Planning for a Different Kind of Autumn
Author: Madeleine Thompson 31/08/20
It’s fair to say that 2020 has been a most unusual and unpredictable year so far.
For us self-employed folk, unpredictability is often on the menu as we navigate the world of plentiful work some months and no work in others. But even taking that into account, the COVID-19 pandemic has pressed pause in a big way and floored many of us, myself included, and it has shown how important it is to have effective contingency plans in place for when our businesses are interrupted.
Contingency planning should in your business makeup as standard and will typically include disaster recovery planning, IT and technology backups, emergency contacts, systems access, what would happen if you got hacked, that sort of thing. And it’s likely you will have something in there that says what should happen if you have an accident or if you become ill, but I expect that very few of us had a section for Pandemic planning until this year. I know I certainly didn’t.
So as we approach Autumn, and we find ourselves living in a time where our situation can change drastically in a matter of hours, now is the perfect time to review your contingency planning to include provisions for the current pandemic.
You should consider expanding your provision for illness – and not just for if you get ill. You need plans in place to cover your business if you are required to self-isolate because somebody around you contracts COVID-19. Consider what would happen if you were suddenly required to work from home in isolation and home is not your normal place of work. How quickly can you make the move? Is your equipment portable, secure and ready? What preparations will you need to make to leave your premises temporarily? These are all things to think about and there are many others. Here are some tips and bits of guidance to help you along.
It always pays to be organised and it will help you enormously if you can stay several steps ahead of yourself. Consider the deadlines and key dates that are coming up for you – project deadlines, insurance renewals, accounting deadlines, regulatory reporting returns – and try to get ahead. File early when you can and if you can’t, prepare the information in advance so it’s ready to go when you need it. Set up auto-renewals and automatic payments where it is possible and practical to do so. Bring forward planning for future months for a longer period than you would normally plan for.
If you can manage to bring forward as much as you can, this will help you if you have to press pause again. Think of yourself as two people – Present You and Future You. Future You will thank Present You greatly if you can help them out now.
And while you’re doing all this wonderful planning, don’t forget the items at the bottom of your to-do list. We all have them. The low priority tasks that get rolled over to the next day and the next and the next. They may not be as pressing but they are still important and you shouldn’t forget them. Things like updating your website pages, planning your next marketing drive, reaching out to new contacts. It all counts.
It might seem like a given but it’s so important to keep in regular contact with your clients, contractors, associates, and anybody else you need to communicate with in the course of your business, particularly if you do find yourself having to pause work due to COVID-19. Keep the conversation open and let them know where you’re up to regularly.
Think about building in some ‘what if’ planning scenarios into your project timelines. What if you get ill? What if you have to stop suddenly? Will the project wait or will it suffer? Do you need to have a backup plan in place? If the project can afford a delay, how long could this be? Can you provide cover if needed? These are all things to think about.
You should have this in place anyway, but if you haven’t, do it now. Organise off-site backup for your data. There are many options here. You could send it to a cloud backup system, of which there are lots of providers. You could back up to an external local hard drive. You could keep an encrypted portable hard drive. Research the best ones for you and try to have your data backed up in three different places. Make sure it is secure, encrypted, and easy for you to restore should you need to. And don’t forget to keep it up to date.
If you are the parent or guardian of children or young people, the chances are they have been away from school for a significant period of time now and are heading back this September. Before you punch the air and skip to the side, be sure to include provisions in your business planning for their class or year group ‘bubble’ to close if somebody there contracts COVID-19. You could find yourself home schooling again for a short period of time.
Stay in the Know
Subscribe to newsletters and daily updates from relevant organisations and sources to ensure you keep up to date with changing developments. The Government, HMRC and Charity Commission websites all offer a daily update service straight to your email. Follow the news agencies for breaking news and announcements and tune into your local Council social media feeds and other local networks as these are a great source of updates for your area.
We will continue to hear the words ‘unprecedented’ and ‘new normal’ and lots of other new buzz ways of saying that we are in a situation the likes of which we haven’t seen before in our lifetimes. So anything we can do to try to keep afloat and keep going will help us in the long term.
Stay safe everyone.