If, like me, you are getting a bit of Zoom fatigue after so many months of restrictions to face-to-face events and meetings, the thought of a virtual conference is probably not appealing.
However, in the world we currently live in it is a case of a virtual conference or no conference at all. So in that spirita large number of CIMA Members in Practice attended last week’s virtual conference.
For me, it was particularly interesting from two view points. Firstly, I was a speaker so I was interested in how it would feel to present in the virtual conference environment and secondly, as an attendee I was interested in how the networking side (which so important with these conferences) would go.
On the first point I have done various webinars and workshops on Zoom so I wasn’t too phased by presenting into my computer. However, I am usually using a tool I know well and know exactly what to expect. Fortunately in this case we were able to have a dry run and were well supported by the conference team on the day.
Networking was certainly a very different prospect to usual. Much of the networking at conferences happens in the bar or over lunch. Or you see an old friend over in the lobby and can easily catch up over a coffee. Of course these types of face-to-face networking are unavailable at a virtual conference.
Instead you have to do a bit more work to find the people you want to connect with. There was a virtual lobby with all the names of the people at conference so you could message them. There were also virtual tables in a virtual lounge so you could have Zoom style chats with people around the table.
I was very impressed with the conference platform and the support given by Fresh Start Events who hosted the event. Although there were some technical hitches due to presenters’ varying access to broadband, this didn’t detract from the content delivered.
In all the conference was a great success. It delivered great CPD for the delegates in a way that is becoming all too familiar. Whilst I do not think that this format in anyway replaces face to face conferences, I do think it has enabled great training to happen in challenging circumstances.
We do need to keep our skills up to date and to connect with our peers – perhaps this is more important than ever – so we have to be open to alternative ways of doing so.
I am a great advocate of LinkedIn as an easy to use and quick way of keeping in touch with my network. It is particularly useful at this time when doing face to face networking is a challenge.
For many it is the only way, with the country moving inexorably into more lock down scenarios, to keep in contact with our strategic introducers who are vital to finding new business.
LinkedIn, and other social media platforms, can also be a way of getting much needed information.
There is a lot of unsolicited advice out there packaged in a way that says “read me, read me!!” Some of it is useful but much of it is “fake news”. It is distracting and designed to worry the reader into taking action that may not be appropriate to their business.
Just because someone has written an article and posted it on social media does not mean they are an expert or that their opinions are particularly valid.
So how do we decide what to read and what to ignore? After all, if we read everything that came up in our feed, or was written as articles and posts in the groups we follow, we would never get any work done!
I think the first thing we need to do is to consider who we want to be hearing from.
This means tweaking our timelines and taking out posts or unfollowing people we feel are either not on the same page as we are, or who just put too much out there for us to follow.
There may be people we love to follow, not because we are looking to learn from them, but because they are fun or great contacts for our businesses. These are the people we want to spend our time with.
Following these good eggs quite often brings a positive glow to our day.
Of course there will be people that appear on our feeds who we know know their stuff. Again following what they have to say can be a productive use of our time.
Working from home – as most of us are doing now – can be a difficult juggling act and it is very easy to get distracted by all the noise out there.
Don’t let yourself be way laid by social media – make it work for you.
There is no end in sight to the current pandemic and it is likely that our lives will be affected by it until a vaccine is found. This means that planning is particularly difficult. Our world of certainties has been destroyed.
In truth,the certainty we think we can rely on in life is often just an illusion. Whilst we can control how we react to the issues we have to face in our personal and business lives, and the decisions we make along our journey, we have very little control over the world around us.
The pandemic has reminded us that the big things that affect our lives are out of our control. We can do our part in ensuring we do not get, and then pass on, COVID-19. We can try to reduce our impact on the planet by reducing the rubbish we produce and the emissions we are responsible for. But at the end of the day our impact will always be minute.
It is because of the enormous impact our environment has on our lives that we are in a very lucky situation.
We are incredibly lucky to live in a wealthy country that is relatively unaffected by blights and famines. Our economy, despite the hammering it has taken in the last few months, is still pretty strong when compared to many other countries’.
Even the weather, that we love to complain about, is pretty tame – no hurricanes and tornados for us. Although global warming has meant that some coastal residents have lost houses, the vast majority of us can be confident that the homes we live in will survive us.
Like our European neighbours we live in a politically stable country where the impacts of any election on our day to day lives is pretty minimal. We are highly unlikely to have to live under a military dictatorship where we could lose our lives, or loved ones, at any moment.
And yet the news is full of how badly off we are as a nation. Politicians play on peoples fears that we are being swamped by immigrants who will take our jobs and diminish our lives.
The fact is that the reason refugees want to come here is that they have sussed something that we often forget – this is a pretty great country to live in.
We are all incredibly lucky and have much to be grateful for – we just need to remember that fact!
This month I am definitely been lacking in inspiration. It may be because work has been busy, but also because the holiday I have recently taken was to do DIY jobs around the house. The biggest of which was replacing half of the roof of the cabin that houses the HQ of Bevan Financial Management!
Planning is important so we started off by asking ourselves some key questions:
- What is our budget? Of course, I am an accountant after all!
- How will we get the materials to do the job as availability of wood etc., has been effected by COVID 19?
- What time will we need for the project as we needed to ensure we would not be caught out by rain when the roof was off!
- Will we do the job ourselves or get someone in to do it for us?
As you will know from previous articles I am a great believer in getting a professional to do a professional job. However,my husband Jeff is pretty handy at woodwork – and we had built the cabin ourselves originally – so we decided we would do the work ourselves. This decision handily reduced the budget needed – but would hopefully not come back to bite us!
Our son Alex and I would be Jeff’s labourers! Happily we are both very good at taking instruction from other people – NOT!
Last week was D day!
We had to make sure we had all the tools and materials we needed before the we started as the time we had available to complete the job was limited.
Google came in very handy for finding the supplier of felting and shingles. Luckily, we were able to use a local supplier for the wood who delivered everything in good time and for free!
The day we chose for the job was sunny and hot with no sign of rain. This helped immensely but it was THE LONGEST DAY OF OUR LIVES!! But it was relatively stress free because we knew exactly what we were doing and were focused on the time we had to do it.
The job came out well and I am tucked up tight for another 8 years (hopefully).
The lesson from all of this? If you have a project, whether business or personal, plan for success and you are much more likely to get the results you need.
But it is a summer like no other – holidays are looking doubtful and there are additional COVID 19 issues
Generally at this time of year we are looking forward to summer holidays both here and abroad andbusinesses with staff are planning how to cover for their holiday absences.
But for many businesses where staff have been furloughed the issues are not around what to do when staff are away but what to do as they return after 3 months away.
It is important, if your business is in this situation, to plan carefully how you will manage staff members return to work.
Firstly, there is the question of when you need them to return – or even if there is a job for them to return to. Remember some of your team may be worried that a return to work may not be safe for them. Others will use this as an excuse to have some extra paid time off (although I would hope this does not apply to your team you must be prepared for this reaction).
Secondly, there are the changes you will need to make to the workplace to ensure that you are properly safeguarding the employees as they return – and, of course, any employees who were not furloughed. It may be that some expensive PPE is necessary.
Remember staff will have accrued holiday whilst they were furloughed so have a clear policy on how staff are to take holiday – you don’t want to find that just as staff are returning they are off again!
For those of us who have been working hard during the Coronavirus lockdown a holiday cannot come soon enough.
With lockdown easing it is likely that many of our holiday areas will plan to be back to some semblance of business as usual. But it is difficult to predict what amenities/attractions/hospitality businesses will be open. No one wants to spend hours in the car only to find virtually nothing open.
If you have clients in the hospitality sector there are real issues that need to be addressed that you can help with. In particular, at what point is it worth their while to open their doors at all? We cannot assume that even without the two meter distancing rule, people will flock back into pubs or cafes. Many people will be very conscious that COVID 19 is still out there.
Finally, featured is a picture I thought I would share – with friends from pre-lockdown days! Remember those? This was during our cycle ride from Wells to Paris in 2018.
At this point in June I would be looking forward to two events.
Firstly, I would be travelling up to the CIMA MiP conference for an evening the bar with old friends and new. Then I would be spending two days acquiring some great CPD and mixing with other MiPs, getting their take on business life. I even got to speak on the main stage a couple of years ago (hence the piccie).
The conference is a key event in my business life and is a great opportunity in the year to review where I am at. I always come away with some great plans – some of which I implement and some of which lose their lustre by the time I have made the journey home. But either way it is an event I would not miss for the world.
The second event is Glastonbury Festival – and this year we actually got tickets. It was to be the 50th anniversary and, as a local, it was due to be a big deal.
Of course, this year has not turned out to be at all normal and so I shall be attending neither of these events!
And my year will be all the poorer for it!
With our world turned upside down, little things can make a big difference to those around us.
It is easy to become so absorbed in our own lives that the we forget to spare a thought for others.
However, a positive to come out of the Coronavirus lockdown has been an increased sense of community. As we are constantly being told, “we are all in it together”.
Some things we have found ourselves doing are not really the way we Brits do things. The clap for key workers is an example. Who would have thought even two months ago that every Thursday we would all be outside our houses clapping?
But the funny thing is that every one in my street seems to enjoy the opportunity to come together and give thanks to people most of us don’t even know. We are just grateful that they are there.
Acts of kindness are springing up all across the country. The number of voluteers putting their names down to help the NHS alone has been overwhelming.
We all want to do our bit to help everyone get through this crisis as best as we can.
Like many of you, my family have been shopping for an elderly neighbour who, until recently we did not really know, but hopefully will get to know better over the coming weeks – all be it from a distance!
As business owners we need to do our bit to help our staff, suppliers and customers weather the storm.
Many businesses are struggling to cope with having to furlough staff, shift their working pattens or even shut down completely until lockdown is lifted. No business will remain unaffected by these unprecedented circumstances.
Some businesses will not survive without help – whether it is financial or practical. If we can look to help wherever we can, we might make the difference between a business failing or surviving.
I am trying to support local businesses wherever possible. It might be as simple as picking up the phone to shoot the breeze with a supplier or customer, or offer support – even the printing of this newsletter is helping a local business.
If we can help with the little things, and the big things if we can, there is a chance that we may all come through this threat to our local (and national) economy relatively in tact.
It will take all of us doing our bit to weather this storm. Good Luck everyone!
I have been thinking quite a bit about authenticity recently.
I have been to a couple of tribute band gigs over the last couple of months – Bjorn Again, T Rextasy and Fleetwood Bac.
They were all excellent and certainly knew the material of the iconic bands they were imitating.
But, at the end of the day, their acts were just imitations of the real thing. As good as their musicianship was they just did not have that spark that sets truly great bands apart from the rest.
My friends and I had a great time at the gigs and I am not saying that I wouldn’t be happy to see any of them again (indeed it was the second time that we had been to see Bjorn Again). But I know that if I ever had the chance to see the real thing the experience would be more amazing and more authentic.
The real thing will always trump an imitation.
Dave Harries and Angela Jones produce an excellent podcast called the Communication Paradox and much of their focus is on discussing the benefits to business people of being authentic.
In January their podcast was recorded as we did a Metwalk around Portishead harbour. They interviewed the people at the event asking if this type of networking helped people to be more authentic than traditional forms of networking. The resounding view was that yes it was.
So, if being authentic is the best way for us to behave in a business setting – which I definitiely agree it is (and, in fact, in our lives generally) – how do we make sure we are our authentic selves?
For me it is about not trying to copy what someone else is doing, or how someone else is being.
It may seem easier to look to copy what other businesses in our fields are doing to promote themselves, or to try to imitate their businesses, but at the end of the day people buy from, and interact with, people.
Our biggest assets are found in our own personality, and the interests we have, that make us genuinely unique.
They are our superpowers!
We often need a little help to set our businesses on the right track – especially when we are going through a tough period or a period of change.
This applies to accountants just as much as to other business owners and that is why I am running a series of webinars aimed specifically at the issues accountants have told me they struggle with.
The pricing with confidence webinar has already been successfully run (and I will re run it later in the year) but the other three are happening in each of the next three months:
Questioning and listening – 4th March 20
Creating a business plan with clients – 1st April 20
Establishing the right management information – 6th May 20
With all the uncertainties businesses are facing, how can we make our businesses more resilient?With all the uncertainties businesses are facing, how can we make our businesses more resilient?
I think the few years are going to be the least predictable, and most uncertain, since I started my business.
None of us know how Brexit will impact the environment in which we are running our businesses. Even if we do not trade directly with the other 27 EU countries we will be impacted by how the split with the EU effects the UK economy.
Also there is the increasingly urgent issue of climate change. I think we will have to (and should) increasingly consider the environmental impact of the business decisions we make on a day to day basis.
This may mean that we change: the way we travel; the resources we use and how we use them; and the scope of work and the spread of clients we serve.
And then there is the ever increasing speed of technological advances to keep up with.
I can see that each of these issues will cause the costs of running our businesses to rise and the speed of change in the business environment to increase.
So what can we do to make our businesses as resilient as possible given the challenges ahead?
I have often talked about business planning and I am a firm believer that businesses which have a plan are more resilient than businesses run on a more laissez faire basis.
There are several reasons for this. A business run by someone who is very clear on their personal goals will be more focused than one where the business owner is less clear about what they want to achieve. The process of business planning encourages a review of personal goals, which are then reflected in the goals of the business.
Once you have a distinct goal it is easier to decide on the best direction for your business and you are better able to make decisions quickly in response to the changing environment because you are confident about the path you want to take.
This means that you can properly assess the resources you will need to employ get you to where you need to go – whether that’s people, money or training.
In short business planning helps you to build a business that is fit for purpose.
This is a truth that we, as members in practice know and so we advise our clients to plan robustly, but we often reserve the right not to follow our own advice.
But the reasons our clients should plan are exactly the reasons we should plan ourselves. This does not mean doing a spreadsheet budget for the coming year but doing a proper review of where we are, what our goals are, what changes we need to make to achieve the success we need and the resources we need to employ to get there.
So let’s make 2020 the year we take our own advise and plan properly for our businesses.