How are you doing? In this new world I’m finding this to be a common initial question before meetings. Before answering I think we all pause and consider a little more than we would have done in the past. So how are we really doing?
Covid-19 has impacted all of us. From those infected by this dreadful virus to the frontline NHS staff caring for them, to the key workers keeping us going. In our first world society its wider affect has been in the form of a biblical scale of lockdown, bringing all of our lives into an abrupt detour.
Prior to the crisis, Harbinson Mulholland (HM) in conjunction with Ulster University Business School had planned to launch the latest Homegrown list of the most successful SME businesses on March 26, three days after lockdown. We had launched this Homegrown campaign to shine a light on the SME businesses rooted in NI that play such a vital role in underpinning our local economy. As an independent accountancy practice also rooted in NI our culture and values align strongly with this sector. A sector that will be critical in pulling us through this situation.
At HM our key primary concern was our team and our existing clients. Like so many businesses we moved quickly to establish a secure remote office environment. As a team of 50 we rely heavily on expertise provided by our external IT supplier CMI, which incidentally is another company rooted in NI. Once operational in this new virtual office environment we set about reaching out to our clients and assisting them in navigating the immediate financial challenges posed by such a massive shut down in the economy. We see evidence from our client interactions of resilience, creativity, and inventiveness.
Massive government intervention in the form of the Job Retention Scheme, grants, Bounce Back and CBILS lending is welcome. As a practice we have been focused on speaking into the individual circumstances of each of our clients and helping them to identify the best solutions. Video calls and technology can facilitate remote working but one thing is clear – relationships matter even more. For SMEs those relationships start with the people in our businesses and extend out to our customers, suppliers, stakeholders and communities.
HM’s approach is based on the bedrock of client service, care and excellence in what we do. Our team are well placed to advise clients in areas such as corporate reconstruction, cashflow management and specialist tax advice to help businesses rooted in NI survive and thrive post pandemic. In addition to this as an independent practice we too have had to work through the operational and financial challenges posed which provides a commercial footing for our advice when we engage with local SMEs.
The ongoing shock of Covid-19 on the business landscape is going to have a structural effect on the sectors of businesses that emerge post shutdown. I’m not a great believer in being able to predict the future with any degree of accuracy, particularly when it comes to economies. But people live and act on hope and the exceptional leaders in the clients that we work with are already creating that hope. Based on this I’m sure of one thing, businesses rooted in NI will find a way through. The entrepreneurial spirit runs deep in NI and our conversations with clients over the last few months have demonstrated this time and again.
In times of crisis, sometimes a fresh pair of eyes and ears can be useful for anyone running a business and we can offer this to NI based businesses, our homegrown community.