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Pete Richardson has worked as a national newspaper journalist and PR specialist so has helped cover and manage the odd crisis. Covid-19 is a massive challenge for society and fundamentally changing lives, but there are ways to cope as business owners and senior managers and help is all around.

Here’s Pete’s advice.

1) Keep Calm. None of us in the Western world have ever encountered anything quite like this but that doesn’t mean we can’t cope. And once the initial and understandable raw emotion of some form of panic has subsided, we can start to rationalise and begin to plan how we are going to get through. As business owners or managers most of us have dealt with issues, problems and have crashed through barriers in order to get to where we are today. Although much bigger, this is no different in that it is a set of challenges to be faced, solutions found, and actions implemented. And we can do this.

2) Keep up with the news and only rely on reputable and corroborated sources. Social media is swimming in panic and misinformation so be very careful about what you read and what you share. It’s usually a good idea to look at times of crisis to look to the BBC - despite some criticism of bias of late it is a world-renowned source of great information. BBC news online has a rolling news feed and also excellent and easily navigable pages on business, health and a variety of other channels for informed information. The Government’s own website is full of help and guidance and can be found here:

3) What am I going to do for money if my business has to close? Just 24 hours ago that was a massive worry for people whose livelihoods seemed under imminent threat. Now the picture is becoming clearer and while for many there is still a great deal of uncertainty, help is on its way. Just yesterday, The Government unveiled a package of financial measures to shore up the economy against the coronavirus impact. It is a massive step in the right direction, but we still don’t know how we can all claim this money do we? And does it apply to us – our businesses? Again – don’t panic as Chancellor Rishi Sunak told a press conference and the nation we are facing "economic emergency. Never in peacetime have we faced an economic fight like this one." And he promised that if this package was not enough, he would go further.” We have to believe him.

4) Plan now to apply for the help you will be entitled to.

These are the main sources of help:

  • Business rates holidays to all firms in the hospitality sector

  • Funding grants of between £10,000 and £25,000 for small businesses

  • Mortgage lenders offering a three-month mortgage holiday

  • A new Corona Business Interruption Loan Scheme

  • Help with paying taxes

Work out which of these options will work for you and which you could be entitled to.

5) What you can do NOW to plan to get funds and help relevant to you quickly.

Business rate holidays will be organised and implemented by local councils – so know who yours is, make contact now and asked to be put on any mailing lists relevant to news about this subject. Search online each day for news updates on this and be ready to apply with all the relevant details of your business details easily to hand.

Details of who can apply for grants, where to apply and what criteria are required are to yet to be finalised, but it won’t be long before they are so be ready. Have latest management accounts easily at hand.

Contact your mortgage company today with a short letter asking for a three-month mortgage holiday. Just include short letter including your mortgage account number and a letter stating that: “Due to the impact of the Covid-19 crisis I am applying for a three-month mortgage holiday.” Apply online or via your mortgage broker.

A new Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, delivered by the British Business Bank, will enable businesses with a turnover of no more than £41 million to apply for a loan of up to £1.2 million, with the government covering up to 80% of any losses with no fees. Again, keep up with the news on how this scheme is going to work.

A dedicated helpline has been set up to help businesses and self-employed individuals in financial distress and with outstanding tax liabilities receive support with their tax affairs. Through this, businesses may be able to agree a bespoke Time to Pay arrangement. If you are concerned about being able to pay your tax due to COVID-19, you can call HMRC’s dedicated helpline on 0800 0159 559.

6) Begin to think about how you can best use your time if you are forced to stay at home – other than keeping fit and healthy. What online courses can you do to be ready to improve your business when the crisis ends? What boring paperwork that always gets left behind can be done? What new innovations can you come up with that enable you to do some business online or via apps or other electronic technologies. Explore new products and product development ideas and do deals for the future – other businesses will be desperate to help you and do deals because they will be in the same boat as you. Draw up a new superb business plan for 2020-2023 because you have got the time to do it properly.

Get fit for business when the doors open again.

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