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There is a feeling of optimism in the air amongst clients and other businesses I speak to as we continue to follow the government’s roadmap out of lockdown.
The end is definitely in sight and the overriding emotion for many businesses is one of relief.
Business confidence is on the up nationally, and particularly across the West Midlands and here in Coventry and Warwickshire.
One positive to come from the last 12 months is the time owners have had to take a long hard look at their business and to formulate a new direction to move in.
I can’t think of many businesses that will go straight back to everything they did pre-pandemic, particularly if they have pivoted and introduced new services.
These businesses have reinvented themselves and are now in a good place to capitalise. Of course, some will go back to their bread and butter, but they will still have expanded, added more diversity to their offer and be more appealing to clients due to the decisions they made during the pandemic.
Coming out of lockdown brings its own challenges, with many of those revolving around the reduction and removal of government support measures.
Furlough and the Self Employment Income Support scheme come to an end in September, and CBILS and Bounce Back Loans will need to be repaid.
There will be challenges monitoring and managing cash. My main concern is that not enough businesses have been sitting down to do the detailed forecasting and financial planning that needs to be done.
But with more certainty business owners can forecast more strongly and a degree of clarity is possible – unlike when we came out of previous lockdowns.
The economy won’t bounce back completely, but it’s not unreasonable to see us back to pre-pandemic levels in seven to eight months.
Failing to plan is planning to fail, and that old saying has never been truer than in the last 12 months and will remain crucial over the next couple of years.
In this vital period it is essential business owners understand the fundamentals of their business.
Who are your customers? What are they buying and why? And finally, where is the cash coming from to support your business?
Once you have those three key aspects nailed then you can work on productivity and output. It’s important to have a plan and work that plan, but at the same time continually monitor the plan and be flexible to make changes if required.
At Burgis & Bullock we are on hand to support businesses as they come through this difficult period. Our business forecasting service will be essential for clients and we will also be helping businesses to access to the finance required to bounce back.
We have also recently partnered with Swoop Funding on a grant finder scheme, which enables us to keep track of grants available locally, regionally and nationally.
While the Covid-19 grants are coming to an end there are still plenty of grant opportunities out there, particularly around innovation and low-carbon initiatives.
We will shortly be launching six new cohorts of the Peer Networks initiative, which will give 66 businesses the chance to join the fully-funded programme from BEIS and delivered by the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) Growth Hub.
The groups aim to create a diverse collection of individuals to work together to combat common business issues by building a strong support network, and that kind of support will be valuable for any business during this period.
We have spent a lot of time and effort supporting local business during the pandemic – which is what we always strive to do – but now is the time for businesses to grow and take their plans forward.
I’m optimistic for the future and hope you are too.