It is likely that during January you may have had to prioritise those clients who were particuarly hit hard and struggling. Many were resilient enough to withstand what 2020 threw at them, bit when another lockdown was announced, this was one step too far for some businesses.
Triaging your client base allows you to focus your efforts and resources on the most appropriate advice for each client's situation.
Last Spring we found that many accountants weren't sure which of their clients did have sufficient reserves to manage through the lockdown and part of the #LeaveNoBusinessBehind campaign, supported by many in the accounting profession focused on assisting accountants with practical tools so they could be confident to speak to every client and understand their requirements.
By the time this lockdown was announced, far more clients had cash flow projections and were able to understand the implications of another downturn or even growth spurt on their business. In addition, accountants also understood much more about their clients' capital posotion and level of resilience.
This increased awareness allows accountnats to quickly predict which of their clients will be struggling, those who are they steady and able to cope, and the businesses which are still able to grow. This makes the work far more efficient as it's possible to direct these possible and specific solutions to each group:
- Reviewing cash flow projections to understand the short-term and longer term implications of the lockdown and the impact on the burn rate and cash runway;
- Discussing time to pay arrangements with HMRC;
- Considering whether insolvency advice is needed, especially if the business is a limited company and the balance sheet is or will become insolvent;
- Reviewing strategies for the trading and capital position to decide whether a turnaround situation can be managed
- The clients who will survive the lockdown will require sufficient working capital facilities to continue to trade, so addressing their cash flow needs is still crucial. It may be that there are other assets in the balance sheet which the business can leverage at this time. CBILS remains the most powerful product for directors to access if that is possible for them;
- Considering whether there are any other ways to inject capital into the business using tools such as R&D relief, capital allowances claims, debt recovery for slow or unwilling customers and having systems so that the internal capital is tightly managed, all remain options for most businesses.
- Business owners who are able to continue to grow their companies should be nurtured because they are valuable people who will contribute to rejuvenating our economy. Providing them with the confidence and skills to develop their strategies is one of the most powerful things an adviser can do for a client. Brainstorming, writing business plans or just being a sounding board, are all ways in which you can help that management team to succeed;
- Funding routes to support growth strategies may still include CBILS or other debt products, but perhaps equity finance in the form of business angels, private equity/venture capital or crowdfunding could be more appropriate for some businesses;
- Grants will continue to be announced as the economy looks to support the recovery and those businesses which are able to demonstrate that they intend to increase employment opportunities or protect other jobs will find that they are more likely to be able to access many of these grants;
- if your client is ambitious and intent on growth then buying a company may be a quicker and more efficient route to achieving that objective. There will be multiple acquisition opportunities across most sectors as many other business owners find they are unable or unwilling to continue to trade. Corporate finance advisers will become very busy in 2021.
It's worth remembering that the deadline for applications to government-backed loan schemes such as Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme is 31st March 2021, at the time of writing. Whilst it is expected that there will be a new replacement scheme announced shortly, it is highly unlikely to have as attractive terms as these current schemes. If clients are eligible for CBILS, they should be encouraged to use it whilst it exists in order to bring some capital into the business.
To help you triage your clients with this lockdown we've put together a list of helpful resources to support you. All the resources are available to download including a triage spreadsheet and advice on restructuring.