If you haven’t read it already, check out our blog on employment issues arising as a result of this terrible bug.
That of course isn’t the end of the matter – what about the business itself, its owners and managers and other people with responsibilities? The first thing – as always – is stating the blindingly obvious: this is a fast moving and evolving situation and what may be right yesterday isn’t today and almost certainly won’t be tomorrow.
But there are probably some constants here and it is worth bearing in mind:
- Cash flow?
- We are expecting some help from our central governments to ease cash flow. Many businesses are going to find it very difficult to keep the cash churning through as different parts of the economy slow at different rates. While we wait for help which may not be coming, what can we do?
- The first thing is to talk to people who we might owe money to – that might be HMRC or landlords or banks or whatever. Having a discussion with people before we are in trouble with them is always better than doing so afterwards.
- Secondly, let’s be in touch with the people who actually owe us money. It may well be that legal steps seem a beastly last resort (and they probably should be) but the first resort is to find out if people are going to pay you at all.
- Once you know what is due and what’s coming in, do come and speak to us because it is surprising just how quickly we can make cash appear if we get in there early.
- Wealth protection?
- It may well be that you’ve previously had thoughts about how to separate out a trading business (which is no doubt generating lovely profits etc) from the things the trading business needs to operate.
- Does it need to actually own the property it’s in? Does it need to actually own equipment it uses? Does it actually need all of the money that it has accumulated in the bank?
- In case things get really bad, it’s probably useful to sit down with us and your accountant or advisors to make sure that the way in which your business is structured (and the place where valuable assets, property, cash etc are located) actually works for you both when things are going well and perhaps when things are going less well.
- And this doesn’t necessarily mean lots of legal or other bills. There are fairly easy ways to protect the value you’ve built up without having to pay yourself a huge dividend which incurs a big tax bill.
- Again, something to think about now rather than waiting any longer?
- Is it a lemonade time?
- Most businesses are going to find the coming weeks and months difficult. No doubt for myriad reasons – but they’re going to be hard.
- But that is not to say that all of it has to be bad. While I loathe and detest the “if life serves lemons … make lemonade“ nonsense, there is of course a germ of truth.
- Are there things that you haven’t done just because you were too busy when things were really busy? Are there opportunities that present themselves now but didn’t when everyone else was trading very happily? Are their tax reliefs or claims that you know you should’ve made … but never quite got round to it?
- In short, are there changes you can make to the business (for good or bad) that couldn’t be done previously?
- Or, and there are people around who have made billions doing only this, is trouble for other people an opportunity for you?
There are no easy answers at a time like this. These three points – however simplistic – are no substitute for thinking hard about your business and the problems we all currently face. And of course the opportunities that they may throw up.
I’ve decided that this decade is the decade of “deliberate”. That is, I will live with what happens – as long as I took an active, deliberate decision to let it happen. This is a tough time to test this resolve. But let’s make sure that anything we do (or don’t do) is a by choice and that we don’t simply get swept along in the stream of “disaster and despair” around us?
For more information, contact Alan Stalker: