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Comment: Coronavirus survival strategies for small businesses

Bobby Lane, small business growth expert and accountant to the fashion sector, gives his advice on how independent retailers can prepare for the downturn in the wake of coronavirus.

My son said to me this morning that he has never heard the word “unprecedented” used so many times in such a short period. This is today’s reality and the situation will continue to evolve at such a pace that it is almost impossible to keep up. So, what should you be doing to prepare yourself for both the short term and for life after Covid-19?

Financial review

A review of the current financial position of the business must take place with immediate effect. What is the cash position, to whom do you owe money and who owes you? From this a Very short-term 12-week cashflow should be prepared to identify the immediate challenges if forced to close for a period of time. What do the liabilities look like and is there enough cash to pay them?

Cutting costs

This crisis will pass, so do not make knee-jerk reactions and just cut everything in a panic, as you will still need to be able to trade in the future. However, don’t be afraid to make any necessary changes. I have seen companies large and small within the sector looking at the best way of cutting their two main costs: staff and premises.

Be creative and use the forecasts to identify by how much costs need to be cut for survival and start those conversations now.

Funding

Don’t hide from your bank or lender. All of the banks I have spoken with are being incredibly supportive from offering loan-repayment holidays to increasing limits. But they will want to see some information, including your management accounts, a 12-month cashflow forecast and some commentary around business resilience. So start preparing now.

What help is available

The government has genuinely recognised the threat to the economy as a whole and in particular the retail sector. It has introduced measures to support businesses through this difficult period. The situation is changing daily, but businesses must be aware of what is available and where to turn.

  • The government will cover two weeks of statutory sick pay for unwell employees for companies of less than 250 employees. Make sure your payroll provider or team are doing this
  • There will be a 12-month rates holiday for businesses in the retail sector
  • Grants of between £10,000 and £25,000 will administered by local authorities. So if you think you qualify and you do not hear from yours, it is worth chasing up.
  • The Business Interruption Loan Scheme is a rebranding of the Enterprise Finance Guarantee Scheme (EFG) for loans of up to £5m. Start the conversation with the banks as soon as possible but beware this is a loan that will need to be repaid and currently the business owner may also have to personally guarantee the loan
  • If a business is facing difficulties meeting its tax obligations, the government has put more resource behind the time-to-pay scheme, so call on the helpline number 0800 015 9559
  • Check your insurance policy to see if you have business interruption insurance. Unfortunately, Covid-19 is not named in most policies so you may not be able to claim, but it is worth asking the question.

These are challenging times but not the time for indies to bury their heads in the sand. Take action now to ensure that your businesses will be as healthy as you are when this is finally over.

Readers' comments (3)

  • not much for small business really... a discredited scheme from the credit crunch of which you need to sign your house to....your local biscuit crunching council to administer grants based on their interpretation of the guidelines and your businesses qualification..

    We need VAT to be frozen... as any assistance must assist a hibernation period....employees must be supported by fast support ..Inland Revenue should administer grants to business..not local plodding councils...

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  • I totally agree with the comment above. These measures are supporting the conglomerates really. We are in a country where for the last five years people have been encouraged to start a small business and this has been glorified. The tax office receives more from business taxes. But now things are at a challenging stage what support do we really have? Those of us with less than ten employees

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  • darren hoggett

    What isn't (yet) being written about the effect of retail post Virus. With many consumers migrating to online for the first time, will they go back to bricks and mortar once the outbreak is clear?

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