The discussion, attended by 100 of the region’s top business leaders, explored the pressures facing employers. The webinar provided business leaders with an interesting insight into how businesses are faring in the region with the panel consisting of Avnish Goyal, Chair of Hallmark Care Homes, Suzanne Horner, CEO, Gray Dawes Travel and Robert Ross, CEO, Xpediator plc.
The new poll follows on from Grant Thornton’s International Business Review which was conducted in April, during the country’s Covid-19 enforced nationwide lockdown. In April’s poll, business leaders ranked keeping people safe, motivated and able to do their jobs as their biggest challenge. This vote was more evenly split in today’s poll with 43% saying the biggest challenge is changing customer demands, 39% citing keeping their staff motivated and 18% saying managing cash flow was the biggest challenge.
Trevor Ling, Tax Director at Grant Thornton says “It is really encouraging to hear that business leaders are feeling more positive than they were six months ago. With the immediate future becoming less predictable it is understandable that leaders are divided in what they see as their immediate challenges and now is the time for them to be putting into place a robust plan for the next few months. It has been a turbulent year for businesses, particularly within the travel industry, but as Zoom shares have started to fall and a vaccine on the horizon, I’m optimistic that the sector is going to be back on its feet soon.”
Adam Jones, Partner at Birketts says: “The future of the business industry in Essex is in good hands and I’m encouraged that business leaders are feeling more positive than they were earlier in the year. Being so close to London has always made the region competitive in terms of growing, attaining and retaining talent but that has never been more important than it will be over the next few months. It is vital that we continue to see investment in the region to safeguard the future and, with this in mind, it is positive to hear that business leaders are still acquiring and making investments despite the pandemic.”
When asked in what area the government could provide more help for businesses over the next 12-24 months, 35% said maintaining the low tax regime would be helpful, 27% said regional investment in infrastructure, 19% said additional grant support for businesses and 11% said additional support for funding. Interestingly 8% of the region’s leaders said an extension to the March 2021 deadline for furlough scheme would be helpful.
Avnish Goyal, Chair of Hallmark Care Homes and panellist says “Although the furlough scheme has really helped many businesses over the last few months, there is now a concern that mass unemployment will happen as soon as the scheme comes to an end. There is no doubt that some businesses are still operating because of the furlough scheme but leaders need to be planning ahead now to ensure that they can retain their staff and keep afloat once the scheme comes to an end in March.”