James Pinchbeck

James Pinchbeck

Marketing Partner, Streets Chartered Accountants

James Pinchbeck is Marketing Partner at Streets Chartered Accountants, a top 40 UK accountancy practice. James, as a specialist in marketing professional services, is responsible for the development and implementation of the firm's strategic marketing as well as its engagement in the community it which it works and serves. His role allows him to capitalise on his broad interest in the national and local economy as well as his passion for enterprise. As part of his wider interest in enterprise, marketing and education, James is a board member of NBV – the East Midlands Enterprise Agency, an FE College Governor and a board member of the University of Lincoln’s Business School. He is also an Institute of Director’s past Branch Chairman.


It has now seven months since the start of lockdown and certainly the business world has experienced many changes in terms of responding to, and getting to grips with, the impact of the pandemic.  

The way we work, where we work, when we work and even the type of work we do has changed for most of us, if not all.

As is often the case with such significant changes and circumstances, it is not untypical for new words and phrases to come to the fore as we look to be able to communicate with each other on and around the situation.

Over the last few months or so there have been a number of words and phrases banded about, some perhaps new words and some words and phrases that have gained increased use or used in a new context.

The following 10 words or phrases are the ones that seem to have had wider use and perhaps some of these provide a little light relief:

  1. Unprecedented – How many meetings or discussions are including this word and the use of the word ‘times’ to follow as we try to understand and assess the situation we are in and the conditions we face.  
  1. New norm – in a world turned seemingly upside down and with our pre-lockdown sense of the norm and routine gone, we are all trying to define and even shape what normal now is and looks like. Most of us want some sense of order, routine, processes and structure so that we can function and have a sense of purpose.
  1. You’re on mute – whilst the likes of Zoom, MS Teams and google hangouts existed pre lockdown the norm was still to have in person meetings, perhaps with the occasional virtual one. Virtual meetings though have given rise to its own language and typical behaviours. It would be interesting to know how many times someone has said ‘you’re on mute’ as someone attempts to re-enact a silent movie without the subtitles.
  1. Sorry I am late I had trouble connecting – with our roads less busy, stuck in traffic is unlikely to be something you hear from someone late for a meeting. It now seems either as a genuine or less so excuse we seem to blame our connectivity or this has become an acceptable excuse.
  1. Pivot – whilst some businesses may have considered the need to respond to lasting change brought about by the pandemic, others have been more focused on short-term survival. In doing so they have chosen to ‘pivot’ their business looking at business models or practices conducive to survival.  According to the Harvard Business Review, pivoting is a lateral move that creates enough value for the customer and the firm to share.
  1. Repurpose – whilst sounding like a word you might here in a spoof business comedy as some form of management speak, many business leaders and managers have had to either look for alternative markets for their goods or services or look to different business models and processes. The skills and role of those able to repurpose are likely to be in demand for some time – perhaps with businesses even looking to appoint Repurposing Officers (ROs).
  1. Blursday – a new made up word being used to describe the situation when lockdown and working from home has got to the point that you have no real idea what day it is, even that you didn’t realise it is a non-working day.
  1. Quranteams – a term being used to describe your virtual work bubble – we do like to have a name for everything.
  1. Worklife blend/balance – even before lockdown greater consideration was being given by individuals to their worklife balance. Though for those working and perhaps surprisingly those furloughed, greater consideration and importance is being placed on one’s worklife balance, wellbeing and mental health.
  1. Embracing technology – whilst technology, its use and application has accelerated the pace of change it has never been as fast as it has been since lockdown. The term embrace technology has possibly been used to describe the situation where we all, whether in our work, personal or family life, have had to get to grips with and use more technological applications. For some this may have been easier than for others, however it has highlighted issues around skills and proficiency and the need for training, support and investment.

No doubt more words and phrases will come to the fore over the coming months, some will be lasting in terms of vocabulary and some new words may even make the next edition of the Oxford English Dictionary. 

James Pinchbeck is Marketing Partner at Streets Chartered Accountants, a top 40 UK accountancy practice. James, as a specialist in marketing professional services, is responsible for the development and implementation of the firm's strategic marketing as well as its engagement in the community it which it works and serves. His role allows him to capitalise on his broad interest in the national and local economy as well as his passion for enterprise. As part of his wider interest in enterprise, marketing and education, James is a board member of NBV – the East Midlands Enterprise Agency, an FE College Governor and a board member of the University of Lincoln’s Business School. He is also an Institute of Director’s past Branch Chairman.

The headline grabbing announcement from the Chancellor’s economic statement on Wednesday has to be the innovative approach to supporting the hard-hit hospitality and leisure industry with the introduction of eat out to help out. Whilst overall consumer spending has declined, the exception during lockdown has been on food and drink. Mindful that he needs to get consumers spending more, it seems the Chancellor has introduced the scheme to play a part in boosting consumer spending and supporting a hard-hit sector. This scheme will run throughout August every Monday to Wednesday providing diners with a discount of up to £10 per person when dining out.

Against a background of a 25% decline in economic growth in just two months of lockdown, a decline which mirrors a period of economic growth over a 10 year period, and some 9 million workers furloughed with the threat of unemployment rising to rates not experienced for many years, the Chancellor’s focus was on protecting, supporting and creating jobs.  

The key measures announced include the introduction of the Job Retention Bonus scheme, which will give employers a £1,000 per employee bonus for those returned from furlough to work and that remain in post until January 2021. Support for those looking to enter the workplace was also provided through the introduction of the Kickstart scheme for those aged 16-24 along with financial incentives for employers to take on trainees and apprentices.

Hopefully many employers and potential employees will be able to benefit from such schemes. The challenge perhaps is more about whether businesses are able to support such roles or have the demand for additional workers, or even if roles exist as they have responded to lockdown with changes to the business model and working practices.

The hospitality and leisure industry, as mentioned already, will welcome the eat out to help out scheme. They will also welcome the reduction in the rate of VAT charged from 20% to 5% specifically for those operating in the sector. 

Looking to the property sector, the Chancellor was keen to get house sales moving again, following a period of stagnation in lockdown. The move to remove stamp duty from house sales up the value of £500,000 must be a step in the right direction.

With a growing trend to a focus on three by the government, the Chancellor outlined more measures to build, build, build a better and greener recovery. This included the introduction of the green homes grant with £2bn allocated to greener homes.

Whilst the measures announced will undoubtedly play a key and significant role in the economic bounce back, it will also require consumer spending to start to return to levels pre-lockdown. The big question here then is how do the measures help to improve consumer confidence and subsequently spending? Many are still rightly very concerned about financial security and COVID-19 security frustrated supply chains leading to low stock levels is also having an impact on overall consumption.

Could the Chancellor have done more? Perhaps there could have been more in terms of support around upskilling the workforce especially around the use of digital technologies. Many businesses have been forced to change and adapt and as such support in terms of guidance, advice even financial assistance to look at new working practices, improving productivity and developing new markets would no doubt be welcome as we move to a new order of business re-imagined.

For our school children and students about to embark upon a long summer holiday, perhaps consideration should have been given to the need to invest in technology to expand and enhance the delivery of education in response to the new norm for remote and blended learning. Certainly, it is unlikely that students will be returning to school, college or university in September to learn in the way they did pre lockdown. The necessity to study remotely and therefore using technology is likely to be a lasting move to a more mixed delivery of education and one which if invested in will equip and prepare learners better for the workplace of tomorrow.

The government’s focus rightly so has been on safeguarding individuals lives and livelihoods. However, as we look to the later part of the year and Chancellor’s Autumn Budget thoughts turn to the measures that might need to be introduced to re-balance the books. It is anticipated that the focus will be on making changes to capital taxes to raise much needed revenue. Looking forward to Spring, there seems to be a perfect storm brewing as the measures such as the VAT deferral scheme come to an end, with payments due, the introduction of changes to IR35 and Domestic Reverse Charge on VAT for those in the construction industry. 

The days and months ahead will no doubt see many business owners taking the time to review and plan for the longer term. Perhaps taking advantage of the eat out to help out initiative might provide the time to reflect and consider the situation.

James Pinchbeck is Marketing Partner at Streets Chartered Accountants, a top 40 UK accountancy practice. James, as a specialist in marketing professional services, is responsible for the development and implementation of the firm's strategic marketing as well as its engagement in the community it which it works and serves. His role allows him to capitalise on his broad interest in the national and local economy as well as his passion for enterprise. As part of his wider interest in enterprise, marketing and education, James is a board member of NBV – the East Midlands Enterprise Agency, an FE College Governor and a board member of the University of Lincoln’s Business School. He is also an Institute of Director’s past Branch Chairman.

How businesses have and are behaving during lockdown is likely to have an impact on their road to recovery. Whilst business leaders were understandably quick to respond to the introduction of lockdown, their approach to managing businesses in lockdown has been wide ranging. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, the actions taken by businesses in terms of managing their staff, supporting customers and dealing with the challenges presented by COVID-19 is likely to affect more than the bottom line.

In the majority of cases businesses have experienced a significant drop in turnover, and for some there has been, hopefully only temporary, a loss of all revenue. As such, when looking to open up again, one of the key challenges will be re-engaging with customers. Herein lies the rub and the big question: do customers want to re-engage with you or have they gone or are thinking of going elsewhere? 

It would seem that how you have managed customer relationships and communication with them will have a significant impact on how they re-engage post lockdown. It would seem that businesses that have endeavoured to keep in touch will fare better than those that haven’t. This might be thought of as your reputation value. Certainly, being out of sight is giving rise to out of mind, with customers feeling less connected and at risk of seeking alternative providers and supply. 

Whilst it might not have been easy to adapt your business model to continue to trade, those businesses that have been able to do so seem better placed for retaining customers, even gaining new ones. Approaches such as restaurants offering takeaways and garden centres offering home deliveries, through to developing an e-commerce provision, more favourable payment terms or just providing advice and support have been well received by customers affected by the current situation.

Perhaps the greatest positive impact on customers has been how businesses have responded to and contributed to the challenges faced by COVID-19. Examples of this range from fund raising to help frontline workers and switching to making PPE to developing new digital or technology applications to help with the situation – these are all being well received not just by business stakeholders but the also the wider community.

Understandably, all businesses have had to take a long hard look at their finances. Survival invariably has and will depend on the availability of funding and being able to manage costs for what seems to be an indeterminable period of time. For most, balancing the books has involved a mix of looking after the livelihoods of employees and as well as safeguarding the life of the business, a move which has certainly hit the bottom line. This is recognised not just by employees but also customers alike, with those businesses earning more kudos and respect putting the situation over and above profit.  

In a world that is so well connected, the business of every business seems to be the business of not just the stakeholders but the wider public. Social media coverage is hard to manage, with news and opinion spreading widely and quickly. Perhaps one of the key influences has been how employers have treated and supported their staff during the crisis. Those who have been able to and have gone the extra mile to support their staff seem to have weathered the storm better than those who might not have done. Whether it is financial support, changes to working patterns, the provision of equipment to enable working from home, or just simply keeping in touch, all impact on the loyalty and resilience of your staff and also the viewpoints and perception of your customers.

We are more likely than not to face more challenges ahead as we transition through lockdown to recovery. The challenge for business leaders and their teams is to consider the much wider implications of their actions on their business as they respond to the difficulties and opportunities presented by the current situation and what is being described as the ‘new normal’.

James Pinchbeck is Marketing Partner at Streets Chartered Accountants, a top 40 UK accountancy practice. James, as a specialist in marketing professional services, is responsible for the development and implementation of the firm's strategic marketing as well as its engagement in the community it which it works and serves. His role allows him to capitalise on his broad interest in the national and local economy as well as his passion for enterprise. As part of his wider interest in enterprise, marketing and education, James is a board member of NBV – the East Midlands Enterprise Agency, an FE College Governor and a board member of the University of Lincoln’s Business School. He is also an Institute of Director’s past Branch Chairman.

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