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Covid-19: The Business View – An overview from Philip Ashworth

Businesses want to know how the latest issues are going to affect their business, not what the law says…

This is the informed response from Philp Ashworth when asked what businesses need from their professional advisors in these challenging times, with new guidance emerging day by day. In addition to being a partner in Andrew Jackson Solicitors LLP’s corporate law team Philip has and is a director, investor and shareholder of numerous trading companies and, from that experience, understands that legal advice is valued most when provided against an understanding of operational and trading challenges and opportunities.

 

To help businesses unravel some of the challenges ahead we asked Philip to draw on his experience and business insight to highlight some of the key issues for businesses around Covid-19 now, and in the coming months, this is what he had to say;

“Businesses, their owners and directors are currently experiencing some of the most challenging operating conditions they have ever faced and it affects every aspect of operations. This in itself can be overwhelming to think about so perhaps it would help to break it down into the four key areas that affect us all and then identify the main areas of concern for each one. For every business owner these really boil down to; People, Property, Planning (in terms of finance, debt, supply chains) and our own Private lives.”

Your PEOPLE are your business

“Whether you employ 3 people or 3000, the people in your business are what make or break it and looking after them in as fair a way as you possibly can is a huge driver for businesses. Although the government’s furlough provisions have assisted many companies with maintaining their employee base (and the extension of these provisions to the end of October will bring relief to many) it’s important to point out that “people” will remain a key area in which businesses will need continued guidance and assistance, not only in interpreting government schemes and policies but also in a range of indirect issues and consequences arising from them.

“I think, for many businesses, there are likely to be some significant challenges at the next stage around bringing the workforce back together, seeking to reunite furloughed staff with those who have continued to work throughout lockdown, sometimes on reduced pay. This, coupled with the burden of compliance with brand new guidance on ensuring the personal safety of employees is likely to add real pressure to businesses and professional advisors need to take all those elements into consideration when giving advice and support. There is lots of help out there so don’t be afraid to ask for additional guidance when you need it as some teams, like ours, can offer a huge range of support to help you manage and care for you and your team. A real breadth of advice from a team that understand your business, is what you need right now as we all navigate this ever changing situation together.”,

Understanding both sides of the Property challenge

“As well as the current physical and logistical challenges of viewing, buying and selling commercial property, there is also a much bigger question of, ‘how have the needs of businesses changed?’ As we entered lockdown, businesses of all sizes had to quickly adjust to a heavier reliance on technology to facilitate home working.

“It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to argue that, in this way, many of us advanced five years in five weeks to shift our practices and keep our operations going. There’s no getting away from the fact that this shift could mean that the days of a traditional 9-5 office-based business model are numbered.

Whether you are a landlord or tenant we all have to accept that the property game has changed. We don’t yet know if that is just a mid-term fluctuation or a permanent evolution but what we do know is that now is the time for fresh approaches and for businesses to re-evaluate what they do and how they do it. This isn’t a time for conflict so discussion and consultation are really important as, wherever a business is in the property chain, each business needs to revaluate its position in a realistic and business focussed approach. We need to look afresh at what each party needs and work together to resolve any short term issues for a longer term benefit and solution. Talking to all involved is the first step as the situation for everyone involved is still changing and a collaborative approach will always achieve a better outcome.

Planning in a pandemic

“Businesses will need to innovate and adapt to survive, and the winners will be those who can find the opportunities in this crisis – this is something we all hear many times and it is true, but what we hear less about is the key role than planning plays in this and the importance of being innovative across the board from financial planning to supply chains.

As an example, I think this crisis may see a definitive, and arguably overdue, move away from antiquated systems and procedures when it comes to keeping money fluid. It may be that the era of 30, 60 and 90 day credit terms and slower transfer of money is finally behind us as businesses, who have to date, maybe had a more traditional approach, are compelled to get to grips with the new world, where transactions are digital, trackable and instant. How this impacts on working capitol and liquidity levels will take some time to work through.

Whilst we can see some of these changes coming, planning ahead financially has never been so challenging for businesses as we struggle to predict market conditions next week, let alone next quarter. Financial planning at a time of unprecedented government assistance also needs an innovative approach as businesses need to take a granular look at the financial health and outlook for their business without any of the government assistance they may have taken. This can be daunting but taking an honest look ‘under the bonnet’ without grants, schemes and loans will give a far more accurate picture to inform sound planning both short and longer term. Brave planning is what is needed now more than ever.

Supporting you with Private family matters

A pandemic of this nature affects every aspect of our lives and has brought many private and personal matters into sharp focus, including planning for the future with regards to Wills and the management of personal wealth and family challenges such as childcare or relationship issues.

Unfortunately, Wills are a piece of personal planning that many of us find daunting and overlook for far too long but the reality is, they’re very easy to put in place and actually bring a huge sense of comfort and reassurance once completed. If you don’t have one or haven’t reviewed yours in a while, doing so now can be quite cathartic as it is about positive protection for you and your family.

In addition, personal planning may be more important as many of us see pension pots decreasing in value, at least in the short term, which could mean we see more people working for longer. Family issues, mediation, child care and relationships are all areas to consider as we adapt to the situation around us.

The reality is that all of us will be affected by this crisis from a personal perspective but taking a step back to forward plan in all aspects of our business and personal life will mitigate the impact.

A business view matters

“This situation has rewritten the script for all businesses, regardless of size, scale, sector or supply chain. It isn’t 2008, it’s far more seismic than that so we all need to take as broad a view as we can as we re-assess our personal and professional lives, to ensure we don’t just survive this crisis, but also thrive afterwards. Choosing the right professional team to help you do that is really important.

Yes, these are incredibly tough times and there is a lot to think about but there are reasons to be optimistic. As we all emerge from this we will have advanced more quickly than we could ever have imagined and we are all working together in new ways.

The world is changing but some of this could be for the better and it is a great privilege to be part of the Andrew Jackson team who continue to work with clients to support them across their businesses and personal lives, as that happens.”

 

Andrew Jackson Solicitors LLP are fully operational and our legal team are here to help you, your business and your family. Philip Ashworth is a partner of Andrew Jackson Solicitors LLP and leads the corporate law team in York. If Philip, or any of our team can assist you, talk to us today on 01482 325242 or 01904 275 250 email enquiries@andrewjackson.co.uk

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