I've spent most of this week upset...
I've not posted a blog for ages (over a year it would appear). Invariably I find myself just replying to whatever Any Answers comment is being made when really the thought could be expanded in a blog.
That was fine but then I read Lesley Barnes' Any Answers comment https://www.accountingweb.co.uk/any-answers/are-you-suffering-from-coron...
..and although I did make a comment I feel that there is much more that I needs to be said that hopefully will resonate with many of you - hence this blog ...so bear with me.
Like Lesley I'm exhausted and also like Lesley have done no chargeable time this week. These last weeks at the end of March are always a bit quiet before the Subcontractors get going after 6 April. This year they have already been in contact.. 'can I send my stuff to you as in next week.. I need the refund.'
Emotionally exhausted from taking calls from clients who don’t know how they are going to last the week let alone the weeks that the government says they will have to wait. Exhausted from taking calls as in 'how much am I going to get' - can you work it out for me? I've heard that it will be £2k a month!' when they will probably fall under the large number of those who won't get a thing.
Exhausted from holding back the tears when speaking to those clients who you can see will not make it to that glorious day when they might get some financial help as per the Chancellors enthusiastic announcements.
A bespoke kitchen fitter client was the first to call. 'I've three weeks... thats it'. Every one of his bookings had cancelled. He is a quite, reserved person whose business is steady such that he has work booked up weeks in advance. He has people who work for him and a showroom with an ongoing tenancy. The landlord wont let him defer payment of rent as he also relies on the income.
I tried to give him hope - told him he had to fight ... fight for his business that he had spent decades in building. On the phone we made a list of where to get information (FSB, council, his landlord, govt websites, insurance, credit cards, mortgage lender etc). He was on the verge of crying when he hung up - I cried for him in his stead.
Clients are already falling away. Some can see they are not going to make it through the next few weeks. Some have sat down and made a decision - they will close down now; go now before they are pushed into it. Many have nothing or very little in savings as their business was their future, their pension, their savings. Good, hardworking people not being helped. Yes.. they could possibly get a loan but the banks aren’t giving their money away you still have to go through the application process as if for a usual bank loan and you might not pass.
You see people online who are obviously employed enjoying the extra weeks as if they are on holiday. We've all seen the post of the police telling people having a picnic in the park that they should be at home. They are the lucky ones and I read that those same lucky ones will be able to carry forward their holiday entitlement to next year as well as having their next years' entitlement. That will put a further strain on all businesses next year.
Information from the government is sketchy at best - raising peoples hopes and then still no clarity when the detail (such as it is) is published. Boris says that all workers will be helped through this crisis. 'We are in it together'. No we are not. I'm going to lose clients I have known for years. Been with them from their beginning, through incorporation, expansion, taking on staff, me doing their payroll and VAT and now.. nothing. Actually it might be worse than 'nothing' they may leave debts which, as a director, they could be liable.
Some clients will be able to carry on and wont see too much fallout but for the majority of SME businesses help, if available, will come too late and the impact will last for years. Where will they go? The employed ones think they have it great at the moment but many of their firms wont be able to take the strain either.
Obviously we too will be affected when a client goes. Lesley says' What can you say other than go through the options available to them or not as the case might be'.
The answer, Lesley, is there is not much you can say. You've just got to stay strong for them, help them close their business with the least difficulty as possible if that is to be and don’t charge them.