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The Pandemic & Me: Mercia Asset Management

This time we're catching up with Jan Oosthuizen from Mercia Asset Management, a specialist asset manager providing equity or debt investment to regional businesses with growth ambition.

His role as Investment Manager sees Jan identifying companies to invest in, negotiating deals and then working with these businesses to help them achieve their ambitions.

Footprints Consulting: Have you had to adapt to Covid-19? What changes have you made?

Jan Oosthuizen: I’m not one for working from home, and have had to adapt over the last few months. I have set myself up with a desk and second screen, and try not to work too much from the kitchen leaving it as a separate space to get away from the “office”.

FC: Have you had any challenges communicating effectively with colleagues or clients?

JO: We have Zoom and Slack – which have been great to help make the best of the situation. Despite this, like everyone I have missed the face to face interactions, the 5 minute chat while making a cup of tea, and the after-work catch ups with colleagues and contacts over a beer.

FC: Do you think it has changed the way you do business?

JO: Yes – like everyone I’ve had to adapt to the new working environment, I’ve done more virtual catch ups recently, which I think I will adopt going forwards, as it cuts down on travel time and allows me to catch up with more contacts more frequently.

FC: Have Mercia been helping their business portfolio through the pandemic or have most of the portfolio been holding strong through the storm?

JO: We have nearly 400 portfolio companies, which have all been affected in different ways. We have been providing ongoing support in a number of different ways, including strategic advice (both our own and third-party experts through a series of webinars that have been well attended), reporting trends on the market and providing funding, if required.

I have personally been impressed by the management teams in my portfolio, how they have reacted and led (and continue to lead) their businesses through these difficult times.

FC: What changes have you seen businesses making since the pandemic?

JO: Many businesses have increasingly had to react quickly and learn to innovate, as well as make some difficult decisions. In my view, the businesses which will flourish are those that remain adaptable.

FC: How are you coping with the cross over of business and personal life?

JO: Generally I feel I have coped well – I have been quite strict in separating work and home life, especially on weekends. Keeping my work space separate has really helped, because I can close the door to the “office” at the end of the day and enjoy my evening.

FC: What have you surprisingly missed about “the old ways”?

JO: My walk to work – although I have saved some time cutting out the commute – I enjoyed the time to reflect on the day ahead. I actually started taking time in the morning to have a walk with a coffee around where I live before I started work each day.

FC: Is there anything you wouldn’t go back to?

JO: The office full time – whilst I was reluctant to work from home at first, I’m definitely a convert! Plus my wife agreed to have a take away for lunch every Friday, which I hope will continue!

FC: What advice can you give other businesses right now?

JO: Wherever there is challenge there is an opportunity - don’t be afraid to adapt, change and try something new – if it doesn’t work the first time, don’t worry, keep trying and learning. I think what the global pandemic has taught us all is that although most of us don’t like change, we are all capable of dealing with it, and can adapt quickly when we have to.

FC: You have gone back to the office now, how are you finding it? Has everyone returned?

JO: Mercia have adopted a 2-2-1 approach, two days at home, two days in the office and one TBC depending on the individual. This approach has been great – it has allowed us all to meet our colleagues face to face and keep in touch, but has provided people with the flexibility they want and need at the moment.

FC: What do you think the future of working will look like? If changed at all.

JO: I think there are a few things that will change in the future:-

(i) I think working from home will become more acceptable and more common place

(ii) I think video calls and virtual catch ups will become the norm.

I can see this move to more remote practices providing a great opportunity for the regions because there will be less of a need to have a physical presence in London.

FC: What’s next for Mercia?

JO: We have funds to deploy across the regions and are investing in both our portfolio and new businesses. We’re always happy to have a conversation over a coffee (virtually at the moment, of course) – so any questions about funding to help your business achieve its ambitions, please reach out to us.

Thanks Jan! Some great working from home tips in there and we really like the 2-2-1 approach Mercia have adopted to office work. Looking forward to seeing Mercia help more business grow and show off the strength of the regions at the same time.

Keep your eyes peeled for the next edition of this guest blog series for some more tips and tricks from some of the region's most successful companies.

How have you adapted your business practices during the pandemic? Perhaps you have some solid WFH tips to help creativity, collaboration and/or motivation? Share them in the comments.

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