Here at Jones Harris we are seeing the personal and financial struggles that many clients are facing. Clients are more than a service-business transaction to us and we genuinely want to be as supportive as possible. While there is no way any of us can deny the huge damage the coronavirus is having, and will have on the economy and our businesses, we would like to make some positive suggestions.
Some of the information and ideas below might be repeated or irrelevant to you. But we hope that everyone can take something from it.
The most important thing to do is ensure that you are receiving all the funding and support that’s available.
We are sending out regular updates to clients by email. The up to date and full information on grant relief can be found here on the GOV.UK website
‘Unprecedented’ is a popular word at the moment, but these really are unprecedented times. We won’t be the first people to suggest that it’s an ideal time to take this unprecedented opportunity to make changes in both your business and your life.
Try and see this as an opportunity
This might be the first-and last-time you have ever been forced to stop and take stock of how you operate. Take the time to really reflect on your business. When life was normal you were probably so busy dealing with the day to day demands of work and home life that at the end of a day you were too exhausted to do little more than watch TV and go to bed.
This is the time to think about leading your business rather than just managing it. There is a big difference between management and leadership. In the words of Warren G. Bennis:
The manager administers; the leader innovates.
The manager has a short-range view; the leader has a long-range perspective.
The manager asks how and when; the leader asks what and why.
The manager has his eye on the bottom line; the leader has his eye on the horizon.
The manager accepts the status quo; the leader challenges it.
Talk to your staff and managers
Many of you will be in sole charge of your business but may have friends and family with opinions (although some opinions may be more welcome than others). Observers and people at the grass roots of a business often have ideas and thoughts that might save you time and money. Ask, listen and respect their thoughts.
Have brainstorming sessions with people who you can trust. Think about your business in 5 years, 10 years and further, picturing it at different points in time and imagine what you want to see. Then, think about how you can realistically achieve your aims. It might even help to draw up an action plan and share it with those around you.
You are the innovators; we are the accountants. Remember why you went into your business and tune into that early enthusiasm. You are never too old!
Rethink and refresh
It’s been good to see that many clients are being creative in managing their businesses. For example, restaurants are selling takeaways and some shops offering free deliveries. These are just for starters.
Some of you simply cannot diversify this easily, but there are still ways you can be prepared and stronger when businesses reopen.
Review Stock and Suppliers
What lines are profitable? Do some take up time, space and money for little reward?
Look at the stock you are currently carrying. Is some old or obsolete within your business model? Consider if it can be turned back into cash quickly by selling at a discount or possibly putting it online through the likes of Ebay.
Are there other products or services which would fit well with your business?
Talk to your existing suppliers and consider alternatives.
Review your space
Have a good look at your immediate space – the front of your premises, reception area, your own office. Does it appeal to clients?
A clear out, tidy up and a lick of paint can make you feel better as well!
We know it’s boring! That’s why we do our job so that you can get on with yours! But why not get ahead of yourself and get those books into us as soon as possible? Remember we are currently offering a free collection and delivery service every day of the working week.
Now that so many have us have been forced to rapidly move to remote working, you could start to think about how this might be continued.
Do you really need to spend time and money travelling to speak to suppliers or clients when you can use Zoom or Teams or Skype?
You might find a way to use technology innovatively to free staff to do more productive roles that really drive your business forward.
It’s a good time to reflect on your social media presence. Is your website fresh and inviting? Most people go straight to a website and if faced with a dull page might go no further in looking you up. We like to think a website is like a book cover and title that draws you into the real content.
Even during this crisis, you should be reminding your customers that you are still there. We’ve seen some great client posts on social media recently. They’re not currently selling anything but maintaining a very visible presence. These are the businesses who potential customers will remember once this crisis is over.
If you don’t understand social media this is a good time to learn. Ask your children or grandchildren and get them to show you Instagram, Facebook, Twitter etc. Start with the social media platform where your customers are most likely to gather.
Host events online
Where there’s an app, there’s a way forward.
Even from their living rooms people are looking for events to get involved with. There are some good technologies available including;
- Go To Webinar or Go To Live,
- Facebook Live,
- Microsoft Teams,
- Google Hangouts
- and for those on Instagram there’s IGTV.
Have you considered pre-selling?
Have you encouraged your customers – especially regulars – to buy now and support you in return for something in the future?
Look at this website for further ideas – Pay it Forward campaign.
Clients could pre-book meals, a room for the night or a ticket to an event etc. Ideal for high street bars and restaurants who are affected by the hospitality ban.
Advice Line for businesses worried about debt
The Business Debt line offers support and guidance such as:
- A Webchat with an adviser 9am – 8pm Monday to Friday.
- You can speak to an adviser on 0800 197 6026 between 9am – 8pm Monday to Friday.
- An Online Budget Tool to help you budget and consider your options
If you have lines of finance in the business (e.g. credit cards, factoring, hire purchase, etc.) speak to your providers to see what they can do to help. Some are giving repayment holidays or reduced payment terms for a period of time.
Electricity & gas suppliers
Please speak to your suppliers as some clients have informed us that they are only paying standing charges. It is worth a call.
Commercial tenants who cannot pay their rent because of coronavirus will be protected from eviction.
However we recommend that you have direct conversations with your landlord as you will still be liable for the rent after this period. Remember your rent is their income so a mutually supportive conversation will help to protect future relationships.
Leasing equipment and Vehicles
Again, we advise that you speak to your provider and ask to agree terms during the current crisis.
Vans and cars
If you operate a heavy goods vehicle there is more information here which you might find useful during the crisis.
We do hope you have found something useful in this update and really appreciate clients getting in touch with their ideas and tips. Please continue to share them and we will include your responses in updates and on our Facebook page.
Please remember to Like and join in with our refreshed Facebook page. It’s updated with useful information and where we also share the lighter side of office life.
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