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Why two heads are better than one

So, are masks on or off in your business? Are the floor and window stickers to be peeled off or will they remain? Are the staff coming back to the office or are they going to continue to work from home? What do you do with the 250 litres of hand sanitiser in the stock room? Questions, questions, questions…..that all require an answer….but I can see many business owners thinking “help….I need some guidance here…I’m trying to run a business”!

And ‘run a business’ they have done….(some more successfully than others maybe) over the past 18 months in an unprecedented landscape with a unique set of challenges. Some have thrived, namely those businesses that could pivot to an online delivery or service, or those in sectors like construction, logistics and building supplies where the appetite to build, improve or renovate has been almost insatiable. Some have survived, perhaps relying on furlough and the CBILs/BBL schemes to get them through and having to re-think and re-purpose their business, like creating an online presence where previously there wasn’t one. Inevitably, some have disappeared, perhaps for ever or maybe just temporarily as the owner assesses their future options…but nevertheless their ‘demise’ will have caused pain and pressure on both personal and financial levels.

The future is uncertain. My opening paragraph asks just four rhetorical questions, doubtless there are hundreds more. But the business owner must not lose sight of this overarching question – ‘why am I in business, what do I want to achieve and who can help me’?

When the business reset happens, whether it is post-Freedom Day, sometime during Q4, or at the beginning of 2022, will your business be ready?

Many of the business owners I speak to answer this question with ‘I guess so…only time will tell’. That’s vague in my book, and shows that they have been distracted (perhaps not unsurprisingly) by the talk of masks, social distancing and safety, as opposed to thinking about ‘is my business ready for reset’?

Steve Elsom says there is a perception that banks can’t provide a certain level of insight and support. But Steve says try simply calling up your bank relationship manager and ask them. You may be pleasantly surprised!

I am also surprised how few business owners seek an opinion from their professional advisors. Having spent many years heading up the SME division for Lloyds Bank in the East of England, I would often be asked for an opinion, a view or a forecast by a business owner if I met them at an event, at their premises or in the High Street. It doesn’t happen now, not because events have dried up due to the pandemic (there are still a whole host of business events being hosted online by the likes of the banks, Chamber of Commerce and Federation of Small Business), but because the relationship between the business owner and their bank is now a ‘transactional’ one. I often say to business owners, ‘call your relationship manager and ask them if they can suggest a few ways in which you may be able to look at processes across your business’. The reply is typically ‘they are only there to discuss my borrowing facilities once a year’. Therein lies the problem. The perception that banks can’t provide that level of insight and support has become a reality. Try it….call up your bank relationship manager and ask them.

But it isn’t just the lack of relationship at bank level that will lead to challenges in the ‘reset’, it is the reticence to talk to the accountant for fear of being charged for the privilege. Maybe, when you agree the annual audit fee you incorporate a level of ‘insight and support’ calls that will help you and your business continue to be a client of that firm for many years to come. That would make sense for both businesses wouldn’t it? Where this works well….it makes a very positive difference. From a brainstorming session to a SWOT analysis, and from a 360-degree feedback summary to a look at working capital cycles, the ‘insight and support’ is out there…..maybe you just need to ask.

Finally, there are many business consultants out there at the moment. Some, like me, will have gained decades of experience from working for a financial services company, some will be more textbook driven. There is, as the saying goes, ‘someone for everyone’, and whether it’s looking at cashflow, people or process, the opportunity to have a fresh set of eyes look at your business shouldn’t be overlooked. If you want to ensure that your business is ‘ready for reset’, don’t just rely on you…take the opportunity to get a second opinion, after all, as another saying goes ‘two heads are better than one’.

Good luck, take advice, seek opinion, and ask those questions!

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Steve is a regular contributor to B2B publications, see some of his recent articles for insights into current business news, leadership and much more...