Rix & Kay; The pandemic has acted as a catalyst for change
This interview was first published by Plus Accounting.
This week we speak with Richard Cripps, Managing Partner of Rix & Kay, a full service law firm with offices in Brighton & Hove, Ashford, Sevenoaks, Uckfield and Seaford.
Richard is responsible for the continued growth of the firm. With over 25 years’ experience in business, he works with some of the firm’s most important clients, helping them to manage their business and personal interests to deliver both sustainable revenue streams and a sound base for successful operations.
When did COVID-19 affect your business and was it immediate or gradual?
Covid-19 first began to impact Rix & Kay in March with the introduction of self-isolation requirements for those returning from abroad. As this was not a peak holiday season the effects were mild but we did begin to prepare for moving everyone to working from home as part of our existing crisis management plan. I’m quite proud to say that our plan to move everyone to working from home was fully implemented when the government gave its stay at home direction on 23rd March. It was a fantastic effort from everyone in the firm and particularly our IT department.
How did you communicate this impact with your team and clients?
Regular updates as to our response to Covid-19 were given internally from early March and have continued on a regular basis. With regards to our public announcements, we have made a significant effort to keep everyone we work with fully informed to make sure everyone understands that Rix & Kay remains open for business and all our people are available and ready to help.
All our people have made a concerted effort to speak directly with their clients and contacts, whilst we have increased our direct marketing activity and information available on our website. To support the wider business community and individuals Rix & Kay has also created a dedicated Covid-19 Advice and Support blog that aims to provide regular updates on the fast evolving situation.
What decisions have you had to take in respect of your business?
Our whole business was switched to WFH on 23 March 2020. Areas of our business have been affected differently and those involved in transactional work have been the most impacted. We have had to take some very difficult decisions about the staffing of these teams taking into account anticipated levels of work during the current lock-down.
Whilst some of those decisions have been difficult, we are confident that the business is very well placed to overcome the huge challenges presented by Covid-19 and emerge in an even stronger position when the economy begins to get back on its feet.
Have you accessed or will you be accessing any of the Government support schemes and grants?
We have placed a number of our colleagues on furlough utilising the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
Do you think the Government support goes far enough?
Generally I think it does, although the requirements for CBILS applications are possibly too onerous for many smaller businesses to deal with. This, coupled with the bank’s concern about the viability of applicants, means it might have been more effective for the government to have given 100% guarantees. The Job Retention Scheme may have also been better designed by allowing businesses to potentially reduce hours and to claim back the relevant proportion (subject to appropriate caps) of the wage bill. This would have protected household incomes and kept the economy moving better than it has.
What effect will this pandemic have on your business in the long term?
All businesses are now faced with a severe recession of uncertain duration and are likely to be carrying more debt than before. Good businesses, such as ours, will survive, I fear many will not.
Looking for silver linings, the pandemic has already acted as a catalyst for change. Over the last few years, along with many in our sector, we have become much less reliant on paper files, we have improved our IT dramatically in order to facilitate any-time any-place working and introduced agile working policies to support this. However natural resistance to change has meant that the possibilities to impact new geographical markets, free up physical space and reduce our carbon footprint have been slow to realise. On 23rd March 2020 that changed pretty much overnight. The challenge now is to ensure that we learn and ensure that once lock-down is lifted we take all of the positives out of this experience.
Do you have a crisis management plan now in place?
We already had a crisis management plan in place and had previously stress tested its response to a flu pandemic, so we were better prepared than many. It is rightly said, that no plan survives first engagement with the enemy and whilst changes have had to be made as bumps in the road appeared, having the plan in place undoubtedly helped us to better navigate them.
What decisions are being made now for when you are able to get back up and running?
We are already consulting widely within the firm to ensure that we take all of the positive learning experiences forward into our post lock-down business and we are talking widely with our clients and other business contacts so that we understand fully what their needs will be and align to them.
How do you think the business landscape will change in Brighton?
I think that many businesses will, as we have, see the benefits of WFH and will look to adjust their working practices, resulting in lower demand for office space in the City and with lower carbon emissions as traffic reduces.
The High Street was already facing enormous challenges and whilst the hospitality and leisure sectors have also been hard hit I think the much predicted realignment of city centres away from retail to entertainment and leisure destinations combined with increasing residential accommodation will come to be in a much shorter term than previously forecast.
What tips can you give other businesses currently going through the crisis?
Each business is facing unique challenges but assuming that you already have products/services that are in demand and a great team to deliver them, then underpinning any future success will be maintaining a laser like focus on cash whilst ramping up communication with colleagues and your customer base.