Mothball or keep going?


Many small businesses are faced with a stark choice. Should they go into lockdown and effectively mothball what they have – for later reuse? Or should they move on and find a way to deliver some or all of their financial plan, one way or another.

I’m sad for businesses that depend on social interaction and can see no way to continue through the months ahead. It is horrible to see people being sent home with no work to do and no way to find a job. As has been noted by many, home-working is only an option if you have something you can do at home.

I was thinking of this video as I walked to my WeWork office yesterday morning

Set against this – the resourcefulness of people to find a way

Keeping us going

Not all of us can adapt our business models to survive. Most small businesses do not have sufficient cashflow free, to continue trading at a loss for long.

People have to find out about their entitlements in strange ways!

The small business rate relief grant

It’s good that the Government has announced a grant to keep the smallest businesses going. The same goes for the extended grants to the hospitality and leisure industry.
Screenshot 2020-03-20 at 07.20.11

I learned about this from a screenshot from a colleague’s phone, shared on an email. I use this as an example both of the resourcefulness we are employing to share our lives, and as a plea to Government to make the path to this money – easy and digital. We cannot do this by post and we can’t be queuing  up at Government offices.

Even in this dark hour – data sharing can help us learn!

While on the subject of technology,  I should point out that for those of us who are keeping going, how we go about it can be of interest to those who are planning us out of this misery.

Smartphones aren’t just good for messaging, they can be used to help Government trace the virus’ spread

So as we keep going, we can help by sharing what we do. Data helps today and tomorrow!  (Note to the Open Finance consultation).

More ways to keep things going

The Government has promised small businesses they will fund the costs of Statutory Sick P ay for employers with workforces of 250 people or fewer for up to 14 days.

Banks will also be offering loans to small and medium sized businesses under the governments Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan scheme.

You can find out more about the help available to businesses on the website.

Many businesses , including us , have both corporation tax and PAYE bills to HMRC falling due next week. IF you are struggling to pay your tax bill because of coronavirus, you can call the HMRC Coronavirus Helpline on 0800 015 559.

If your business is struggling from the impact of coronavirus, then you can call Business Debt line on 0800 197 6026.

Find out more about what help might be available for your business on the Business Debtline website.
In Northern Ireland you should visit the Advice NI Business Debt Service.

Help with business overheads

It is important that both tenants and landlords know where they stand. I work in a shared office space which we are calling “no-work”. No one is working there, not even the we-work staff, who are working from home.

That means 400 businesses who are paying for space, desks or just the right to roam the communal areas. For the Citibanks and ITMs (and the Green Finance Initiative opposite us), cashflow may not be an issue. However three to six months paying for a space you cannot occupy is disastrous.

Landlords and tenants should be working together to establish ways forward. It should be remembered that many landlords are as hard-pressed as their tenants.

agewage wework

However – putting matters in the hands of lawyers helps no-one (but the lawyers).

Planning your cashflow

Considerable amounts of my time is spent re-jigging cashflows to take into account changes in costs and revenues resulting from the outbreak. I am sure I am not alone.

I don’t blame any business for packing it in – or mothballing till such a time as things get better.

But I firmly believe that prudent planning, a review of costs, negotiating with creditors and picking up any money that is on the table, can make the difference between sinking and swimming.

Take time to do your cashflow planning and you may be pleasantly surprised.

Don’t lose momentum

But most of our businesses have momentum behind them and we should remember we have agility and resilience that many larger companies have lost (we were all young once).

When I come out fighting, I do so with both hands! I am coming out fighting now and I will be talking with our customers, suppliers and partners over the next few days with the confidence of someone who has a plan.

I wish every small business owner luck and encourage you to be brave! And sometimes the bravest thing is to admit you cannot carry on – admitting that – isn’t cowardice – it’s a different kind of bravery.

If we are to lose our businesses (and I’ve no intention of letting that happen) then we should do so with pride.

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About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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