Cash is King

COVID-19 has changed a lot about how we all operate our businesses, but there has remained one constant throughout: cash is king.  Here at Latitude Leasing we have been working tirelessly with customers and suppliers to help put together funding packages that support our client base during this incredibly difficult time, and as a measure of our commitment to those we work with, we have chosen to open up our own book ahead of schedule.

We’re delighted with how this has been received so far, with our very first deal going live at the start of the month.  As a newly established own book lender we have none of the historical deals that other funders are now having to work through, putting us in a great position to support suppliers and end users across a broad range of sectors.  We’ve retained all of our funding lines but have the autonomy and flexibility to provide fast responses, allowing suppliers to concentrate on sales and customers to focus on key areas of their businesses without the need to wait several days for a funding decision. 

Adopting a common sense approach whilst closely following government updates, we’ve been able to help a number of businesses in the past two weeks and provided decisions in as little as 20 minutes; if you would like to know more about what we have to offer, please contact a member of our sales team who will be able to explain how we’re going above and beyond to support UK SMEs, and providing at least a little bit of the “old normal” when it’s needed most.

Turnover for Vanity, Profit for Sanity

I have managed business through every recession since 1987.  Some of those have been big – the crash in 1987, which hit just as I set up Academy Leasing, ended many businesses.  Some unfairly and some prematurely.

My experience has been largely in the asset finance sector which has given me a decent insight as to what makes most businesses tick, what makes them robust enough to survive and importantly what the warning signs are.  There’s an old saying – turnover for vanity, profit for sanity and over the years I have seen too many dreamers fighting for turnover and more often than not, they find themselves in a nightmare.

The difference this time round is that the impact is global.  As much as the virus itself does not discriminate, neither does the impact on business.  I believe that the landscape will change and if businesses continue without embracing that change, there will be more than a few casualties in the coming months.

From my experience I will offer a few words of advice…

Don’t expect it to be as easy to obtain funding for your business because many of the traditional funders have been hit as hard if not harder than you have and will need time to get back to normal.  The pattern after every recession is a tightening of the credit market and this time it will be no different, so you need to be prepared and not insulted if a previous supporting lender for example is unwilling to assist or has increased the pricing.  Not all of the current lenders will be around in a few months’ time and in particular the P2P platform will be under tremendous pressure.

Liquidity after a recession is paramount and there are a few things you can do to maximise and retain the cash in your business.

There is a perfect opportunity to review staff and invest in technology.  The latest pandemic has taught many of us that working from home is viable and often more productive, offering this as a long-term solution can reduce your office space requirements and save you money.  Sadly, there will be some businesses who can no longer support the same staffing levels – job share opportunities are worth considering but don’t be afraid to make tough decisions for your survival.

We’ve also seen that some businesses have been able to adapt quickly by switching purchases to online and implementing delivery services.  Adapting to the new world is key, look at the technology available.  Whether you like it or not, every business is tech based now – just that some are better than others.  Be one of the better ones.

Take time to look at your sales ledger and ask yourself do you really need the low margin, slow paying ones.  It might seem counter-intuitive to walk away from business but think of time spent chasing unpaid invoices. The actual cost of that delay to your cashflow.  Let them go elsewhere and concentrate your efforts on the ones that do pay.

Explore an invoice discounting facility – even though you think it is an expensive means of funding, this sector will still be strong and there are now many flexible, spot facilities available, so you can select the contracts that you want to apply this to.  There is a cost but having cash in the bank now will outweigh that cost.

Get your company cars under control either by outsourcing or paying a car allowance to essential users.  Cars are an emotive perk and before you know it everyone on the scheme wants a £45K BMW.  Change the scheme, look at electric options or switch to car allowance and remove yourself from the equation.

Same with commercial vehicles.  Are there any that are spending too much time in the yard?  It may be that spot hire or a split between ownership and rental is more efficient.

And finally, check your direct debits. You will be surprised how many photocopiers you are paying for that you no longer require!

There are many other steps to take but the aim should be to create both liquidity in the business and time to manage it going forward.

Many fall into the trap of “Business as Usual” but this time round it won’t be

All About Balance

As a single mum of two boys, flexible working has always been of interest to me and being able to nail the much-coveted work: life balance is one of the reasons I decided to set up my own company – in fact balance is the foundation of everything we do.  Latitude Leasing is all about striking the right balance – we strive to get the best deal for our customers, our funding partners and ourselves!!  We want mutual success at all levels

I was therefore particularly interested to see that the conservative MP Helen Whately, has put forward the flexible working bill to parliament this week which will make flexible working the norm and force companies to ‘opt out’ of offering it – having to cite exactly why a position or role cannot be done flexibly. Speaking in the House of Commons she said: “The 40 hour, five day working week made sense in the era of single-working households and stay-at-home mums. But it no longer reflects a reality of how many modern families want to live their lives’’. She is absolutely right and although I’m not sure that I agree wholeheartedly with the opt out version, the argument is strong and it certainly has some merit.

Flexible working could benefit our entire workforce

It’s often thought if as a female thing – to help mums juggle the kids and a job and this is often true but there are so many other people who could benefit too.  I’m a mum and yes, I need flexibility to get the kids to school, to football etc but also I’m a big believer in healthy body: healthy mind and I want to be able to take time to exercise which keeps me focused and at the top of my game.  Working a typical office job, plus the increasing pressure to be available 24/7 makes this almost impossible.

Men too want to be able to spend more time with their families but there is a stigma attached to asking for flexible working which we all need to get over, this is one of the good points of the ‘opt-out’ concept.

Younger employees want more flexibility because they feel they don’t have time to invest in friends and family.  Now this might sound a little wishy washy and I can almost hear the shouts of ‘snowflake’ but why shouldn’t we strive to give the next generation a better balance, give them time to work on themselves, on being their best version.  We have the technology to do it but need to embrace it to make it work.

Then there is the older generation.  Pensions have taken a beating and a lot of older people need to work longer financially but perhaps are struggling physically – increasingly long commutes can take their toll.  Rather than force them out of work – can’t we keep the knowledge and expertise in industry by offering more flexibility?

It can increase productivity

A number of research pieces have been done on the topic of flexible working and over 89% of workers believe flexibility would increase productivity.  I definitely agree with this.  In my previous roles, the gratitude from staff who I have been able to offer flexibility to has been immediately visible in their work.  

Not having to spend two hours every day on the motorway enables people to start work sooner from their home office, so rather than being stressed out at 9am they’re relaxed and in a good head space for work

I do worry that the ‘opt out’ scenario would hamper the increased productivity though.  When flexibility is earned, staff are grateful and therefore go the extra mile.  If it is a given, there is no appreciation, therefore no need to give extra back.

Flexible working could help reduce the gender pay gap

As mentioned earlier, a lot of people need flexible working to be on offer so that they can fulfil their duties as a parent (school run, Christmas play, sports day, half term etc) and currently, these responsibilities tend to fall on the mum.  Sadly, less than 10% of jobs advertised with a salary of over £20K pa offered flexible working.  This means that women who have been successful, are good at what they do and have a lot to offer industry simply cannot work or have to take a job under their level.  The pay gap is a hot topic and I am certain that more flexibility would assist in reducing this.

There is so much more we can do to accommodate modern living and I for one will be at the forefront of making sure all my team can benefit from it.  I work hard and take pride in what I do – if I need to, I work long days, sometimes I miss the gym or can’t make the kids school assembly.  That’s life, it happens but in the main I make sure I can be a good mum and a run a good business.  I definitely plan to make a difference with the Latitude team as we grow.  Life after all, is all about balance.