Iain Nairn looks at how SME owners can be more Southgate in their approach to business planning

It’s 8am and you’ve got a meeting in the City Centre at 9am. A journey you’ve done for years. You’ve hit snarl ups, seen accidents, enjoyed the journey through school holidays when the road was quieter. You get in the car and plan your route.

​​​​​​​You know what to do when you hit traffic on the motorway, the little rat run through the back streets to avoid traffic lights, the best car park for ease of access.

Yet, for many business owners, business planning can be sadly neglected. Whilst our businesses are so important to our livelihoods and those of our family and colleagues, we give them less consideration than the trip to a meeting, getting to the airport on time or where to watch the European Championship final on Sunday.

I recently joined a local firm of accountants to discuss Exit Planning and how their clients might make use of MVLs for tax advantages upon exit from a business. One key bit of advice was that this needs to be planned to ensure that values in business are maximised.

The same is true for businesses that have no exit in sight. Planning maximises value.

As we step ever closer to ‘Freedom Day’, we step ever closer to ‘Repayment Day’. Many businesses will have seen some impact from Covid. Having seen the figures on Bounce Back and CBILs borrowing, it is clear that a lot of businesses have taken advantage of this funding. It’s likely that the same businesses have also deferred payments to HMRC as support was given by them.

Now, all of a sudden, the day to day dealings that you were used to in your business has the added weight of this debt burden. A debt burden that might block your route to market, that might put roadworks in the way of your raw materials or could cause a nasty collision with one of your creditors.

We all know how to plan our route to the office. We’re taught to drive and even have the added advantage of Google Maps to help when we come across that accident nowadays.

Not all business owners have any experience in business planning. How do you plan, what do you plan for? We regularly hear things like “it’s only an estimate, how will that help?”.

To a degree, they’re right. It is only an estimate and things can change. But by planning, you can consider how things might change. What if prices of raw material increase 10% but I can’t increase my sales prices for 12 months due to contract terms? What if I win the big contract that I’ve just tendered for? How will that impact on my cashflow?

It is no doubt daunting to some business owners, but the lack of a plan, doesn’t change the position, it just makes it harder to navigate your way through and you’ll end up in the traffic jam, with no alternative route.

As a nation, England fans have watched Gareth Southgate and wondered what his plan was.  He wasn’t trying to win the European Championships in any particular game, but was implementing part of a plan to get out of the group. The masterplan to win the tournament will be coming to fruition, hopefully, in time for Sunday’s kick off.

Gareth Southgate, a young manager, with less experience than many has surrounded himself with a more experienced team to help him deliver results.

Business owners have similar people available to them: Accountants; Bankers; Business Coaches; Solicitors; Colleagues; Friends; Family. All can help to plan a route towards your ultimate goal, whatever that may be.

So let’s hope that, come Sunday, England are celebrating the ultimate Exit Strategy of winning the Euros and on Monday, business owners will return to work invigorated to plan the future of their business.

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