When will I get my Small Business Grant? Do I pay furloughed staff full pay for the Easter Weekend? Should I buy shares in Tesco and Sainsburys?

These were all questions asked on our online Entrepreneurs Club coronavirus Q&A on 8 April with investments expert Alexander J Barnes, HR expert Victoria Brown of High Performance Consultancy, and our very own Jon Davies.

And we managed to answer most of them in the 60 minutes! Take a look and, if there are any more you’d like answered, let us know and we’ll pick them up on the next Q&A on 22 April.

Read the full transcript of the one hour Q&A session below, or watch the full video:

Alex: “So, good afternoon, everybody. Welcome to a virtual edition of Entrepreneurs Club, social distancing edition or lockdown edition, however it is that you want to talk about it. Obviously, it’s very strange times which has hit us over the past few weeks and months. Jon Davies, from Jon Davies Accountants, Victoria Brown from High Performance Consultancy, and myself, Alex Barnes from AJ Barnes Financial Planning. We had a discussion a couple of weeks ago, because obviously, any of you who are familiar with our work, we’ve worked together on Entrepreneurs Club physical, face to face, for a number of months over the last year. So this is a sharing resource – a bit of a Q&A session which we put together over the last couple of weeks. Bit of housekeeping I’ll just deal with, so, we’re all a little bit new to Zoom, probably not as new as we were three or four weeks ago. Seems like now I just bounce from Zoom to Zoom. But bit of housekeeping, obviously, you can see us, we can’t see you. So if there’s any audio problems or video problems, feel free to click on the chat button, and that’ll open up and you can put that so all panellists will be able to see that. Obviously, this is a live Q&A session as well, so on the bottom panel, depending on whether you’re on a PC, laptop, tablet or your phone, there should be a panel which has on there a Q&A button. So we’ve got a list of questions that we’ve been asked by people over the last couple of weeks. But if there’s specifically something that you would like answering that we’ve not got to, or you’d like us to get to, feel free to click on the Q&A button, ask that, and I’ll be managing that sort of inbox as we go through. And we are recording this session as well, so hopefully, we’ll have that to share a bit later on. So, without further ado, I’m going to pass over to our chair, which is Victoria from HPC. So Victoria, over to you.

Victoria: “Good afternoon, everybody. Great for us all to get together, as Alex said, whilst it being virtual at least. It is unprecedented times, so it’s good for us to be able to talk, bounce ideas and share good practise with one another. I think it’s fantastic, this panel today, because we’ve obviously got HR, finance, investments, lots of questions have come through that I am quite intrigued about as well. So I’m looking forward to hearing the answers. So, what I’m going to do is start off with the questions that have been asked in advance of the session, but as Alex said, please as while as we talk, if you think of something, please post your comment in the Q&A, and we will try our best to answer as much as we can within the hour. So first of all, I’m going to move over to you, Jon, ask the question that a lot of people seem to be asking right now is, can you furlough yourself as a director?

Jon: “I was thinking that was an HR question, Victoria. I think it is quite a common one we’re being asked by typical owners – directors of limited companies. At it’s simplest, yes you can. However, if you are furloughed, as a director, to an extent, the rules are the same as if you furlough to an employee, in that you shouldn’t be doing any work for the company. The guidelines say that you shouldn’t be doing any work to generate revenue or provide services to the business. Now, as a director, it’s quite hard to do that if you’re the owner as well. So, the kind of, the additional law for a director is they are allowed to undertake their statutory responsibilities of the business, as well as while they’re on furlough. That would include things like, I suppose HMRC filings, Companies House filings, and what have you. At the moment, the guidance only goes as far as that I think of what, certainly I’d hope, what are your views, Victoria. It’s got to be be a little bit of common sense. As a director of a company, it is quite hard just to absolutely switch off, apart from those clients who have, a restaurant or a shop would be good example, and it was shut. They might not be doing the day-to-day work, but it makes sense for them to be doing some kind of groundwork for when we reopen again, whether that’s, you know, marketing or what have you. Now, at the moment, you can’t do that while you’re furloughing, which, to me seems nonsensical, really, as a director. But that’s where we are right now. So, as the sole director of a Limited Company, it is possible, but it’s quite hard to genuinely do it, unless you’d like you really have absolutely downed tools. That’s kind of the way it is at the moment. The other thing as well is I guess the only director of the company, you’re probably on a minimal salary anyway, tax efficient salaries like £700 a month. So get an 80% of that is don’t be wrong as well worth having. But it’s not a million miles more. So sometimes, it’s only like 100 quid or more a month, than if they were actually to claim Universal Credit. And sort of the difference actually, for the sake £100, you might as well not be furloughed and do some amount of work. And that’s a balancing act for people to look at. And, Victoria I don’t know if you have anything to add on to that as the furlough expert.

Victoria: “Well, I was just going to ask you question, Jon, what your thoughts are around, one of my concerns is if directors do say furlough themselves, and then they do continue to be quite active, what do you think HMRC are going to be like, in terms of checking up on people, sort of once they’ve made, I have been told that sort of the payments are going to be made and then three to four months time we’re going to start getting some inspections around where actually people furloughed?

Jon: “Yeah, my personal view is that if you furloughed, as a director if you furlough, you’ve got to really be not working. Really has got to be their statutory duties, because as a director, you are visible in the outside world, the people look after our kind of fee protection insurance over if there are investigations HMRC, have been quite active in the last week or so about whether that would be covered in investigations because like they’re foreseeing a lot of HMRC investigations after this. To see who has abused the retention scheme and whether that’s you know, for directors or employees who they’ve tried to backdate to get more money so that they’re definitely for seeing a lot of investigations HMRC after this.

Victoria: “Interesting that will lead me on to another question that is related and which was posed around furlough and suppose what you can do which Jon, you’ve already answered most of that of what sort of not only director but as an employee what you can and can’t do. And as you quite rightly saying, he can’t be seen to make a profit or make any money for the business. But you can volunteer and you can also do training. The one thing to consider with training is obviously that national minimum wage and query through some like national minimum wage and they complete training then you would have to top up I think I might say, Jon on it, but you’d have to top up. Sort of their pay to ensure that they don’t go below national minimum wage during that period of time. I’ve had I’ve been on a few panels and questions have been asked of me when people are furloughed obviously the challenges likecommunication during that period of time as well. And there has been that fear of well what can I or can I do? Can I speak to my employees? And the answer is absolutely yes. I think it’s very important for sort of team morale to still engage your employees. So if it is, you know we have sort of like a pub quiz on a Friday you know if I have team members to furlough then I would still, give them the opportunity to attend that you know that by all means people can still partake in sort of team meetings. I think as long as you’re not instructing them to work, but you’re keeping that person updated. And that’s not an issue but obviously they have to do that on a voluntary perspective you can’t force somebody to attend a meeting during the time that their fellow but I think it’s very important that we do consider that three months is a long period of time for somebody to be out of the business so you do really need to think about how you can keep some level of engagement with those individuals. So, moving on, so let’s move on bring you in Alex. So one of the questions that we’ve got here for you is somebody has asked you they have seen that pension value decrease in the last months. And they’re worried. Should they be looking at switching funds?

Alex: “Ah yes, big question that we get into the moments in the practise we work with clients and new investors over this period. Quite a frequent question. I think that it kind of plays into something that we refer to quite a lot which is loss aversion in behavioural and science. So and the emotional attachment to gains or losses. It’s proven that sort of a loss is seen almost twice as negative as again is seen as positive in the other direction. And one thing I’d say is that volatility like volatility is nothing new this is a brand new situation to have volatility in itself isn’t? But what I would say is that getting close with a financial advisor that financial advisor, checking the strategy, understanding the position is going to be vital. So, and why? Because your financial advisor really should understand what your plan is. So, from point A to point B and they should be sort of navigating your particular fund to keep that on track. So quite individual. Sometimes, yes sometimes no but actually, a lot of the time as long as you’re working towards the long-term goal and not trying to speculate on the market and sometimes sitting on your hands is not the worst thing to do.

Victoria: “Okay thanks, Alex. I’m just going to stay with you for a minute Alex just to talk about sort of finances. And somebody asked the question of how this compare in your opinion financially with the last financial crash of 2008?

Alex: “And it’s very different because the last crash of 2008 was a systemic crash was essentially a big problem within the system, and which took quite a long time to figure out where it was and what was going on, a lean failure and bank failures so essentially, there’s something within the system which was causing the problem. So technically this is more event driven, so this is an external event coming into the market and causing a lot of emotional sentiment and loss. So there’s an argument to say that it’s closest akin to sort of a 911 type of thing. But it’s really not because of the size and scale of things. So I think the time will tell how this pans out in comparison, and where we are at the minute because ultimately, we’re in the eye of the storm at the moment in terms of what’s going on. And we’ve seen some pretty positive, pretty strong positive gains, and we’ve seen some pretty strong negative losses over the past few weeks. And so how it compares, and I can actually share my screen and try and show you something. So I’ll show you this here, So if everybody can see that what this shows is it shows you a FTSE All Share sort of discrete returned from if you go back to sort of 2009, 2008. You can see the flipping sentiment there over the course of the year, it went from a 30% loss on year to 30% gain year after bought the Intra year declines for each year, due to the market the lowest point of the market was 40%, the lowest points in the market was 21%. So huge flips in sentiment, but you can go back all the way to 1986. And you can see these intra year declines. You can see sort of red and blue across there. And how does it compare? Ultimately time will tell because we’re not sure where we are at the minute in the marketplace but, and the big thing that we see is that and sometimes people try to time the market, is this the bottom is at the top, is it a good time to go in a bad time to go in? And so for us, we’d like to focus on the principles of long term investing and making sure that that’s kind of sound first. That answers that a little bit potentially.

Victoria: “Yeah, great. Thank you, Alex. I’m just looking at some of the live questions that come in through. Again, sort of going back. Again, I think we’ll go back to furlough quite a bit during this session. But there was a question come through is there is more than one director at their business, should we furlough one director and just leave the MD as the only one left to run the business? And if I take that question, then my answer would be yes, absolutely, you could do that. And give them what we’ve described in terms of what you can and can’t do whilst an employee is furloughed. But just one thing to bear in mind is obviously consider the way in which they’re paid and the cap on the furlough. So obviously 80% is capped to two and a half thousand for sure, and NI and tax. So if there is sort of a gap, you need to ensure that you’ve got obviously that. And if you’re not going to top it all off you need that mutual agreement.

Alex: “To add to that as well make sure, because we’ve had as well as the Q&A, there’s also a chat function, not sure whether you can see the chat function. And people have asked to sort of furlough the questions as well. So you might as well sort of answer those. Don’t know whether this will be relevant, but Mike’s asked kind of furloughed employee check with HMRC. how much the employer has claimed for the employee? So that’d being point one to either of you know.

Victoria: “Jon, are you aware of what–

Jon: “It have been made actually clear, because it has occurred to me this one, let’s say, you’d want to make sure that the employee is not playing a game somewhere, but there’s nothing actually in the guidance as of yet. But I think the other thing is that no one’s seen the portal yet. So as an employer, and this might actually cover the other question just below about how does it go in the chat about how does it work? Is it technically a loan from the government or? Well, no. The government will pay the salary of your employees who are furloughed, that is capped at 80% of their salary and generally that would be set on that the February salary if there was salaried person. But the way you actually claim that back as an employer and it’s causing a bit of a cash flow problem to some people is that if on a monthly payroll, for example, probably paid last week, the end of March, and will pay again at the end of April for furloughed employees but the reclaim a portal which HMRC are going to use for you to actually get your money, doesn’t open till May. And I think until we’ve actually seen the portal, we’re not precisely sure how it’s going to work. They’ve kind of listed some of the information you’ll give, but therefore it’s not clear to answer the question that of whether actually an employee can actually log in or have a look and check what was actually claimed by the employer. I guess as an employee overall, you should get 80% of your salary unless your employer has decided to top that up to higher amounts which is kind of optional for the employer.

Victoria: “I think, just also to add to that, if you’re not aware is obviously that the employee has to have been on your payroll as of the 28th of February. So I’ve had some questions along the way of people that maybe have been recruited after that date. Unfortunately, they will not be not be allowed to be furloughed and will not have paid back by the government. So that’s something to bear in mind. And I do have one other question just around furlough which is about, if you rehire somebody. So there’s been a lot of questions that I found around this, where people have obviously say about to leave your organisation or have left your organisation and then their job was either fell through or and the next employer is just unable to obviously sort of recruit them at this moment in time, Because for all the reasons that we know that unable to train, unable to sort of bring them into the office. This was a little bit unclear for some time, but the government’s have been very, they have provided clarity now, which was great at the weekend. So you can and rehire somebody and furlough then so it is a good way to obviously sort of support everybody speaking from a moral perspective and you will be able to backdate effectively, the employees and dates. And one thing I would make you aware of, though I don’t think it’s very clear at the moment is that we suspect that obviously their annual leave will still accrue. Again, it’s not particularly clear within the guidance, but there’s nothing to make us believe that that would be any different. So you do need to bear in mind and factor that into your considerations. It’s not something that you have to do and you don’t have to engage and backdate that furlough. But obviously, this is an option for you. It’s worth considering. So again, let’s move on. I’ll come back to you, Jon. Let’s move over to rates. So can I get the rates grant if I pay the rates to my landlord?

Jon: “Well, for me the rates grant is one of the quickest actually routes to cash right now. In that, for anyone who’s out there who’s not aware what this one is, if you’re claiming small business rates relief, you’re eligible for a cash grant of £10,000 from the government. If you’re in the retail, hospitality and leisure industry, and your rate or value is less than £15,000, you get a £10,000 grant. If it’s between £15 and £51,000, you get £25,000 grant payable in April. And actually you get one for each premises as well. So it can add up to think of the rent to the other costs that you have. And the forms went live last week to claim these online. And we have clients already got those in the bank account. So, it is pure cash flow. It’s been one of the best ones. Now, on the guidance to it is based on are you paying rates? And do you have a rate of value of your property of these amounts? And therefore if you’re paying to the landlord, you’re not eligible. However, what we’re actually finding, actually finding the councils and this is we have clients around the country so it covers a few, we’ve come up with a being quite pragmatic about this. And to some I guess, quite generous about it, because there certainly, somebody spoke to one of our clients on the phone call. So actually, it’s not our money. We’ve been given it by central governments give out and therefore we’re keen to give it out. So, we have examples of one where the business isn’t actually down as a business property and therefore isn’t actually registered for business rates and their counsellors agree they’ll get the grant. But to be fair, it’s got shop fronts. So a photo is pretty clear they’re not making this up. We have one who only opened their business in February and wasn’t registered yet. The counsellor said they’ll get one. And we do have at least one where it is a case of they’re in a serviced office building where they don’t pay the rates directly. And again, a phone call to the council has been told well, okay, then we’ll have a look at that and hopefully they’ll get one. So I guess what I’d say is it’s worth, if you if you look up your property and you can look at the valuation offices website, and the actual web address is the valuation office think is VOA-GOV.UK something. You can look up the rates or value of your premises. If you’re not the rates payer, it’s worth a phone call to the council, because we’ve seen people actually get positive results from that. Even though the strict words the legislation I hear you need to be the rate payer.

Victoria: “Okay, thank you, Jon. We’ve got another question that’s come through as well that’s just asking where’d you get these forms for the rates?

Jon: “Okay, on the site, if you’re in Liverpool, Sefton or Knowsley absolutely definitely during the Council’s website in a second when perhaps one of you to answer the question I’ll put them in the chat room because I have sent around an email the other day to some of our clients, so I’ll actually pop them in the chat room in a second might be just in that stuff got Liverpool, Knowsley, Sefton and we will I think are the ones I’ve kind of got to hand. Otherwise if you just go on to your local authorities website and have a look. Let’s say that the local ones certainly went live I think the 30th or the 31st of March, about a week ago.

Victoria: “Okay, great. Jon while we’re talking about rates. There was a question around the coronavirus loan scheme, so how can you borrow through this? And can you use it to grow your business?

Jon: “Yeah, the loan scheme was set up, I guess in the headline figures that the Chancellor spoke about two weeks ago. It’s gone so quick is it two or three weeks ago now? When they were talking about £330 billion pounds, a big chunk of it was actually guaranteeing loans. It wasn’t actually cash. So the the £10,000 grants is actually cash given to you, the loans are indeed loans. On the loan scheme, and it went live about two weeks ago, though, there are a lot of problems with it. Certainly, the figures the other day, we’re out of, you know, 190,000 applicants, we got 1000 people got a loan so far. The chancellor did step in at the end of last week to try and make things a bit easier. Now in terms of what it’s there for, the idea is that the Government will guarantee the loan to help people who wouldn’t get the loan normally get it. It’s still on us actually pay the fee back but to help the government will pay the interest for the first year. It should be used, though to actually bridge the gap that we have because of Coronavirus, not for other stuff. And what we’ve seen is with the banks and having had a long chat with a couple of bank managers who could have administering this, is that to an extent, if you would have got a loan anyway, you’ll get offered to the normal loan. It’s only if you wouldn’t have you moved to the Coronavirus one. And in terms of what they’ll lend, it should be really just enough to kind of get you through. Now that does lead to when you have to put a cash flow together as rescue is actually looking to, I guess tell tell the story that gets you kind of what your wants or needs. But as an example, a bank manager actually rang me last week actually asking about directors’ furloughs. Because they will only lend money to cover a director’s salary, not dividends, because they’re literally looking at what are your costs? What have they been? If your income falls off a cliff for a few months what you need to bridge that gap. The Coronavirus loan scheme shouldn’t be used for a cut. What’s the phrase to use but kind of to grow the business? Victoria what do you say? As in none, as in that stuff you might normally lend for ease to bridge the cash gap over the next kind of three, six, 12 months.

Victoria: “Thank you, Jon. And right back to you, Alex. So I think this is a question that everyone would like to know, is now a good time to buy Tesco and Sainsbury’s shares?

Alex: “I think it’s what everybody would first jump to because if you’ve gone to any of the shops, I haven’t Jon and I were talking about social distance in it at shops, which has been sporadic. You would think that all of this stuff has been bought. And surely the share price is going to rocket. And what I would say is that buying individual shares more falls into the category of speculating than true what we do with investing. So it’s not really my forte, and but sort of my common sense approach that I’ve used over the past decade is usually, if you have heard that it’s a good idea to buy those individual shares, it’s probably too late already. And if you think about investors funding billions of pounds into the market, looking at analysis and teams of analysts looking at sort of profitability of companies, and so on and so forth, and they’re usually looking at what to do before before markets realise. So if it’s filtered down towards us through sort of chat or whatever else. Probably too late and both It’s quite high-risk strategy as well. So, buying individual shares like that, I would say, depending on what your outlook is, can be quite a hurry. So again, take advice on it and look at the guts.

Victoria: “Okay, thank you, Alex. Another question for you from the attendees is now a good time to invest?

Alex: “Well, yeah, it would seem so. What always try and do is try and sort of look at the added ferocious. It’s not timing the market, for time in the market. So for sort of break that down a little bit more fully for you. And essentially, what we’re trying to say is that buying signals that sometimes we get, as it’s a low market or it’s high market. Sometimes are a bit of a falsity really. Once you start looking at the long term transceiver, show you sort of another graph, sort of graph heavy content here. This kind of shows you what we mean by timing, not timing the market, I don’t say properly. It shows you sort of what the— it’s the FTSE all share index has been like for £100,000 if you invested over 20 years and the bar furthest left, as if you did just remain fully invested over that period. And you would have come out with £256,939, which sounds great. But actually 156% gain, which is great. But if you just miss the best 10 days in that 20-year period all of a sudden, and your return drops quite drastically to £39,000, so 39% gain. And then if you missed the best 20 days, you now starting to look at a lost, you’ve compounded that last 40 days, compounding that loss further. So why is that? Why is it important as opposed, because we’re trying to catch sort of such sharp flips in sentiment requires not only great foresight, but quite a strong stomach at the same point. So it’s very easy to do investing in hindsight. So it’s very easy for us to go back to 2009 somewhere around February, March and find the bottom and say, well, if we’d only invested at that point. But how many people were truly investing at that point? And going the opposite way, when a lot of people were thinking, how far is this going to go? So try to time the best year, the best point the worst year, the worst point, and usually isn’t something that we sort of focus on. It’s usually for us just sort of what are we aiming to invest for? Are we investing for a long term? By that I mean, five, 10, 15, 20 plus years. And and then creating a bespoke plan for our clients as to what their sort of goals are orientated to. But as you can see, sometimes sort of flipping around in markets and trying to take buying signals and selling signals, and sometimes you can end up getting your fingers burned.

Victoria: “Great, thank you, Alex. I’m going to move on to a couple of questions that we’ve had around holidays. So I had a question that was asked around. This is just obviously most people with lock down are working from home. So, questions come through about an employee. And they asked to cancel their pre booked holidays, can you refuse the request? Now, this will obviously depend on what you have written in your contracts of employment or your handbook. Well, if there’s nothing in there that suggests that you can’t do, then you can absolutely refuse that request. And as we mentioned earlier, one of the concerns that we do have, is that we will all go back at back to work, say hopefully in June, and we’ll have a real backlog of holidays. So, I do have some clients that are trying to manage that in a fair way now, because obviously a lot of people that are trying to cancel their leave it’s because Maybe the holidays have been cancelled. So, you know, they don’t want to take that those two weeks off during the Easter period. And they would like to look to be able to move that holiday to to later on in the year. So a lot of clients have had a look at this and just try to be quite fair, open and transparent to maybe look that is there ways that they could manage that leave during this period of time and just have that open conversation with your employees as well. Because whilst we are on lockdown, and a lot of us do have childcare responsibilities and trying to juggle the two at the moment, so you may find that your employees may actually welcome that opportunity to be able to take just a little bit of leave during this period. And on the flip side of that, I’ve also been asked a question about suppose if you’re working in an industry sector, where actually you can’t really afford for people to be off right now because you really need them, and I felt like that a couple of weeks ago, because we’ve obviously as you can imagine been inundated with questions around furlough. Are you able to cancel an employee’s leave if they have already got leave in place and agreed and approved by you? And the answer to that will be, yes. But you have to provide them with the notice needs to be double of what the period of time is. So say for example, they had two days, leave books, then you would have to give them four days’ notice of the basically they removal of that approved leave and that cancellation. So just, again, just this just sticking to holidays, I have a question that’s come through Jon, that I wanted to pose to you. It’s, if you’ve got a member of staff that is furloughed and has booked holidays, do they still take it and can you still claim for the furloughed employee?

Jon: “In terms of whether they still take it I guess, Vic I may throw it back to you in a second. In terms of claiming as to an extent the furloughed employee is treated as normal in terms of cash, so they’ll be paid the salary. Whether you as an employer paying 80%, or decide top up, you’ll pay the salary and claim the 80% back. Either way, what they’re doing on that time, whether that have taken holiday or whatever, and I guess ensued with bank holidays. This weekend, it seems to have passed most of us by that it’s happening, but in pure cash, it won’t make any difference whether or not a furloughed employee still takes the holiday. I’ll admit that but I don’t know. I don’t know if you can add anything Victoria on that one.

Victoria: “Yeah it’s for me, still very grey area and it’s not been I had hoped for more clarity at the weekend from the government and there hasn’t been. So we remain unsure right now, because obviously, as you know, if somebody is off sick, and during that furlough period of time, they effectively then become sick rather than furloughed, and you take that SSP or any of that. That enhance payment if necessary. And there are some sorts of queries around maternity leave as well. So, in short, similar to yourself, I’m not sure right now, and I’m a little bit unclear around the payments as well. And, you know, again, they’ve not really clarified what that looks like. And you know, Jon, we spoke about this prior to us going live, that a lot of people are asking us these questions around the bank holidays. Do we have to top up during furlough. So I think it’s very much going to have to be watch this space and as soon as we get some more clarity, we’ll obviously be able to confirm with you what people need to do. But I have got clients that have got furloughed staff and they have taken that that holiday leave. And it may be that we’ve got to sort of revisit that if the guidance suggests that we can’t do that, but we have got time to do that ultimately, before we make the claim, so we should be okay.

Alex: “Guys I’ve got a live question which has coming in while we’re on the subject of furlough, so, and we’ve got one here from Welton Media, we should say, there is more than one director in our business, should we furlough one director and just leave the MD as the only one left to run the business? So what’s your thoughts on that?

Victoria: “And we’ve mentioned that one before Alex, obviously you were not paying attention at that moment in time. You’re enjoying talking about furlough, aren’t you Alex?

Alex: “I mean, it’s always furlough chatters, isn’t it? Get mixed up doesn’t it?

Victoria: “I know so many questions, but let’s come back to you, Alex. Because I feel like you feel a bit left out here. And let’s go through. Another question for you is that there is somebody, an attendee that has and is supposed to be retiring this year, and they want to know, should they put their retirement back?

Alex: “And I think it would depend largely on what their assets look like and what they wanted their retirement to look like. So I appreciate that sort of a bit of an open question and a bit of an open answer. And so what can they do? And things that they can do, get close to the financial advisor, if they don’t have a financial advisor, I think that one would certainly benefit, particularly if you’re coming up to pretty much the biggest holiday that you’re ever going to take potentially that decision. And because this year, it’s going to be a roller coaster for anybody on the course of making that decision. And cash flow modelling is quite big in my practise, so cashflow modelling is essentially trying to take all of the data points about assets and income and plans and expenditure and then create an that into almost like a neat and tidy reporting system where we can say, based on this probability, we’ll be able to afford that, or what happens if we can we can sort of play about with the concept of return books, and remaining flexible is definitely going to be applicable for this year, because one of the biggest questions that we get a lot of the time and our fund managers seem to get through on sort of daily webinars with the fund managers is have we seen the bottom of the market yet? So has the market bottomed out? And really, the answer is potentially it has potentially it hasn’t booked, probably what’s going to happen is that for the next a couple of months, that volatility is going to be there. So it depends where retirement sits in the timeline over the next sort of, it’s in the next month, It’s in the next 12 months. And how much sort of they can potentially recoup, because if we’re talking about investment assets, so pensions, ISA’s that are all sort of investment backed. And unless they’re in some pretty remarkable funds, we’ve seen sort of quite and sharp dips at some points over the past sort of six to eight weeks. So certainly putting their foot on the ball and sort of being able to work out what does that mean as far as that overall plan because, actually, depending on where they’re invested and what their overall goals are, it could not impact hardly at all. But again, it could be quite wildly the other way and it could severely impact it would not be a wise move to start dipping into assets at this point. Particularly once if you take it a market fall then you start easing into your capital, you almost compound the effects of a market loss. It’s very much sort of like, I speak to a neighbour the other day, and they said, that quite away from retirement. And I think that they’re adage was because it’s almost like your house value at some point so if somebody says you somebody comes up in values you have suddenly made £20,000 on your house, you think well that’s nice, it doesn’t really impact me because I’m not selling my house right now. Likewise if I’ve lost £20,000, doesn’t really impact I’m not selling my house right now. But if you are selling your house or if you were retiring to sort of completely average then, yes it’s probably quite important what’s going on within the markets at the moment. So information is key, information and knowledge is key. So get tighter with your financial advisor and say to that person. And let them review your circumstances so far our practice at the minute even though majority of what we do is face to face and we drink people’s tea in their front rooms and they drink our tea when they come to our office. And this kind of technology has proved quite invaluable because it particularly in that sort of last 12 months, 18 months before you make the big jump and normal conditions, you will have a wobble probably a couple of times before you actually do it. And so this market and everything going on and this how weird this all the environment is, you’ll probably experience more wobbles. So a good financial advisor should be right there next to you to be able to help you navigate it.

Victoria: “That’s really, really useful. And one of the other questions that was posed to you was exactly that really, how do you engage in contact with your financial advisor? But you’ve just answered it and I suppose we’re doing it right now. And we do have an attendee that is live now that has asked a question. So Alex, I’ll pose this to you first. And they’ve asked, does the panel think the lockdown will end sooner and return to work quicker. Now that the Chancellor has realised the furlough scheme could cost 40 billion pounds?

Alex: “And I don’t know whether there is sarcasm in the end but I like it. For sure, that last little bit about costing the Chancellor money yeah. I mean for me I’m completely ready to be in lockdown for further. I can’t see how we’re going to come out of this. We’ve not got testing anywhere where we need it to be. It’s not like we’re going to open the doors and everybody’s just the economy’s just going to open up tomorrow and everybody will go back to their offices and carry on as normal. I think that whatever world that we go back into work in and it’s going to be very different than what it is now. So if that involves a longer period of social distancing, or sort of spattered lockdowns, or these COVID-19 passports they were talking about. I think that element is the bit that’s missing, so I was reading an article the other day about it feels like very much the first few weeks of just sort of people panicking about what was going to happen and being distraught that the pubs were shot. And then now it’s sort of we’re now looking at the light of day round that bend of how we’re going to to do that? Are we going to follow a similar model to South Korea? Or are we going to take a completely different tacts? And so for me, I’ll be completely expecting that the lockdown is going to continue. I just think that with Boris’s illness happened this week, and Dominic Raab, sort of having to go to cabinet for decisions is probably the reason for me anyway, my perception, is why perhaps it’s not been announced yet.

Victoria: “Jon, have you got anything to add?

Jon: “Now, I think I guess the furlough scheme itself is to cover three months. The self employed support scheme is to cover three months as well. So guess they’re in the money discuss, they’re looking at covering three months. So we’ve got businesses as an example, I guess the the shops and restaurants are the non vital shops and restaurants might be closed, theoretically continue on a tap slightly quicker than some others that there’ll be mechanics of reopening, but at least certainly if the lockdown was lifted, we’ll do whatever we want it, people want, the first thing you do is go to the pub in the restaurant and what have you. But we have other industries, other clients who would take quite a lot longer to recover off the back of it. So if it actually does last for three months, really that they would at least look some support after that for further furlough. So I guess that there is a financial pressure on the government at some point, but I think right now, I think we’re going to be in this situation for the foreseeable future.

Victoria: “Yeah, I absolutely agree. And one of the questions that’s come up, sort of live and a question that a lot of people seem to be quite frustrated about is going back to sort of when we talked about  directors before when it potentially not really great idea to furlough if you’re sole director. The challenges that you have as a sole director, and because obviously, you’ve sort of got, as you mentioned before, Jon, you probably are paid quite a small amount through P.A.Y.E. And then if your thoughts of profits are over, I think it’s, you’ll tell me in a minute £50,000, then you’re not sort of eligible for anything. So a couple of questions have come in to say, what, is there anything or are these people sort of falling within the cracks? What other any other options for these sorts of sold directors?

Jon: “Yeah, I think the people have particularly fall in between the cracks are those owner directors of small businesses who don’t have a premises. We have a number of businesses who may work from home. Advisors, consultants, or what have you, where the business of it dried up at the moment, contracts being cancelled, there’s nothing to do, but there’s no actual direct support for them. Other than at best furloughing themselves and getting 80% of a 700 pound salary cut has nothing to cover the dividends. So they are very much the people who are falling between the cracks. And I think that that’s, our worry for number of clients as well. If you have the premises, the grants, I mean, don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t actually cover the money you might have made. But it’s very helpful, easing things through if you have employees, you can furlough, that’s very useful that the government will kind of funds that. Similarly, if you are a sole trader or self employed and earning less than £50,000. Again, you get 80% of the profits covered for three months. A limited company director really there’s nothing there for them. And I think to an extent what’s happened and the self employed when you allude £50,000 pounds is because it’s all been done very quickly, and nobody’s expecting this. They’re quite blunt instruments. So if you earn £49,999 pounds in your self-assessment, you’ll get two and a half thousand pounds a month. If you’re at £50,000 in your self assessment you get nothing. Rather than have some kind of thing where it’s taken away bit by bit, would be like child benefit actually works where if you earn £50,000 a year or £49,099 you get full child benefit. £60,000 you get nothing, in between it’s kind of scales so that you don’t drop off a cliff edge. And I think because it’s been done on the hoof there are definitely people fall in between the gaps. And I mean, I don’t know the figures. I’ve seen lots of figures banded around. But certainly when the self employed scheme was announced, there’s a lot of talk of actually out of five million people who may be self-employed, a million at least kind of missed out. And that’s before you got to the limits can be directors who aren’t officially self-employed, even though they might think themselves self employed. Mortgage lenders would refer self employed, HMRC don’t and there’s just nothing for them. So, I think that absolutely, definitely, it is a big issue that our people I say caught between the cracks at the moment.

Victoria: “Okay, great and thank you, Jon. And there is another question that came through, which was just about a sole trader. So are we right in thinking that they should sit tight and wait for HMRC’s letter to come through to sort of let them know how they’re going to get paid?

Jon: “Yes, and it’s frustrating in a way, I guess, because you wanna see something in writing that tells you precisely how much you’ve got, but HMRC quite clear, they don’t want you contacting them for the moment because they’re trying to process few million of these. And to an extent they have they have the details. It’s in your tax return. They’re simply doing a sum on that to work it out. They will then contact you. Probably in May, to then find out because they need some bank details to pay it to. But for the moments they’re quite adamant, please do not contact them because there, it will slow them down doing their work and I understand that’s frustrating because we all want clarity and to know definitively what we’re getting. My advice in here now would be if you haven’t, unless something else is issued between now and then, if you haven’t heard anything by say the first of May, at that point I might be thinking perhaps it’s worth getting in touch but for now that’s a definitive guide please do not ring you will slow them down.

Victoria: “Great, thank you very much, Jon. And a question that came through slightly different and was just around sort of team morale and productivity. It’s a question that we’re now finding once people have made the decision who’s working from home, who’s been furloughed? Then now is the question, particularly if you’re not used to home working, how do I ensure that my team remain engaged? And how do I check sort of productivity levels? So from sort of, from my experience, and what clients are doing there are lots of lots of clients who are working really hard to ensure good communication. I mean, personally, as a business owner, I think our communication, it’s been the best it’s ever been because we’re sort of using the likes of teams, we’re using zoom, we’re having sort of regular team meetings, we would normally have sort of a weekly team meeting, we’re having daily sorts of check ins with everybody. And we’re using the sort of online tools to help us and we’re doing a lot around sort of recognition still as well. So if somebody is doing something really good, we’re making sure that they’re still getting that recognition and doing a little bit of a shout out and allocation of stars during this period of time. And again, a lot of clients are doing something together. So, whether it be virtual bingo, or a pub quiz, or something where they can sort of all get together, and maybe on a Friday afternoon and sort of have that level of engagement. Which is really, really important for you. And it’s also really important to ensure that people are quite clear on the vision and the goals still of the business. Albeit they may have changed slightly people still need to understand and people are fearful, they are all nervous about what the future looks like for them. Not to mention they are, some people are in isolation, some people are not great with sort of working from home and they used to have in that that balance interaction with their team members. So, I think as business owners, which the majority of people on this call are, we do have that responsibility to try and ensure that our, we keep that team morale as high as we possibly can during this difficult period. I would also note that we are having quite a lot of clients who are having some challenges with source of productivity, shall we say, and the behaviour of some of their employees during this period of time. You can still use your policies, and that’s what they’re there for. That’s what your handbooks are, therefore, if people aren’t being productive, or you do think that there’s also probably, on for a better word skiving during the day, then we have been going through our processes as we would normally do. And so please don’t fear and think that you don’t have to do anything for three months, because you absolutely can. Just to get an idea from you. I mean, Alex, what have you been doing something sort of different that you’ve been doing to try and so tell even with clients or team members, how are you keeping that morale high?

Alex: “Yeah, it’s a little bit more of the same what you said really. I think at first, day one, when it all sort of happened and you can’t go and work anymore. And you think well, how will this impact, I think we sort of quite, we were talking about it sort of the week before because it was kind of that rumbling wasn’t it for a week of this is probably going to come in and things so we started talking about it then. And so, we started looking at security of files and people working from home and the viability of getting the files that we needed work in progress doing other things like that. But actually, once we kind of figured out that initial part and one thing that I would say that’s come out of this is just how much time I’ve got now to randomly pick up the phone and speak to a client or set up a zoom conference with a client and be there with them because ultimately my job I refer to it as a contact sport, so when things are going wrong or right you should be there for your clients. So this is just actually it’s given me perhaps a different outlook on running the business where perhaps now I’ve got more availability to do that. And picking up the phone and speaking to the guys in the office now, they’re not in the office, but how’s your day going and what are you doing? And have you been out in the garden? And things like that. And I don’t know if anything, it’s actually the community that I’m involved in, it’s probably made it a little bit tighter, just because you’ve got a bit more time to spend with them and spend instead of spending two hours in on the M6 six in traffic or something like that. And just planning on doing more of the same kind of thing, really.

Victoria: “Yeah, no, absolutely. No, it makes perfect sense. I totally agree. I think I know more about my team and some of my clients than I’ve ever known. You sort of see children and animals. So you’re sort of in the background of everyone. Jon, what are you doing over Jon Davies Accountants?

Jon: “Yeah, similarly for us we have a daily team meeting nine o’clock every morning. Which as in when we’re in the office, which is a quick one you have one just basically what did you do yesterday? What am I going to do today? And is there anything that you want to share or need help on? We’re doing that by using teams, as in Microsoft Teams. We’ve used Zoom for a few years actually for client stuff. Teams we’re using internally, the meeting goes on longer because there’s the chat that you might not normally you’d have had around it. But that’s a good thing. We have because we’re using teams that we’re also using teams for the chat function for kind of quick work queries around everyone. And we have a WhatsApp group, which is the more pictures of pets sitting on your computer or your baby or whatever type of thing and then just the social chitchat is probably in a WhatsApp group we’ve got. I think me working remotely for us ever was set up to work remotely anyway, we’ve got laptops, and the Wednesday before the lockdown, we sent everyone home with the screens, keyboards and everything. That’s when we started working from home, as a group. Everyone individually has done it before. We haven’t all done it before. So yeah, that’s keeping in touch is important. And I think, as Alex alluded to, I think one of the things we found important and it’s really important is that communication with the client, so the client managers here has a task and we’ll probably get caught out with some pipe up in a second on here and said you didn’t ring me. But theoretically they rang certainly 95% of our clients in an order actually I use the retail hospitality was probably the first or travel and then kind of going through and just keeping in touch with the clients as well. because ultimately, it’s about looking after them now. And even for some of our customers, our advice to them when that about their clients who even if they stopped for the moment, is actually it’s about relationships so that when we are through this, you need to keep that relationship going and chat talking now, is just a great thing to do. And people hopefully remember that you were helpful now. So that when we’re all back and working again, they’ll kind of stick with you that’s really important.”

Victoria: “Yeah, that is that’s crucial, isn’t it? I think that’s something we have to consider at this moment in time is that we do want to retain our talent within our business. So how we behave and how we sort of treat our staff now will be judged upon it when we in the future. So, it’s important to do the right thing now, as best we can.

Alex: “Sorry, I was just going to say same thing just comes to time, we’ve got a question. So should we do like a quick fire? Try and get through a few of them and then–

Victoria: “Well, to be honest, Alex, I’m just wondering whether we’re going to be able to get through them. I mean, I absolutely think if we don’t get through, them all we can certainly just send out. I’m more than happy to sort of anything that I can do, we’ll send out and sorts of answers and maybe some of the shorter ones that will ask the question, answer for. Somebody has asked here about should you keep marketing your business and services over the lockdown period so that people don’t forget about what you do? And you don’t want to lose that important relationship? From my perspective, absolutely. You know, what kinds of probably marketing more than we’ve ever marketed right now, but I think it’s really, really important to and I’ve noticed a lot of people are and what I’ve also found that we’re using more platforms, aren’t we? So I’m spending a lot more time on LinkedIn than I normally would and Twitter. So I am taking notes and and looking at maybe got more awareness than I have had before of other people’s services.

Jon: “Absolutely, definitely say as well, people have more time to read your stuff and watch your stuff right now as well. Yeah, so absolutely, definitely on that one.

Victoria: “One to you, Jon, which was just from earlier is that you implied a business may be eligible for grants even if they don’t have a premise? After applying for the grant a bank statement is required. What if you currently have a healthy bank balance due to being a responsible business owner, but cash flow moving forwards because contracts are cancelled due to Coronavirus, how likely You will be awarded?

Jon: I guess firstly, you must have a premises. The point I was making earlier is that we have a few people who have found they don’t have to be the people who directly pay the rates to the council. They do have a premises. Either not cheating as such on that thing. However, the actual your bank balance and how much money you’ve got is irrelevant. It is a grant there for people to help them out during this. And you’re right, you have to the second bit of the form is you have to attach a bank statement that is there so that to prove that they are paying to the correct bank account and the correct person of course the council don’t have your bank details right now. It’s not about checking how kind of solvent you are and making a decision over that. It should be a black and white thing, you’re eligible or you’re not.

Victoria: “Okay, great. Well, I think that sort of, I’m going to hand it back to you now, Alex. Obviously we’re out of time, but there are still questions pending. So, we absolutely will come back to you and respond to everybody today. So, back to you, Alex. Oh, you’re muted, Alex?

Alex: “Sorry, thank you very much for technologically not gifted at the end. And thanks, everybody, for attending. I’ve just made a quick note there, just a copy and paste of all those questions that we get to get to. And I’ve got a full attendee list as well. So what we’ll do after this is we’ll send an email out to you, and potentially with some material in there are some answers to those questions individually. And if there is anything that Jon, myself and Victoria can do to support or to help, then feel free to reach out and get in touch with us. And we do realise that we’re in this together through this period, and if there’s anything that we can do to guide or help in our position we’re more than happy to. So without further ado, and I will Jon and Victoria, if we stay on for a little bit longer, because I’ll to do a couple bits around this but everybody else feel free, to log off. Yeah, thank you very much.

ALL: “Thank you guys.

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