I think it is fair to say that even in our wildest dreams few of us could have predicted the swift and brutal impact of the Covid-19 pandemic that swept across the entire globe in 2020.
I think it is fair to say that even in our wildest dreams few of us could have predicted the swift and brutal impact of the Covid-19 pandemic that swept across the entire globe in 2020. From early news stories of a ‘flu like’ virus in China, to the advent of a full lockdown in the UK in March, there was little time for anyone to prepare for how this might affect the country on a personal and economic level.
Whilst businesses spend a lot of time looking at what challenges they may be likely to face in the future, we can never predict when a pandemic or some other natural disaster might occur. It is, however, a fact of life that at some point there is likely to be some other unfortunate set of circumstances that will take us by surprise. With this in mind, this month’s topic aims to look at what businesses can do to develop the resilience needed to weather any future lockdowns.
Firstly, with the pandemic apparently becoming more under control, and the year drawing to a close, now is the perfect time to give the idea of resilience some thought. We can all learn from the lessons of early lockdown and spend valuable time reflecting on what went wrong and what went right, as well as considering what we can to help improve our responses to any future extreme circumstances that we find ourselves in. There may of course be a realisation for franchisees that there are several things they don’t want to change, and new business processes and procedures may have emerged during this emergency that they now wish to retain because they have been proved to increase efficiency.
Most businesses quickly embraced new technologies that enabled them to communicate effectively and more regularly with their franchisees and management teams - albeit in a virtual manner. We all became adept at working from home, realising the pros and cons of doing so, and I am sure many of us are cherry picking the best of these new arrangements to help improve how we work going forward. There was also a recognition amongst teams of how important it was to be there for each other, providing support, stability and leadership at times when the world felt like a very unstable and frightening place. Team work certainly contributes to developing resilience and I think it is vital that these levels of support and communication continue throughout the post-lockdown era. In addition, further investment in technology should be encouraged, whilst taking care to retain those elements of personal human touch that are so valued by clients who want to be reassured that they are not being dealt with by machines.
The Belvoir Group, which focuses on letting and selling property via our franchise brands of Belvoir, Newton Fallowell, Northwood, Lovelle and Nicholas Humphreys, came out of lockdown better than any of us could ever have predicted. Most of our franchisees protected 90% of their income despite their doors being closed and as a Group we outperformed our 2020 pre-covid expectations despite several lockdowns and all the challenges of the pandemic. This was a fantastic achievement and great credit must go to the tenacity and professionalism of our franchisees who fought like lions to protect and grow their businesses. As a result of their determination, plus an incredibly buoyant property market, and the ability of franchisees to take advantage of government schemes such as furlough and stamp duty holidays, all three of the markets in which we operate increased dramatically with lettings up 21%, property sales up 78% and financial services up 51%. We are now confident of achieving a strong trading performance for the whole year.
The success of the Belvoir Group has been remarkable, but it is also due to a willingness to invest in earnings enhancing businesses that have the potential to expand our property and financial services divisions. When choosing a franchise to invest in it is worth looking at what strategies have been implemented in the past to grow the business and enquiring what plans are in place to help pandemic-proof the franchise in the future.