Hi Stuart. Welcome. Please can you tell us a bit about your background?
Thank you and I am delighted to be invited. I am a qualified accountant by profession and have worked across a number of different sectors and industries over the last 30 years, in both finance and business leadership roles. I am now developing a portfolio of assignments, utilising the extensive knowledge that I have built up during this time, in order to help SMEs with their business goals and direction.
What do you think are the biggest challenges and dilemmas that businesses are currently facing?
There are a number of challenges and dilemmas facing businesses as they navigate through the COVID 19 crisis.
Business continuity planning
Firstly, it’s very important that businesses update and broaden their business continuity plans to ensure that you are capable of handling the fast and ever-changing variables of the virus. Communication is key here, both internally and externally.
Businesses also need to ensure that their employees have all of the tools to carry out their new way (remote) of working as effectively as possible, both from a physical perspective (technology, communication, workspace) as well as mental and wellbeing (the working day pattern may have to reflect the different working environment).
Businesses are also facing challenges with their supply chain as the ripple effect of the virus takes place. Businesses will have to adopt different supply chain scenarios and strategies, including pricing.
Short-term and medium-term strategy
Whilst the virus will immediately impact the financial position of the business, leaders will need to ensure that the business can survive in the short-term with staff reductions and cost containment, whilst trying to secure any government support to safeguard their businesses in the short to medium-term.
It’s also important that business leaders develop a longer-term strategy to emerge from the crisis stronger and consider ways of enhancing their business model whilst at the same time, checking the pulse of their customers through this challenging time. I personally believe it is critical to be in sync with your customer during this time. They will want to help and ensure that your business comes through this.
What actions have you seen businesses take which may be relevant to other business and finance leaders?
The key for me here in any crisis is to get ahead of the curve and act swiftly. Create a list of priorities and act quickly with some difficult but necessary choices.
Don’t always look for binary decision-making. For example, rather than just laying off employees that may well be needed in the medium-term, take advantage of the government support initiatives (like the job retention scheme).
It’s vitally important to be open and honest in communications. I have seen businesses ensure that they communicate positive news stories about how adversity was overcome in the workplace. These stories are important and create a critical team spirit.
What are your top tips to business and finance leaders during this crisis?
For me, it’s four key tips:
- Look after your people. Without the people, the business doesn’t exist.
- Make the best use of your teams. Empower them and forge great collaboration, whilst also identifying and developing other leaders.
- Be proactive and forward-looking, whilst decisive at the same time.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate – with absolute transparency and reassurance. Be real with your people.
Any final thoughts?
Whilst this is a time that none of us has ever experienced and it is fraught with uncertainty both personally and professionally, we will get through this and we will become a stronger and more joined-up world and community as a result.
Out of adversity will come many opportunities and I remain very optimistic for the future.