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Why I'm starting a practice in the middle of a pandemic

25 June 2020: It might seem crazy, but now is actually a great time to start a practice, argues Della Hudson, Consultant, Author of The Numbers Business, and former owner of Hudson Accountants Ltd.

Why, when so many firms are furloughing or even shutting down, have I chosen to launch a new practice? It might seem a little risky to you, but it makes perfect sense to me. Business owners need good accountants, now more than ever.

Repeated surveys show that accountants are the most trusted advisers of all professions. Our clients turn to us for advice on how to manage their business through the crisis. It's all very well to say "pivot", but they look at us and ask "how?"

When times are tough, business owners need to be on top of their numbers with the up to date bookkeeping that we've been recommending/nagging them to do for ages. They need to know how their business will manage for cash, when their money will run out and how long they can wait before they need to make difficult decisions about individual roles; possibly even winding up the whole operation.

They need cashflow forecasts to manage their spending and decision making, and business plans to apply for loans. Even for the admin-light Business Bounceback Loans, they will need an idea of how to start repaying it, along with interest, in 12 months.

Business owners need more specific information

Business owners are looking to their accountants to interpret government advice on the various types of financial support available. As soon as an announcement been made at the evening press conference, clients are asking us for details, except that the detail isn't released straight away. 

They aren't interested in the legislation itself but rather: "What does this mean to me and my business?" I've been running weekly webinars to help them to understand. These regular updates also reduce the number of incoming calls asking the same questions.

Underserviced clients

Some accountants are struggling to learn new legislation and want to wait until they have ALL the answers before speaking to clients. But things are changing daily, and clients can't wait. It can be tough for an expert not to have all the answers, but we have to communicate proactively and honestly and let clients know what we do and don't know. 

What can we do?

As accountants, we need to take up the mantle of trusted adviser to ensure that as many businesses as possible make it through the pandemic and subsequent economic downturn/recession. We have the skills and can lead the way with this, so it was an automatic response for me to start a new practice, having sold my first one nearly three years ago.

We can do business plans and cashflow forecasts. We can keep company information up to date. We can interpret government legislation. Those of us who also claim to be business advisers can help businesses to reinvent themselves where necessary.

We can even help clients make the difficult decision to wind up their business if that is the best thing for them. Sometimes all we can do is hold their hand (metaphorically, of course) as they turn out the lights.

Don't reinvent the wheel

Those of us who have been around for a while can blow the dust off our old 'tough times' material from previous recessions and adapt it a little.

We can share advice within our professional bodies and other groups. We can take ideas that have worked for one client and adapt them to help others.

There is plenty of scope for collaboration between accountants. Now more than ever, we can help each other to help businesses by doing all the things that we have traditionally done for them but in a slightly different way.

If you know CPR you don't walk past a dying man, and that's how essential I believe that accountants are in keeping our economy alive, generating income, paying taxes, and preserving as many jobs as possible. I doubt whether anybody will clap for us on a Thursday evening, but we still have a job to do, and that's why I'm back in practice.