Like every other business in the UK, the Covid pandemic, lockdowns and impact on the economy hit us out of nowhere too. Within hours of the first stay at home notice, we received a number of calls and emails from anxious clients and individuals keen to know how to manage the financial impact of the restrictions.
Distilling Government support
Obviously, we were just as green to it as our clients at that point in time, but we understood that our role would be to decipher the information coming out of HMRC and Number 11 and determine which bits were relevant to each client. In those early hours we took an active decision to manage this on a client-by-client basis. Many of our competitors went the other way and decided that ‘broadcast’ updates were the right option, but we understood the very personal nature the unfolding situation was likely to have.
Working with individuals
More than ninety percent of our clients have 10 employees or less and in particular we have a large number of self-employed contractors. We knew that the decisions that business owners and Directors might be taking would be very personal to them. In many cases their employees are friends and family members and so as well as concerns around their own individual circumstances, they would be carrying the worries of their team members too. The negative impact for some was immediate whilst others have managed to continue ‘as is’ albeit relocating home for the duration.
This pandemic was never going to be even handed in how it treated people – financially as well as physically and so a personal service with individual advice was the best course of action. As time has progressed, our clients have dipped in and out, needing varying levels of support and advice through each wave of the crisis. Financial year ends, tax years ends have continued as have many of the normal day-to-day accounting activities – they could not go on hold. But accessing grants, applying for loans, speaking with bank managers and furloughing staff have all had to come on top.
New clients seeking advice
During the late summer and autumn of 2020, as we were able to momentarily emerge from lockdowns, we noticed an increase in the number of new enquiries coming our way from established businesses. Whilst we had expected to see an increase in new start-ups and people registering as self-employed, as you do following a surge in redundancies, we were surprised to see established businesses moving their affairs. It didn’t seem like the right time to be changing accountant. But as we spoke to more and more people and enquired as to their reasons for moving, many cited unclear advice on Furlough and a lack of individualised support for them and their business.
Whilst we maintain a regular flow of, what we perceive to be, useful news on our website, we have never seen this as a replacement for face-to-face or individual advice for clients. It’s what the business is built on, an intrinsic knowledge of the business and the people behind it, set in the context of the local and national economy. We’ll continue to stick by this ethos as it appears to have served us well so far, but more importantly, it is what works for our clients.