How are you…really?
I’ve spoken with more people over the past few weeks than ever before and some are still unwilling to reveal how they’re feeling and how the business is doing.
Me: How are you?
Them: Fine thanks or <insert their standard response>.
Me: How’s business?
Them: Yeah, busy or <insert their standard response>.
On the flip side; people who wouldn’t usually speak so openly, have confided in me, sharing some very personal issues.
Are you one of these people who say they’re ‘fine’ or ‘busy’ just to keep up appearances? Or, are you willing to share?
Now’s the time you can reveal the truth and speak freely.
I’ll go first. Deep breath.
Around 95% of our orders come from B2B client and over the last few weeks, these customers have been silenced as their companies went into self-preservation mode or hibernation. The sales for Essential Print Services have dropped dramatically and I’m finding the situation incredibly scary but, our overheads have decreased too and some support has been made available thanks to the help of several organisations.
Let me share with you what I’ve done to support my business so far:
Small Business Grants; because we receive 60% small business rate relief, my business was eligible. Our local council is Derby City Council and when I called them regarding the scheme, they were very helpful and the money arrived promptly. I know of several cases where grant payments delayed because data had been input wrong in the application. So, if you’re submitting any type of form; before you press submit; check it. If time allows, sleep on it and check it with fresh eyes in the morning.
Are your details up to date with important organisations such as your local council, HMRC etc? Now’s the time to ensure you dot the I’s and cross the T’s. Many people did not receive notification of their grant eligibility because their company details were simply out of date. Sleepness nights could have been avoided.
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme; our order book has taken a battering. Since mid-March, I’ve asked myself, ‘who’s turned off the tap?” I’ve been brave enough to talk about this on national TV and radio too, explaining that we have fewer orders now than in our first month of trading nine years ago. With all things considered, I took the upsetting decision to furlough all the staff, which means the business could claim 80% of their wages from the government until the end of July 2020, potentially under the end of October (timestamp; 13th May 2020). I asked my accountant to apply for the scheme on my behalf and the money arrived the day before payday.
I decided not to put myself into furlough-mode because I want to continue to service the few orders that are trickling in and continue to promote Essential Print Services.
Henry Ford said, “A man who stops advertising to save money is like a man who stops a clock to save time.”
I’d like to thank Debbie Porter from Gravity Digital for reminding me of that quote.
HMRC; right at the start of the lockdown, I called HMRC to ask to defer our VAT bill. My experience with HMRC has been positive and I’ve been able to talk to someone with little waiting time. HMRC is listening to small businesses and I believe, they will be more favourable to those who are proactive about the situation. So, if you have doubts about how you’re going to pay an HMRC bill over the next few months, call them.
Software Licences: A couple of weeks ago when I feeling particularly confident, I got in touch with two of our software providers; Microsoft and Adobe. I used their online chat facilities to initiate a conversation about what they could offer my business. I planned to ask for three months free licences or at least, a refund of licences for staff who are furloughed and no longer using their software. I did not expect much from these organisations after all, why should two huge American firms want to help my small business from ‘lil olde’ Derby, UK?
The outcome; I was astonished when both exceeded my expectations. On of them refunded three months of licences there and then. By the time the conversation has ended, the money was already in my business bank account. WOW! Not only that, but they also credited my account to cover the redundant licences and reduced the amount I would pay thereafter. The other company applied a three-month credit on my account. No questions asked. Within 45 minutes, I had saved my business £962 over the year. Would I have thought to do this without being in lockdown? Probably not!
Overheads: My mission was (and still is) to retain as much cash in the business bank account for as long as possible. At the beginning of the lockdown, I placed an imaginary microscope on the company’s overheads. I believed I had a lean business with but still, I managed to reduce overheads and aid cash flow by changing the way we deliver printing, buying our packaging in a smarter way, consolidating our promotional literature and asking suppliers to spread costs, paying in instalments and redeeming favours.
If you’re running a business I hope some of these tips help. Other points may simply resonate with you.
How are things looking from where you’re sitting?
I am genuinely interested in hearing from you. Should you wish to chat with me about a potential job, a business problem that needs solving or to simply have a rant about the situation, please, get in touch. I am answering all the calls and I am managing the online chat.
We’re in this together. Stay alert. Stay safe. Stay connected.
Next up: What training is available? I’ll share where you can find training courses for you and your staff, most of them are free too!