• Zoe Whitman

Make decisions with confidence

Updated: Apr 23, 2020

COVID-19 wasn't kind to my bookkeeping practice. I'd built an award winning business, I had a great team, great clients, great brand, great reputation. What could possibly go wrong?

The impact of COVID-19 made it clear very quickly that several of our clients weren't going to be able to keep trading, leaving them without a need for bookkeeping support, or unable to pay. Nothing could have prepared us for a global pandemic, nationwide lockdown and a loss of a significant sum of revenue in a matter of weeks. I needed to save money in the business fast.

The obvious choice for many business owners would be to furlough staff and do the work themselves, but with two small children at home full time, I wan't in a position to do that. On the other hand, keeping the team to keep working for the remaining clients would mean I couldn't pay myself.

I wasn't prepared to take on debt to support cash flow for an indefinite period of time, nor was that a strategy I'd recommend for many small businesses who would never - save for a pandemic - entertain the idea of borrowing. Outsourcing to another firm would still leave me with a responsibility for managing a portfolio of work I couldn't commit time to. My personal circumstances had left me in a Catch-22.

When you run a small business and take on employees, they are like your family. But looking past the emotion to the figures in front of me, knowing that I knew my business, knowing that I knew those numbers inside out, I made the only sensible decision, and that was to close. I could walk away with cash in the bank, hold my head high, safe in the knowledge I'd done the right thing as a business owner, my best as an employer, and I could pivot to offer services which would best use my skills and experience in the time I had available around my full time child-care responsibilities.

I chose to speak publicly about my decision to strip down operations and close up for a while - particularly because I wanted to highlight my concerns about businesses taking on debt when it may not be the right decision for them. My own decisions had been based on firm financial information and business acumen but I can't tell you how much criticism I came in for. From people who couldn't believe that my business "of all businesses" would be struggling, or from people who knew nothing about my business. I concluded that these people simply couldn't see the position from my point of view. I went for a run and then I moved on.

I know my business and the decision I made was the right one for me at that time. Whatever it is you're facing, only you can truly know in your head and heart what the right thing is to do. Don't be afraid to make the decisions which are right for you.

For many, COVID-19 has brought many opportunities, some are busier than ever. Others have lost clients or have suddenly found they don't have time to do what they need to od. Some have been given time to reflect, time to train, time to learn and develop or take on projects they've never done before. For others it's brought money worries, health worries, worries about loved ones, loneliness. We're not all in the same boat. We're in the same storm, but we're all in different boats, and our realities as we live through COVID-19 are all very different.

If you're finding yourself faced with very difficult decisions to make, take comfort that you're not alone, and feel confident that you know what is the right thing to do.

Take care.

© 2020 Zoe Whitman

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