Dare to dream

Date Published: 03/07/2020 10:28

Jill Thomas says the Sheffield City Region must work as a team to rise to recovery post COVID-19 – because ‘dreams are training for reality’ 

With lockdown easing and businesses planning for recovery, this is a new world and we need to think differently.

I was one of very few people in the area to call the fall in the economy – I predicted between -15 and -20 and it’s -20. Initially I thought that dip would be between six and 12 months, I now think it’s more likely to last 12-18 months.

The government has given immunity to job losses during furlough and on the other side the business community will struggle – there will be redundancies, especially in July and August when businesses must start paying towards furlough. Looking ahead to business recovery, many companies will be currently going through the jobs at risk process.

But as a region we can’t roll over and accept all the negativity – we’re heading towards this together and must form a team to get us through and out the other side.

We must be proactive to ensure we get our market share. Sterling is still low compared to before the EU referendum in 2016. We need to grasp that and promote our region’s products and services. Made in Sheffield / Yorkshire / Great Britain are still iconic brands – we must now elevate them even further.

We need to take the baton the NHS has so wonderfully carried throughout this medical emergency and step up to the mark and take over as businesspeople. We’ve got to dare to dream because dreams are training for reality.

The online ‘click economy’ – which I mentioned in my previous unLTD article – we’ve been forced into during COVID has been detrimental to local business. We’ve got to start spending locally again, it’s essential we support businesses that supported us. My local shop, for example, delivered food seven miles over their city limit to my mum when I was unable to drop it off for her – it’s those acts of kindness that need rewarding by us all.

Our local high street has reopened so we’ve got to encourage people to spend money in South Yorkshire shops to make businesses robust and keep jobs in the region.

It’s really important businesses re-forecast cash flow plans and are realistic. People think there’s going to be no change – there will be, and it will be significant. At Future Life, we’ve gone to businesses and said: ‘Give us your worst-case scenario and we’ll help you through it’.

Pension pots are an area of our industry people might not think of first off, but they can be invaluable. It’s a complex area and not readily available for all businesses, but in certain circumstances they can be absolutely beneficial and I’m proud to say we’ve already helped save jobs using this pensions fund methodology where other avenues couldn’t. 

The other issue is pride which – as the old saying goes – comes before a fall. Businesses cannot be too proud because it’s not failing, COVID-19 has created a set of circumstances that have absolutely ‘knocked our duck off’ – as the local saying goes! – and there is no harm in saying ‘I’ve got a problem’.

While this is a new world, it also feels like 10 years ago when I started a business – it’s frightening, the highs are high, and the lows are low but it all about managing emotions. You get a knock and think the worst is coming, but then along comes a high and success.

It’s finding that line through the middle that will be crucial – I know the Sheffield City Region business community can work as a team to weave our way through.

This article first appeared in UnLtd magazine.

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