7 ways to survive and leverage your business in a pandemic

By Jonathan Amponsah CTA FCCA, The Tax Guys

As lockdown is being slowly lifted we are seeing a range of businesses reopen but there are still plenty remaining closed or operating at a reduced capacity. Plenty of people will remain furloughed until the autumn and ‘business as usual’ is a long way off. Unless you are one of the lucky ones doing really well during lockdown, you may be wondering how you will survive.

In this article, I’ll look at a number of ways to survive and leverage your business. I have included links to some free resources including templates and tools that I hope will help you reduce your stress levels and get you and your business through the coming months.

1.      Using a Financial Survival Action Planner

You will need some form of action planner that covers areas in your business to review, as well as a checklist on all the support from the government and how it applies to you.

I suggest creating a spreadsheet and listing all the grants, loans and deferred payment options available to you.  The take a look at where you can save money (tax, rent, staff, agreeing longer payments terms with suppliers etc.) and where you can make more money (new business ideas, speeding up customer payments etc.) and then review your tangible assets – is there any way to leverage those?

To save time, you can download the ‘Peace of mind financial action planner’ here:

https://www.thetaxguys.co.uk/client-area/  This contains a Financial Survival Checklist and the Government Stimulus Planner. Grab it and work through the 16 areas with your accountant.

2.      Applying for government help

Ask your accountant about what help is available to you. Make a list of the options and then work through them to see where you qualify.

For example, if you’re sole trader/freelancer there is a grant available. It’s important to understand your own financials and the rules of the scheme before applying. If you are eligible, you’ll have received a letter from the government. This scheme opened on the 13 May 2020 and you need to register for an online account and prepare to file the claim. It’s worth getting help from your accountant as you need to get your paperwork right – not just on the claim, but on your tax returns too.

Similarly, if you run a limited company (including one-man band companies) there is help available. And these keep changing, so please watch out for the dates and deadlines. Go through your finances and the government support available to make sure that you get the necessary paperwork right when making a claim (this could include furlough paperwork and board minutes). Again, speaking to your accountant can make this easier and ensure you include everything necessary for your business in your plan.

You will find both action planners and furlough paperwork templates here:  https://www.thetaxguys.co.uk/client-area/

3.      Cutting cost without decimating your business

In times of crisis, resist the knee jerk reaction to cut all costs immediately because this can actually decimate your business. So do approach this with some consideration and financial analysis.

Even where you have no income coming in for, say three months, unless you plan to close your business, there are some expenses you may consider to leave alone or even increase when your competitors are cutting back (for example, smart marketing).

We have one client who ramped up their marketing at the start of lockdown (despite clients cancelling and the signs indicating that there were tough times ahead) and found that they almost doubled their business as a result plus they have a large number of warms leads for later in the year too.  So, think carefully – is it time to ramp things up rather than cut back?

If you need to cut costs, create a spreadsheet with all your expenses and then look at each in turn and see where you can cut back. A few small cuts can make a big overall difference and will often be less damaging to the business than one or two very large cuts.  Ensure you understand your cashflow and what ‘target’ you need to reach in order to survive. This will ensure you cut enough, but not too much.

You can read more about cost cutting here; https://www.thetaxguys.co.uk/2020/04/24/how-to-cut-costs-without-crippling-your-business/

There is also a cost reduction exercise and savings tool (excel template) that you can use to save time and money here: https://www.thetaxguys.co.uk/client-area/

  1. Cashflow Forecasting

Once you’ve reduced your costs and you know where your income will come from in the next 6-12 weeks (including income from the government), you now have a 12week cashflow forecast in place. This will give you some peace of mind, at least for the time being. This document is the basis of your business going forward. Stick to it. If you’ve decided to cut some costs, make sure you cut them. If you’re going to ramp up the marketing or add a new service – do so as soon as you can. You need to follow the decisions you made when creating the forecast – or it very soon becomes a work of fiction!

To save you time creating your own, especially if you’re not using an online accounting platform, you can download an integrated cash flow forecast tool here: https://www.thetaxguys.co.uk/client-area/  It’s called Time Saving Tool to project income-expense and cashflow.

  1. Recovering lost income by adapting

Successful businesses are always adapting, leveraging and taking advantage of new commercial opportunities. This has never been truer than in the current situation. You may have heard of businesses taking their goods and services to their customers at homes or adapting and taking their products and services online. Restaurants that didn’t offer take-away service or delivery, now do. Spas are selling their exclusive creams and serums direct to their customers. How can you adapt your business to “make lemonade out of lemons”?

  1. Creating customers by reviewing at demand now

There are certain products and services that are being consumed at high levels right now. Cycling is a good example of this, with sales of bicycles and accessories seeing a massive increase. Others that will come into their own as lockdown eases. How can your business solve some of the current pressing problems posed by the pandemic? If you’re a services business, can you productise parts of what you do and sell these at a reduced price for now? For example, a psychologist can create a five-step programme to help improve the mental wellbeing of business owners, or help your staff build resilience?  Or maybe you can run your craft workshops online via a platform like Zoom? Post out the craft items beforehand and then everyone logs on and makes together.

  1. Generating revenue – anticipate future problems and trends

 Even after lockdown is fully lifted, it’s unlikely business will ever be quite the same again. The way we do business has changed and some of those changes are here to stay – at least for the short to medium term. For example, social distancing and increased hygiene awareness. If you run construction or space consulting business, how are you preparing now to help businesses solve these challenges in the workplace? If you’re an accountant, how would you support businesses in the coming months when they have to pay back all their deferred taxes? And if you’re a marketer, how are you preparing your clients with the right messaging to market their business successfully?

A great way to be inspired with new ideas about how to adapt your business and spot the upcoming trends is to look at what other successful businesses have done. How did they approach it? What did they do? Read business books and good news business stories to be inspired or you can download a white paper here: https://www.thetaxguys.co.uk/client-area/ which covers 16 ways to leverage your business based on 16 UK companies who are taking advantage of new commercial opportunities.

Remember that there are ways to save tax, for example, VAT bad debt relief (where you reclaim any VAT you’ve paid on bad debt). Be sure to discuss potential tax savings with your accountant.  In these difficult times it is a good idea to make sure you cover all the bases. And finally…remember to look after yourself.  As a business owner you carry a lot of responsibility and you need to keep physically and mentally fit and well so look after your wellbeing as we go through the next phase of the lockdown and keep yourself, your loved ones and your staff safe.


Jonathan Amponsah CTA FCCA is an award-winning chartered accountant and tax adviser who helps improve businesses.  He is the CEO of The Tax Guys.


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