Keep investing during challenging times, businesses told at Evelyn Partners event

Claire Burden, partner and head of advisory consulting at Evelyn Partners. Photo: Paul Gillis.

Too many businesses resort to “default” cost-cutting measures rather than continuing to look for investment and growth opportunities in tough economic times, delegates were told at an event hosted by Evelyn Partners, the wealth management and professional services group.

The breakfast gathering, at the firm’s Bristol office, explored ways to unlock the power of business transformation and boost revenues.

The speakers were Claire Burden, partner and head of advisory consulting at Evelyn Partners, Lynne Blakey, a director in the firm’s advisory consulting team, and Peter Hucker, CEO of Xledger UK, a leading provider of cloud-based finance software.

Claire Burden told the audience that it was important that businesses do not simply opt for “quick fix” measures when faced with a challenging trading environment.

“Lots of businesses seem to have been ‘hunkering down’ and getting into the area of cost-cutting, especially since Covid-19, but it is important to keep investing for growth and seeking out new opportunities,” she said.

“You need to have a balanced view – try to keep investing in the areas which will drive growth and profitability but look at cutting costs in non-core areas if the situation requires it.”

Lynne Blakey said the Covid-19 pandemic had also created cashflow and working capital problems for many businesses.

“Some businesses can run out of cash so it is crucial to understand and map out your working capital cycle.

“During the pandemic and afterwards, in response to supply chain issues many businesses significantly increased their stock holding to ensure surety of supply. This has led to many businesses becoming overstocked, which can significantly affect working capital and cashflow.

“Businesses should critically assess stock levels, reduce and streamline where possible, and focus on developing strong supplier relationships to free up cash. On the customer side, ensure you are invoicing on time. Those that shout the loudest get paid the quickest due to the hassle factor.

“Likewise when a business is growing, it is human nature to keep adding more people whereas it should be about doing things in more efficient ways. There is often duplication during periods of growth and acquisition so it is vital to review your systems and ensure that everyone and everything is joined up and operating in the most efficient manner.”

Xledger was established in 2000 and helps more than 10,000 organisations in over 60 countries to digitise, streamline and automate their finances.

Peter Hucker said Xledger currently has a turnover of around £40 million.

“Our growth has been organic, based primarily on the strength of our product and through word of mouth. Our aim is to reach £100 million over the next few years.

“As a mid-market finance system provider, we assist our clients with digital transformation. That said, given our own growth, we have also looked internally and undertaken our own business transformation process.

“Whilst any business process transformation is challenging, the businesses that do this best are those that truly understand their challenges, and who have their stakeholders on board from the very beginning.”