With the Covid-19 pandemic, and following the Chancellor’s £350bn post-Budget ‘lifeline for the economy’, Future Life Wealth Management MD Jillian Thomas says now is the time for the Sheffield City Region business community to act like one  – keep cashflow going, increase marketing spend and provide shelter to each other

The first 35 minutes of March’s Budget was taken up by COVID-19.

But while a week is a long time in politics, we are swiftly learning that is also true when it comes to dealing with the impact of a global pandemic.

Things are changing on a daily, if not hourly, basis in respect of COVID-19.

The Budget was reported by many as a ‘spend, spend, spend’ speech and viewed as particularly welcome for SMEs – good news for the Sheffield City Region (SCR) and Sheffield in particular where the majority of our business are indeed small and medium enterprises.

But less than seven days after that Budget, the COVID-19 situation in the UK had escalated to a point where Chancellor Rishi Sunak set out the latest economic response, a £330bn package of financial measures to shore up the economy against the impact.

The Chancellor said at the time if this package was not enough, he would go further – and he did on March 21 announcing “unprecedented measures for unprecedented times” including the Government paying 80 per cent of wages of those unable to work during the crisis.

This is all part of a coordinated economic and political strategy though, because ahead of the Budget, the Bank of England took interest rates down to unprecedented levels of 0.25% earlier in the day, to help bolster cash flow for households and small businesses affected by COVID-19. This was then dropped again to 0.1% just over a week later.

The most fundamentally important thing when markets are acting like this, and if we could be heading into a recession, is for businesses NOT to curtail their marketing budget – they must keep it going, if not INCREASE it. Companies must be high profile and visible during this difficult time – the message has to be: ‘Sheffield City Region is open for business’.

When it comes to manufacturing, there are other countries that can’t currently create goods – we have China where the ports are open but they can’t deliver on all orders and that leaves a gaping hole for our region to fill. But we can only do that if we are high profile and visible, and do not let the negative and corrosive noise from the media and elsewhere evaporate our enthusiasm.

I received a lovely email from a CEO recently who I had helped with a vulnerable client who had got quite emotional. My point to that CEO was simple – professionals at this time are here to be more visible. We take our money looking after clients on sunny days, but we make our money as professionals by putting umbrellas up over clients during stormy days.

We as a locality must fundamentally take that view – as businesses all of us need to get our umbrellas up and make sure we get each other out of the storm. It’s about pulling together as a SCR business community in the fullest sense of the word – we must all treat each business as we would like ours to be treated.

If you’ve got the cash as a business – pay it. We’ve got to keep cash flow going over the next three to four months to keep these businesses running all of us together. Any of us who step out of line are the weak link in keeping our locality, our jobs and our businesses going.