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Jonathan Amponsah CTA FCCA

Now that some of the small business financial support from the government is coming through, Jonathan Amponsah of The Tax Guys takes us through eight ways to survive and leverage your business to move through the coronavirus pandemic.

There is no doubt that the current crisis has made a profound impact and will continue to affect our physical, emotional and mental wellbeing. As a small business owner, it is important, whatever is happening, that you look after yourself. Make this a priority.

That said let’s look at eight ways to survive and leverage your business, with links to some free templates, tools, white papers and resources to reduce your stress and save you time as you deal with the current situation.

Financial survival action planner

You will need some form of action planner that covers areas in your business to review, as well as a checklist on all the support from the government and how it applies to you.

I suggest creating a spreadsheet and listing all the grants, loans and deferred payment options available to you. Then take a look at where you can save money (tax, rent, staff, agreeing longer payments terms with suppliers, etc.) and where you can make more money (new business ideas, speeding up customer payments, etc.) and then review your tangible assets – is there any way to leverage those? 

To save time, you can download the ‘peace of mind financial action planner’. This contains a Financial Survival Checklist and the Government Stimulus Planner. Grab it and work through the 16 areas with your accountant.

Applying for government help

Ask your accountant about what help is available to you. Make a list of the options and then work through them to see where you qualify.

For example, if you’re a sole trader/freelancer there is a grant available. It’s important to understand your own financials and the rules of the scheme before applying. If you are eligible, you’ll have received a letter from the government. This scheme opened on 13 May 2020 and you need to register for an online account and prepare to file the claim. It’s worth getting help from your accountant as you need to get your paperwork right – not just on the claim, but on your tax returns too.

Similarly, if you run a limited company (including one-man-band companies) there is help available. And these schemes keep changing, so please watch out for the dates and deadlines. Go through your finances and the government support available to make sure that you get the necessary paperwork right when making a claim (this could include furlough paperwork and board minutes). Again, speaking to your accountant can make this easier and ensure you include everything necessary for your business in your plan.

You will find both action planners and furlough paperwork templates on The Tax Guys' website.   

Cut cost without crippling your business

In times of crisis, resist the knee jerk reaction to cut all costs immediately because this can actually cripple your business. So do approach this with some consideration and financial analysis.

Even where you have no income coming in for, say three months, unless you plan to close your business, there are some expenses you may consider to leave alone or even increase when your competitors are cutting back (for example, smart marketing).

We have one client who ramped up their marketing at the start of lockdown (despite clients cancelling and the signs indicating that there were tough times ahead) and found that they almost doubled their business as a result, plus they have a large number of warm leads for later in the year too. So, think carefully – is it time to ramp things up rather than cut back?

If you need to cut costs, create a spreadsheet with all your expenses and then look at each in turn and see where you can cut back. A few small cuts can make a big overall difference and will often be less damaging to the business than one or two very large cuts. Ensure you understand your cash flow and what ‘target’ you need to reach in order to survive. This will ensure you cut enough, but not too much. 

There is also a cost reduction exercise and savings tool (excel template) that you can use to save time and money. 

Cash flow forecast

Once you’ve reduced your costs and you know where your income will come from in the next six to 12 weeks (including income from the government), you now have a 12-week cash flow forecast in place. This will give you some peace of mind, at least for the time being. This document is the basis of your business going forward. Stick to it. If you’ve decided to cut some costs, make sure you cut them. If you’re going to ramp up the marketing or add a new service – do so as soon as you can. You need to follow the decisions you made when creating the forecast – or it very soon becomes a work of fiction!

To save you time creating your own, especially if you’re not using an online accounting platform, you can download an integrated cash flow forecast tool from The Tax Guys' website. It’s called Time Saving Tool to project income-expense and cashflow.

Recover lost income by adapting your business model

Successful businesses are always adapting, leveraging and taking advantage of new commercial opportunities. This has never been truer than in the current situation. You may have heard of businesses taking their goods and services to their customers at home or adapting and taking their products and services online. Restaurants that didn’t offer take-away service or delivery, now do. Spas are selling their exclusive creams and serums direct to their customers. How can you adapt your business to “make lemonade out of lemons”?

Create customers by looking at demand now

There are certain products and services that are being consumed at high levels right now. Cycling is a good example of this, with sales of bicycles and accessories seeing a massive increase. Others will come into their own as lockdown eases.

How can your business solve some of the current pressing problems posed by the pandemic? If you’re a services business, can you productise parts of what you do and sell these at a reduced price for now?

For example, a psychologist can create a five-step programme to help improve the mental wellbeing of business owners, or help your staff build resilience? Or maybe you can run your craft workshops online via a platform like Zoom? Post out the craft items beforehand and then everyone logs on and makes together.

Generate revenue by anticipating future problems and trends

Even after lockdown is fully lifted, it’s unlikely that business will ever be quite the same again. The way we do business has changed and some of those changes are here to stay – at least for the short to medium term. For example, social distancing and increased hygiene awareness.

If you run construction or space consulting business, how are you preparing now to help businesses solve these challenges in the workplace? If you’re an accountant, how would you support businesses in the coming months when they have to pay back all their deferred taxes? And if you’re a marketer, how are you preparing your clients with the right messaging to market their business successfully?

A great way to be inspired with new ideas about how to adapt your business and spot the upcoming trends is to look at what other successful businesses have done. How did they approach it? What did they do?

Read business books and good news business stories to be inspired or you can download a white paper which covers 16 ways to leverage your business based on 16 UK companies who are taking advantage of new commercial opportunities.

Save tax in a pandemic

Did you know there are at least 10 areas to save tax during a pandemic? Ask your accountant about these 10 areas to see if you qualify for any:

  1. Negligible Value Claim (get a tax refund if an asset you purchased has gone down in value)
  2. Normal Loss Relief (generate a tax refund from last year)
  3. Terminal Loss Relief (generate a tax refund from the last 3 years)
  4. Company closure and paying 10% tax (don’t overpay your tax bill in this difficult time)
  5. Research and Development Tax Credit (are you missing out on generous tax cuts? Would your new business re-invention lend itself to a tax refund?)
  6. Early tax filing (file your returns early to secure eligible tax refunds)
  7. VAT bad debt relief (reclaim any VAT you’ve paid on bad debt)
  8. Realising capital losses (if an asset you hold has gone down in value, consider selling it)
  9. Passing assets to the next generation (if an asset you hold has gone down in value, consider passing it on)
  10. Transferring assets at low values (if an asset you hold has gone down in value, consider transferring it to, say, your company)

I hope these ideas and free resources will help you and your business.

Jonathan Amponsah CTA FCCA is an award-winning chartered accountant and tax adviser who helps improve businesses.  He is the CEO of The Tax Guys.

Contributed by Jonathan Amponsah
Kate Buckle
Article by Kate Buckle
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