY & COMMS
Ria Shepheard, Charles Stanley
We’d be lost without connection and robust tech so make sure you’ve left nothing to chance:
- Look at your technology infrastructure and what areas you need to upgrade and improve. IT, software and hardware reviews will be useful to learn from the benefits which have been experienced in lockdown so we don’t go back to the old ways of working.
9. IN IT TOGETHER
The Hub as a whole commented on this point
Whilst teams have been pulled apart over the past year, there’s certainly more of a togetherness because of the known challenges facing us all, personally and professionally. From a business perspective, we’re all squares on a video call and there’s certainly, as evidenced by those in the Hub, less feeling of hierarchy in businesses now and more of pulling together.
Jason Mason commented that “everyone is chipping in more than before”; Eleanor Moodey explained that she has been part of the ‘mirror boarding process’ at Penningtons Manches “which gives us the opportunity to think how things in the future are going to work, so we’ve had a say in thinking about how the business will move forward. The tendency would be to have a staff survey which might be blindly clicked through. This way we’ve had to think of proposals and put them to the management for consideration so we’re having a direct say in the future trajectory of the business and how we will all work together.”
So, the Hub agreed that involving your teams in future strategy will be as effective a route to recovery than anything. Bring them into the decision making process, share challenges and ideas and build your recovery together and communicate it to the wider stakeholders.
Be positive, together:
- Prepare for growth and a booming 2021 for when things return. A lot of people and businesses have saved money in lockdown meaning potential pent up demand when it’s unleashed. Think about recruitment, growth and investment.
- Incentivise your team – set targets together which involve and incentivise your teams. Never before has everyone in your business been a salesperson. Get them supporting your business on social media, spread the word to their own networks about your products and services, get them on board and sharing your vision.
IT’S MORE CRITICAL NOW THAN EVER TO MAKE SURE YOU HAVE A PLAN AND TARGETS.
BE CREATIVE, BE INCLUSIVE AND TOGETHER YOU WILL GET THROUGH.
The Professional Services Hub will be discussing this topic on The Business Brunch on Thursday 18th March.
You can watch here: https://www.b4-business.com/b4tv/