Rethinking the East Midlands: how we used our Rethink model on ourselves

May 2021

Chris Bond, Tax Partner and Local Head of Tax, BDO Midlands

In January 2020 we were, like many other businesses in the Midlands, working on our business strategy and planning for the year ahead. Our success working with clients on growing their businesses, meant we were planning to grow and develop our team, and looking to expand our business in line with our ambitions. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the UK went in its first lockdown and all our assumptions, business planning and ambitions for growth had to be put on hold.

We had to refocus on ways to keep working and delivering for our clients, in a sustainable and resilient manner. With so much unprecedented change happening so quickly, we needed to ensure we had the right priorities to make the right decisions at the right time. Our firm’s response was guided by our own Rethink framework. It helped us to react to the immediate implications of COVID-19 whilst developing a resilient and sustainable operating model that served the needs of our clients and our people.


As we tried to understand the initial risks, we supported our clients with immediate crisis management using our Rethink structure to help them prioritise their decision-making. This included:

  • Understanding our client’s current, and future, challenges to build scalable insights
  • Support in differentiating themselves, with an integrated sector approach
  • Innovative solutions that work for our clients’ businesses for the longer term

We already know that our clients are the experts in their business, so we have been polling leaders of mid-sized businesses across the UK on a regular basis. The findings are helping our clients and others to take part in the conversation around business recovery.

Whilst we held meaningful conversations within our own business, we also held them with our clients, supporting them to ‘rethink’ business critical focal points. We were all in a unique position where workplace safety, strategies to mitigate revenue loss and, opportunities for financial relief needed to be identified. We continue to help our clients to safeguard their business through the pandemic by focusing on action plans that can fulfil short term needs, as well as planning for a longer term sustainability and growth.  


As we settled into working, teaching and caring from home, our priorities were to protect the physical and mental wellbeing of our people. We initiated “flexiforce”, allowing our people to move quickly across work streams where their skillset was most needed.

We increased the amount of regular communications to keep everyone connected, even though we were all working apart. Meanwhile, people development continued to be a priority for us with monthly learning sessions. Flexibility and development continue to be at the heart of our plans for the East Midlands.

Embedding resilience for many businesses means optimising costs, operating more efficiently and improving customer value. Notable challenges our clients have faced include employee productivity and morale, maintaining overall business performance, scaling up production capacity, revenue impact forecasting and navigating the shifting guidance on social distancing restrictions. Some practical considerations we have offered through our Rethink framework include:

  • A focus on staff satisfaction and retention
  • Identifying opportunities to capitalise on market shifts
  • Building a return to work that aligns with government guidance


We anticipated that the pandemic would change our working landscape permanently. We looked to our IT infrastructure to ensure it was fit for purpose and, that our people had the equipment they needed at home. Our East Midlands teams held focus groups to gauge the mood of our people and to give a voice to new working priorities, including the vision for our future office space.

We began to plan for the longer term with the primary themes from the sessions including; how we use our offices, meeting with wider teams and clients face to face, a space to focus and social connection with others. The emphasis we have placed on staying connected with one another means that we are keen to get the balance for a post COVID-19 office right. We foresee a space where we can sustain operations and people interactions, whilst planning for the future of BDO in the Midlands. 

We are seeing many of our clients move into the Realise phase of our Rethink model; applying the key learnings from the previous phases to their business growth plans. The emphasis should begin to shift to scenario planning to get a better understanding of what the new normal will look like for your business, it should include concise and effective communication with staff and customers; taking them on your change journey and, embracing emerging challenges and opportunities quickly. Support from BDO in these areas looks like:

  • Identifying the right target operating model
  • Supporting you with intelligent compliance
  • Managing / delivering sustainable change and innovation effectively

You can find more information on our flexible Rethink framework and resources here or, take a look at the latest ReThink survey results to see how Midland's businesses are reacting to the current economic climate. If you would like to discuss how Rethink can support your business contact Chris Bond, Partner in Corporate Tax on 07792 018 593, or email [email protected].


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