Jennifer Hardy, FD of Transline Group, gives her views on the year ahead
What have been the biggest challenges for your business over the past year, and what role did finance play in addressing them?
The past year has seen a change in our company profile so the real challenge has been re-forecasting for our major stakeholders to ensure that we understand the impact of change. Personally, I’ve taken a more public-facing role in the past twelve months.
There has also been a reduction in net margins as margins in our sector have become inherently low. As a business we have contribution targets which my team works to highlight any underperformance.
The backdrop has seen changes in the labour market and media pressure for our business and sector so a key challenge has been driving understanding of true cost within the sector.
What are the key political and economic risks/opportunities you face in the year ahead?
Brexit, and the negotiated position, will play a major part in the year ahead as the labour market in our sector heavily rely on the free movement of labour around the EU. Although parts of the market are yet to feel the impact of Brexit, we have already seen its effect on the availability of labour due to the uncertainty and the weakening of the value of Sterling.
The continuing focus on working practices in the UK is creating an opportunity for us moving forward as we as a business and as a supplier understand the issues being highlighted – which are inherent within the logistics and retail sector – we are able to identify them and are prepared to be firm with our clients where improvements may be required.
Which capex projects will you be focusing on in 2017, and how will these be financed?
As a service business we don’t invest in CAPEX as such, as we don’t have a requirement.
Our investment will be in technology and providing solutions to our clients to reduce costs and increase productivity. Often we find these solutions can be provided at a relatively low cost by improving our software to offer a greater service.”
How do you expect the balance of your role to change in the coming year; between compliance and forward-looking/strategic? And why?
My role will become increasingly focused on the longer term strategy next year, and delivering a business plan to ensure we are maximising opportunities and ensuring EBITDA growth is achieved as planned to hit long-term objective for the business and its shareholders.
Advice for other FDs for the coming year?
Ensure you and the board are focused on the bottom line as well as the top. As a business, we have achieved unprecedented growth in turnover, however, you must always be mindful that as the business infrastructure catches up this can be costly.
“I anticipate the labour market could become increasingly strained, so depending on your business, ensure you look after your existing workforce and are prepared for an increase in costs to attract new employees. If you use an agency to supply labour in busy periods, ensure they are reputable and you understand how they engage with workers as if you don’t understand this, this could have a negative impact on your business.