Nimbla customer Britannia Recruitment tells us about the barriers to getting back to work for small businesses, and how to surmount them.
EH: How has the return to work been going on your construction projects?
HJ: It’s slow still. Some of our sites are back open, but most are quite slow at getting back on track. Most sites are working with the new Health and Safety guidelines; social distancing and face masks and everything else that’s needed. Hopefully in August things will pick up a bit. But things are still not what we hoped for yet.
We’re a small business, but what we’re seeing among our clients is that many of their own staff are still on furlough. They need to bring their own staff back before they can focus on agency work. So this is where we’re at right now. We do have quite a lot of projects in the pipeline but it’s taking time for them to come back online. I think some of them are still a bit concerned given the way things are right now. Like I said the projects are there but it’s just a matter of waiting for the right time. We’re trying to keep positive and look at the challenges.
This time last year we were absolutely flying, we were incredibly busy. We had many contracts, and right now things aren’t as bright. We do have some contracts in the pipeline for September. We hope in August things will start moving so we can prepare for those big projects, which were scheduled for July but have been put back.
EH: How has the pandemic changed the way the construction industry operates?
HJ: One thing that’s changing as a result of the pandemic is health and safety – the new regulations will really change the way we work. There will probably have to be a limited number of people on site, depending on the size of the project. The financial impact on all of the different businesses involved will also take time to recover from.
EH: Do you have any advice to pass on to other small businesses right now?
HJ: The only advice I have is if they can’t do anything else, take advantage of the Bounce Back business loan, and the support that’s available through the government scheme. That being said, if you take a loan you’ll have to pay it back, so keep in mind affordability as well. It’s difficult. These are uncertain times. We haven’t dealt with any of this before. It’s difficult to know how to approach this kind of situation.
EH: What are your thoughts on cash flow management post-lockdown?
HJ: From our point of view we handle our own invoices and pay on time, and didn’t get behind with that because ‘something out there’ was affecting us. It was affecting us, but we still paid on time. We have clients who have still not paid us, and a couple who we’ve sent over to you guys [at Nimbla]. Although we understand the situation – that it’s difficult to make the payment – we’ve made all our payments, so we also want to be paid.
There are a few people who haven’t paid us and what would really help would be getting the money that we’re owed. We hope that will happen sooner rather than later. It is affecting our cash flow a little bit. That’s a priority right now. We have been patient but we’re being affected by that. It’s a rough patch but we’re very confident that things will get back on track.
EH: Why do you use Nimbla?
HJ: When we started Britannia, we had different insurers and we felt that we weren’t getting the limits we needed (not wanted but needed, because we were working with a few very big clients). We were being capped at £10,000, which was nothing to be honest with you because that £10,000 was being eaten up in under two weeks. We were on the verge of receiving business which we couldn’t do, so we were on the look-out for something better. The first conversation that we had with Nimbla, after just a couple of checks, they offered us £50,000 for the same client, which was much better and what we needed in terms of insurance credit limits.
So that’s how we came from our previous insurers to Nimbla. Everything has gone very smoothly. We create the invoices weekly, I put them on the portal, and that’s that. It’s very easy, very easy to use, and we’ve had a great experience so far. During this time, unfortunately one of our clients had to go into administration. We had insurance through Nimbla and Nimbla paid out the claim. We’re very happy with the service.
EH: What makes Britannia Recruitment unique?
HJ: As you know we are a small business, so we like to offer a personalised service. We do work nationwide, but we have one location and one point of contact. We have twenty years experience amongst us, and focus on construction. We provide temporary and permanent site personnel from white collar to labourers, carpenters, decorators. We’ve also established trust with our database of clients and a lot of our candidates. Quite a lot of the people who work for us we’ve known for more than a decade, and we have that trust built with them. We know that they can do the job and we trust them 100%.
EH: How does Nimbla help Britannia?
HJ: What made us choose Nimbla was that we’d sometimes get calls from new clients looking for trade. In order for us to supply that client we have to apply for a credit limit. With our previous insurer it took two weeks to get a response on whether they could insure the client or not, and what the limit was. Now with Nimbla, what I find very efficient is that I have this little tool and all I have to do is type in the company number and I’m told straight away if I can work with this client, the risk, and the credit limit. This is what’s really fast and efficient with Nimbla. We can’t afford to wait two weeks for someone to give us an answer. We did lose a couple of clients just because we had to wait too long. Now this isn’t the case.
It’s also the fact that Nimbla offers a credit limit much higher than what we’ve been offered in the past. I gave examples of two of our other clients. We have a third client, for which we were offered £50,000 by our previous insurers. Nimbla offered £250,000. That is a massive difference. It reassures us that we are okay to work with the client and it doesn’t limit us in the number of people that we can supply on site.
We opened in 2018, and the first year was quite slow, we were just getting started. In 2019 we had a fantastic turnover, we were flying. But at the beginning, when we were trying to get those contracts out, we didn’t have the [insurance] limit. We were thinking: ‘what are we going to do?’ ‘How are we going to insure this business?’ So we spent a lot of time trying to find what we needed.
When Nimbla came into play, things really changed for us. We never felt limited. In the past we’d had to send two guys to site rather than ten because we weren’t insured. With our previous insurers our hands were tied. But Nimbla arrived at just the right time.
You can find out more about Britannia Recruitment at www.britanniarecruitment.com.