Business Consultancy Blog

“You can’t control the direction of the wind, but you can adjust your sails” Jimmy Dean

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We are now just over 4 weeks into lockdown in the UK. This has been a radical and rapidly changing period, dramatically impacting all our personal, family and business lives.

However, there's hope that over the next few weeks or so, with extensive self-isolation and restriction of movement having been followed effectively, that the UK will continue to flatten the curve.

So, if this turns out to be the case.

At what point do we start to turn our attention to phase 2. How do we start to return to some sense of business normality through relaxed movement restrictions? I suppose with one caveat, with likely strict social distancing policies in place for the foreseeable future.

As a business owner, the chances are your business either completely stopped two weeks ago or has just run down to a trickle of work and operating with skeleton staff. As a business owner or member of the senior team you've likely spent the last fortnight frantically trying to assess your customer's needs, then readjusting your people, resources and establishing the finances just to survive.

However, hopefully by now, many of you will benefit from the extensive government business support schemes and the much need support and money will hopefully start to come through during April. I'm am very aware, many small SME's aren't fully eligible for the value of support required to keep their business a float and some larger business don't have the reserves or finance service ability to pay back loans and to operate how they have in the past.

So, is now the time to consider future plans, downsizing or re-organising your business?

First things first!

If like me, it's been a real mixed bag of emotions. You've probably been through a real mixture of moods and noticeable behaviours these last few weeks.

Denial "this isn't really happening", "it's just media hype", "it will just pass".

to Shock "Gosh", "Yes, it is real", "the news is dramatic", "I'm not sleeping well", "panic set in", "what about...?"

to Frustration "Ok, I accept this is happening but everything's out with my control", "what should I do first?", "where can I go for support and help?", "all this talk, but nothing seems to be happening quickly!"

And then Depression ("Hmm, I'm in a downer mood today", "I've no energy", "no purpose", "It's wasn't easy to get out of bed this morning"

If you've been through the same rollercoaster of emotions, you're not alone This is a natural human phenomenon, best illustrated by the "Kubler Ross" Change curve link to an external article and graphic.

So, before you move forward to phase 2. you need to accept and understand where you are on the change curve. It's only once you've been through the first 4 changes and got the bottom, that you are ready to start with the right mindset to test the water and consider what the future may hold. In fact, this model was established after following the moods of people going through a death in the family and known originally as the "Mourning Curve". So, we all need to go through the grieving process before we can start to accept change and look for establish a purpose and then explore new beginnings.

14 points we need to consider to-move forward on this journey. (please read on, 5 minutes)

1. Review the change curve, understand where you are yourself, mindset wise. Ask a partner for feedback. Where do they believe you are and how do your behaviours relate to your current position on the curve? Worth plotting and measure regularly.

Once you've reached the bottom and you're ready to accept the situation has changed then it's time to start focusing on the things you can influence.

2. Check into your personal financial situation, plot moneys coming in and moneys going out. Draw up a realistic personal budget plan for the next 2- 3months with your partner and family. Once you get your head round your personal finances you'll then sleep better, tensions will also ease at home.

3. Then plot your business cash position too. I happen to do this first thing every Monday morning, to sense check where I am, who owes me, whom I need to pay. This exercise also this drives my behaviour for the week ahead.

4. From a business perspective, review trading over the last 3 years, 12 months and 6 months. Did you achieve your plan, targets? Be realistic and evaluate your sales, purchase ledgers and financial accounts. Don't forget to evaluate which of your customers will return to normal trading too or where there may be new opportunities. Review all revenues and costs then create a financial forecast based on 2 or 3 different trading scenarios. Medium, low and protracted period before sales revenue recover. Refer to previous LinkedIn blog for cash flow planning.

5. The next step is to create an action plan. Ensure it's SMART. By when and on what activities you, the team should focus your efforts, for the remainder of 2020. Timeline and ensure any associated costs, expected savings or additional revenues are included in the financial forecast.

6. Keep in regular contact with your staff, share the plans, objectives and get them involved. Both as a team and individuals. Zoom or MS Teams 1-2-1s are a good way to spot their challenges and note, you'll need to support your staff through the change curve process too. Spend time listening to and supporting their personal & development needs. Your staff may well be feeling the same anxieties as you if things are quiet, so they may need reassuring and help set a clear purpose too.

7. Consider internal processes and systems. How could you improve efficiency? If you still do monthly or annual accounts manually or using an antiquated system, considering updating to an online system. This will likely save you time, produce reports, cash flow projections and it's much easier and quickly. Also consider CRM and ERP systems too. These will not just give you accurate information but reduce your administration time, therefore allowing you and your staff to focus on the right activities that generate new and existing revenue streams.

8. Stay in touch with your customers – throughout the whole period, do ensure to send out a newsletter, it's a good time to update your website and obtain testimonials, create case studies and ensure your sales staff are continuing to do their calls from home. Even if there are no business decisions to be made, by just keeping in touch with your clients, you'll raise your business brand and profile, learn more from your customers and continue to build relationships. Don't sell if they aren't buying, just listen, learn and support.

9. Keep in touch with your suppliers. If you haven't already, you may need to extend payment terms or there may be opportunities to obtain some additional stock at a competitive price as they will also be feeling the pain of slow business too.

10. If you are still carrying stock/inventory, now would be an ideal time to carry out a stock check or audit. Determine what's obsolescent and hasn't sold in the last 12 months. Could these items be priced or packaged differently and sold through running a campaign? Consider if these items could be sold through a different sales channel too, try e-commerce from your own website, or even utilising Amazon or eBay platforms. Do ensure you turn stock into cash.

11. If you have productive staff standing idle. Check if they can be furloughed for a minimum of 3 weeks? Or consider the structure of shifts to utilise the manpower and reduce non-productive costs. Possibly utilise these employees to carry out in-house maintenance of plant, equipment, infrastructure and buildings, should these be deemed as essential works. Alternatively, can they be allocated to work collaboratively on projects, designs and research initiatives.

12. Staff training and online workshops. Whether in house or external, take the opportunity now, as this interaction will help improve and raise their industry or specific skills and knowledge levels. It will also help them with having a change of "virtual" scenery and to create contacts with others in a similar situation. Peer to peer support in these times is invaluable.

13. Whilst there's no face to face networking – there's many virtual events and this could be an ideal opportunity to create new relationships plus the chance to learn what the new developments are within your industry or what the future holds in other sectors.

14. Finally, don't reduce prices to obtain sales – no matter how keen you are to clinch further sales today, if the client or customer isn't ready to make a decide to buy now, don't discount sell your normal wares and fares. You can't put your price back up to normal trading, when they are ready to buy again in the future. You will also have undermined the good work you have done to obtain your current pricing levels. If anything, only offer a concession such as extended payment terms, or phased billing or consider rolling into the deal some added value service such as delivery, an annual check or review, or bundle and package sell slow moving products.

"Be ready to tack"

No matter what the outcome of the next few weeks and months and whichever way the wind blows. Do keep your ship seaworthy and crew match-fit, so they can adjust your sails quickly. It will be a matter of staying agile and tacking to our journeys end. There may well be some positive business opportunities along the way which you wouldn't want to miss or not be able to capitalise on as we head into the summer and during the rest of the year.

Do take care and respect others requests for social distancing.

So as when you're ready and at some point, in the future, if you are looking to review, re-organise and then grow your business, Peter Fleming Business Consultancy offers a no obligation free initial consultation.

We are here to support you establish a clear vision and help you and your team to start working on the steps to fulfil your personal and business aspirations.

For further information please contact Peter Fleming

Mobile; 07966 686112


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Thursday, 29 February 2024

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