Up until now, businesses have been in crisis management mode, but as they look forward to a post-lockdown world, it is vital business owners plan effectively to prepare for an uncertain future. Any plans you make will need to remain flexible and adaptable, after all, no one can be certain about how this crisis will unfold, and remaining stuck in a plan that no longer reflects the changing climate can only be detrimental.
It is important to remember that anything you implement in the short term will not be ‘business as usual’ but a way to get through the current situation. Those who can remain adaptable in the coming months are likely to remain strong.
Your people will be a top priority for your business and sharing plans on what each stage of emerging from lock down will look like will be important. Communicate this to your people as transparently as possible. You need to keep them engaged and motivated and this comes from understanding what they need to be doing now and how this impacts future plans for the business.
Getting your team back into the office will be a gradual process and you need to consider individuals needs when implementing this. Guidelines need to be decided and enforced to protect those back in the office, some considerations may be, how to allow for social distancing, cleaning of workspaces and communal areas such as kitchens and toilets and how your teams will get to work. If many rely on public transport, for example, is it feasible that they will be able to reach the office in a safe and responsible way?
Some will have found home working difficult with flatmates, families or inefficient workspaces causing issues with productivity and will want to be back as soon as possible. Others will have found home working a lifeline for balancing other aspects of their life and it is important to respect both sides of the spectrum when making any decisions.
When planning for the future of your business your customers and their needs will dictate a lot of the practices you implement. Create a forecast for your demand and what could impact this. Will some service lines experience demand more quickly? Will the geography of your clients impact demand? Are you expecting demand to come from existing clients or new business? Then develop a plan on how you will be able to meet this demand.
Your customers’ needs are likely to be different and ensuring that your business understands and can fulfil these needs is going to help your business stand out and remain relevant to your customer base.
If this planning results in some areas of your business being reduced or costs cut then, again, it is vital you communicate this to your teams openly and explain the reasons behind this. Otherwise there is a risk they will become disengaged and demotivated. Your team have been on the ground implementing these initiatives and talking to clients, they will also have invaluable insights into the changing client needs.
When considering any cost cuts it can be easy to see some as ‘quick wins’ to save money in the short term. However, it is important to not only look at short-term impacts but how any changes will affect the business in the long run. Will these changes impact your future business goals? Are these goals still relevant and achievable? Will making a cut here create a snowball effect of problems in the future? All things to consider in your planning.
Cash will remain king, therefore having a cash flow forecast that is regularly reviewed and updated is key. In the recovery phase, managing working capital, and weaning the business off government tax deferrals, will need careful management and planning to ensure a smooth transition back to the new normal.
At Haines Watts we pose the right questions and together with our business planning experts have practical methodologies that can help you frame your thinking to support you as you work through what is next for your business.
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