Willpower versus action in 2017

The start of January saw the usual media commentary about New Year’s resolutions.  However, an article on 7th January by Oliver Burkeman in the Guardian (https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/jan/07/how-to-keep-your-resolutions-not-all-about-willpower) stood out.

The article said that will power wasn’t really the driving force behind successfully-kept resolutions.  Rather it was about effective techniques.  Burkeman writes “if money is automatically transferred from your current account to a savings account the day you’re paid, your goal of saving will be made easier”.  Other examples might be not buying biscuits… so you can’t eat them.  Or for those trying to break a social media addiction, disabling the Facebook app from your phone so you can’t easily log on.

Replacing hope with action is perhaps a topical theme because many people have felt a little “buffeted” by the tumultuous events of 2016.  For just under half the electorate, Brexit is something which happened to them. And the US election is something we British, had to watch from afar in knowledge the outcome (whichever way it had gone) could directly affect us.

These fears for the future might explain the strong press reaction to our market research showing how the number of pub and bar companies going out of business has fallen by 7% over the past year amid increased popularity of craft beers and food.

Insolvencies in the sector fell to 480, down from 521 in 2014/2015.  This was a 16% decrease on 2013/14 when 574 businesses in the sector closed their doors.  We released the research on Saturday 10th December and the following day I had Sky News inviting me in for a studio interview (which I didn’t take up due to a hangover).  By Monday a good proportion of the mainstream press had picked it up.  I guess they enjoyed receiving a good news story about the UK economy.

However, for me the message is wider and shows how alternative finance has a crucial role to play in the SME market in the coming months and years.

With so many details over Brexit to be resolved it seems unlikely that banks appetite for SME lending will return in 2017.  This is likely to impact the SME market and prevent them investing in their growth on the scale they may have planned.  However, alternative finance providers can offer much quicker decisions than banks, thanks to their depth of sector knowledge and bureaucratic systems – something that banks struggle to compete with.

In the leisure sector, the pub and bar businesses that have accessed alternative finance have, in many cases, used the funding to quickly take advantage of and invest in profit margin-transforming consumer trends. Providing craft beers, installing beer gardens, and renovating premises have all attracted customers, boosted profit margins, and contributed to growth.  We believe the availability of alternative finance in this sector (and not just from Ortus) is one reason why the insolvency levels have decreased.

However, due to their specialist knowledge of particular industries, alternative lenders are just as demanding as banks in terms of picking the borrowers they want to pack.  Sector experience, business plans, quality individuals and great ideas are the key to unlocking the support … and at Ortus we are confident in our ability to back the right operators.

Therefore, I’m not sure New Year’s resolutions necessarily apply when it comes to alternative finance in the leisure industry.  The same rules apply in January as in March, July and September:  Whatever the state of the economy and whatever the impact of global events, there will always the opportunities for the quality operators.


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