Beating the virus: Be resilient. Be Brave. Be positive. Hang tough
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Future 50 partners explain how they can support the region’s up-and-coming businesses through the continuing coronavirus pandemic.
The Future 50 programme brings together six of East Anglia’s most established businesses, to support the region’s most promising up-and-coming companies and share their expertise. With everyone facing tough trading thanks to the Covid-19 crisis, access to that advice is more important than ever.
“Every business should carry out a ‘roots and all’ health assessment, looking at the fundamentals of cash, profitability and management,” recommends Glen Webster of Barclays. “This will signpost opportunities to manage cash-flow effectively and identify strategies for sustaining or growing the business. Also examine what capabilities, partnerships and assets might be required to bring that to life and adapt to not only survive the crisis, but also thrive.”
“Cash management is number one, together with staff wellness,” says Edward Savory of Birketts. “Your business will be dead in the water if you run out of cash once the government support is withdrawn and various deferred liabilities (such as tax and rent) become payable. Cashflow forecasting is absolutely essential for the next six to 12 months.
“Looking after your people will also be vital, as going back to the office is likely to create as much anxiety as going into isolation did,” he adds. “The new normal will not be the same so take advantage of the tech to facilitate more flexible, agile, remote working and on-board the efficiencies discovered.”
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“Find creative ways to keep people safe and in work,” says Dr Helen Fitzhugh from the Norwich Business School at UEA. “Protective equipment and clear guidance for safe distancing is important, but it is also time to rethink how and when people work.”
“We have learnt a lot, quickly, about who needs to be on site and who can work from home,” she adds. “If this leads to businesses being more open to flexible working and supporting better work-life balance, it will be a positive development.”
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“The coronavirus has shown how things that used to take time, planning and investment can be done much more quickly and with much less bureaucracy. This could help businesses and people be more creative and dynamic,” Dr Fitzhugh concludes.
That increased agility will be important as, after the initial heavy impact of the virus, there may still be opportunities for growth. “In some cases, it will be important to hold higher levels of stock and spare parts because, whether you import or purchase locally, your company’s supply line could stop if there is a second Covid-19 spike,” says Richard Glinn of the New Anglia Enterprise Partnership. “We may be entering a time when the ability to supply good-quality at an acceptable price - not the lowest price - wins the deal.”
“Remote communication is going to be extremely important for winning new business,” he adds. “I would recommend in-depth training for anyone communicating with clients and suppliers via Teams, Zoom or other video-conferencing software. If a business is seen to be efficient and forward-thinking in terms of communication, it will be regarded as a good company to work with.”
“Some businesses will find their trading relationships with clients paused, but it is more important than ever to maintain those client relationships and build a platform for recovery as we start emerging from the initial lockdown period,” advises James Shipp of Lovewell Blake.
“Customers are at the core of every successful business, so treating them with additional care and understanding is vital to maintaining strong relationships and goodwill,” agrees Barclays’ Glen Webster. “Consider motivating factors, such as rewarding loyalty or offering a small discount if payments are made within the terms of your agreement. Managing your debtor book will be crucial, and you should be assessing clients before agreeing any variations on arrangements.”
For all the challenges, there may be opportunities – and Future 50 firms, supporting each other and working with the partners, should be the best-placed to take advantage of them. “The regional and rural locations have a chance to steal a march on the bigger cities, where high population densities and reliance on public transport will create challenges,” concludes Edward Savory of Birketts. “Be resilient. Be brave. Be positive. Hang tough.”