By Anthony McKibbin, Associate Director, Business Risk Services at Grant Thornton in Belfast
Whenever you watch the news or read articles which focus on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on workers and businesses, the message is overtly negative, and to an extent it should be, as many businesses have been irreparably impacted, and some may never recover.
However, with every devastating world or economic event, there are always positives to hold on to, if you are open to looking for them. As the saying goes, “life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it is about learning to dance in the rain”.
There is no doubt that this pandemic has been devastating for many sectors and businesses, and regardless of the optimism about how quickly things can restart, for many businesses this will take significant time, if at all.
What has been impressive throughout the lockdown is the ability of so many businesses, sole traders, and organisations to adapt and survive. They could all bunker down and wait for the pandemic to pass, and then carry on business as usual, but it is invigorating to see so many businesses not just surviving but succeeding.
It is impressive to see the flexibility and adaptability of businesses to develop new products, to change their method of operations, and for staff to work remotely. This is not to forget the contribution of the key workers in the supply chain, who have continued to physically go to work throughout this.
Many businesses, who at the start of the lockdown were looking at releasing staff, furloughing employees, or potential closure are now either diversifying their focus or production. They are supporting other businesses to re-open with the addition of social distancing measures or putting their operations online.
Many are using this time to re-evaluate what they do, their priorities and reviewing their processes to better understand how and why they do things.
COVID-19 has pressed a huge reset button for many businesses. Countless articles nudge people to use this time wisely; to develop themselves, learn new skills, study, but this is also an opportunity for businesses to do the same.
Many companies are now re-evaluating their ways of working, reviewing product offerings, changing to online services, assessing their flexibility, and remote working policies.
It may be some time before we are back to work as ‘normal’, and it seems certain that we will all have a ‘new normal’. All businesses should use this time to re-evaluate their priorities, objectives, processes, and determine where efficiency savings could be made, whether financial or in terms of staff time.
They should look at what they have learned about their companies as a result of the lockdown, loss of staff, furlough, or remote working, and how their business has adapted to survive.
I believe that people learn more from the difficult times than they do from the easy times. Resilience is built by enduring the tough times, and emerging stronger. After this pandemic, for many businesses, trying to carry on as before will not work.
Many companies can achieve immediate survival and future success by reviewing what they do and why, re-balancing operations, and re-prioritising. Business as we know it will never be the same again.
For further information or advice, Anthony McKibbin can be contacted at email@example.com
Grant Thornton (NI) LLP specialises in audit, tax and advisory services.