Damian Walters: Remain optimistic in recession

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As the publicity surrounding the cost-of-living crisis continues to create hysteria, and the October energy price rise date looms closer, it is important that businesses of all sizes in our sector remain optimistic.

The crisis will inevitably affect us all, both financially and emotionally, and whilst those in the know seem fairly certain the UK will lurch into recession, it is important that we remember that the construction and home improvement sectors are usually amongst the first to bounce back – despite typically being amongst the first to be impacted by economic downturns.
Another positive point to consider is that the KBB industry is still riding the crest of an unprecedented uplift in demand for home improvement and construction, which if managed smartly, I hope will help businesses reduce the impact of any recession – especially if it is as short-lived as is being predicted.

Whilst I am no Martin Lewis, my advice is a bit of a no-brainer and is two-fold.

Firstly, planning is key. Typically, a good sound business will have a five-year plan, but to weather the latest storm on the horizon, businesses should shorten their forecasts and focus on the next 12-24 months. And those that do not plan – now is the time to start! It seems simple, but it is worth just pausing for a second and evaluating that. Business plans should be written in pencil and businesses should be nimble.

Secondly, I do not believe that cutting your way to profitability is the answer. Working smarter will be far more effective overall, especially if the downturn is short lived. We must live in hope that any financial crisis is concluded promptly and remember that the health of our businesses, and indeed the industry, is as critical post-event as it is today… and we are not in great shape today!

As an example, training and development is one area of investment that is typically the first casualty in a financial crisis but, in my opinion, should become a focal point. I believe that we should do everything in our power to preserve and protect Learning and Development, and the sustainable knowledge it delivers. Any suspension of play in this area could result in decades of damage – time we simply cannot afford to lose.

Does a business have to cut jobs, close outlets, and retract? Yes, these are options, but working smarter feels like a solution that will help us to better prepare for the other side.

If we look at the hospitality sector, this is an industry that struggled to recover post-Covid. Why? Because it was amongst the first to make its people casualties. Droves left, and when the time was right, droves did not return. Unskilled labour was the only option, and the net result is that businesses have struggled as standards dropped.

So, rather than slump into anxious pessimism or panicking with cutbacks, shorten your forecasts, plan for twelve to 24 months and invest in your business and its future. Let us not undo the great work that has been achieved.

Strength in numbers is critical. We should stick together, look out for each other, and have the faith in ourselves, our businesses and this amazing industry to weather the storm and bounce back stronger than ever.

Together Stronger.uary 2023. For sponsorship opportunities, please contact comms@bikbbi.org.uk.

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