By Graham Bushby, Partner, RSM UK and Chair of the Global Restructuring Group

It has been fifteen months like no other time in recent history. As the world enters a phase of reactivation and reimagination from the impact of the pandemic, it is time to take a deep breath and assess the situation. To use a sporting analogy, we are in the tunnel ahead of what could be the biggest game of our lives. With the right strategy in place, there are great victories to be won. Without it, defeat is inevitable.

As a leading provider of audit, tax and consulting services to ambitious business leaders in the middle market, we know that whether it is success or survival, all organisations should have a game plan. Over the last year, we have stayed close to our clients to help guide them through these unprecedented circumstances.

We have seen many industries being impacted and owners and management teams reimagining how they do business. Retailers have turned to e-commerce and the hospitality industry saw businesses pivot from traditional restaurant dining to take-out offerings. Even the automotive sector has gone from customers visiting their local car dealer to buy a petrol or diesel car - to home delivery of vehicles with options of hybrid or electric. Many industries are successfully evolving to respond to changing circumstances.

Unfortunately, across a wide range of sectors, there have been times where we have had to engage in some challenging conversations. However, having the right conversations today, can increase the chance of having a more successful tomorrow.

At RSM, we help the businesses we work with to manage risk, improve decision-making, drive productivity, enable change and realise value. But if we are to help them move forward with confidence, we must all do so with our eyes wide open.

Across the world, we are seeing banks and lenders being sympathetic in addition to

significant government support and protection, in the form of bounce back loans and other initiatives. We are seeing some businesses holding on to money, cutting their overheads, putting people on furlough, and overall taking advantage of the good will from creditors and the banks.

However, these measures and tactics can mask current performance. If government grants and furlough money are factored into the profit and loss, it can paint an overly optimistic picture. At some point this money needs to be paid back.

The global pandemic has accelerated the need for basic business acumen and the reality today is that we could be facing an onslaught of restructuring if organisations fail to make the right decisions now.

As the business world heads towards what can be described as the next stage of a transformation journey, here are six-step steps that organisations can take now in planning for a positive outcome in the future.

1. Plan well

Planning is key. It is important to look at the numbers and consider where you are going to be in six, twelve or eighteen months’ time and plan a way forward.

2. Forecast your future

Build forecasts and projections within this plan. Businesses should involve their advisors to make the best forecast possible which can be adapted as necessary.

3. Engage with the right stakeholders

Engage with all significant financial stakeholders, banks, investors and funders to ensure there is transparency and support for the plan of action.

4. Think Differently

Industries are changing rapidly. Beyond adapting to the current environment, organisations should think ahead to be prepared for different scenarios.

5. Adapt and be flexible

Be prepared to adapt and be flexible. Put financial modelling at the centre of your plans. Actively monitor these models and be open to adapting the approach as required.

6. Be prepared for the unexpected

This is about creating headroom in your facilities to enable you to cope with the unexpected, whether good or bad.

In summary, there is much for businesses in the middle market to consider. However, by creating a robust plan of action there is a far greater opportunity to achieve a successful outcome. As a global business with national, regional and sector expertise, RSM is ideally placed to guide business through the uncertain times. With 48,000 people in over 120 countries across the RSM network, we can meet our clients’ needs wherever in the world they operate.

As an integrated team, we share skills, insight and resources, as well as a client-centric, collaborative approach that’s based on a deep understanding of our clients’ businesses, whatever the sector. This is how we empower businesses to move forward with confidence and realise their full potential. The last fifteen months has been a remarkable journey for us all – if we work together, a positive destination is within reach.