Viewpoint: let’s move the conversation from fear to survival

If you’ve survived this far, well done! Now it’s time to help clients and colleagues see the big picture, suggests Caroline Plumb, CEO of Fluidly.

More than 6 weeks on from the 11 March, when it was officially declared a pandemic, the impact of the virus has become a harsh reality.

For a long time, I was waiting for the UK Government to really step up – and in some ways, they have done that.

The highly publicised range of support measures keeps expanding and covers everything from salary support via the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to loans and grants, business rate discounts and deferred VAT payments.

So far, the biggest issue has been how easy it is for business owners to actually access the support, understand the options and find the best route for them. 

That means there is an opportunity for accountants, and businesses like mine  (which helps companies manage their cash), to step up.

Help businesses face what’s ahead

While it’s easy to get caught up in the specifics of each coronavirus support scheme, really, businesses need general help for planning in a downturn. We are looking at a global recession that will have a huge economic impact for years and business strategies need to reflect that.

So, what are the options?

Clearly conserving cash will be key.

For a huge number of small businesses, they’ll be operating on incredibly thin margins – roughly the equivalent of one month’s trading.  And trading is inevitably going to be down. The harsh reality then, is that there will only be a couple of options for firms – make payroll or reduce staff, or, worse than that, go bust.

Furlough is a good option in the short-term, but what about once the Government support runs out? It’s essential to keep the bigger picture in sight.

The importance of regular forecasting also can’t be stressed enough. It’s hard to envision exactly what the impact is going to be month-on-month. There’s a lot of noise out there. I’m certainly finding it hard to cut through it all – so I’m trying to focus on the actuals, my numbers.

Extra finance

Companies clearly should also look at potential finance options but, more than ever, may need help assessing what’s best for their business.

The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBIL) is a minefield, and not the only option, which needs reiterating.

What’s more, while practical advice and support is crucial, now is also a time when your clients will need emotional support.

The world feels scary, but business owners are notoriously resilient – and they may need reminding of that.

It might not feel like it right now, but once we come through this, there may actually be some learnings to build on.

Clearly, we are in the midst of tough times.

Volatility inevitably evokes anxiety, but it also creates opportunity.

More than anything, we need to keep calm, focus on the things we can action, and try our best to transform the conversation from one of fear to one of survival – and hopefully, eventual growth.

About the author

Caroline Plumb OBE is a business ambassador for the UK Prime Minister and  CEO of fluidly, which delivers intelligent cash flow for SMEs.

Caroline Plumb is a contributor for AAT's member's magazine, AT.

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