In the here and now, it can be hard to look at a different kind of future, even if that future is just a few short months away.
Working within the here and now is probably taking every ounce of your energy and drive, and I think we all appreciate what it currently requires keeping businesses ticking over, employees supported, and clients happy. These are by no means easy times for anyone.
To look ahead too far might seem to tempt fate but even during this current situation, I think it’s possible to put in place plans and preparations which will be relevant and beneficial should a similar issue arise. These can be the weeks in which a number of learnings can be derived from this predicament and firms can be honest about whether they were in the best shape possible to deal with such ‘black swan’ moments.
Because the reality of the situation is likely to be that a similar period will happen again. That those ‘once in a lifetime’ market disruptions – such as this pandemic or the Credit Crunch – are not ‘once in a lifetime’ at all; in fact, they are likely to happen more frequently and their fall-out will be much longer lasting.
So, what does that mean for your business and your future? We may all need to ask ourselves some particularly harsh questions, the answers of which will shape what we do next:
- Did I have enough cash reserves in the bank in order to work through such an environment?
- Have I been utilising the right technology in order to run my business and communicate with clients?
- Was the move to remote working seamless with little interruption? If not, why not?
- Do I have the right staff in the right roles? Which employees were worth their weight in gold?
- Have I neglected key areas of the market over the past few years? Do I carry out enough ancillary sales? What sectors have grown in demand and yet I don’t provide advice on them?
- Was I partnered with the right distributors, packagers, clubs and lenders? What support and benefit did I get from them? Was it enough and, if not, where should I look next?
- Was my business disruption plan up to date or relevant for dealing with such a crisis?
- Is my business ready to go through this again?
These are just a few questions, the answers to which will help you determine where you go next with your business and may ultimately lead you in a very different direction in the future. Perhaps they will outline the opportunities that have been staring you in the face for months, or perhaps they’ll show you where the deficiencies are in your business and what you need to do to rectify them.
As mentioned, difficult times often create difficult questions that require difficult answers. It might be nice to think that things will quickly go back to normal but this is unlikely and it may well be that your business model and approach pre-virus is simply not going to suffice when the lockdown is over, or when physical valuations start up again, or when clients come to you looking for mortgage finance but they are now in arrears, or when you’ve had to make tough decisions about the staff you need and where you want to focus your business in the years ahead?
The landscape will have changed; the virus will have changed us and might present far-reaching challenges that require a different approach, a greater understanding of different clients, their needs, and the product solutions available to them. You might be starting to see this already and, like many lenders, you may need to cut your cloth accordingly in order to continue activity levels and profitability.
So, while it is a tricky exercise, the learnings from this period are already likely to be available. We’re all doing what we can to get through, but this will not be the status quo for too much longer, and we must be adaptable and prepared for what comes next and what future disruption may come our way. We have the chance to put (if you’ll pardon the pun) much firmer foundations down now to deal with this and the future.
Honesty will be the best policy, and, from that honesty, you’ll be able to create your own future.
Jeff Knight is director of marketing at Foundation Home Loans