Thousands of businesses have gone to the wall and millions have lost their jobs – yes Covid 19 has been a disaster for the UK economy. Except for one aspect. Work and fiscal practices that may not have taken place in many work-places have been fast forwarded due to the urgent nature of the crisis. It’s all about survival.
1 Credit control must change
Many firms have not been paid by their clients for work invoiced before the crisis began in March. The shut-down hasn’t helped but in many sectors 120 days credit is not unusual. When a firm goes into administration the creditors are left with four months of unpaid work as well as any work in progress. If however a supplier insists on 30 days credit then clearly if the worst happens the economic hit is much less. Ian Carrotte of ICSM Credit said tight credit control is vital as it can be the difference of a company surviving or not going under if they are hit by a bad debt. He said discount invoicing for prompt payment simply undercut a firm’s profitability while factoring often meant a company was trading at a loss.
2 Have something in reserve
Too many businesses have virtually no reserves so when an unexpected bill comes in from the taxman or they hit a lean period such as the Covid 19 shut down meaning they run out of cash. Putting away money into a reserve account should be standard practice said Ian Carrotte of ICSM Credit. He said it was one the lessons that many companies have learnt to their cost with the only option to borrow to bail themselves out of a hole. A rule of thumb is to put by up to six months of all business costs in an account as a cash reserve. Whenever that reserve is eaten into then, as soon as possible, replace it. Easier said than done I’m sure some will reply.
3 Review your office requirements
With many people working from home a lot of firms have realised they may not need large city centre offices. One option is to down size to a hub or smaller office and ask staff to come in for one or two days a week and work at home for the rest of the time. A hub is essentially a small office with a meeting room and enough work spaces for hot desking.
4 Consolidate factory and workshops
Some firms work from more than one site. With fewer staff retained and an examination of surplus space it is possible for many businesses to consolidate onto one site. There is a saving in communication, logistics, labour, rent, business rates, utility bills and the storage of stock. It may also be able to reduce the amount of vans, pool cars and other high value kit which may be leased.
5 Cash is king
Having several smaller clients who pay regularly every month are a safer bet than a handful of major clients whose work is irregular if lucrative. Having all your eggs in one basket is always risky especially if your one major client gets into trouble or there is another pandemic. A large number of customers who pay on 30 days or less means your business will always have cash flow – and cash is king as it gives your business flexibility and the ability to pivot in a crisis and seek a new income stream.
6 Utilise what you have
Several manufacturers ranging from packaging to printing have moved into the production of PPE during the Covid-19 crisis. Other firms with virtually no business during the shut-down have reallocated their delivery vans into delivering for other firms.
7 Pivoting your business
If the business you are in is one of low profit margins and huge competitions driving prices lower take a look at options to pivot your enterprise into. Some traditional printers have moved into packaging, agricultural businesses have upgraded buildings into holiday lets, and shop-fitters into flat and home fitters completing work for estate agents and building firms. The important thing is once you see an opportunity is to do it quickly to save time and money. Over a period of years successful firms pivot from one type of business model to another.
8 Social media is not an add-on
Firms who have grasped social media when it first became a thing in the last decade have found during the lock-down they were able to continue getting their message across. For many companies the shut-down has been a wake up call as to how they communicate. One lesson of the Covid-19 crisis is that social media is not an option. Whether you are a pub, a litho printer, a marketing company or a legal firm building a following through Instagram, FaceBook, Twitter, YouTube and all the other platforms prevents you from disappearing from your customers’ awareness.
9 Zoom in for a meeting
Sending executives or sales people half-way around the world for a one hour meeting is expensive and often unnecessary. Nobody is saying that face to face meetings are dead as in the old phrase, people buy people. But often those meetings can be conducted by Zoom or other formats on the internet. So many companies have been reviewing the ROI for not just meetings, but visits to trade shows, team building weekends, seminars and conferences which have sometimes been seen as at best rewards and at worst jollies.
10 Have a plan B
Many people have said their business went off a cliff on March 23rd. Literally no trade at all. And yet pubs were suddenly becoming take-aways, restaurants were doing home deliveries and retailers geared up to become entirely online businesses during the lock-down recording record sales. We don’t know if there will be another pandemic but something sooner or later will happen to disrupt business. Those of us who have long memories will recall the fuel delivery strike of the 90s, the three day week of the 70s and the Big Freeze of the 60s. Having a Plan B is vital just in case the worst happens.
About ICSM Credit
ICSM Credit has more than four decades of experience as a credit intelligence group whose members gain inside information about firms in trouble allowing them to avoid bad debts and rogue traders. To join costs less than a tank of fuel – while at the moment there’s a special free temporary membership offer during the Covid-19 crisis which gives access to free legal letters. ICSM also has an effective debt collecting service which has a global reach – ask for details from Paul.
For details about ICSM Credit call 0844 854 1850 or visit the website www.icsmcredit.com or email Ian at Ian.email@example.com on how to subscribe and to join the UK’s credit intelligence network to avoid bad debts and late payers. Follow ICSM Credit on FaceBook, Twitter and YouTube and Ian Carrotte on LinkedIn.
To keep up to date subscribe to the FREE ICSM Credit Newsletter to hear all the latest insolvency news and to see who has gone out of business click on the orange panel on the top left of the home page of the website www.icsmcredit.com or send an email to Ian.firstname.lastname@example.org
For details for the work of the journalist Harry Mottram visit www.harrymottram.co.uk