The galloping housewife hates it when she’s right. OK, that’s not true, and let’s face it, she’s nearly always right and when she’s wrong it’s because she didn’t understand the question, but right now she really could do with being proven wrong. Five weeks ago she wrote a blog for her retail business site predicting changes to the way we lived our lives and major disruptions to our businesses and our equestrian plans for the coming season. At the time she was told off and largely ignored and had more than one person message her and tell her that she was scaremongering. Two weeks ago she wrote in this very blog her ‘Pandemic Survival Tips’ which may or may not have been useful and were certainly too little, too late for many. And now the situation in the UK looks like it is heading exactly down the path she predicted, and it is bleak, very bleak indeed. That’s the thing with numbers – you can fiddle the books all you like, create a story and sell the public some spin, but in the end the data will have the final word. Just as with every aspect of society, the ongoing and long-term impact of Covid-19 in the equestrian business world will be profound.
The short-term problems are quite obvious. There is no getting around the fact that they equestrian industry is reliant on disposable income. While there is absolutely no doubt that the horse world is very much on the privileged side of the equation in so far as actually having a disposable income in the first place, virtually no matter where your clients source their income from it will be reduced in some way and that has to have a trickle down effect. Coaches, trainers, riders and competition venues are the hardest hit with no training or competitions happening and no end in sight. Grooms may be laid off, photographers are no longer able to work and physios are also relegated to their couches. Farriers & vets will continue to have custom, but it is still likely reduced to the bare minimum of essential and emergency work only. OK, we all know it’s shit, but what to do?
In some instances, there is bugger all you can do at this stage. The galloping housewife has already written a couple of blogs about future proofing your business. About taking a cold hard look at it to see if it really is a viable proposition. About opening up your books and figuring out a way to make a profit and save for a rainy day – and lord knows, it’s torrential right now. About diversifying and developing products that produce passive income streams, selling knowledge instead of services, virtually instead of face to face. If you’d followed her advice and done what was suggested, you’ll be reading this from a position of security, with a couple of months running costs in the bank and a steady, albeit possibly slightly reduced, income stream to see you through. But what if you haven’t? What are your options if you’ve been living on a wing and a prayer for the past decade and there is nothing spare in the coffers at all?
Firstly, have a look at the help that the government has offered. Do you have staff that you can’t pay but that you will need after this is over? Then take advantage of the furlough option - instead of sacking them, the government will provide 80% of their normal wage as per your PAYE records - just note that furloughed staff cannot work for you at all during this time, even if you are topping them up to their normal rate. (Incidentally the galloping housewife was amused to read somewhere that ‘no-one knew what furlough meant until last week…’ No one living inside the M25 maybe…) If your status is self-employed and your business is not operational at all, you can also claim relief up to 80% of your recent profits. This will be of no assistance whatsoever though if you’ve been running on cashies and haven’t logged a realistic tax return in decades, or alternatively happen to have declared a penny over £50,000 flat for the year. For those people who have set up as LLC and have been paying yourself minimum wage then you’re also shit out of luck. What about the other stuff that has been offered? There are a few government guaranteed bank loans available for various scenarios, and even if you don’t qualify for what the government is throwing about, the galloping housewife has been contacted by all of her banks offering her more credit in the last two weeks.
Yet the galloping housewife’s advice on getting into debt is don’t, just don’t. The only time you should ever look at borrowing money for your business is when there is absolutely guaranteed but deferred income, and this ain’t that time. Sorry, buddy, it’s lost income. Income you will never get back. If your business was running that close to the wire before all of this hit so that you can’t survive a couple of lean months, then I’m afraid it’s not a business, it’s a hobby, and to be completely frank you’re better off letting it go now and starting a profitable new enterprise than borrowing money and being at less than zero when all this is over… whenever that might be. The same goes for deferred tax and rent and anything else that there is a reasonably short term payback requirement. It’ll come around all too soon and the last thing you want when you’re trying to resurrect a company from the ashes is any additional envelopes with windows to be opened.
I know, I know, the galloping housewife is a proper cheer germ, isn’t she? To be fair, if you’re reading this, then chances are you already know that. The galloping housewife is not the kind of person to blow hot air up your arse, to tell you everything is going to be fine, that shit is not shit, when it quite obviously is poo. That’s not her make up, it’s not what she does. What she does do is give you guidance and advice and encouragement and a good old fashioned kick in the arse if you need it. But equally, it’s not all bad. There is so much good that can come out of this reset of the economy. Even if it is just that you take a good look at your situation and do whatever the hell it takes to ensure that you are never so vulnerable again, then its worth it. I know it may not seem that way right now, but the best thing that ever happened to the galloping housewife was getting completely and utterly shafted by the Home Office, some dodgy advisors and a couple of completely unethical business people in tandem. She lost everything she had and more. And now, even in the midst of a pandemic, has never been stronger.
The galloping housewife will be back with support and suggestions soon, but for now, she sends you a massive cyber hug and gives you just one mission to complete. Before you do anything at all, pour yourself a stiff drink, summon up the courage and properly peel back the layers on your business. Knowledge is power.