How long might this last and how will this impact my business?
These are the questions on the lips of every business owner in the UK and in many other countries right now.
We’ve gathered a range of guidance from a variety of sources as we all take this global challenge day by day. The Plus X team will continue to seek and share the latest support and expert advice, sharing to our social media channels including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram.
Cash is king for every business and Paul Feist, Managing Director at Plus Accounting and his colleague Peter Hedgethorne, Tax Services Director, have shared some cash flow tips that are worth looking into. On Tuesday 17 March, Chancellor Rishi Sumak also unveiled a fund of £330bn for companies to access loans, a business rates holiday, and help for small firms without insurance.
Deferment of Tax
Income tax, corporation tax, Vat and PAYE/NICs due by businesses in financial distress can be deferred on application to HMRC to delay their payment under the “Time to Pay” service. This scheme has been available for a number of years, and HMRC will be sympathetic to claims from businesses which are suffering because of the conditions surrounding the COVID-19 virus. These claims are dealt with on a case by case basis, and HMRC normally wish to see reports of the current financial position of the business and forecasts showing the difficulties that will be caused. Clearly we are in early days for virus-related claims, so it is difficult to judge at the moment how lenient HMRC will be in allowing extended credit, but given the large volume of claims that are expected it may well be that they will be accepted with the minimum evidence of hardship.
Additional business rates relief for small businesses
As part of the recent budget, the government announced that they will be increasing business rates relief in England to 100% for properties which have a rateable value below £51,000 for the 2020/21 tax year. This relief will also be expanded to the leisure and hospitality sectors in response to the COVID-19. You can view the current government information on rates relief here.
Businesses eligible for the newly expanded relief will probably have to apply to their local authority to receive the discount. Full guidance is expected to be published on the 20 March.
Explore upcoming cash grants and loans
In the latest Government update, the Chancellor has advised that businesses are going to be able to apply for government backed loans to support in paying building rent, salaries, suppliers or purchasing stock. Interest rates will be paid by the Government for the first six months. The Government also previously announced that they will also support small businesses that pay little or no business rates. A previously £3,000 cash grant as announced in the budget has now been raised to £10,000 and will be provided to businesses to help meet their ongoing business costs. Guidance on how to apply will be published by the Government in due course.
Ask for early payment
If you have clients who are larger businesses than yourselves, ask them if they might be able to pay you earlier. Many large businesses are already running with this initiative to help small businesses.
Communicate with your staff:
Just as the UK wishes to hear daily from the PM, employees are keen to hear from their founders and leaders about general Government updates, employee well-being and next steps for the business. Holding regular online briefings with your team is a good way to keep employees engaged and it’s an opportunity for you to answer questions surrounding any concerns your team may have.
Many founders may be new to navigating a work from home policy and the current situation demands that employers review the options. Emma Jones, Founder of Enterprise Nation advised in their small business webinar on Monday 16 March that Seed legals have provided a free home working policy template to use.
You can also use your team briefings to gather the team’s thoughts on how the business can adapt to the changing environment.
Develop a contingency plan
Suppliers: Touching base with your suppliers and understanding their contingency plans is key to your operation and may lead to you needing to find back-up suppliers. This is an ideal task to look at right now before you get cut short by a supplier.
Sales: Look at your product or service offering and how you can diversify what you currently offer. Can it be done in a different way? How can you be entrepreneurial right now?
Staff: If your staff need to take time off, make sure you know the legal position when it comes to sick pay. Employers with less than 250 employees can reclaim two weeks of statutory sick pay. Find out more here. Employers will have to be careful about recording absence days for sickness, self-isolation, working from home and holiday, as the type of absence will determine whether SSP is due. For instance a person who is self-isolating because of family symptoms may be able to work from home. In addition, the Chancellor also said yesterday that he would be announcing further support measures for staff costs in the next few days.
Find opportunities and collaborate, particularly online:
Networking events are key for business owners. The good news is you can still network by taking part in online events. Tune in, ask questions, profile your business and be an active audience member. If you offer advice or a service, can you offer that advice as a guest at someone’s online event or on a podcast? This could help raise your profile.
You could suggest an online get together with other small businesses in your community where you can share knowledge, tips and advice.
Thinking of hosting an online event? Eventbrite have listed some superb tips here. You can do so using services such as gotowebinar.com, Google hangouts, Facebook LIVE and IGTV. We recommend keeping online events to no longer than an hour and make sure you encourage audience participation. You can use social media ahead of the event to ask for input into the topics covered in the event.
Times of crisis can move from panic to focus. Many business owners juggle changing priorities, and times like this will force you to focus on what really matters and what your key aims are. For a lot of businesses that is cashflow and people (both customers and employees).
Write down your key objectives for the day and then for the week. Whilst you still need to keep your eye on the long term plan, breaking the next steps down into daily goals will really help you focus on changing priorities in an uncertain environment.
If you have a board of directors or a senior leadership team, lean on them to contribute to the above contingency plan. If you aren’t lucky enough to have that, then perhaps re visit networking online with other business owners so you can bounce off each other with ideas.
Don’t forgot to focus on wellbeing and nature
Avoid reading too many news threads, stick to sound and succinct government advice. This may mean reducing the time you spend on social media so you can focus on what’s really important.
When you feel stressed, it’s vital to remain resilient, try and get enough sleep and eat well. You could also try meditation apps like Headspace who have brought out a specific series for this current period of uncertainty.
Why not workout at home and use YouTube workouts such as the Body Coach TV. A 20 minute morning workout will keep the endorphins high and the mind positive, helping you tackle the day ahead.
Nature is still on our doorstep, the sun is still rising and the birds are still singing. Take yourself out for a park stroll, hike or beach visit. Nature is scientifically proven to put our mind at ease. Regular breaks with daylight are key. The National Trust have made a pledge to keep all their parks and gardens open during this period and have advised access will be free. You can find your nearest National Trust location here.
Ask for help
We have already seen a surge in acts of kindness. Remember that you aren’t alone, post your concern on social media or tell a friend and you never know who may be able to help. Many small business consultants are offering free advice via social media. Your bank will also have business advisers whose job it is to offer advice during periods like this.
Find local support groups such as the Wired Sussex slack channel for digitals and creatives. This has already seen a wide range of businesses networking and collaborating on opportunities.
Lastly, don’t forget to reach out to the Plus X team, we’re here to help.