A time to be thankful?

There is no end in sight to the current pandemic and it is likely that our lives will be affected by it until a vaccine is found. This means that planning is particularly difficult. Our world of certainties has been destroyed.

In truth, the certainty we think we can rely on in life is often just an illusion. Whilst we can control how we react to the issues we have to face in our personal and business lives, and the decisions we make along our journey, we have very little control over the world around us.

The pandemic has reminded us that the big things that affect our lives are out of our control. We can do our part in ensuring we do not get, and then pass on, COVID-19. We can try to reduce our impact on the planet by reducing the rubbish we produce and the emissions we are responsible for. But at the end of the day our impact will always be minute.

It is because of the enormous impact our environment has on our lives that we are in a very lucky situation.

We are incredibly lucky to live in a wealthy country that is relatively unaffected by blights and famines. Our economy, despite the hammering it has taken in the last few months, is still pretty strong when compared to many other countries’.

Even the weather, that we love to complain about, is pretty tame – no hurricanes and tornados for us. Although global warming has meant that some coastal residents have lost houses, the vast majority of us can be confident that the homes we live in will survive us.

Like our European neighbours we live in a politically stable country where the impacts of any election on our day to day lives is pretty minimal. We are highly unlikely to have to live under a military dictatorship where we could lose our lives, or loved ones, at any moment.

And yet the news is full of how badly off we are as a nation. Politicians play on peoples fears that we are being swamped by immigrants who will take our jobs and diminish our lives.

The fact is that the reason refugees want to come here is that they have sussed something that we often forget – this is a pretty great country to live in.

We are all incredibly lucky and have much to be grateful for – we just need to remember that fact!

Understanding your finances

In these uncertain times it is more important than ever for business owners to have a clear grasp of their financial situation. With the end of government aid in the form of the furlough scheme it might be that further cash flow support is needed to ensure employees can be kept on or it might be that ramping up after lockdown has meant a big investment in stock.

Whatever your circumstances you need to be aware of your finances so that you can make the right decisions for your business.

However, many owners/managers of small businesses (and larger ones for that matter) struggle to understand their business finances. This lack of understanding can make it very difficult for them to make the right decisions for their business.

Now, I am sure my accounting colleagues would not mind me saying that, most accountants make lousy entrepreneurs. We just lack the creativity and drive which makes entrepreneurs so effective at getting new business ideas off the ground.

So why should entrepreneurs/business owners be great accountants?

Each role requires an entirely different skill set and way of working and, indeed, a different personality type (if you are familiar with DISC profiling). So don’t be shy about admitting that you are struggling with the money side of your business.

Many business owners do not seek the proper help and guidance, or have the right level of financial information, to help them make decision.  To me this is a huge mistake which can lead directly to business failure. As a responsible business owner/entrepreneur you do not need to be a trained accountant but you do need to have enough knowledge of financial issues to run your business effectively.

So what do you need to do to get this knowledge? Well, for starters:

  1. Ask lots of questions of your accountant about why the figures are as they are.
  2. If you only receive figures from your accountant once a year, several months after the year has finished, this is not enough! You need to have regularly updated financial information to make decisions on a timely manner.
  3. Have a properly thought through profit and loss and cash flow forecast so you can manage your cash – and make sure it is regularly updated for what has actually happened.
  4. Don’t just be happy with knowing how much you have sold in total and the margin on this total figure. Ask how you can get information on individual customers, products and projects so you are clear which activities are profitable – and which not.

It is not good enough these days to just shrug and say “Well, I am just not good with figures”. You started your business to make a living for yourself, and any staff you have, and you owe it to yourself, and them, to have a good handle on the money in your business. Indeed in challenging times just surviving can take over as the overriding short term goal.

To help you I have written “your guide to understanding business finances” which can be downloaded for free from my website www.fionabevanfinancialmanagment.co.uk

Good Luck

Fiona:)

All hands on deck – again!

This month I am definitely been lacking in inspiration. It may be because work has been busy, but also because the holiday I have recently taken was to do DIY jobs around the house.

So, I hope you won’t mind that I am revisiting the theme of an article I wrote in 2017, because it is pertinent to the holiday jobs I we have just undertaken. The biggest of which was replacing half of the roof of the cabin that houses the HQ of Bevan Financial Management!

Planning is important so we started off by  asking ourselves some key questions:

  1. What is our budget?
  2. How will we get the materials to do the job as availability of wood etc., has been effected by COVID 19?
  3. What time will we need for the project as we needed to ensure we would not be caught out by rain when the roof was off!
  4. Will we do the job ourselves or get someone in to do it for us?

As you will know from previous articles I am a great believer in getting a professional to do a professional job. However,my husband Jeff is pretty handy at woodwork – and we had built the cabin ourselves originally – so we decided we would do the work ourselves. This decision handily reduced the budget needed – but would hopefully not come back to bite us! 

Our son Alex and I would be Jeff’s labourers! Happily we are both very good at taking instruction from other people – NOT! 

Last week was D day!

We had to make sure we had all the tools and materials we needed before the we started as the time we had available to complete the job was limited. Google came in very handy for finding the supplier of felting and shingles. Luckily, we were able to use a local supplier for the wood who delivered everything in good time and for free! 

The day we chose for the job was sunny and hot with no sign of rain. This helped immensely but it was THE LONGEST DAY OF OUR LIVES!! But it was relatively stress free because we knew exactly what we were doing and were focused on the time we had to do it.

The job came out well and I am tucked up tight for another 8 years (hopefully).

The lesson from all of this? If you have a project, whether business or personal, plan for success and you are much more likely to get the results you need.

A reminder to feed your cats!

I thought I would take this opportunity to remind you about the sales and marketing book I wrote with the fabulous Trevor Lever.

Although my name is on the cover and I did the actual writing, all the great ideas included in the book are Trevor’s. So if you are looking for some inspiration on getting your business kick started following Lockdown this may be the book for you.

It is available on Amazon – just type Catfood Trevor Lever in the Amazon search box and you will find it. It is even eligible for free delivery if you are a Prime member!

Here comes the summer

But it is a summer like no other – holidays are looking doubtful and there are additional COVID 19 issues

Generally at this time of year we are looking forward to summer holidays both here and abroad andbusinesses with staff are planning how to cover for their holiday absences.

But for many businesses where staff have been furloughed the issues are not around what to do when staff are away but what to do as they return after 3 months away.

It is important, if your business is in this situation, to plan carefully how you will manage staff members return to work.

Firstly, there is the question of when you need them to return – or even if there is a job for them to return to. Remember some of your team may be worried that a return to work may not be safe for them. Others will use this as an excuse to have some extra paid time off (although I would hope this does not apply to your team you must be prepared for this reaction).

Secondly, there are the changes you will need to make to the workplace to ensure that you are properly safeguarding the employees as they return – and, of course, any employees who were not furloughed. It may be that some expensive PPE is necessary.

Remember staff will have accrued holiday whilst they were furloughed so have a clear policy on how staff are to take holiday – you don’t want to find that just as staff are returning they are off again!

For those of us who have been working hard during the Coronavirus lockdown a holiday cannot come soon enough.

With lockdown easing it is likely that many of our holiday areas will plan to be back to some semblance of business as usual. But it is difficult to predict what amenities/attractions/hospitality businesses will be open. No one wants to spend hours in the car only to find virtually nothing open.

If you are a business in the hospitality sector there are real issues that need to be addressed. In particular, at what point is it worth your while to open your doors at all? We cannot assume that even without the two meter distancing rule, people will flock back into pubs or cafes. Many people will be very conscious that COVID 19 is still out there.

Featured is a picture I thought I would share – with friends from pre-lockdown days! Remember those? This was during our cycle ride from Wells to Paris in 2018.

Missing you already!

At this point in June I would be looking forward to two events.

Firstly, I would be travelling up to the CIMA MiP conference for an evening the bar with old friends and new. Then I would be spending two days acquiring some great CPD and mixing with other MiPs, getting their take on business life. I even got to speak on the main stage a couple of years ago (hence the piccie).

The conference is a key event in my business life and is a great opportunity in the year to review where I am at. I always come away with some great plans – some of which I implement and some of which lose their lustre by the time I have made the journey home. But either way it is an event I would not miss for the world.

The second event is Glastonbury Festival – and this year we actually got tickets. It was to be the 50th anniversary and, as a local, it was due to be a big deal.

Of course, this year has not turned out to be at all normal and so I shall be attending neither of these events!

And my year will be all the poorer for it!

Joys of lockdown

Is it too early to find things to feel positive about in these unprecedented times?

It is certainly the case that for many business owners the current situation is one of great stress and uncertainty. Many businesses will not be able to survive the period of inactivity – and that is a tragedy.

However, I think there are opportunities too that have come out of our enforced changed circumstances, which I would like to explore.

For many of us the slow down in the pace of life has meant we have had time to reflect on our lives – both professional and personal. We have had some space to put things into perspective and to plan for how we would like our post COVID-19 lives to be.

The future is uncertain for all of us, that is for sure, but then the future is always uncertain. If we wait to plan and review until a time when decision making is risk free, we will be waiting for ever.

Maybe you have found that your business is more robust than you thought. You are weathering the storm and life looks ok. In which case you are in the lucky position – perhaps –  that you don’t have to get as stressed as you used to about your business.

On the other hand, if business was a constant challenge before lock down, and is even more stressful now, perhaps now is the time to reconsider the path you have been taking. Is there something else you would rather be doing to earn your daily bread?

Sometimes we can find ourselves trapped in a set of circumstances that are not positive for either ourselves or our families. This can often be a result of letting your business rule your world rather than you ruling it.

If you are in this situation, don’t you owe it to yourself to question how you might make serious changes so your future is much more positive than your past? 

One thing lockdown has given many of us is a better work/life balance. I am certainly spending much more time doing proper exercise – long walks and bike rides, static rowing… I feel healthier for it and have even lost weight!

This is possible because I am not spending any time travelling to meetings or events. All my work is done from home – I have more productive hours in the day!

I can’t wait for lock down to end but I will need to find a way to hang on to the balance I have found.

A few tips for these challenging times

I thought it would be useful to give some tips to help your business weather these strange times. We have been in lockdown for several weeks now so you may well be looking at how your business may begin to move back to business as usual – or as close to usual business as the easing of lockdown measures will allow.

It is more important than ever to keep on top of your cash flow. Try to do a cash flow forecast (you can download a free guide on forecasting from my website) and predict when critical dips in your bank balance might happen.

It is worth remembering that a ramp up in business out of lockdown will often mean a further dip in your finances. For example, you may need to buy stock or fully fund staff before sales increase.

Claim as many of the government aid measures as you can. 

If you are in retail, hospitality or leisure you should already have applied for the £10k or £25k grant and rates relief. If you have not already done so make sure you apply for this aid.

If you are a VAT payer you can defer all VAT payments due between 20 March and 30 June for VAT returns ending February, March and April. You must submit a VAT return as usual but cancel any automatic payments so the money due isn’t taken. If you are a net VAT reclaimer just carry on as usual.

If you have had to cease, or reduce, trading for the duration you will probably know about the job retention scheme. The portal is now fully functioning so get your claim in as soon as you can. Remember furloughed staff are not allowed to do ANY work for you whilst they are furloughed. However, the government are talking about an adjustment to the scheme to allow for a phased return to work of furloughed staff.

There are three government backed loan schemes available so check them out to see if they are appropriate to your circumstances: the business interruption scheme; the coronavirus future fund; and the Coronovirus bounce back loan (you cannot apply for this loan if you have already taken advantage of the business interruption scheme loan).

It’s the little things

With our world turned upside down, little things can make a big difference to those around us.

It is easy to become so absorbed in our own lives that the we forget to spare a thought for others.

However, a positive to come out of the Coronavirus lockdown has been an increased sense of community. As we are constantly being told, “we are all in it together”.

Some things we have found ourselves doing are not really the way we Brits do things. The clap for key workers is an example. Who would have thought even two months ago that every Thursday we would all be outside our houses clapping?

But the funny thing is that every one in my street seems to enjoy the opportunity to come together and give thanks to people most of us don’t even know. We are just grateful that they are there.

Acts of kindness are springing up all across the country. The number of voluteers putting their names down to help the NHS alone has been overwhelming.

We all want to do our bit to help everyone get through this crisis as best as we can.

Like many of you, my family have been shopping for an elderly neighbour who, until recently we did not really know, but hopefully will get to know better over the coming weeks – all be it from a distance!

As business owners we need to do our bit to help our staff, suppliers and customers weather the storm.

Many businesses are struggling to cope with having to furlough staff, shift their working pattens or even shut down completely until lockdown is lifted. No business will remain unaffected by these unprecedented circumstances.

Some businesses will not survive without help – whether it is financial or practical. If we can look to help wherever we can, we might make the difference between a business failing or surviving.

I am trying to support local businesses wherever possible. It might be as simple as picking up the phone to shoot the breeze with a supplier or customer, or offer support – even the printing of this newsletter is helping a local business. 

If we can help with the little things, and the big things if we can, there is a chance that we may all come through this threat to our local (and national) economy relatively in tact. 

It will take all of us doing our bit to weather this storm. Good Luck everyone!

We are in unchartered waters

Gosh what a time we are having at the moment. The whole world seems to be on a course that none of us could have predicted even a couple of months ago.

For some of us who work from home work has not markedly changed. But for anyone who is running a business that attracts groups of people (retail, restaurants, cafes, travel, and events and entertainment in particular) it is an extremely worrying time.

Although the Government has announced measures to help small businesses to access sick pay for staff and more funding to help businesses weather the storm, it is difficult to see how some businesses will come out of this crisis in tact.

Wherever possible business owners need to try to think creatively. If you own a business where customers generally come to you – is there a way you can deliver to them? Are there ways you can use the internet more to reach your customers? Can you collaborate with other businesses to your mutual benefit?

You should be thinking of making the necessary changes to your business practices as soon as possible. I think the more nimble businesses will be able to seize the new opportunities that invariably arise from times of upheaval.

Whilst any business that fails to adapt to the new world we find ourselves in will struggle.

But cool heads are needed – panicking will not help the situation.

For business owners who work from home but rely on networking events to get out and meet people – and so remain sane – there are opportunites for online meetings and gatherings. Take the opportunities to connect whenever you can.

In our home lives I think that we should try to support our suppliers and local small businesses (if they are open) as much as possible so that they can survive the coming months. 

We also need to look out for each other and offer support where we can. This is particularly true of elderly and vulnerable people around us. Although we are told to avoid mixing – we can offer to shop or do other jobs they are unable to do themselves.

Yes, it is a challenging environment for us all but we can and will survive if we pull together and support each other!