Richard Buxton, FD of travel experts Inspire, gives his 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?
All businesses have faced challenges this year, thanks to the prospect of continued economic uncertainty brought by Brexit and the surprise US election triumph of a certain Mr Trump. With regards to the travel industry, we’ve looked to ensure we hedge any foreign currency exposure we may have, as this has been a notable challenge this year due to Brexit.
Inspire is also on an aggressive growth plan and this will inevitably need some capital investment in the future, so we’ve had to focus on generating the most out of opportunities presented to us. As financial director, I’ve had to ensure adequate funding continues to be in place despite this relative uncertainty.
What are the key political and economic risks/opportunities you face in the year ahead?
There is obviously a level of uncertainty caused by the political ‘new world’, with the US elections and the Brexit referendum.
One thing is for sure: our customers keep coming back for more holidays despite the weakened pound and poor exchange rates. We predict our customers will likely book early or potentially reduce the number of nights they go away for in 2017, but we’re confident that they won’t simply stop booking their much-needed breaks.
While it’s hard to predict the trends of holidaymakers from year to year, our aim is to be robust enough to capitalise on the opportunities the political changes may bring.
Which capex projects will you be focusing on in 2017, and how will these be financed?
The main capex projects we will be focusing on will be the development of our sales promotion business in new geographical regions worldwide, such as in South America and south-east Asia.
The idea is that we can make these essentially self-financing, but we have built a strong relationship with our bank to ensure that we have a good deal of flexibility should we need any additional support.
How do you expect the balance of your role to change in the coming year; between compliance and forward-looking/strategic? And why?
As we embark on further business-wide growth strategies, the requirement to forecast is becoming ever more important.
However, with the onus of managing compliance regulations within the business also growing, I believe that both aspects of my role will continue in an equal balance – but both will be more demanding!
Advice for other FDs for the coming year?
Embrace change, don’t fear it, but at the same time try to rationalise what each opportunity and risk means to your business.
Don’t shroud your company’s financial position in jargon. It’s important to allow yourself to take on as much of an advisory role among your colleagues as possible, so that they can better understand the financial implications that the opportunities and risks mean.
Being open and transparent about the finances ultimately helps everyone in the business to work towards the same goals.