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Finding opportunity in the challenge – MKL case study

At the beginning of 2020, no one could have imagined the chaos that was about to unfold. According to the ONS Business Impacts of Coronavirus Survey (BICS), 3.9% of businesses had ‘no confidence’ in surviving the next three months – the highest percentage ever recorded by ONS. A further 10.4% stated that they had ‘low confidence’ in survival. The future looked bleak for many businesses across the UK.

However, chaos breeds opportunity.

Our client, MKL, are a shining example of how staying calm, reviewing the situation and refocusing their/your energy can help you turn the tide of fate. In the words of MKL’s Managing Director, Mark Parker, “Stressful situations present themselves all the time, yet how you deal with them really sets you up for failure, or success.”

The highs and lows of doing business during a pandemic

When asked about their experience of managing a business during 2020/21, it is no surprise that it was full of challenges. For MKL, their experience started out in a way similar to most businesses “When COVID hit, back in March 2020, everything in MKL stopped on a dime. The only gig we could land at that time, was supporting fitness centres in decommissioning, ahead of the impending lockdown. We literally went from installing state of the art tech, to cleaning dirty shower drains, overnight!”

This is when MKL stopped to reassess their position. Although work was drying up, this also meant that their competition were also feeling the squeeze. Mark explains that as the pandemic began to remove “the ‘old guard’ businesses and boy’s clubs that kept start-ups from growing within the industry”, there was a lot of unfulfilled opportunities on the horizon.

Fewer barriers, coupled with lockdown restrictions “really opening people’s minds to the way technology can enable business to do things quicker, more efficiently and in a more cost effective way”, allowed MKL to perfectly position themselves to win some new high-value contracts.

How to survive a crisis: cut costs but invest in customer experience

Having the right strategy during a financial crisis is key:

“Cash is absolutely the life blood of any business, no cash, your business stops pretty quickly.

“As a result of COVID, it brought hard decisions right to the top of the agenda, cost cutting and focusing on core competencies is what got us through.”

“However, it is important to remember where your cash comes from – your customers. Why then did so many businesses default to such unempathetic communications and just grabbing whatever money they could. It was clear to me, that we needed to invest in the customer experience if we wanted to make the most of the job opportunities that were coming our way.”

MKL went one step further than reviewing their customer support. In April 2020, they decided to hire a Customer Experience Officer, who they admittedly transformed their business and how they deal with customers. By fully committing to making the customer experience a priority and making their customers really feel important they were able to “create true ambassadors” and “really glue customers and partners”.

The future of MKL

Using their hours on the road, affectionately known as ‘van therapy’, to brainstorm new services, MKL have recently introduced Digital Facilities Management and their new CaaS (Compliance as a Service) model to their customers.

When asked about future plans for MKL and their new service, Mark told us, “We have really hit the groove with this, our clients love the model. We have pitched this model to huge clients in government, construction and retail and you know what, we are absolutely flying.”

Despite their successes, the business development doesn’t end there. MKL are continuing to strengthen their development team and in the process of integrating new IoT hardware into their systems. Mark is confident that their work over the past year ensures “MKL is now able to withstand any shock within reason”, adding “if you can survive COVID as a business, you can survive anything. Watch out 2021, we are coming for you.”

Choosing the right business advisor

No matter how well you know your business, it is important to know when to rely on the experts. The support of your accountant could be the difference between sinking or swimming when times get tough.

Mark said “Since working with Haines Watts our business has grown up a lot, we’ve matured, and it’s done us the world of good. Specifically, our accountant Donna Thomas has been awesome! Donna guided us through the crazy times of COVID, and was a stable, calm head when others were losing theirs.”

On top of the basics, your accountant should be able to provide guidance on how to build a more efficient and profitable business. As Mark describes, “Donna’s advice on how to financially structure the company”, allowed MKL to create a “fitter and stronger” business, which played an integral part of getting them through the financial hardships of the pandemic.

Working with Haines Watts team also provided a much needed cash injection for MKL through the use of Research & Development tax credits. Without the support of the specialist Incentives and Relief team this would have easily been a missed opportunity to receive tax relief on MKL’s investment in innovation.

– Haines Watts LLP