Coronavirus: preparing your business

Just a few weeks ago preparing your business for a worldwide pandemic would have seemed like the stuff of a science fiction movie. However the reality is there will be wide scale changes in our day to day lives over the coming weeks and months. It's therefore vital that you start preparing your business so you can adapt to these changes 

Instead of concentrating on the negative impact, try and use this as an opportunity to make positive changes to the way you run your business. To some extent any changes may be dependent on your business sector, nevertheless, we've set out some of our suggestions below.

Is a face to face meeting really necessary?

Despite advances in technology some business owners are still wedded to the idea of face to face meetings and networking. However with the prospect of self-isolation for many, this may have to become a thing of the past. 

In our opinion, it's possible to communicate just as effectively using tools such as Google Hangouts, Skype or Slack. Arguably a remote meeting can be very effective without the logistical problems - travelling to offices on public transport, parking etc (particularly in London!). 

We adhered to this policy from the very beginning. In fact our clients prefer this approach as it provides them with greater flexibility usually enabling them to arrange meetings with us at short notice.   

Therefore think very carefully about whether a face to face meeting is really necessary. For example if you're a consultancy based business it should be possible to provide effective advice remotely.

Encourage remote working for your employees

For those who find it difficult to relinquish control, the idea of staff working remotely is an anathema - a previous boss springs to mind! 

Perhaps the most important questions to ask are how can your staff work remotely?  Do your people have appropriate PC, and can they still be purchased whilst some are still available? Also are secure connections available for your staff to log in remotely? 

The majority of UK households these days have parents who both work full-time. Given that there is increasing pressure on the government to close schools at the moment it is important to have a contingency in place. This will be of benefit to your business and your employees who make a valuable contribution.

Many individuals enjoy the structure of the daily routine of going to a workplace  -particularly the social aspect. They may therefore find working from home in isolation a difficult adjustment to make.

All of our team work remotely (and have done so for years).  We make a concerted effort to keep the lines of communication open - we use the online tools mentioned above.  This stops our team from feeling isolated even though they're physically remote from us. This also provides them with the flexibility that they could not achieve from a traditional office based firm. On the rare occasions we do meet up face to face this is for social not business reasons!

Make more effective use of online tools

A recent survey by our own Institute revealed that a number of businesses were still using paper based systems for their financial record keeping. Aside from the current situation, given the advent of making tax digital it is now more important to move to an online system for financial record keeping.

Some time ago we extolled the virtues of using an online bookkeeping system. This avoids the necessity of a bookkeeper visiting your business premises - this may not even be possible if matters escalate!

Also getting rid of paper records may reduce the risk of spreading the virus. For example, the WHO are advocating the importance of hygiene after handling paper money. So is it really a good idea to have people in the office handling paper documents if this can be avoided?

All our limited company clients use online accounting software. Our recommendations are Xero and FreeAgent depending on their business model. In fact we've used Xero for our company's financial record keeping for a number of years now. 

Some of the advantages of using an online accounting system are as follows:

  • They are easy to use and intuitive  - Because we have been using an online system for years and have our own client training portal we are able to fully support our clients (remotely of course!).
  • Easy access to financial records - No need to worry about the bookkeeper walking off with the paperwork - you can access your business records anywhere there's decent internet access. 
  • Up to date financial information  - If you're using the system correctly and getting the right support you should be able to determine the financial position of your business in real-time. This could be particularly important if rapid decisions need to be made in light of the current climate. 

You may also want to consider apps like Receipt Bank to speed up the processing of supplier invoices. Receipt Bank in particular works well with FreeAgent and Xero and avoids the necessity of keeping paperwork. If you are an e-commerce business you may also want to consider linkmybooks and Vend to improve efficiencies.

Whilst we know the above advice may not be appropriate for all businesses, we thought it would be helpful to share some of the working practices which we've already got in place which have helped us adapt to the current challenging conditions. 

Finally, it's also important not to forget to utilise the support offered by the Government in the 2020 Budget. HM Revenue in particular indicated their willingness to offer time to pay arrangements for tax liabilities where necessary.

For more useful information, check out our Ebooks here.

And if you'd like to know how we can help you with all of this, or with anything else, feel free to give us a call on 01202 048696 or email us at [email protected].

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Why Friendly

We work with businesses and contractors/freelancers who want to embrace the world of online software and the benefits this brings. Using technology to help our clients is at the core of everything we do.

So if you'd like to find out more, just give a call or drop us an email - no hard sell.

Just friendly, professional advice!

Who we are

We're a small team with over 50 years experience of working with small businesses.

So we're in a unique position to understand the challenges that you face every day in your business.

And what's more, we're fully professionally qualified so you can be sure that your affairs are in safe hands.

Copyright 2016 by TFA Accountants Limited