If you know me well you will know that I attend the CIMA Members in Practice Conference each year. In 2020 and 2021 the conferences were virtual and, whilst good, weren’t as good as the in person events.
This year though we were back together again and it was so great to see all of my peeps. It certainly brought home that, whilst you can get some great training on the internet, if you want to network and build relationships there is no substitute for the quality conversations you can have in person.
If I had the pleasure of meeting you at conference I am so glad we were able to chat and share stories together again!
Of course, we have to be mindful of the ecological impact of our businesses and try to reduce our CO2 emmissions. We need to balance our need for face-to-face events and meetings against environmental considerations, so I don’t think we should get back to the level of travel we previously enjoyed.
But a little (by train) can’t hurt – surely?
Do you remember Challenge Anneka? It was a staple of Saturday evenings in the Bevan houshold. The premise, if you don’t know, was that Anneka Rice had to complete a challenging task – often to aid a charitable cause such as building a play area – over a limited time period.
Whilst this is not something we are likely to do personally, setting ourselves challenges is a great way of feeling a sense of achievement. They motivate us to higher things and test what we are capable of.
In May we walked the West Mendip Way in a day (well – 12 hours). It is 30 miles, 4000ft of climb and the last 5 miles were just a hard slog! But we did it.
Although this was not a business test, I think that any challenges we set ourselves make us stronger in all aspects of our lives.
In a challenging year for the wrong reasons how about setting yourself some challenges for the right ones?
One of the things I am really looking forward to over the coming months is a return to meeting clients, and connections, I haven’t seen in person for months. Zoom, and other online tools, have enabled us to keep in contact, and virtual meetings have become an integral part of our business lives. I doubt that, once life returns to ‘normal’, we will revert back to business exactly as it was before COVID, because it is undeniable that virtual meetings save us time and money.
However, I, for one, have missed the ‘water cooler’ conversations we have when we have face to face meetings – but rarely happen when using an online tool. Being able to chat over a coffee and cake, allows trusting relationships to build gradually in a natural and authentic way. So I will definitely go back to ‘offline’ meetings when I can.
I am also really looking forward to getting back to my Metwalking networking – great conversations in the great outdoors!
So, 2021 is with us and, to be frank, looks pretty much the same as 2020. Restrictions are continuing and it looks like they will be with us for the foreseeable future.
For us MiPs I think 2020 was a bit of a mixed bag.
Some of us started the year with a wide network of contacts and so referrals continued to roll in. For others, especially new MiPs 2020 has been a real struggle. How can you find new customers when you aren’t able to get out and about to meet them?
Even some MiPs who have been in business for several years have found their businesses suffer due to lockdown restrictions.
But I think dealing with these uncertain times can force us to become clearer on what we want our businesses to be and who we want to be working for. After all, why have the stresses of working within our own business, but none of the advantages of choosing who you work for and what you do for them?
The big advantage of having a real sense of purpose is that it is a lot easier to tell the world what the purpose of your business is.
If you are still don’t have a business plan for your business with a clear idea of who your perfect customers are I really urge you to put the effort into putting together your plan. Give yourself the best chance of building the business you want and deserve.
Once you have a plan you may identify areas where you need to up-skill or get extra support for your business – there are so many online courses out there that you will probably find what you need from your own living room!
In the meantime I hope you enjoy this lovely piccie taken by my hubby Jeff or the starlings creating a murmuration in the shape of a starling!
Gosh what a year it has been.
It has been a bumpy one to say the least and we are not yet in a situation when the immediate future looks brighter.
At this point in my year I would usually be organising the Billy No Mates Christmas lunch(the office Christmas lunch for those who do not have a staff or co-workers to have a Christmas party with) and looking forward to catching up with people I often only see at our annual get together. But not this year!
I had thought of doing a virtual BNM but to be honest I am just not in the mood for yet another ‘virtual’ event. I think I would rather catch up with everyone in a one-on-one way.
It’s a bit sad I know but I think we are all ending the year a little battered and bruised with many of us with friends and family who have been laid low – or have even died – during the pandemic. I think if we are able to get together with our immediate family to celebrate Christmas we will be happy.
Personally and professionally I have been very lucky not to be too badly hit by the pandemic. Living in Somerset has certainly meant that our lives have been much less impacted than those of you who live in cities.
I normally do a lot of work from home so have always been set up to work in an efficient way from the house. The main difference has been my husband Jeff also being able to work from home too – which he much prefers.
However, there are many businesses across the UK that are either hanging on by a thread, or have gone under, after two lockdowns and the general restrictions imposed due to social distancing. Of course those in hospitality, sports and entertainment have been very hard hit.
But there are also a raft of self employed people, especially those who took the plunge into self employment at the start of the year, who have had real problems supporting themselves and their families.
In our own world there are MiPs who have had real problems. Some had just taken the plunge into self employment just before COVID struck and have found it almost impossible to network to find clients. Others have struggled as their clients have struggled – even with the extra work that’s been picked up from doing Furlough claims or helping clients with Bounce Back Loans etc.
As we go into the Christmas season I think we should spare a thought for any families who are unable to have the Christmas they deserve – for whatever reason.
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.