Preparing your business for 2021
Jon Vanstone, chair of Certass Trade Association, talks about the value of preparation and what we can learn from 2020
At the start of 2020 we talked about what is coming over the horizon and our need to ensure that our industry is ready to respond.
This year is no exception, with the review of Future Home Standards for existing buildings, early requirements in preparation of the incoming Building Safety Regulator, and changes surrounding competency of businesses and individuals.
However, a significant lesson from 2020 is that businesses and individuals need to extend their view of the horizon and be more prepared and flexible than ever before. The traditional reality experienced by so many smaller firms within construction is a vision of only up to three months ahead based on known revenue pipelines and supply of products.
The lockdowns of 2020, and continuing into 2021, have shown that the unthinkable can occur and business-as-usual has been redefined. The impact of Brexit is not entirely clear as the rushed deal has left so much to tidy up, not least concerning the rules of origin as applied to manufacturing when selling into the EU.
The economy is shrinking, and it is clear that many firms will struggle in the first half of 2021 to get on to a solid footing with so much disruption around.
The lockdowns have driven firms to re-evaluate their finances, increase communications to their customer base, improve their use of technology, check their insurances and consider exactly what they sell now and in the future.
We know that as businesses we need to be more flexible. IT has become more critical and central to forward strategies, to aid communication, and to drive pipelines damaged by the regulations required to combat Covid. The new rules introduced in late 2020 concerning selling are aligning to the position of organisations such as Which? and Trading Standards that want greater limits on the process of selling within the home.
Firms need to ensure they have some form of online presence and look to platforms such as Facebook to attract local customers to bolster pipelines.
Such is the changing market that it has become critical for construction businesses to have access to trade associations that are at the forefront of information dissemination. Those associations that just regurgitate government information are doing nothing for their members who can simply sign up to government alerts to receive this. The key is to be able to interpret the narrative and be willing to share your views and stand by your position.
Certass took a huge step forward during Covid when its enhanced connection to expertise, and government ensured a continual feed of information and opinion to its 3,500 members. Certass cares about its market. That’s why when other construction membership bodies, fresh from collecting annual renewal fees, were furloughing staff to protect their own finances, Certass risked what it had and adopted a seven-days a week digital communication position, as this is when members needed it the most.
Businesses throughout glazing will need to consider what they need to ensure their future. Beyond an IT strategy and access to pertinent, timely information, there is a need to consider what you buy and sell and ensure your supply chain is guaranteed or you have alternate suppliers. Crucially, we need to know that there is always work that you can do or money that you can fall back on.
Installers who work on conservatories or roofing were far more resistant to the pandemic than traditional window and door fitters, because this outdoor work makes it easier to isolate from residents. Having that extra string to your bow should be seriously considered during 2021, as work in the home currently comes with greater risk, both in terms of the virus and the threat of restrictions to trade.
Many of us will have started the year by making a new plan to tackle the road ahead. We know this virus will be here for most of the year in one form or another, and we have to adapt to this and all the other impacts as the UK heads towards a double dip recession.
I hope by the time we all meet at the FIT Show at end of September we will be able to talk about successes and positive adaption to change, so that the negative impact from 2020 is starting to fade in the memory.