It’s been a long haul, but we seem to finally be getting to the end of the tunnel for what has been the biggest impact on business in living memory for many of us. We have probably all faced uncertainty and difficult times in our businesses somewhere on our journey but to have so many faced economic disaster and turmoil at once is unheard of in peacetime. Even during major recessions, there was a gradual slide into the difficulties, and everyone knew roughly what the result would be. The Covid-19 lockdowns, on the other hand, came (well almost at least) as a bolt from the blue. We saw Europe close and then seemingly the same was upon us and the gates of trade slammed shut almost overnight. Nobody had ever experienced anything like it, and apart from a few business areas, we all saw the effects immediately.
This was followed by local lockdowns and then national lockdowns 2 & 3.
That was then though and now, after a few glorious days of summer sunshine, it almost feels like the nightmare is over and we are back to normal. We all want that to be the case. Nothing sounds more attractive right now than the optimistic hope of getting back to business and hopefully a normal life. Optimism is one thing though and the reality is another. We need to very careful to enjoy the apparent return to ‘business as usual’ but bear in mind that it may be far from it. This is more like business as ‘un’usual and it is a little naive to think everything will suddenly return to normal.
As hard as it is to do so looking at the sunshine and thinking how much I am looking forward to that first drink down the pub when they open again, I want to just throw in a few notes of caution. This is not like re-opening after Christmas or going back to your contracts after a couple of weeks in Corfu. You need to treat the return to work as something different.
The first thing to do is to assess your position as it stands with your existing customer base. If you have not been in contact with your regular clients for a while, pick up the phone and get in touch would be our advice. This is restarting process not a continuation and you need to ascertain who is still there and who has gone elsewhere during the lockdown.
For some industries, there may be a starting gun moment where they come back online. You need to be prepared for this. It’s vital you have your stock situation under control and that your supply lines are in place to fill the incoming orders. It may seem obvious, but the demand is likely to be different after lockdown. The old way of doing things may not be valid anymore.
Cash, as always, will be king and it is likely that even if you took advantage of one of the support schemes, the bank account is looking thin. Gavin talks about some things to consider for your cashflow in the accompanying video and as he points out it could well be like starting from scratch in many ways.
Your staff may have been furloughed and that will mean not only the additional administration of their return to work but also some may have moved on, some may have forgotten training or be required to perform new tasks and you may even need new shift patterns or, sadly, to rationalise the team. These are all things that could affect your ability to fill orders.
In the end, we are all still at least partly in the dark about how things will roll out or how bad the predicted recession will be. Experience tells us that the real problem with cashflow and insolvency tend to start to appear a few months after the recession hits or the crisis passes. Right now, we could well be seeing the lull before the storm and if you want to weather that storm you need to plan for it. Hopefully, all will be well, but please call us if you do find that your financial position is getting worrying and we will see how we can help.
For now, let’s all enjoy the sun, fire up the barbeque and look towards normality. There is a lot to celebrate as lockdown lifts, so enjoy the changes, but please try to keep an eye on your finances and seek help early if things are looking bad.
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