One after another my clients are telling me that the changes that they are making in their businesses as a result of Coronavirus are likely to be permanent ones. One client closed 5 of his 6 offices 2 weeks ago and now has a skeleton staff working at head office and everyone else working from home. He said as the transition has been so seamless that he may well decide never to reopen his 5 satellite branches. This would save him over £300,000 pa in rent, business rates and utility costs alone.
A client in London which has been worst hit by the virus used to deal with a high percentage of maintenance reports by telephone. The tenant would typically spend 15 minutes describing the problem and having a general moan and the landlord would then ask for 3 quotes for a £50 job. Now through necessity, they insist that all repairs must be reported online with supporting photos and no quotes are given for jobs with a value of less than £250. As a result, the time they spend on each repair has halved. This will save them over £80,000 pa in future.
Another client has been experimenting with virtual viewings. They work in a very rural area where a single viewing can take over 2 hours. They have decided that in future they will ask all applicants to view properties virtually before they conduct a conventional viewing. This will save them at least £50,000 pa.
A client with a big town planning department told me that they have just had a virtual meeting which would previously have involved 2 members of their team travelling from London to Lincolnshire. This would have meant 24 hours away from the office and an overnight stay. The council planning officer agreed to conduct a virtual meeting using Zoom, the site plans and the computer-generated images. The meeting was successfully concluded in 1 hour 40 minutes. They are on a fixed price contract, so this single virtual meeting saved them well over £1000.
Finally, one of our mergers and acquisitions solicitors told me that for the last ten years he has caught the train to London at 7am every morning and returned at 7pm. Now he works from home in Buckinghamshire and he said that it is so fantastic to have 3 more hours a day to spend with his family that he would rather change jobs than commute to work ever again. Many of his colleagues feel the same way. His senior partner has bought in some very imaginative online working initiatives including virtual coffee breaks and lunch breaks when staff can interact with their workplace friends via zoom. They even ran their monthly interdepartmental pub quiz on Tuesday evening as a virtual event via zoom. Just think how much your business could save if some of your staff worked from home. I have run my own business like this for nearly 10 years.
As a business owner it is all too easy to despair at the current situation but you must look forward to how life could be after the current crisis is over and a great way to use your time over the next few weeks is to consider how changes like these could reduce your running costs in the future so that your business can emerge from this terrible period leaner, stronger and more profitable than ever before.