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What a time to be in business

Horrifying scenes from Ukraine have shocked the world and our local business community has been aghast at the terrible violence being unleashed.

It has produced an immediate outpouring of support and a desire to do something to help. Some businesses have taken direct action and contributed goods which have been sent by lorry to the disaster area. Others have helped financially, allowing charities to buy whatever is needed at the scene.

The next phase will be how to provide practical help for refugees. It’s good to see how pro-active the Council has been in setting up a register of those with suitable accommodation and we know that others, such as Curo, are preparing to offer support as they have done previously with Afghanistan and Syria. It remains to be seen how much demand there will be in the months to come.

Obviously it is beyond imagination to fully appreciate the suffering of the people in Ukraine but we will clearly be impacted here in a number of ways.

It’s a truism that business people do not like uncertainty, and over the last few years there has been nothing but. First there was the period around Brexit and now we have the invasion of Ukraine.

In between there was the Covid Pandemic which continues to have an effect. Barely a day goes by without hearing about someone else being struck down by the illness and businesses are still managing the situation. Some are actively encouraging people back into the office and what we used to regard as normal. But they are doing that whilst being conscious of the concerns of their staff, especially when it comes to large gatherings.

It looks as though a combination of office and home working will continue. In fact, we have heard people say they believe they would lose staff if they were to enforce a strict Monday to Friday regime. Managers are having to balance the needs of customers with the wishes of their teams and that’s no easy matter. They are having to re-appraise the ways they have operated in the past and not fall into the trap of making the assumption that what has worked before will be successful in the future.

Even though the first lockdown was almost exactly two years ago many of our members believe there will be at least another six months before they can properly review the situation and make medium term financial decisions. This understandable caution is bound to have an impact, potentially delaying investment and so impacting on productivity, which will have repercussions for the local economy into the future.

So, with an international disaster on our hands, the impact of a health emergency at home, the prospects of a variety of inflationary pressures and a shortage of staff there’s never been a more challenging time to be in business. Thank goodness we have plenty of creative people who have experienced tough times in the past – we’re going to need them.


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