In the heat of the coronavirus crisis, many business owners had a panic attack on what they should do, what they could claim and how etcetera. Large numbers either contacted their trade body or in the case the hundreds of thousands of micro-businesses (one-man bands to you and me) to the FSB (Federation of Small Businesses. However the majority turned to their accountant and I must admit, coping with the sudden influx of large numbers of questions has been one of this firm’s biggest challenges of the coronavirus crisis.
As I’ve commented on in recent Blogs, the most frequent questions related to the different government support schemes and how they would impact on businesses. Email management and other, more interactive communication tools such as Zoom, suddenly became essential aids to enable us to offer help and support to struggling businesses.
Small Business Tech Fever: Emails
Unless you’re still living in the stone-age, emails have pretty much replaced ordinary letters these days. This has come about for two reasons; firstly cost (a first-class stamp is now 76p) and secondly speed. An email is pretty much instantaneous, but with the best will in the world, our dear old Post Office struggles to deliver a letter 24 hours later.
The switch to emails was accelerating anyway and all the crisis has done is to turbo-charge the transition and I don’t believe much if any businesses will ever go back. But how about recorded delivery letters, I hear you cry. It is true that they prove a letter has been sent, assuming, of course, the postie can get a signature.
However, when sending an email, if you click on the options button on the command taskbar, you can select both delivery and read receipts automatically. Also, to put your mind at rest even further, a High Court decision earlier this year accepted that in law there was no difference between a written and an electronic receipt.
Small Business Tech Fever: Video Conferencing
The days of working from home on a dodgy Skype connection are over, with advances in technology resulting in reliable video conferencing becoming both easily accessible and affordable. This has become especially important during the current pandemic.
Video conferencing has also allowed many businesses to continue to operate by allowing employees to work from home, using zoom and other similar apps. This has made meetings, training sessions, as well as general communications in real-time both easy and seamless.
The pros in favour of this technology are massive, especially with increasing concerns about the carbon cost of travel, it makes sense for businesses to look to continue to communicate face-to-face online rather than indulge in the wasteful cost to the environment of having face-to-face meetings in a single location.
Many conferencing apps or platforms are free and include Apple’s Facetime, WhatsApp Video and the basic Zoom, to name but a few. These apps have made video communications a normal part of the conversion process, especially as alternatives to Skype.
There is a wide expectation that all businesses will increasingly embrace conferencing and webinar software simply because it offers so many all-round benefits, especially when using the better quality conference phones with built-in screens, to ensure good quality communications.
Small Business Tech Fever: Bookkeeping software
There are many bookkeeping software alternatives aimed at small businesses, such as Xero, Sage, Quick Books and FreeAgent. They may differ in appearance but in reality, they’re all variations of the good old double-entry bookkeeping system.
In the not-so-distant past, the software offerings were a long way from being user friendly and as a result, businesses had to employ a trained bookkeeper to input the raw data. However these days, it can be as easy as using your phone camera to simply take a photograph of a receipt to include it in your accounts.
At MJ&Co we see them all and the better ones can be easily assimilated into our accounting software, with benefits to both parties. For a start, it dramatically cuts down the time spent by both clients and ourselves, which makes businesses more efficient and often a reduction in costs.
I have encouraged many small business owners, with time on their hands during the lockdown, to evaluate the varies inexpensive bookkeeping software options out there and have been pleasantly surprised at how many have decided to move their bookkeeping online.
Whilst I suspect that part of the reason for the rapid move online is to save part or all of the cost of a member of staff, most business owners have made the switch purely to be up to date much quicker and thus having the financial data to run their businesses more efficiently.
As regular readers of the Blog will know, since the coronavirus crisis hit the UK, I have been posting an additional midweek Blog because of the rapidly changing situation and the huge number of government announcements. However, with the start of the gradual tailing off of the various government schemes from 1st July, the avalanche of new announcements has reduced to a trickle.
So, today is my last midweek Coronavirus Blog for a while, unless of course, there is some urgent breaking news. My regular Friday Blog will, of course, continue with subjects that are of interest small business owners and perhaps, on occasion, bring a smile to your face.
If you would like more detailed information on some aspect of UK Tax, send me an e-mail and I’ll be pleased to advise further.