In the same way that communities are benefiting from initiatives born of collaboration, for businesses too, this is no time to be going it alone.

Accountants may, to some, be people they only need to see once a year, who provide figures on how their business did in the previous year but, not only does it not have to be this way, in these difficult times, having a good accountant by your side can make all the difference. They can not only help your business navigate today’s choppy waters but also set you on a course towards having greater resilience and agility in the future.

The direct impact of the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdown means that uncertainty in business, as in life, is the new normal. With businesses trying to figure out how best to survive, and indeed thrive, in the months and years ahead, their ‘to do’ lists are growing ever longer, whether that’s through trying to access government relief schemes or explore new ways to do business.

What makes an accountant an ideal business partner?

A good accountant should be close enough to your business to know it almost as well as you do but, as both an expert and outsider looking in, be able to take in the bigger picture and bring a depth of knowledge and experience to help guide you on the best way to support your operations.

It’s never too early (or too late) to start building that crucial partnership element of your relationship with your accountant, where they can become a valuable sounding board, helping you see the wood for the trees. Communication is key, and it’s good to remember that it’s a two-way thing: Be proactive, keep in touch, share how you’re doing – the good and the bad.

Five ways your accountant can help you right now:

1. In taking immediate action

Tricky times mean you need a plan – work with your accountant to figure out what that should be. Getting a plan in place will bring immediate peace of mind and a blueprint to work to. The plan should include identifying the government support that’s available to you in the short term, as well as a series of specially tailored steps for you and your business to get you on the right track in a changed environment.

2. Accessing government schemes

We’ve all known for a few weeks now, that there are various government support packages available. Accountants are not only able to quickly understand and access the support available but are also well versed in the pros and cons of each scheme and how they’ll apply to you and your business.  What’s more they’ll also be able to identify whether there’s something that you’re missing out on. This will save you valuable time in finding the help that’s most appropriate for your circumstances and will increase the chances of your being successful with any applications.

They can also advise on how you can deal with HMRC in order to capitalise on any grant applications and do the leg work in ensuring that you have the best possible change of submitting a comprehensive application that’s therefore far more likely to be approved.

3. Taking a good look at your business

With so much of their work focusing on extracting insight from data, accountants are ideally placed to help you understand the success, or otherwise, of the different operations within your business. Balanced with their understanding of the qualitative side of your operations, this can help you make decisions on the areas of your business that are profitable and should remain in place, those that should be scaled up or wound down, and how your business can best adapt to a changing environment, be that through introducing online purchases, home delivery or even a new product or service.

An accountant can also help you make decisions around that which is most important in your business – your people. You’ll be able to explore furlough leave, confidentially and with expert advice, and will also benefit from guidance on how this needs to be communicated. This will mean that once lockdown is lifted your team will be all the better motivated and firing on all cylinders.

4. Cash flow forecasting

HINT: The most important thing you should be doing right now.

Whether you already have regular contact with your accountant via, for example, an established management accounts process or not, now is the time to work with them to focus on the cash flow forecasting strand. This will mean reviewing and re-calibrating forecasts and examining how a reduction (or increase) in sales will impact your ability to pay suppliers and service debt. From this you’ll be better placed to build your business back to a position of strength, continue happy creditor relations and stay on the right side of the law, playing your part in avoiding a breakdown in the wider financial system.

5. Getting ahead of the game

This is an ideal time to be spending more time working on your business and getting your house in order. Use this time to ensure all your financial information is up to date, introduce and maintain a financial management system to understand how your business is progressing and, you might want to, for example, get your accounts done early so that when the economy is back up and running, you’ll be free to concentrate on operations and not catching up on yesteryear’s admin.

And if the unthinkable happens…

Having an accountant by your side will help you consider all the insolvency options available to you and make sure you do the right thing at the right time. With professional help, a viable business is more likely to be able to put a debt recovery plan in place or bow out with as minimal impact as possible.

Better off together

Teamwork is never more important than in a crisis. A good accountant should, just like you, be enthused about your business and focused on maximising its value. If you’re an owner managed small business, having an accountant by your side means you’ll have ongoing access to an expert guide who can help you build resilience into your business model beyond the current turmoil.

Ask your accountant for a fixed, monthly consultancy retainer that can ensure you get the help and support you need as and when you need it. Whatever you choose, the benefits of being better off will be felt not only in the pocket, but also in the mind.

We’d love to hear from you, so please don’t hesitate to get in touch if we can help you.

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