As lockdown measures continue to ease, and the region is re-thinking its way to a new economy, focus must now be placed on how businesses can prepare for life post COVID-19.

In the Midlands, we work hard to understand the needs of entrepreneurial businesses in every corner of the region. Today, we take a closer look at what companies based in the Black Country can consider. A recovery action plan is already in motion, specifically tailored to help the West Midlands economy bounce back quickly once lockdown restrictions are lifted. A first ever regional impact meeting held in May has also set out priorities for the Black Country, including support for the region’s automotive sector and more flexibility in the Government’s furlough scheme.

These measures come amid reports that the West Midlands could be the UK’s hardest hit region. Research from the West Midlands Regional Economic Development Institute (WM REDI) shows that 65% of businesses say their cash reserves are dwindling fast and will be gone within six months, raising fears for their longer-term survival.

It’s certainly not all doom and gloom. We should all be encouraged by the innovation, resilience and care demonstrated by Black Country businesses in recent months. One such example is Select Healthcare Group which ranked at sixth in BDO’s last Black Country Report. At a challenging time for the care sector, the business launched a heartfelt service to help families to stay in touch with loved-ones by sending digital postcards to those they’re unable to visit because of COVID-19.

We’ve also seen huge innovation in manufacturing with businesses responding to the national efforts and adapting products. The Black Country continues to be synonymous with manufacturing excellence, so many businesses are already open and operational with social distancing measures.

What should Black Country businesses consider to help them succeed post COVID-19?

  • Financial – taking steps to maximise cashflow and financial headroom is essential as companies review their activities and plan for a range of outcomes.
  • Legal and compliance – the UK Government’s response to the crisis has proliferated a raft of new legislation designed to help keep businesses trading and protect the rights of employees.
  • Suppliers – you may need to change your supply chain to enhance resilience and protect against new outbreaks of the virus.
  • Premises – when previously closed buildings reopen, there will be a heightened awareness around the need for effective maintenance strategies and a prime focus on health and safety of employees to reduce the future risk of COVID-19 transmission.
  • Employees – getting people back to work takes careful planning to ensure the business is not overwhelmed and to guarantee the safety of employees. Communication is key, together with timing, resource constraints, identifying skill-sets, and reviewing HR policies to include flexible working arrangements and incentive plans.
  • Customers – It’s essential you engage with customers, establish demand and focus on the most important business streams, which may be high-margin, or quick to turn to cash.
  • Management and leadership – management need to ensure collaboration across all business streams as business and financial plans are developed for a phased return to work. Focus must be on scenario-planning, constant monitoring and communications.

Decisions management teams take now as they adapt and re-think their processes and routes to market will govern how successful their business is in the future, not just now. Get it right and organisations could leverage competitive advantage for years to come.

To find out more information on building resilience and how to recover from a crisis, read our guide ‘Recovering from a crisis and boosting resilience’ which offers practical guidance for companies on where to concentrate.

Paul Townson is a Tax Partner at BDO.

“As lockdown measures continue to ease, and the Black Country region is re-thinking its way to a new economy, focus must now be placed on how businesses can prepare for life post COVID-19.”

Paul Townson, Tax Partner at BDO

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