1. Scrutinise headcounts
The lifeblood of a small business is its staff, and making tough decisions around staffing will be very difficult for many business owners.
Furloughing employees is not the only way to reduce staff expenses. It’s worth exploring whether it would be cheaper to outsource HR roles or delivery drivers, for instance, at least for now. Accounta¬¬ncy apps might do the work of more junior finance employees.
2. Limit marketing
With people shopping less, Tobias Kormind, managing director of jewellery retailer 77 Diamonds, suggests restricting marketing spend to methods that bring immediate returns. “We’ve cut a large proportion of things like magazine [advertising] and digital display,” he says. “Our focus is on the likes of Google keywords.” It’s worth bearing in mind: Google is giving SME customers worldwide $340m in ad credits during the crisis.
3. Strip out non-essential services
“Go through all your standing orders and bank statements and if there’s anything you’re not really using at the moment, cancel the payments,” says Adam Brodie. “The savings soon add up.” This could range from a journalist database for PRs to a project-management service, for example.
Josh Spencer suggests downgrading from paid-for software to the simpler free versions, providing this doesn’t hamper your work too much.
4. Realise assets for short-term funding
Try liquidating excess stock you can’t currently shift, says Tobias Kormind, who has sold gold on to wholesalers and smelters. You could also sell equipment and lease it back.
5. Move cash around
Have you been sensible enough to do a little emergency planning and save some personal cash for a rainy day? Rather than taking a salary out of your business during lockdown, Stuart Crook suggests putting the money into your pension to reduce your company’s tax bill. By contrast, you could release funds by drawing down from your pension pot.
See if company directors or family members can move money from other accounts into the business, perhaps as a gift or to be paid back later. Look at exchange rates to see which currencies you could transfer company funds into, particularly those in countries less badly affected by the pandemic.
6. Think tax
HMRC is currently very amenable to allowing firms to take longer to pay their taxes, including PAYE. For instance, VAT due between 20 March and 30 June doesn’t have to be paid until 31 March, 2021, so it’s a good idea to accelerate sales into this period, if possible.
The government’s R&D tax relief scheme is aimed at any businesses (not just technology firms) that are innovating new ways to improve processes and products. Firms can receive substantial slices of what they’ve spent via tax refunds.
Now is also a good time to check you’re not overpaying on tax and import duties.
7. Look at alternative funding
Apart from prominent government initiatives, there are several other sources of financial backing for SMEs.
These include the Future Fund, which provides innovative companies with a government loan of up to £5m.
Crowdfunder, meanwhile, is allowing businesses such as restaurants and arts venues to ask customers for money now in return for future discounted meals, training courses and other rewards.
“We took part in the world’s largest virtual pub quiz to try to raise £1,000 for takeaway equipment through Crowdfunder,” says Will Farmer, landlord of the Dyke Alehouse & Kitchen in Brighton.