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How accountants can help struggling SMEs during COVID-19

By Barrie Dowsett, CEO at Myriad Associates 

The COVID-19 crisis has turned livelihoods and businesses upside down over the last month.

Businesses, naturally, have felt it and despite Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s package of measures designed to help both businesses and individuals, many of the UK’s smaller businesses and start-ups face closure, according to Disaster Recovery Institute International (DRI).

What many UK SMEs may not be aware of is that there is still plenty that can be done to protect businesses during this pandemic and accountants are at the forefront of that.

Here are some ideas as to how accountants can make a difference to their client’s businesses during this difficult period.

  • Educate yourself on all government aid options

According to research carried out by PracticeWeb, around 42% of people surveyed said they did not think their accountant would be important in getting their businesses on track.

As an example, there are several financial aid options currently being offered by the UK government. It’s important for accountants to fill the gap between your client’s knowledge and the government aid options available.

A tip from Myriad Associates to you. Don’t forget to also tell them about the new self-assessment and VAT deadlines and other COVID-19 related assistance out there too. All of this information is easily accessible and can be found on the Gov website.

  • Let your clients know you’re there to help

This sounds obvious, but another interesting statistic from PracticeWeb’s research was that although most businesses they surveyed had heard from their accountant, 16% had not. It shows that there is a clear opportunity to stand out where others are not.

Everyone deals with stress differently. As a friendly, supportive business accountant with a calm head, being someone they can talk to, share ideas with and get advice from can go a long way. It’s a good foundation on which to build trust, as well as gain some calmness and clarity so that you can help them during this period.

  • It is still possible to raise finance

Now more than ever, raising money and maintaining some sort of adequate cash flow is the main focus for a small business. During an economic downturn this can be harder than ever, with credit potentially much more difficult to come by and banks tightening their purse strings.

Schemes such as the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) provide financial support to SMEs across the UK that are losing revenue and seeing their cashflow disrupted as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. The scheme is available from 40+ lenders accredited by the British Business Bank and can provide businesses with facilities up to £5 million, available on repayment terms of up to six years. Visit British Business Bank for more info on schemes such as these.

  • For some, it could be time to start thinking business growth

Times of hardship such as these can bring about a steep upturn in innovation. Although many businesses are struggling, some are actually thriving and busier than ever. Many businesses are also coming forward to help in the fight against coronavirus, by innovating new breathing apparatus, equipment and treatment.

Accountants can play a key part in this, particularly around hiring decisions. By providing business owners with regular people-focused financial metrics, such as average expense/operating profit per employee, accountants can help small businesses particularly to manage both their workforce and their cash.

For some, there is an opportunity to begin thinking about R&D tax credits and that’s where Myriad Associates are able to assist businesses of all sizes during this pandemic.

In finishing, it’s important to note that these are extremely difficult times for UK businesses and it’s possible that this could continue for the next few months. With this in mind, for accountants across the UK, there are clear opportunities to strengthen client bonds and ensure they continue to give the invaluable support their clients require.