OPS-BOX thinking outside the box for answers
By Rob Freeman | 5th June 2020
The business world - and beyond - has changed since Hayley Parker and Richard Neale launched OPS-BOX Group at the start of March.
The company was created to provide a support mechanism to businesses with their strategic growth plans and almost straight away observed many businesses find themselves in limbo, waiting to see what awaited when things slowly returned to normal.
OPS-BOX's founders quickly appreciated the need to tailor their service to provide relevant and important advice and guidance on supporting businesses emerging into a potentially different commercial world.
An online session entitled Planning for Recovery earlier this week - alongside Cheltenham solicitors Hughes Paddison and chartered accountants Harper Sheldon, their neighbours at Staverton - spelled out the need to sit down and plan for the future.
And having to adapt their own business plans in its opening weeks, their help is available to help steer businesses pro-actively through that process.
Mr Neale, a former commercial banking relationship director and senior manager, said: "We have shaped and positioned our own strategy and service offering to meet the current requirements of what business needs at this difficult time.
"We could never have envisaged we would be in this situation but it's about learning to adapt, to be commercially aware and to appreciate that, temporarily at least, business needs have changed.
"We have drilled down to offer something that is specific, real and relevant to this time."
He continued: "We have that collective engagement and desire to use our combined experience.
"Our offering is unique as myself and Hayley have complementary skills and experience, so clients get the input of two minds, not just one person with a singular line of thought, we bounce off each other for the benefit of the business. And obviously we are completely independent."
Mrs Parker, who has provided interim management to businesses focussed on business development, operational planning and project work around the globe since Lloyds seven years ago, admits there is not one right answer.
She said: "We have structured support packages available for clients, but equally we can adapt to more bespoke support and guidance if required. That's the benefit of our combined experience.
"We share best practise because that's clearly what we should be doing, but how it is delivered will be based on how that business wants to do it.
"Because of our differing backgrounds and experiences, we can be that one-stop shop for businesses, we can support them in any aspects of their journey and where there are areas we don't get involved in, we have trusted and respected partners we can introduce."
While the pair stress the importance of planning, OPS-BOX will remain at a company's side as that plan is put into place.
"Where we are different is that we can be very hands on, actively helping to support a business every step of the way," said Mrs Parker.
"We will help a business develop a plan that's right for them, but we can also work with owners/directors and their teams to implement that plan, to operationalise it, to deliver it and I think that's where we are unique.
"With us, you will get both sides of the coin - you will get planning, both strategic and operational and if you need finance we can support you with that.
"But iwe will also roll our sleeves up and actually do the doing on your behalf if that's needed."
While certain elements of what the company can offer - and what their clients needs - have changed during the coronavirus crisis, the core message remains the same.
"We've not changed what our service is offering, we've just packaged and focused it on the here and now," she said.
"Our offering is focused around our five core pillars - planning, operations, people, growth and finance and all of those things are at the heart our support packages."
She continued: "We published a durability framework focussed on businesses needing to have durability and being able to manage through and out of the crisis. We've used this framework to structure our business recovery planning discussions.
"The first phase of the framework is survival which most businesses are now through. They've looked at their costs and how they can reduce those them.
"Now's the time to look at the decisions made in the survival phase and consider whether those decisions are for the long term or whether they were immediate actions."
After that comes sustaining the business and ensuring it is able to operate again and safely. The third phase is then focused on strategic planning.
"For each of the phases it's about focusing on financials, operations and people," she said.
"It's about looking at things differently and planning, using three different scenarios best, worst and realistic case. The starting point is financial forecasting as this will drive you to think about what your sales could look like and analyse your costs.
"Once you understand that, you can start having the conversations about whether you have the opportunity to diversify to drive more sales, or open up new channels. Areas you may have been thinking about anyway or were just too busy to take forward.
She continued: "It's then about looking at your operating model - how you operate your business, and what the relationship is between sales and operational needs and this will be different depending on which scenario you are looking at.
"The market is quite different to what it was two months ago so you may need to diversify or focus on one particular area."
Mr Neale believes the amount of government funding handed out during the pandemic provides a challenge for businesses to work out how best to use it once they have got through survival mode.
Many are sat on the finance they have raised without an immediate plan for that money. There are many options, but planning can highlight the best of these.
He said: "We were talking to someone about sustainability and there's a very good challenge out there - if you are sat on some money, could you seek to make your business more sustainable? More environmentally conscious?
"They are open-ended questions but some businesses can absolutely do that and are well positioned to do that."
He believes the whole process of securing the right funding is changing along with the business environment.
"I've a banking background but I've also had exposure to the whole of the financial market and I think that's an important consideration as we move forwards," he said
"The banks have generally done pretty well in difficult circumstances with these coronavirus loans and bounce back loans, but the landscape of the financial and banking world is inevitably going to be very different from how it is now.
"It is vital that all avenues are considered to protect businesses financial future and I can see massive changes."
He continued: "Businesses need to be aware that there's 220-odd lenders out there, not just four high street banks and they have a wide range of financial products and services.
"Yes, you've got your government funding but if you haven't, you may well be looking at a cashflow crisis at some stage in the future as we build back. How are you going to deal with that? Would you know where to turn?
"Are you taking the right actions now to convince a lender in six months' time that they should support you? There's lots to consider."
OPS-BOX has developed essential support packages to help businesses on their road to recovery from a one-off brainstorming session to full business recovery planning and support with securing the right funding. They offer an initial free no obligatory discovery meeting.
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