A few thoughts at this difficult time – Caroline Hale

In recent weeks I’ve celebrated the anniversary of relaunching my own business with an article about networking. I didn’t realise at the time that the tips I shared would become inconsequential so quickly. I also didn’t think at the time that I’d be writing another article so soon, but there are many things I’ve been doing in the last week which I never imagined and I felt the need to write it down – as something to look back on if nothing else.

I am an accountant, a bean counter if you like. I am not a healthcare worker, an emergency services worker, a supermarket or pharmacy worker, a farmer, a delivery driver nor a scientist working on a vaccine or many other workers whose roles are crucial right now. These workers are individuals, with their own families and friends, who are working night and day to ensure that people are well cared for, fed and that a solution is in sight. These are the people who are doing sterling work in the face of great odds and to whom the rest of us should be eternally grateful for.

One week ago, I genuinely couldn’t work out what all the fuss was about. “It’s no worse than the seasonal flu people! We’re British, make a cup of tea (I used to work for Tetley’s after all) and get on with it” was something I very possibly said, probably more than once. However, in my 20+ professional years, I have never known anything like the current situation and that includes the 2008 Banking crisis and the Brexit inertia of recent times.

So, what have I been doing this last week that I never thought I would?

  • Emailing and tweeting MPs which resulted in a manufacturing company I work with being included in a conference call briefing from Number 10. They were discussing how UK companies can help with emergency ventilator manufacturing. Unfortunately, the SME in question won’t be able to help but we wish those companies who are involved all the best.
  • Finding solutions to enable clients to work remotely.
  • Reviewing current cash positions, updating forecasts to scenario plan what might happen and then making it 100 times worse, then the hard part – trying to work out how we might mitigate these scenarios.
  • Using the HMRC Time to Pay  service for the first time (0800 0159 559 for the Covid -19 helpline). I can report that, other than the inevitable hours on hold, they were so helpful. The lady I spoke to was understanding, calm and able to sort things quickly and efficiently. As a result, we’ve agreed to push out PAYE payments for several months, even before the debts are due. If you need to speak to them, then I recommend finding an office with a phone you can put on speaker, a cup of tea, someone to help hold the fort while you have to pop to the loo and several activities you can do while you’re waiting. It is worthwhile talking to them sooner rather than later.
  • Speaking to local councils to secure arrangements to delay rates payments.

I say I’m just a bean counter and at times it has upset me to think what can I really do to help? However, once I realised that whilst it is the doctors and nurses who are required now, it will then be down to those who own or advise companies to ensure that we all can bounce back. Companies need to survive to offer employment and for our society, as we know it, to continue. We need to calmly lead the people who work for us and our clients, even when we want to hide under the desk (it’s been tempting at times!).

As finance professionals, we normally struggle when customers don’t talk to us, however, we need to remember that over the coming weeks the flow of cash within the economy will start to slow and possibly cease for a period of time. We need to expect that decision making will be delayed as we adapt to home working, some for the first time, and the anticipated increase in people who are unwell or unavailable as they care for loved ones.

As more information becomes available, I will be investigating the government initiatives that are being introduced, including the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme .  I will continue to help my clients and share any thoughts that may help others over the coming weeks.

One last thought: Whilst writing this article I considered the definition of a ‘Company’ –

Noun

1. a commercial business – “a shipping company”

2. the fact or condition of being with another or others, especially in a way that provides friendship and enjoyment. “I really enjoy his company”

It’s the second element of this definition that resounded with me – we as humans are naturally tribal and social beings and it is undoubtedly this definition that we need to keep in mind as we navigate these troubled times together.

 

 

Caroline Hale is a part-time Finance Director / Business Consultant and the founder of Hale Portfolio Limited, She has experience across multiple industry sectors and all sizes of business. She has extensive experience of delivering robust controls & transactions; simplifying the complex into understandable management information and driving effective decisions and change through business strategy and commercial support, all focused on achieving business objectives. For more information you can connect with her on LinkedIn : https://www.linkedin.com/in/caroline-hale-haleportfolio/