Who will take the lead?

I am pleased, as all right-minded people will be, that the Prime Minister is recovering from Covid-19. But either he, or someone else in government, must step up and start to show leadership.

The idea that we are somehow all going back to work soon is, in reality, fading fast: Grant Shapps has now said no-one should plan on a summer holiday this year. This is the clearest sign that the government knows that the real reopening of our economy is not going to be happening anytime soon.

And yet a game is being played out in front of our eyes. A three week extension to lockdown suggests we’ll start getting back to ‘new-normal’ in May whereas the issues this coronavirus is creating are not going away any time soon. The government knows this and are not being truthful. They need to come clean.

Many of those furloughed are actually unemployed; they are unlikely to have jobs to go back to. The government knows that. That is why they had to avoid them being declared redundant by extending the furlough scheme by a month (redundancy notices would have had to be issued at the end of April under existing legislation).

But this is not just a case of being honest with the public because it the right thing to do. By misleading individuals and businesses into thinking we’ll be back to the ‘old-normal’ any time soon, too many won’t be thinking about and planning for the reality.

For example when is the requirement that those furloughed do absolutely nothing going to be removed when it is an absolute requirement that those unemployed work flat out to get work?

When is the massive inequality of treatment between those furloughed and those unemployed going to be addressed? For how long can we tolerate the injustice of a two-tier unemployment system that pays some £94.25 a week (and then only if they have no savings) and others up to six times that sum?

What is required is a leader who will face up to the fact – and say so – that this isn’t going to be over soon.

What this means for your business will depend on the sector you are in and how quickly you can react and prepare for the ‘new-normal’ I wrote about recently. One benefit of the lockdown is that you may have the extra time you need to think deeply – a skill too often underused – about what your business will need to look like in 6, 12 and 24 months’ time and the actions you should be taking now to prepare. A useful tool for this is scenario planning, which I have used with some of my clients in the past, so it may be time to dust off some old resources.

The businesses that will survive and still be around to prosper when this is eventually over will be those that ignore the rhetoric that is meant to have us all sitting quietly at home for a few weeks and (without breaching the rules on self-distancing) seriously ramp up their thinking and planning for the future and take action.

Noel Guilford, Principal at Guilford Accounting
Noel Guilford is the principal of Guilford Accounting a small business accountancy practice specialising in advising owner-managed businesses on current accounting, finance, and tax matters. You can reach him via email at noel@guilfordaccounting.co.uk or by phone at 01244 660866. He is the author of the 'Figure it out - an entrepreneurs guide to understanding your business numbers' which you can obtain by visiting guilfordaccounting.co.uk.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​ His latest book, How to Build a Successful Business' will be published in 2018.

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