How will you help your clients move out of lockdown?
Our latest insight report shows that the coming months present a whole new set of challenges for business owners. By providing relevant communications and strategic advice, accountants can help.
It’s hard to believe it’s been more than two months since lockdown was enforced in the UK. Many businesses are now looking to the post-lockdown future, as staff return to workplaces and non-essential shops get ready to reopen from 15 June.
To get a quick snapshot of small and micro-business sentiments at this time, we’ve put together a report based on user discussions on our sister site, UK Business Forums (UKBF).
The report shows that coming out of lockdown is far from an easy process, as businesses now need to meet social distancing requirements, react to changes in consumer demand, and manage the administrative process of gradually taking staff off furlough.
All the while, there’s the threat of more severe economic impacts on the horizon, and continued uncertainty around how long those impacts will last.
Accountants have already played a vital role in reassuring and informing the UK’s small business community over this time, but as our report highlights, their support is still very much needed.
New announcements need quick communications
The period our report looked at, over the week from 10 May, marked a shift in the way lockdown has been enforced in England, with reduced restrictions on businesses and a conditional roadmap set out for the next few months.
Each announcement provoked immediate questions and reactions from users on UKBF, who wanted to know how the changes would apply in practice, and what it meant for their business.
We can expect more changes in the coming months as other regions of the UK make their plans public, as well as more detail on the schemes that have already been announced.
As accountants, you can offer reassurance and clarity over this period of change, by producing relevant, topical content.
The most important thing is to get your communications out quickly – within 24 hours of the announcement, if not sooner – and they don’t have to be perfect.
You might not be able to answer every client’s questions in one blog post, but you can cover the key facts and invite clients to speak to you if they’re unsure.
It offers reassurance that your firm is on top of what’s going on, and that you’re still there if your clients need to talk.
Increased complexity is an opportunity to advise
While many questions on the forums had to do with technical detail and specific problems, others were more open-ended: ‘How should I go about moving my staff back to the workplace’, for example, and ‘What happens when the government support dries up?’
We know that many accountants have had more than enough furlough applications and repetitive paperwork to deal with over this time, and would rather be using their expertise to help their clients’ businesses succeed.
While that side of the work doesn’t look likely to go away anytime soon, it could be used as a starting point for offering strategic guidance.
If your clients have had staff on furlough and are looking to reopen in the next couple of months, how should they manage the transition away from the scheme? Will they take advantage of the added flexibility from August?
And are they prepared for the eventual cut-off point, when financial support is no longer available?
Recession is already happening – how will you prepare your clients?
One of the biggest discussions on the forum surrounded the prospect of a significant recession in 2020, after Chancellor Rishi Sunak said this was ‘very likely’ and that ‘we're already in the middle of that as we speak’.
While several users said they had made preparations and were fairly confident their business could survive it, there was a general sense that other business owners were not fully aware of the danger.
Small businesses may be better placed to adapt quickly and manage the impacts of a recession, but those that have not prepared at all, or have existing financial issues, could be at risk.
Your clients might have started planning for this, or they might be too absorbed in immediate concerns to think about it – either way, it’s best to find out from them directly.
Start talking with clients now, rather than later, about how they can prepare themselves for the challenges ahead.