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We have been incredibly fortunate this year: we have been able to keep working. While many businesses have slowed down or temporarily stopped trade, we absolutely haven’t. More than ever, clients are trying to get their books up to date and to use their accounts to prepare for the future.
We are further ahead than ever before with filing tax returns. This came as a relief, I had worried that since HMRC have given an extra six months to make July 2020’s tax payments, people would delay calculating their tax. The opposite has been true. It is good to see just how many business owners value planning ahead and knowing their tax bills early. I hope that we can build on this and help even more people to prepare for the future.
Catering for a crisis
We do a lot of work with catering and hospitality businesses and as an industry, they have suffered significantly this year. So many have had to shut their doors and completely stop trading. Those who have remained open have had to work harder than ever before to stay afloat. We have done everything we can to help along the way. For some, that has meant pausing our services; for others, it has meant standing by their side to help them make very difficult decisions. I am full of admiration for those business owners who have had to give so much to keep their dreams alive over the last six months.
The realities of being an employer
I chose to furlough one member of my team, Tom. As he spends so much of his time bookkeeping for restaurants who experienced a pronounced slowing of business during lockdown, we simply did not have the work for him to process as normal. I am incredibly grateful for the Job Retention Scheme; I was very hopeful that the ‘slow down’ was temporary and it would have been devastating to have to say goodbye to any of our team when we have been working so hard to grow the business together. Before long, businesses started to re-open, the bounce back began and we needed Tom to pick up his calculator again. I am incredibly pleased that he returned to full time work on 1st September.
We have changed where we are working and how much time we spend together. We went from seeing each other every day – more than we saw our families! – to working in isolation. We have two team video calls each week to catch up, to offer moral support and share ideas. One positive of this is that we have seen a little bit more of each other’s families. Every now and again we will be joined on a call by a bored daughter, a curious dog or a hungry husband.
I am amazed and proud of how quickly the team adapted to working from home. When I first started this business, I chose to work from home for about a year. I could not wait to get my first office, because I badly missed that busy office environment – being surrounded by other people working. Reluctantly, I had to balance that desire for my ideal work space with the overhead. For the team, they have had little choice in whether they work from home or not. They have had no choice but to give up some of their living space in order to keep our business going.
Pressure and hard work
Over the last six months the JP Rata team have all worked incredibly hard, whilst the pressure on them has been immense. We are used to pressure; the business has been growing constantly since 2014 and inevitably we’ve had a problem or two to deal with, but this year has been relentless. We have had to re-invent our business processes whilst helping our clients to work out how the pandemic is impacting them. Sharing that burden with the team and knowing that I could rely on them to help our clients meant that I could give a little more focus to our business. Their help has been invaluable and I am so proud to work with them all.
Over this time, we have brought a few new people in to the team too. As well as adding Dawn to our bookkeeping team, we have also enjoyed starting up new relationships with people who are helping with IT, marketing and business planning. In many ways, mandatory home working came at the right time for us. If it weren’t for that, we would have run out of office space by now!
Our office space
One of my challenges has been to work out what to do with our office. It has been a head scratcher, since the current space wouldn’t hold us all and it feels like the wrong time to be planning a big move. We still need a space to collaborate with each other, with suppliers and with clients. However, when asked the team said they saw great value in having a quiet, private space to work as well and that if they are given the freedom to choose where and when they work – a lot of that time would still be from home. So, we have decided to stay where we are but change how the office is used.
For the foreseeable future the team will continue to work from home and use the office to come together when they need to collaborate or share. It will be available for team meetings and we will return to inviting clients in, should they wish to meet in-person. Having said this, we will be just as happy to meet over video call when our clients prefer this.
I really value the relationships we have built with our clients and I know the team do too. So, to see less of each other over the last six months has been a shame. I look forward to having a few more face to face conversations again, even if we have to wear face masks!
As well as communicating in person, we have also been working very hard to develop how we communicate digitally. This started back in April with our COVID-19 focused webinars, that were so well received by clients.
The next step was to launch our redesigned website, which was finished earlier this year. I am extremely proud of it. It is great to be able to explain to the world what the purpose of our company is and to share what it is that makes us special.
This month, we are launching a newsletter. We are doing this in response to the positive reception given to the webinars. The newsletters will help us to keep you informed of what we are up to and of the conversations we are having within the team and with other clients.
This is the first of many exciting projects that are underway. I look forward to sharing more of these with you over the coming months. The aim is that by the end of this year, our clients are raving about our communication and feel as proud as we do to be part of the JP Rata team.
Now is a great time to take stock and plan for your future. Our focus as a business has always been to provide good quality accounts that are constantly up-to-date. I am proud of how well this has prepared our clients for planning ahead. It is much easier to look forward when you have a clear picture of where you stand today.
Although we don’t know where the next few months will take us, I feel positive about how things stand now. I hope that you do too. If you are uncertain, take stock of where you stand and use this as the starting point for planning what you will do next. As always, I am here to support you with this process, so get in touch if you would like help with making your plans.