How will work patterns change once Coronavirus restrictions have eased?

When working life resumes properly once Coronavirus restrictions have eased people may find that their work patterns are substantially different from previously.

While, sadly, some SMEs will not have survived others may find that their agility and perhaps new innovations introduced during lockdown will have given their businesses a new lease of life for the future.

Those who have shown consideration for their employees, suppliers and customers will have built up a level of goodwill that will stand them in good stead for the future.

I shall examine in another blog those businesses, sectors and processes that may benefit from the changed landscape but in this blog I am focusing on the likely changes to business work patterns and the relationships between employers and their stakeholders.

Because, of course, employers are also people, they will have discovered that they and their families are no more immune to the health risks of the pandemic than any of their employees.

This may well...

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Has the Coronavirus lockdown exposed the weaknesses of many business models?

Robust business models should be based on a clear proposition with a plan for profitable activity.

Each model is essentially a road map of how money will flow from activity.

Business models are a financial expression of the company’s business plan in a way that summarises the strategy, funding, organisation and processes used to achieve objectives.

Given that unforeseen roadblocks and successes will occur, business models should be reviewed regularly and adapted depending on new circumstances and new information.

Tools for refining the model are also useful, such as a SWOT analysis to identify Strengths, and Opportunities to be exploited and Threats and Weaknesses to be avoided.

While arguably, few businesses and especially SMEs, will have had plans to cope with the coronavirus pandemic, it has affected most businesses in ways that were not foreseen. The lockdown has also exposed how little resilience they may have built into their business models to protect from such a...

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How to manage an efficient online conference

As we all adjust to the new realities of working remotely while we self-isolate during the Coronavirus pandemic, we still need to maintain contact with staff, clients, suppliers and others where online conference calls and video meetings are proving much better than the phone.

But how do you avoid an online conference descending into anarchy with people talking over each other?

There are some simple rules that are not so different from those we adopt during face-to-face meetings.

One of the meeting platforms that is becoming increasingly popular during the pandemic has been Zoom, but there are plenty of others such as Microsoft Teams, Skype for Business and even WhatsApp. Security is an issue and all are constantly improving their security measures following concerns about uninvited intruders, in particular for Zoom which seems to have become the most popular platform.

It is important that the chair should host (convene) and be familiar with the technology since each platform has...

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Emotional Honesty at work – mutual respect turns a negative into a positive

There are many situations in our working life that have the potential to damage relationships with colleagues and managers and it takes emotional honesty to confront them.

Disagreements are inevitable especially where individuals are ambitious and want the best for the business and its goals. There are often many solutions to problems and teams need to learn how to share differing ideas without disagreements being seen as confrontation and in particular avoiding individuals being afraid of others in such a way that they don’t contribute.

Team decision making doesn’t necessarily mean agreement but is should be positive, especially when the team is needed to implement the decision. Sophisticated teams may explore decision making as a form of idea meritocracy by considering the knowledge and expertise of each contributor rather than team democracy where everyone is equal, or worse, where overconfident individuals, bullies or HiPPOs (Highest Paid Person’s Opinion) make...

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Running a small business is a juggling act

A YouGov study has found that small business owners identified most strongly with the analogy of a juggling act when asked about running their businesses.

The analogy was strongest in the North West, in Yorkshire and Humberside, where 63 per cent in each region compared themselves to jugglers.

Bookkeeping was rated the biggest chore by 27% of the 1000 respondents, while 42 per cent of respondents believed central government added to the hassle for small businesses.

As an analogy it makes sense where dropping one ball can cause a knock on effect such as the consequences of not having contingency plans or missed payments or failure to file Tax Returns.

Among the issues identified in an article in The Economist on the same subject is knowing the right time to take certain steps in a business.   In that sense, it argues, the juggling act is a permanent exercise in balancing a variety of trade-offs. Such as holding high stock levels can help avoid the consequences of being let...

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If you want more effective meetings don’t use PowerPoint or bullet points

leadership productivity Jan 14, 2020

Effective meetings depend on discussion that is constructive and to the point, and on wasting as little time as possible.

It has been calculated that the average executive spends around 50 percent of his or her time in meetings of which at least a third are useless.

This was the finding of a 3M study carried out by Annenberg school of communications, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, in 1989.

Studying effective meetings has been ongoing for years and certainly since the 1960s and there has been a growing body of evidence to support the 1989 findings, which suggests that executive productivity could be much improved.

There is an assumption that using lists or PowerPoint presentations can result in more effective meetings, but in fact, this has proven to be incorrect, as Amazon CEO @Jeff Bezos and subsequently others have proved.

A couple of years ago Bezos banned the use of PowerPoint and bullet point slides in executive meetings requiring instead that...

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Diversity of thought is about more than challenging stereotypes and ticking a box

Too often the word diversity as applied to directors of companies is seen as demonstrating representation by gender, ethnicity, religion, and possibly of age. But it should actually be about more than that, it should also be about diversity of thought and ideas.

The challenges facing businesses in the 21st Century are becoming more complex and happening at a faster pace so it makes sense to have people at board level who think differently and can communicate their ideas.

In a recent survey carried out by Social Mobility Pledge as reported by The Times newspaper, the researchers found that by and large “who you know” was still the most important factor when promoting staff.

Sadly, the inference from this is that recruitment tends to favour like-minded people, which is hardly helpful to businesses wanting to avoid being stuck in a rut.

The ability to challenge the status quo at all levels and in particular a board level was a topic discussed in a recent vimeo by Kenneth...

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Directors of companies in financial difficulties should be aware of their pay and perks!

Executive pay and perks have been creeping up the agenda with politicians and the public increasingly questioning the rewards given to top CEOs when companies fail.

But should this be done well before any potential failure and in particular when highly paid executives are seeking support for the restructuring and reorganisation initiatives that is necessary when their company is in financial difficulties?

Leadership involves setting an example and when the chips are down this means making demonstrable self-sacrifices.

This week, the Financial Times reported that Standard Chartered bank CEO Bill Winters may have his total pay cut and Namal Nawana will be leaving his CEO role at Smith & Nephew after less than a year after investors turned down his request to increase his $6m package to nearer $18m-$20m.

But it is not only executive pay that has come under fire, this is also true of pensions and other executive benefits.

In September the influential investor group IA (The...

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WeWork reminds us why we should not rely on charismatic leaders and the investment bank advisers who flatter them

This week the new management of WeWork the business space property rental company announced that it was preparing to axe 2,000, or 13%, of its workforce.

It has been calculated that up to 5,000, or a third, of the workforce will ultimately have to go.

This is the latest episode in an increasingly sorry saga, which last month saw its co-founder Adam Neumann step down as chief executive and relinquish control over the company. Mr Neumann also returned $5.9m worth of stock to the firm, which he had controversially received in exchange for his claim over the “We” trademark.

After announcing its intention to launch on the US stock market earlier in the year, the company, which has more than 500 locations in 29 countries, had to postpone its plans when its viability and corporate governance came under closer scrutiny.

The business, which was estimated to be worth some $47bn when the intended float was first unveiled has since had its credit rating downgraded by...

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Is an Employee Ownership Trust the way forward to show your workers they are valued?

In May this year Julian Richer gave his employees shares in the company through an Employee Ownership Trust (EOT) whereby they will own 60% of the business.

Announcing the decision, Richer said that he felt it was better to do it now he had reached the age of 60, than to wait until his death, as originally intended. This way, he said, he could ensure the transition would go smoothly.

Richer Sounds, the hi-fi and TV retail chain, since it was set up in 1978 has survived the last five recessions and is regarded as one of the best companies to work for.

Julian Richer’s success as founder and owner can very much be attributed to his commitment to his employees which includes initiatives such as an extra day of holiday on their birthday, heavily discounted access to holiday homes for all employees with over six month’s service, a month’s use of the company Bentley to the store that has scored highest on customer service each month and chiropody treatment and massages...

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