Are we heading towards a winter of discontent?

Are we heading towards a winter of discontent?

Shipping delays, rising input prices, employment issues – you flagged them all and your insights into business challenges – and opportunities – have been shared with Government. Now it’s time for another Pulse Check to see how you’ve fared in the first quarter of the year and where you see things going as we head towards our second COVID winter.

The Autumn Pulse Check is now live and you can access it here http://bit.ly/AutumnPulseCheck. Your response provides accurate information as to the current health and outlook for businesses.

The thinking behind our quarterly Pulse Check is simple — you keep your business going and we are here to keep you, the business owner, on track and equipped to cope in our current times.

Your insights ensure we continue to have the right resources to help you and, by listening and understanding your perspectives, we can better support your needs.

We also make your views heard by sharing your perspective with Government and policy makers who have shown a keen interest in what you have to say – for example, the results from our first quarter Pulse Check were discussed in detail with Small Business Minister Hon. Stuart Nash and your insights will be presented to him again once the results are in.

The link to the survey is here http://bit.ly/AutumnPulseCheck so please, do tell us how you are, how you’re managing and how you’re feeling about the future. As a thank you, when you’ve finished the short survey — it takes just a few minutes — you can enter the draw for a complimentary business coaching session.

You can access results from last year’s Pulse Checks here on our website.

Tackling the stressors – great minds make good progress

Tackling the stressors – great minds make good progress

We’re not immune to employment issues here in Northland and one of the areas we frequently discuss at our peer board meetings is how to overcome the skills shortage in the region.

Employment issues are one of the top stressors for business owners in the small-to-medium sector, as identified in our Summer Pulse Check, and although Northland has managed to maintain a reasonable economic performance through the first stages of COVID19, our people shortage persists. One certainty we have is knowing that it helps to talk through such challenges with like-minded business owners – which is where The Alternative Board comes in.

Together, we’ve looked at solutions to the skills shortage ranging from partnerships with educational establishments, more apprenticeships and building company culture to sponsoring potential employees to help them gain the skills they need – and we are still exploring other initiatives that may help us bridge the gap.

As well as identifying the stressors, the Pulse Check discovered what would most help business owners get through this year – 43% said a chat with other business owners and specialist advice would be just the thing and is another area where working with a peer board provides a solution.

Big companies pay a board of directors to provide advice and solutions but private business owners don’t have that luxury – they have to figure things out by themselves which can be tough, stressful and quite lonely. The Alternative Board is exactly what it says it is – a small, confidential alternative to the traditional board of directors. In Northland, I bring together non-competing business owners and leaders who then work together to solve the challenges and opportunities we all face running our own business – whether that’s staffing, funding, cash-flow, sales, input costs – all the issues across all the sectors. I facilitate the groups and together we support, develop and grow our businesses, helping each other succeed.

To help people decide if this approach will help them, we run what’s called a ‘sample board’ – essentially a ‘try before you buy’ session – so if you would like to chew over some of Northland’s business challenges or drill down into the nitty-gritty of your business call me and let’s tackle the stressors together.

Summer’s bright but there are clouds on the horizon

Summer’s bright but there are clouds on the horizon

Confidence is high among our business owners as they come to the end of the summer rested and ready to tackle the significant challenges ahead.

Our Summer Pulse Check – full results here – told us that business owners were rested and recharged but there is growing unease over rising input prices, port disruptions and employment issues.

Confidence is extremely high but there’s no illusion concerning what’s ahead. Results showed a rise in problems associated with working capital, including more late payers, input price rises and disrupted supply chains.

Delays at the port are a major cause of stress along with employment issues and lack of sales but business owners remain buoyant, with plans and ideas ready to take them forward.

Businesses have steeled themselves to constantly expect the unexpected, adapting and changing their business operations to manage the shifting sands of COVID19 alert level changes.

We were a little surprised that confidence remains so high as people were responding to the Pulse Check as Auckland went to Alert Level Three but having survived 2020 and with the vaccination programme about to start perhaps the confidence of Kiwi business owners comes from knowing they are resilient and can adapt to most challenges that come their way.

Confidence boosters included skilled Kiwis coming home as the struggle to fill jobs continues and high on the wish list are more customers and better cash flow. Steps to reduce costs appears to have helped to ease the pressure.

When asked what would help get through 2021, 43% of business owners said a chat with business owners like themselves or some specialist advice would do the job – and that, of course, is what we are here to do. We exist to support small to medium businesses and their owners through the calm and the storms and the insights you share through the Pulse Check allows us to make sure that support and advice is relevant and timely for you and your business. Thank you for taking part – our next check will be in the Autumn – and in the meantime, remember we’re here to help.

The Alternative Board conducted the Summer Pulse Check with 266 members and associates between February 9 – February 16 2021 with a confidence level of 90% and a 5% margin of error.

Ready to get back to business with the Pulse Check

Ready to get back to business with the Pulse Check

It’s time to get back to business and discover how you are getting on. Our February Pulse Check – the first one of the year – is now live and aims to track the progress of small to medium businesses and their owners throughout the year.

The thinking behind our quarterly Pulse Check is simple — you keep your business going and we are here to keep you, the business owner, on track, motivated and equipped to cope in our current times.

Your insights ensure we continue to have the right resources to help you and, by listening to and understanding your perspectives, we can better support your needs. We also make your views heard by sharing your perspective with Government and policy makers who have shown a keen interest in what you have to say.

The link to the survey is here http://bit.ly/PulseCheckFeb so please, tell us how you are, how you’re managing, and how you’re feeling about the future.  As a thank you, when you’ve finished the short survey — it takes just a few minutes — you can enter the draw for a complimentary business coaching session.

You can access results from last year’s Pulse Checks here on our website.

Small Business Pulse Remains Strong As Global Pandemic Progresses

Small Business Pulse Remains Strong As Global Pandemic Progresses

Yes – it’s been a very hard year. Yes – we have all been touched by the tragedies and difficulties presented by COVID19. Yes – there are still some hard months to come but resilience, tenacity and innovation have been the watchwords for small business owners in Aotearoa and, as the COVID19 pandemic continues to rage around the world, they’re getting ready to take on 2021.

Since July, we have been checking the pulse of small businesses, following the progress of their owners and enterprises.  Inevitably there have been worries and difficulties as we collectively figure out how to operate in a pandemic but, overall, businesses outside the hardest hit sectors of tourism, travel and hospitality have demonstrated a remarkable capacity for strength in the face of adversity as they have worked tirelessly to stabilise the heart of the economy.

Amid lockdowns and restrictions, they’ve tackled employment issues, cash flow crises, supply chain and other problems – all at the same time they’ve had to reinvent the way they do business.

During this challenging period, the Pulse Check revealed a rapid rate of growth and opportunity for some, while for others, the life-blood of their business has been drained. Two constants have kept them going – government support and specialist business advice – and the indicators suggest that more government support is needed to help small business owners develop the skills and resources they need to progress. In the report you can access below you’ll be able to see how resilience and optimism has fared during COVID-19 with insights into sectors that have quietly got on with the job, providing for their staff and communities during this exceptional period. There are insights into progress, what’s needed in the years ahead and, as 2021 peers over the horizon, looks at where they are now and where they hope to head next.

Throughout the country we have found that the uncertainties and stresses of 2020 have resulted in an increasing need for the services that we provide, especially so when supported with financial assistance channeled through the Regional Business Partner network.

The Alternative Board’s Steve Wilkinson, based in Christchurch commented: “The resilience shown by our client base in Canterbury has been remarkable and reflects previous experiences.  With careful guidance and a commitment to playing what is in front of them I am delighted to see all of my clients have not only got through the COVID 19 pandemic intact, some are reaping the rewards of being well positioned to take on what is in front of them”.

The Tracker report follows the results of the Pulse Check monthly monitor for small to medium size businesses. Pulse Check was launched so we could listen to our members and associates, discover how they are managing during COVID-19, how they are, what support they need, their views on current challenges, their confidence and the opportunities ahead. You can download a copy of the tracker report here.

We will continue to check the pulse in 2021 with the next edition scheduled for early February.

Each Pulse Check has had a confidence level of 90% and a 5% margin of error.

Credit issues are on the rise

Credit issues are on the rise

Our recent Business Pulse Check showed 7% of respondents have experienced more late payers and defaults, while 4% are struggling to pay creditors. In recent client coaching sessions, I am also noticing that there is an emergence of fiddly credit issues that are starting to take up a little more time for both business owners and their credit staff.  These issues range from company liquidations, more creative excuses for not paying, down to just not paying on time, or paying later than normal. In some cases, the debtor has grown their exposure with the company over recent months without any further analysis of the increasing credit risk.

In a paper I wrote earlier this year on the Changing Face of Credit Risk I emphasised the need to continue to be vigilant with your credit control processes and procedures.

With the Christmas break coming up it is critical that everyone makes sure they have robust processes in place for collecting outstanding debts – including pro-actively following up overdue amounts expediently. Anything left outstanding on Christmas Day is unlikely to be paid until late January, with the resultant impact on your company cashflow at a time when it is most needed.

In the meantime I would suggest you remain focused on the following:

  • Watch for changing signs with any clients i.e. increased exposure/delays or excuses in paying.
  • Where appropriate be pro-active in updating Terms of Trade, particularly in cases where you may not have personal guarantees and exposure is increasing.
  • Use credit checking more regularly for clients who are showing different patterns in their payments.
  • If appropriate, consider registering under the PPSR register.
  • For clients showing changes in trading/payment patterns consider putting in place credit watch processes.
Pulse Check