Fail to plan, plan to fail

Angela Lawrence, Associate Dean, Staffordshire Business School


This morning I was labelled a geek. I don’t mind being called a geek (I probably am a bit of a geek) but what is interesting is that this label was awarded as a result of me sharing a plan on twitter. The plan for my allotment in 2021.

Now I don’t feel that planning makes me geeky – I’m a big believer in planning and the saying “fail to plan, plan to fail” is one that I use often. I plan a work “To Do” list at the end of each working day, a shopping list before walking down to the shops, I plan holidays months if not years in advance and yes, I plan which vegetables I am going to grow at my allotment and which beds they will go into. That way I can be sure that the soil will be right for them, the light conditions will suit them and that everything grows together in harmony to produce bountiful harvests.

This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-SA

Planning is a big part of business success – we create business plans, marketing plans and project plans in all aspects of our working life. Without things like business continuity planning, risk management, financial planning, many businesses fail to survive in today’s fast-moving work environment. Students are taught planning not only as part of their studies, but also as part of their own lifestyle management as a student – our students even brought together some tips to share with others in this YouTube video.

Some would say planning has been difficult during 2020 and it’s hard to plan when we don’t know what we will be able to do. I think this is actually all the more reason to plan – if plans didn’t materialise, as so many failed to during 2020, then we suck it up and plan all over again, whether it be a holiday, a birthday, a wedding or a study plan for the year. What has been bumped from the top of the list now goes back into the list again for re-scheduling.

Plans give us hope and they psychologically prepare us, they build anticipation, and they demonstrate commitment. When we plan, we mentally get organised and prepare ourselves and this is a good thing – it saves us from stressing about the unknown, relieves some uncertainty and helps us to cope better

Plans don’t have to be big, they don’t have to be impressive, they don’t have to be written down (although I do get great satisfaction from planning on paper) and they don’t have to be shared. They may not mean a thing to anybody but you, and that’s just fine. I can guarantee that you will enjoy your planned activities far more for having planned them and that you will stress less and cope better with things that challenge you.

Happy planning – you have a whole year ahead of you, LET’S GO!


Staffordshire Business School is a premier centre for business education with decades of experience in providing business courses at the forefront of industry and technological developments. Business planning is integrated into all of our new business courses – click here to find out more.

Free Leadership Programme to help businesses in 2021

Are you looking for free support, ideas and a team to talk to that will help your business through the pandemic, Brexit and beyond?

Staffordshire Business School is now delivering free training in leadership and management to help you and your business exactly when you need it most.

When does the course start?

We have two starting dates either:

 Tue 12th January 2021 starting at 3pm

Wed 13th January 2021 starting at 3pm

If you would like to have a chat about the course then please email one of our experienced Entrepreneurs in Residence with your phone number and they will call you back,

Jane Pallister email Jane.Pallister@staffs.ac.uk

Emily Whitehead email emily@staffs.ac.uk

Jonathan Westlake email j.c.westlake@staffs.ac.uk

Jonathan Westlake, Jane Pallister and Emily Whitehead ar ethree of our Entrepreneurs in Residence
Jonathan Westlake, Jane Pallister and Emily Whitehead are three of our Entrepreneurs in Residence

Two cohorts of business have already gone through the programme and here is what Kevin O’Mara of Advanced Journey Chauffeuring thought of the training

Why choose the Small Business Leadership Programme?

  • Make your business more resilient
  • Boost business performance and growth
  • Create an innovative and agile organisation
  • Recover from the impact of COVID-19
  • Build leadership confidence and effectiveness
  • Plan for the future of your business
  • Build lasting relationships with small business leaders
  • Improve risk management and efficiency

Eligibility requirements

To join the Small Business Leadership Programme:

  • Your business must be a Small or Medium-sized Enterprise (SME) based in England.
  • Your business needs to employ between 5 and 249 people and have been operational for at least one year
  • The participant should be a decision maker or member of the senior management team within the business with at least one person reporting directly to them.
  • The participant must be able to commit to attending the full programme

Your commitment

The programme is designed to be manageable alongside full-time work. Participants will attend eight 90-minute webinars across ten weeks, and complete up to two hours of independent study and peer-supported learning per week.Places are fully funded by the Government to support the resilience, recovery and growth of SMEs during and after COVID-19. The programme is free to attend, and places are limited.

Register Now

There are two ways to register. Either email one of the Entrepreneurs in Residence as listed above or follow the simple instructions below (this takes 3 minutes) and we will be in touch:

Go to https://smallbusinesscharter.org/sblp-registration/

Choose either North West (for 13th January start) OR West Midlands (for 12th January start) from the pink vertical menu on the left.

Scroll through the list of centres until you find Staffordshire University and the date you prefer & click register. There are some screen grabs in the document below if you need them

PLEASE NOTE: Your business can send up to two eligible delegates to this programme. Simply apply for each person.

Coronavirus: The Battle Axe

The coronavirus started in China and spread to Europe and America in the first quarter of 2020 with a “battle axe” on businesses. The leadership of the most affected countries have become Santa Claus with their supports to the households and businesses. Many industries have experienced the offensive side of the coronavirus battle axe while other industries benefited from the defensive opportunities it created.

Industries such as Aviation, Road haulage, Ferries, Steel, Horticulture have all taken the pain of the offensive side of the battle axe. For instance, many of the affected developed countries economies are shut down and consumers are under stay at home policy. These have serious negative impacts on these industries revenue and sustainability investments. To complicate the pain emergency loans support from financial institutions have dried up thus, there are fewer chances of survival without taxpayers interventions. Some commentators are of the view that greener pastures are not guaranteed for the industries that will survive the pain as the new world of doing business will emerge. 

The likes of the e-commerce marketplace (Amazon); pharmaceutical companies (AstraZeneca and Pfizer); video conferencing (Zoom, Teams and Skype) and entertainment streaming (Netflix) industries benefit from the defence of this deadly axe. The longer the stay at home policy takes more people and businesses start thinking of a different way to sustain their livelihood and businesses from home. Another innovative business opportunity created is the products that many governments make mandatory to be worn everywhere. Although some of these products are reusable, few concerns have been raised about the materials used in the production and the ability to recycle these materials.

This pandemic has brought difficult business operating environment. Many business leaders are worried about how to sustain productivity to increase growth by adapting to the new business environment that the pandemic created. Businesses should protect the workforce with physical and emotional support, empathetic communication, training and retraining of employees in readiness for recovery. They should review their supply chains and possibly arrange alternative sources of raw materials or services. Also, businesses should frequently review the impact of the worst-case situation on the business cash flow and the governments’ tax relief provisions and other supports. Finally, business leaders should consider their business digital transformations by increasing IT infrastructure and digital upskilling.

The Small Business Leadership Programme is provided by Staffordshire Business School and is fully funded (free). Participants will develop strategic leadership skills and the confidence to boost business performance.

The course lasts ten weeks and the next two cohort start dates are
West Midlands 12th January 3.00 – 4.30 pm
North West 13th January 3.00 – 4.30 pm

Register here https://smallbusinesscharter.org/sblp-registration

For more details see the website
https://smallbusinesscharter.org/small-business-leadership-programme/

Mayowa Akinbote FCCA
Lecturer in Accounting and Finance
Staffordshire Business School
Staff Page: https://www.staffs.ac.uk/people/mayowa-akinbote
LinkedIn: http://linkedin.com/in/mayowa-akinbote-33448895

Global Entrepreneurship Week at Staffordshire Business School #GEW2020

Hazel Squire, Head of Department Staffordshire Business School


#GEW2019

Global Entrepreneurship Week is a collection of tens of thousands of activities, competitions and events aimed at making it easier for anyone, anywhere to start up and scale a company.

This November 16 – 22, as part of GEW 2020 Staffordshire Business School together with Staffordshire University Innovation Enterprise Zone will be hosting a range of activities aimed at both local businesses and students.

As a nation, the impact of COVID-19 means we are all seeking and finding new ways of doing things. In an effort, to build resilience and come together in leveraging the power of new ideas and innovation we will be launching our Innovation Enterprise Zone https://www.staffs.ac.uk/business-services that will give businesses access to:

  • Skills development and support
  • Researchers, student talent and experts
  • Grants and business support programmes
  • Innovation infrastructure and incubation facilitates

Announced last year, Staffordshire University was one of 20 University Enterprise Zones (UEZs), launched with a £20 million investment by Research England, part of UK Research and Innovation. 

Furthermore, be inspired offers a full year of start-up support including: information, advice and guidance from an experienced team of business advisers, regular meetings with industry mentors of your choice, full business processes induction, industry-led specialist workshop sessions, networking opportunities, access to personal growth software, access to personalised legal documentation, a £3000 tax free grant and, as your idea grows, access to investment opportunities. Information detailing how to access all this help will be provided at the be inspired session on Friday 20th November.

Finally, Enterprise Education has never been more important, as it allows us to equip future generations with the skills and mindsets, they need to navigate a world of work that may not even exist yet. Through entrepreneurship activities, learners can gain key entrepreneurial skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving, communication, risk-taking and teamwork. Entrepreneurship can offer alternative pathways for young people, improving their skills, employability and life chances, while supporting wider economic and social development.

Thus, Enterprise Education is embedded in to all our courses and as part of GEW Staffordshire Business School will be providing a week of challenging enterprise activities working with guest speakers and the be inspired Graduate Start up Programme.

Here is a list of all our free and exciting activities – to book your place use the links provided in the table below:

MONDAY 16TH NOVEMBER

10-11am Being an ethical business: “Street Kids”
Presented by Dr Andrew Taylor
(Session open to all Staffordshire University students)
11-11.45am         Official Launch of the Innovation Enterprise Zone
See details below*
(Session open to all) 
11-12pm Improving the Customer Experience
Presented by Professor David Collins
(Session open to all Staffordshire University students)  
2-3pm Why SMART goals do NOT work! –
Goal setting to achieve more in challenging times
Presented by David Hyner
(Session open to all) 

*Our Innovation Enterprise Zone is one of the only 20 awards around the UK and is embedded at the heart of our campus, IEZ offers unprecedented access to specialist advanced materials, manufacturing and digital facilities, research, student talent and funding to support and accelerate innovation-led growth.

TUESDAY 17TH NOVEMBER

11-11.45am Advanced Materials Incubator & Accelerator Centre  
See details below*
(Session open to all) 
1-5pm Staffs Got Talent! – Innovation challenge  

*Introduction to our new Incubator and Accelerator facility, what it is and how it supports start-ups and SME’s. Delivered by Kelly Bradley. Programme Manager

WEDNESDAY 18TH NOVEMBER

10-11am The Pitch Competition – virtual workshop
Presented by Angela Lawrence, Associate Dean
(Session for Staffordshire Business School students in Level 5 & 6)  
11-11.45am          Advanced Manufacturing Prototyping & Innovation Demonstrator
See details below*
(Session open to all) 
11.30-12pm Digital Entrepreneurship Research and Practice
Fang Zhao, Associate Dean
(Session open to all Staffordshire University students)

*Whether you are looking for research and development advanced manufacturing techniques or process improvement – hear how we can help you succeed! Delivered by Rachel Wood. Programme Manager

THURSDAY 19TH NOVEMBER

*An outline of the programme, benefits of knowledge exchange and how to get involved. Delivered by Marc Wootton. Programme Manager

11-11.45amDigital Innovation Partnerships         
See details below*
(Session open to all) 
2-3pm Meet the Entrepreneurs: Panel with Q&A
Jane Pallister, Jonathan Westlake, Emily Whitehead
(Session open to all) 

FRIDAY 20th NOVEMBER

11-11.45am Intelligent Mobility Innovation Accelerator  
See details below*
(Session open to all) 
2-2.45pm The Small Business Leadership Programme: Meet the team & overview
Professor Jon Fairburn
(Session open to all)   

*This webinar is an introduction into our dedicated project SCIMIA and other wide support for businesses, Delivered by: Marek Hornak – Head of Employer Partnerships and Enterprise

#GEW2020      #ProudToBeStaffs     #StaffsGotTalent       #staffsinnovation

Staffordshire Business School – Research update

Staffordshire Business School aspires to be a leader in making a real impact on business and society through research and innovation. Our team have successfully delivered many industry/business and government funded research projects and have extensive experience of leading large team projects including local, UK, EU and internationally funded projects. Many of our team members combine rich industry and practitioner experience with academic rigour in conducting world-leading research in the areas of entrepreneurship and innovation, digital transformation, environmental health etc. Here are some of the exciting research projects that researchers at Business School have been doing:


Austerity, Welfare and Work: Exploring Politics, Geographies and Inequalities

In his new book, Prof David Etherington provides bold and fresh perspectives on the link between welfare policy and employment relations as he assesses their fundamental impact on social inequalities. Drawing on international and national case studies, the book reviews developments, including rising job insecurity, low pay and geographical inequalities.

Environmental health inequalities resource package

Prof Jon Fairburn is the lead author of a recent World Health Organization publication. The publication is aimed at local, regional and national policy makers hoping to improve environmental health especially for deprived and other groups. Jon has been collaborating with WHO for over 10 years on this subject.

Covid-19 and Smart Cities – What’s Changed? Getting ahead of the Game

Prof Fang Zhao and her team have been conducting research and analysis of a range of changing scenarios of smart cities in post-Covid-19 and pinpoint the opportunities and challenges for businesses, city councils and universities. Their research focuses on strategies, tactics and digital transformation.

The Impact of COVID-19 on BAME Owned Businesses in the UK

The project led by Dr Tolulope Olarewaju is investigating the specific challenges that BAME business owners faced during the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, the strategies that they used to keep their businesses afloat, and how they engaged with financial and regional support. The project is funded by the British Academy.

People, Place and Global Order: Foundations of a Networked Political Economy

This book co-authored by Dr Andrew Taylor explores how the convergence of technology and globalisation is shifting value creation out of products and processes and into digital networks and, in the process, leaving many people behind. He is looking into examples and models of how people and place may flourish within global networks. 

Leadership typology reveals how smart city leaders prefer to tackle inequality

The research of Associate Professor Alyson Nicholds sheds light on how leaders, operating in different organisations, roles and sectors prefer to tackle inequality differently. Her latest writing draws on organisational concepts of leadership and philosophy to show the benefits this type of understanding can reap for society.

Entrepreneurs in Residence

Business School has recently appointed Entrepreneurs in Residence providing students and staff with hands-on experience in conducting research to spot business opportunities, conduct market analysis and better understand consumer behaviour, leading to business venture creation.

For more information and collaboration and partnership, please contact Prof Fang Zhao – Associate Dean Research and Enterprise at fang.zhao@staffs.ac.uk.

Digital marketing students deliver for business

The MSc in Digital Marketing Management was developed to deliver the technical, strategic and organisation skills for this industry. As such the course includes a substantial project with an external client and this work is credited as part of the award. Carrying out a project at the height of the pandemic was even more challenging than usual with everything needing to be done remotely and ongoing changes to adapt to the new situation – so Congratulations to the students below for these excellent projects.

If you are interested in enrolling for this September we are putting on virtual course information events – 3.00-4.00pm 1st September register here or
3.00 – 4.00pm 10th September register here

Eerik Beeton carried out a project for The Waterfront Gallery, in Milford Haven, West Wales. This has involved developing the ecommerce offer on the website, creating social media channels Facebook, Instagram and helping to recruit volunteers for the gallery.

Eerik Beeton who carried out a project at the Waterfront Gallery in  Milford haven, Pembrokeshire
Eerik Beeton who carried out a project at the Waterfront Gallery in Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire

Charlotte Cunningham created a completely new website for Simply Hygiene which is already on the first page of google search due to excellent SEO optimisation. She has also started her own digital marketing company, Sharkey’s Digital Marketing and has also accepted a position as the Marketing Manager for The Aston Care Home group and The Learning College in Stone.

Charlotte has a new marketing job with the Aston Care group in Stone
Charlotte has a new marketing job with the Aston Care group in Stone

Craig Holdcroft carried out a project for the Donna Louise Trust developing the website and social media. He has also started his own marketing business, Holdcroft Digital Marketing while at Staffordshire University, completing projects for a number of Micro and SME’s.

Craig Holdcroft
Craig Holdcroft is running his own agency and part-time lecturing for business and marketing.

Grace Thomson started a student peer blog for the Staffordshire University Careers Studio and this has now been incorporated into the main careers website for the University. The project included providing guidance and training for students across the different faculties in blog writing and social media. The blog has already achieved 23,000 reads in the short time it has been up.

Grace Thomson
Grace Thomson

Amber Mottershead carried out her project for Stone Cricket Club providing a new website and turbo charging the social media channels on twitter, instagram and facebook. She now has a new job as marketing and events executive at The Retrofit Academy

Amber is now the marketing and events executive for the Retrofit group
Amber is now the marketing and events executive for the Retrofit group

Here’s a short film

If you want to find out more about the course please contact

Paul Dobson (Course leader) or Kat Mitchell or Jon Fairburn

Sign up to our virtual course information event here – 3.00-4.00pm 1st September register here or 3.00 – 4.00pm 10th September register here

From Leisure to Retail: Lessons in Leisure

Carol Southall, Senior Lecturer, Staffordshire Business School


If current shopping trips offer any food for thought, beyond that is “not just any food”, it is that retail has much to learn from the leisure industry in terms of how to treat their customers. Beset with the accessibility issues raised by Covid-19, retailers with a physical high street or retail park/shopping mall presence are having to rethink how they do business. The ‘new normal’ is a commonly used phrase and yet, to date, the ‘new normal’ has, in so many ways, been anything but new, and anything but normal.

Two of the key areas in which there are clearly lessons to learn, are those involving queuing, so much a part of life in the UK even before Covid-19, and provision of toilet facilities. Recent news has highlighted scores of people rushing to shops on their reopening, and the ensuing lengthy queues to access those shops. Additionally, there has been negative press around the lack of available toilet facilities in public space, with councils being urged to reopen any closed public toilets. The Government’s drive to reopen the hospitality industry will further reinforce the need for public access to toilets.

Most of us know how to queue, we understand the need to do so, even if we don’t always like it. Queuing in fact is a stereotypical British institution, much like eating fish and chips and discussing the weather, it’s what people do. Given this high level of queue awareness, we might be forgiven in thinking that the organisation of a queue system is almost embedded within our psyche, and yet the variety of queue systems on any given retail park, at any given retail outlet, anywhere in the UK, is astonishing. On a recent visit to a well-known retail park, there were at least 20 different queues, all snaking in different directions, for different stores. Some made good use of barriers, some offered marked walkways to which they anticipated their shoppers would adhere. Some required people to queue past the store exit, meaning that shoppers had to walk straight past people, within a metre, as they left the store. Some had security, some didn’t. The variety was endless. What was quickly apparent however, was that queue etiquette was unilaterally present in them all. We accept whatever queue we’re placed in and wait, not always patiently, to progress along the line.

Image source: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-53044826

The British have taken shopping tourism to a whole new level. Days spent at retail outlets are considered as a leisure pursuit in their own right. Overnight stays near shopping malls often combine retail ‘therapy’ with dining out, a visit to a cinema, and opportunities for a range of additional leisure pursuits, including bowling, skiing, swimming, indoor mini-golf, and a host of other leisure activities aligned to family fun. Whilst lockdown has prevented such activity in recent months, anybody venturing out to a retail park or shopping mall could be forgiven in thinking that nothing has changed. Except it has, as the queues and lack of toilet facilities show.

The leisure industries have much acquired knowledge to pass on to retail. From queue management, through experience design, to provision of necessary facilities. When asked on a radio interview what people really needed when they attend theme parks, the suggestion “a loo, a view and a brew” was proposed as fundamental to enjoyment of the experience offered by attractions. Having toilet facilities, something entertaining and visually stimulating to look at, and somewhere to eat and drink were suggested as necessities to a day spent visiting an attraction of any sort.

Rollercoaster Restaurant at Alton Towers.
Image source: https://twitter.com/altontowers/status/850770317299638272

When we go to a theme park, we understand that we will queue. The difference is that theme parks are designed with queuing systems in mind. Queue theory supports the argument that crowding and lengthy waiting times are major causes of visitor dissatisfaction. Enhancing the queue experience will encourage the customer to not only enjoy their shopping experience but will also increase the likelihood that they will revisit, which is particularly important if the high street is to stand any chance of a recovery, post Covid-19.

In the short-term putting more thought into the systems used to ensure shoppers are able to access retail outlets in more structured, better thought-out and even more entertaining way, will pay dividends, both in terms of visitor satisfaction and the ensuing profits. Added to this the installation of easily accessible, even temporary or portable public toilets, openly cleaned and sanitised at regular intervals, will help to ensure that the current economic recovery phase is facilitated and the transition to the ‘new normal’ made easier by this attention to detail, so integral to the leisure industry.

My Journey

Simon Hughes, BA (Hons) Business Management student


The journey began back in 2017, I decided to start studying the business management degree at Staffordshire University. I knew that this journey was going to include unexpected learning strategies and unknown situations. One of the main challenges was when I got the diagnosis of having dyslexia, I knew that there was something not right regarding my reading, writing and spelling. With having dyslexia, I knew that I would need extra support. The university study skills had helped by supporting me in how I needed to process the information and to give me a better understanding of how I retained the information. When I came to start my first assignment, I felt like this was a setback as I was unsure of if I had completed it correctly. When the results came out, I saw that I had passed, and it reassured me that I could pass my first year. I feel like I was able to do this as I had the support of my university lecturers Hazel Squire and Vicky Roberts, as well as my friends and my family. There were many times within that year where I was very close to giving up, this was due to how challenging I was finding it to believe in myself. However, after I had spoken to the lecturers and my family about how I was feeling, they gave me the support and said that I can do this, this gave me the boost to keep moving forward which resulted in completing the first year without having to resit any of the module subjects, this gave me a great relief.

Going in to the second year, I was feeling very anxious and apprehensive as I did not know if the year was going to be too much for me and if I was going to be able to meet the deadlines on time. The subjects were different from the ones I took in my first year in both semester one and semester two, however I was able to meet the deadlines on time. During the end of semester two I was diagnosed with a condition called PPPD (Persistent Postural-Perceptual Dizziness), this made it more difficult to focus on my assignment as I was not able to look at a computer screen for days on end due to it giving me migraines and dizziness. This condition made me feel like I could not get my assignments in on time which resulted in me nearly giving up. However, as the year progressed, I managed to hand in my assignments even though I do not know how. I had a push of support from my wife and my supportive lecturers Paul Dobson and Bharati Singh, just to name a few. They told me that I had come too far to give up now, this took place just before I had received my results for the second semester of the second year however I found out my hard work had paid off and that I had passed.

When going into my third and final year, the first semester was a challenge due to my migraines and not being able to concentrate for a long period of time, however I still had the support of all the lecturers. During the second semester, the world was hit with Covid 19, this meant that everyone had to engage in social distance learning which made it more difficult for me as I was not able to spend a lot of time looking at the computer screen. This situation was difficult as the rest of the year was uncertain, I did not know whether I would be able to make it to the end of my final year. Even though I was not able to see my lecturers face to face I was able to have a video meeting with them if I needed their support on the lectures or the assignments. They encouraged me to get through my assignments and to get them handed in so that I could fully complete the last year of my three-year degree.


Click here for more information on Dyslexia and how we can support you at Staffordshire University

Support for micro & SME’s businesses: Survive and Thrive

Project leads: e:Prof Jon Fairburn @ProfjonFairburn and e:Kat Taylor @KatTayloruk

There are two parts to the Survive and Thrive project – a series of webinars and 1 to 1 business support. This project aims to support businesses in Staffordshire and the surrounding regions.

The webinars are designed to be interactive and resources to download during the webinars will be made available, as well as examples and the opportunity for chat and questions. If you are unable to attend the webinar then you can watch a recording.

Several of the webinars link to each other and we would encourage you to sign up for all of the webinars.

Practical Hints and Tips for Small and Micro-businesses occurred on Staffordshire Day (May 1st)Recording here

How to critically assess your business operation and ask really good questions in light of Covid 19 – 2pm May 21st Recording here

How to Create Clear Messaging & Develop Customer Relationships Online – 2pm May 28th Recording here

Strengthening your business and its future prospects: adapting your operations and supply chain management 2pm June 4th Recording here

Are you in the right place? How to connect to the right audience & analyse your performance 2pm June 11th Recording here

E-commerce 1: A fun, no techno-babble guide to having a go with electronic commerce! 2pm 18th June Awaiting editing

E-commerce 2:  A detailed navigation of the e-commerce strategy template introduced in the E-Commerce 1 webinar 2pm June 25th Recording here

How to manage your staff and their wellbeing out of the lockdown and beyond 2pm July 2nd Recording here

Introduction to advanced operations for key social media platforms 2pm July 7th Recording here

How to develop & integrate email marketing into your business 2pm July 9th Recording here

Managing change, risk and longevity – what does the future hold? 2pm July 16th

Register here

Applications for FREE 1 to 1 business support are NOW CLOSED (All businesses that are due to receive help have been contacted).

CONTACT INFO Prof Jon Fairburn or Kat Taylor

#SurviveandThrive #Staffordshire #Staffsbiz #Businesstips

Preparing for the New Normal – How accommodation providers in France are rethinking and adapting their services and what can we learn from this?

Paul Dobson, Senior LEcturer,Staffordshire Business School


It’s been a challenging, confusing and worrying time for most industries during this current Coronavirus Crisis. But the hospitality sector in particular stands to be one of the hardest hit as it struggles to contemplate how it can continue to trade successfully keeping social distancing in mind, coupled with a rapidly shrinking economy.  As part of Staffordshire Business School’s support to organisations I’ve been supporting the local and international hospitality sector and as the French businesses are ahead of us in coming out of lockdown I’ve noted some points to help prepare UK organisations.

After 2 months enduring some of the strictest lockdown controls in Europe, France is slowly opening up its economy and society. And the vast, hugely varied accommodation sector, which historically welcomes visitors across the world, is undergoing a rapid and radical revolution to ensure it can continue to attract customers in these unprecedented times.

The newly forced need to keep distance and natural sense of personal safety has fallen well into the hands of some of the self-catering sector. Private homes and villas, especially those that can offer generous outside space as well as little or no contact with others, have seen a huge demand since the 11th of May when the French Prime Minister officially declared that travel up to 100km was now permitted. The public, who have been largely “imprisoned” with massively limited scope to be outside their own homes since the middle of March inevitably have an overwhelming desire for a change of scenery. However, this is not a universal permission and policy, and restricted zones still exist across France, and indeed many local governments, even in the less-infected “green regions” are enforcing the continuation of heavy trading restrictions and forced closures of accommodation providers. But where these rules do not apply, the flood gates have opened and demand, all from customers within the 100km radius, has been significant. Also worthy of note is that the average length of stay has seen a dramatic increase for this time of year.

That’s not to say that this is return to normal times for these accommodation owners. French hospitality organisations have had a massive increase in questions about sanitation, personal responsibility and uniform industry standards on cleanliness and contact that the UK accommodation businesses will need to be prepared for when lockdown restrictions are relaxed. As of today, these restrictions haven’t been totally clarified in France, and only “best practice” guides from local tourism authorities exist online. Some of the leading booking platforms and websites for this sub sector are advising “safety gaps” between customers of, for example, 24 hours to allow any surfaces to become less likely to cross contaminate in the future. What is apparent from discussions with French hospitality businesses is that there is an increased desire for customers to have  “direct online contact” with the service rather than through  online booking platforms.  This could be a welcome shift in attitude as this not only allows peace of mind for the customer, but also less commissions for the business owner to pay to the booking platforms which have come under much public criticism and scrutiny of late because of their high charges. One of the French businesses I’ve talked to has had an 800% increase in Facebook messages, their analytics has shown an increase in both mobile and desktop visitors to their website and the number of emails has increased by over 200% compared to last year.

The B&B (Chambres d’hote) and Hotel sector have reported an uphill challenge. With a mix of different guests under their roofs, all with potentially varying attitudes to respecting the new government guidelines, this poses a significant threat to their short- and medium-term existence. However, those that can offer genuine space, especially outside, have a clear advantage over those that cannot. Going from one restrictive box to another isn’t likely to be a great draw for the new discerning needs of the Covid-19 era traveller.  Forced confinement has brought about a new desire to be out and about in nature, and burn off all those excessive calories consumed since March.

But with the high season fast approaching during which these businesses would traditionally run at maximum occupancy, the reality is that these organisations will be forced to not only give “buffers” in between guests checking out and the next ones checking in, but also run at a lower occupancy to ensure that interaction between different customers is minimized. Therefore “Making Hay whilst the sun shines” will this year inevitably bring about a lower yield, and reduce the vital cashflow which sustains many of these businesses during the quieter months. 

An example of changes implemented is the hotelier Tim Bell and Ingrid Boyer in the Auvergne region of Central France. Tim has developed their website to include a link to their Covid-19 guidance on their home page (see https://chabanettes.com/). This is updated on a regular basis and outlines their commitment to client’s safety.  He implements rapid alterations to its usual offerings and has created the foundations for business continuity and customer confidence.  He has also set up a Facebook forum for like minded accommodation owners in Europe seeking support and advice. Tim collates industry data, statistics and best practice ideas from all over the accommodation sector and share his opinions and advice with the group.

The sector in which he operates is having to rethink more radically about its traditional services to ensure competitivity and customer confidence. This ranges from the provision of catering which is leaning initially more towards a “Room Service” culture to a complete overhaul of the check-in/check-out customer touch points, looking to technology and globally recognised physical safety barriers to reduce risk of viral spread. For an industry which relies heavily on close, personal contact for their reputation and overall experience, keeping a balance between customer satisfaction and safety is proving challenging, but not impossible. Clients now expect a more sterile and distanced world, with supermarkets leading the way in some innovation and rethinking of the customer journey that the hotels are learning from, such as one-way corridors.

Until the world is safely vaccinated against the virus, the accommodation industry will have to adapt quickly and radically to guidelines, legislation and customer fears. History has told us that businesses that do this will have the best chance of survival, and those that don’t not only fear a downturn in business, but also a very visible online reputation for ignoring what is now the number one priority for the 2020 traveller – Safety.