Unwinding Furlough – damage limitation begins

Thus far we have been encouraged by government to take advantage of various grants and loans to support our practice and clients during the COVID lock-down period.

Of most relevance for the majority of clients has been the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), commonly referred to as the furlough scheme.

Last month, Rishi Sunak announced that the CJRS will be closed 31 October 2020.

Too little , too late and withdrawn too soon?

For business owners whose businesses have been severely affected by lock-down the realisation that government funding for their payroll is to be progressively reduced from August 2020, and withdrawn from the end of October is bad news.

Even with the easing of lock-down, businesses will struggle to regain pre-COVID activity levels due to ongoing social distancing restrictions. This will be of particular concern to the hospitality sector.

The reserves of seriously affected businesses may be running low and if losses continue the withdrawal of the furlough scheme may be terminal.

Time for advisers to step up to the plate

The economic consequences of the COVID pandemic are expected to be global and unprecedented. In the UK, we all have clients who have already cashed in their chips, cut their losses and ceased trading. Many others are struggling to make sense of the changing conditions and their options in the coming months.

Key in these concerns will be deciding which furloughed staff can be usefully returned to active duty and those that will need to be laid off or offered part-time working.

When making these decisions employers will need to see how their choices will affect their costs, their ability to regain profitability, prospects for sales, financing and solvency. These concerns are the bread and butter of our profession.

The question is how do practitioners, affected themselves by lock-down restrictions, make time to support clients in a purposeful review of their financial affairs without adding unduly to their clients’ costs?

Unwinding furlough – a possible solution

The resources added to our Fee Builder service for July 2020, may provide a solution. We have created a simple spreadsheet tool, workbook and other materials that you can use to roll-out a program of effective support to affected clients.

Included in the resources are a 10-minute task, a challenge to prove that the process works. All you need to do is make a phone call.

To see if these resources would work for your practice we are offering you free access to Fee Builder for 30 days. We will take all the risks. If you find what we offer does not help you support your clients you can cancel before any subscriptions are taken.

Like to see what’s on offer? Reserve your 30-day free access by completing our online order form here.

Ironically, the devastating consequences of COVID do offer all of us opportunities if we can step back and see what our choices are as we confront the challenges ahead.

From all of us at Landmark, our very best wishes to all readers as we all strive to meet these challenges.

 

Losing clients? Downward pressure on fees?

If there is one result that practitioners desire it is winning a new client. There is nothing quite like the buzz and excitement that new business brings.

At the other end of the scale, there is nothing more depressing than losing a client.

Fall-out from COVID disruption

Many firms we have spoken to in the past few weeks have reported client losses. A number of these client losses are due to lock-down. Government support has proved inadequate and business owners have decided they have had enough and pulled the plug.

There are also a growing number of practices that are receiving requests to reduce their fees. This is doubly concerning. Clients are obviously counting the pennies and if they perceive that what you provide can be obtained at a lower price, they will switch.

There is no mileage in agreeing to these requests to drop fees as you will no doubt find yourself in a downward spiral. Clients will habitually request a fee reduction.

What’s in it for you?

If you crack this nut, if you wrap your services so the perceived value is more than a set of basic tasks, then you will be in much better position to avoid messy fee-reduction conversations with clients. The value wrapper will also make your services more appealing to prospects.

There are no downsides to this process.

What to do?

If the majority of your practice income comes from basic compliance work you may struggle to retain clients or resist requests to reduce fees.

Why is this?

The only way you can justify the fees you charge – perhaps higher fees than your competitors –  is if clients associate the work you do for them with value rather than just price considerations. Value demands its own price and is therefore more resistant to price challenges.

Consequently, the solution, the what to do, is simple. You HAVE to find ways to increase the value of the work you undertake for clients and make sure they appreciate these changes.

Short of ideas? Short of time?

Would you speculate £55 a month if this investment provided you with at least one idea a month to achieve this goal; to start offering services that have more impact, more value?

And what if you could kick-off the process each month by testing out each idea in just 10 minutes?

What have you got to lose? Take a look at our Fee Builder program. You can trial the service for a month and we will take all the risks, no fees to pay for 30 days, you can cancel your participation at any time.

The dinosaurs reputedly became extinct because they didn’t adapt to changing conditions. Don’t join the fossil record, challenges create opportunities. Join our Fee Builder program now to find out how.

 

Urgent v important a 10-Minute solution

If your house is on fire there is no time for considering how to improve your sprinkler system, you need to put out the fire.

Professional advisers have to chose the urgent in preference to the important every day. Practitioners know all too well that with the best of intentions, as soon as you sit to tackle your “important” to-do list, the phone will ring, a worried member of your staff will knock at your door or the post will deliver unexpected challenges from HMRC that will require immediate action.

And there is no let-up in this process. Which begs the question: How can we make time for the “important” tasks?

Bob’s take on this article

You will gain insights on the following points:

    • Distinguish what is important and what is urgent
    • Consider strategies to make time for the important issues
    • How to use our Fee Builder 10-Minute Task to benefit clients and deal with specific “important” opportunities…

Blue-sky days

One solution may be to close up shop for a day, decamp to a remote location where there’s no phone signal and brainstorm those important issues that never see the light of day.

Unfortunately, its one thing to identify what is important, its quite another matter to actually implement the required action as the following day, its back to fire-fighting.

Small steps approach

In a previous post on this blog Small steps can lead to incremental benefits we advocated the idea that it may be possible to break down important tasks and take action one step at a time. This approach has merit. However, you still have to decide which small steps to take…

Try our 10-Minute Task

One solution may be to test specific issues. For example, in July 2020, Our Fee Builder program looks at the opportunities to assist clients with difficult choices: should they continue to employ staff or lay them off as CJRS unwinds and closes 31 October 2020. And importantly, what effect will this have on the future capacity of the business to stay profitable?

To demonstrate that this strategy can be accommodated in your busy schedule we have added a 10-Minute Task to Fee Builder’s implementation check list.

For July, the 10-Minute Task is to chose a relevant client and make one phone call.

The call should open up a useful planning session with the client that could lead to ongoing consultancy work. It will also serve as proof – and a blueprint – to roll-out the process with other clients.

Try out this process with our compliments…

Access current month’s Fee Builder content – no charge

We would like to offer you the opportunity to sample the current month’s Fee Builder ideas on a complimentary basis. To do this all you need to do is complete our online order form. No fees will be charged for 30 days and if you see no value in the service you can cancel before these fall due for payment.

In conclusion

Firefighting will continue to be an inevitable consequence of the work we do. Hopefully, if you take advantage of the low-cost resources that Fee Builder affords you will start to see that you can continue to put out fires without excluding consideration of your sprinkler system.

Small steps can lead to incremental benefits

There is no need to re-invent the wheel. You are best placed to understand your clients’ needs and aspirations. They have chosen you as their adviser so there is no need to change your spots to be recognised.

To continue with the analogy, you could check your tyre pressure from time to time and change your tyres when the tread wears down, but there is no need to change the wheels.

Bob’s take on this article

You will gain insights on the following points:

  • Focus on ideas that will have traction with your clients
  • Implement these ideas without undue demands on your time
  • Using our Fee Builder resources and tools, no need to reinvent the wheel…

How to recognise appropriate change

Time is a limiting factor, it demands that we get on with tasks rather than consider if the tasks can be be eliminated or undertaken in a simpler fashion. For most of us, navel gazing is a luxury we cannot afford; there are simply not enough hours in the day.

COVID-19 has exaggerated these demands as we are now required to socially distance from our clients and work colleagues. And still get the work done…

The key to recognising appropriate change is to eliminate ideas that don’t appeal and concentrate instead on ideas that may have traction with your clients.

For example, we suggested to firms that are part of our Fee Builder Program that they consider “pro-bono” services to assist their clients when the effects of the coronavirus disruption first started to bite.

This was a pretty radical suggestion as most practitioners would not be receptive to the idea of doing something for no reward.

This is what a Fee Builder firm in Kings Lynn reported when they adopted a pro bono approach with clients:

The ideas and strategies that the Landmark Fee Builder program have provided have made me think outside the box. Many are ideas that I would not have thought of in isolation.

For example, we have taken on the notion that at this difficult time it may be prudent to consider limited use of pro-bono services for clients. When we have done this we have had a good response and whilst this does not add to monthly billing it does demonstrate that we are willing to help clients that are adversely affected by the present disruption. Hopefully, this is an investment in the long-term value of practice goodwill.

Simon Dimblebee, Thain Wildbur – June 2020

Finding the time to consider change

If we don’t change and adapt we run the risk that over time more and more of our present routines and strategies will become ineffective and may possibly jeopardise the standards of service that we can offer clients.

Returning to the “wheel” analogy, if you fail to check the tread on your tyres, at some future date you may have a blow-out…

At Landmark, we have developed the Fee Builder program with this in mind. Each month we prepare easy to implement strategies such that our subscribers can quickly identify those that can be of value to clients and those that cannot. Very often it is the small changes that can contribute most to improved clients service.

Access current month’s Fee Builder content – no charge

We would like to offer you the opportunity to sample a few of the current month’s Fee Builder ideas. To do this all you need to do is complete our online order form. No fees will be charged for 30 days and if you see no value in the service you can cancel before these fall due for payment.

 

 

How will clients recover?

The following statement poses a question many or most of your clients and business prospects will be asking themselves, in short:

How on earth are we going to recover from the present coronavirus disruption?

You could probably divide your client list three ways, those that have:

  1. Fared better or marked time during the lock-down period.
  2. Managed to reduce the scale of their activity and maintain solvency.
  3. Had to mothball or close down their businesses or struggle-on.

Many in all groups may have received government grants or availed themselves of cheap loan opportunities. Grants are income, but the loans need to be paid back. Add to this the economic damage the lock-down process has created and its not difficult to see that the road back to pre-March trading conditions will be difficult to navigate.

Accountants are in a unique position

Accountants are in a unique position to help their clients plan and monitor this transition back to pre-COVID activity levels. If this is not possible in the short-term, then strategies will need to be implemented to maintain solvency, avoid losses and nurse cash resources. If this is not possible clients may need to be supported while their businesses are sold or liquidated.

There is an urgent need to reach out to clients and offer to help, to assist in creating an appropriate road map to recovery or closure. Sign up for our Fee Builder program for complimentary resources to do this.

Resources you may need

You will already have a pretty good idea which clients will need your help and these should be contacted asap. If you are unsure, survey your client base. We suggest:

  1. Client survey – send a short questionnaire and covering email/letter to gauge the level of support clients need, and
  2. Client survey follow up – based on the replies to your questionnaire, a comprehensive response document that suggests how you can be of help and what clients need to do to set the ball rolling.
  3. Kick Start Fee Guarantee – a strategy you may like to consider, if you are concerned with losing clients, is to have a strategy in place to minimise those losses. For example, you could offer a no price increase for two years and monthly billing – set at a negotiated rate to cover all the issues you have identified – and use this process to lock-in client engagement.
  4. Update your website – the survey and response material could be adapted to work from your website. This would simplify the administration.

Concerned that you won’t have time to do this?

Homeworking, disrupted communications, keeping an eye on staff and filing deadlines, all of these and many more issues will be taking up your time. With this in mind we have created the documents and briefs to make the changes to your website and/or make appropriate approaches to clients.

Take up a 30-day free trial to our Fee Builder program and we will send you complimentary copies of everything you will need to:

  • Identify clients’ needs.
  • Collaborate with clients to create a support program.
  • And as a result, lock-in client engagement.

A classic win-win outcome.

Read more about the Fee Builder program here or sign-up for your 30-day free trial.

 

Bob Edwards and the team at LandmarkPD. 10 June 2020.