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Gloucestershire Business News

Reflecting on 2020: Here's to 2021 - Felicity Sang of Hazlewoods

By Felicity Sang, director at Hazlewoods 

2020 was a challenge for everyone, but the roll out of the vaccine in recent weeks has brought some welcome light at the start of a new year.

Indeed, the FTSE 100 posted its best start to a year on record in January 2021, according to a fact check by Bloomberg, and many are looking forward to now moving on from 2020 and getting stuck into a more positive 2021.

The question now stands: should we be ignoring 2020 and sweeping the events under the carpet, or should we be learning lessons for the future?

As with many momentous events there are often winners, in this instance technology companies and online retailers, and losers, much of the high street retail and hospitality industry. Even for those businesses in between, however, there are silver linings in the coronavirus pandemic and businesses that have been able to survive are finding that they have left 2020 as stronger and fitter companies than at the beginning of the year.

While there remains significant support from the Government to boost UK economic recovery, as detailed by the Chancellor in his spending review in November 2020 where he prioritised jobs, businesses and public services and allocated £280 billion to get the country through the coronavirus pandemic, many organisations are finding that the changes they implemented in order to survive have consequently led to more efficient ways of operating or are now embracing the diversification they adopted for the longer term.

In recent months, the recurring themes discussed in the business community include:

  • We were forced to make hard decisions regarding cost-cutting that we knew needed to be made.
  • We had to implement planned technology changes sooner than planned.
  • We have had to refocus on our core strengths and USPs.

Some of these decisions have led to redundancies and some closures where businesses have needed to divest divisions or businesses are no longer viable; but many businesses now have a renewed focus on their strategic strengths, with increased productivity and lower overheads, such that they are well placed to benefit from the recovery of the UK economy in 2021 and beyond.

We have spoken to two business leaders, who have focused on their strengths to not only survive 2020, but face 2021 stronger and fitter than before. We asked them what their takeaways are from 2020 and what New Year's resolutions they plan to keep in 2021 to maintain their growth beyond the impact of the pandemic:

Tim Greenway, director of Highfield Garden World, referred to Winston Churchill's sentiment "never let a good crisis go to waste", and has looked back at whether 2020 was a good crisis: "From our own business perspective, both terrible and good. Terrible in that we had to cease trading completely and suffered significant stock losses. Good, from the hard way that we have had to look at all aspects of the business, at our customers and staff and of course, our suppliers.

Staff numbers have had to be revised to ensure the business remains viable while trading conditions are so uncertain. Plans for future expansion, which had already been agreed and would have started in 2020, have been looked at again and are now being altered as we review where we feel our profits will come from in the next 5 to 10 years. Cash [at the tills] is gone, with hardly a murmur and in our heart of hearts, we hope it never comes back. The cost savings to the business alone are enormous. Opportunities for the business have come out of this pandemic and we plan to adapt accordingly.

Gary Sheppard, chairman and managing director of Pulse Printing Products, commented that the main thing that changed and he thinks is here for good is the expansion of Zoom/Team conference call. "How much it replaces face to face contact remains to be seen but certainly we are all far more comfortable in this medium and I am sure a lot more business communication will be carried out this way".

Many of the decision's businesses have had to make have understandably involved considering restructuring of business or cash flow modelling to identify weaknesses and potential opportunities. No matter the size of your business, the start of a new year provides an opportunity to look back and identify the benefits that have come out of 2020 and to plan how to capitalize on these throughout 2021 and beyond.

If you need advice for your business in 2021 with strategy, planning, cash flow, or other topics discussed here, please get in touch with Felicity Sang at felicity.sang@hazlewoods.co.uk or 01242 680000.

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