The smoke is just starting to clear from the initial impact of the coronavirus pandemic and we’re beginning to get a view of the much-changed economic landscape that’s been left behind.
Over the last few weeks, the government has looked to mitigate where it can the huge impact of the economy being unexpectedly stopped in its tracks, with the job retention scheme, business interruption loans and bounce back loans all providing different sectors of the economy with some much-needed support.
A short-term business rescue moratorium has been introduced to protect companies from creditor action while they consider their options, while temporary moves to prevent landlords evicting tenants for non-payment of rent at least meaning they’ll have premises to return to when the lockdown is lifted.
But despite all this, the undeniable truth remains that, as life gradually returns to whatever ‘new normal’ awaits us, there will be many, many businesses facing very difficult situations in terms of monies that they owe and/or are owed.
It’s also important to note that, when it comes to lawful trading, directors’ duties remain the same as they ever were.
The temporary changes that we’ve seen in the rules around insolvency don’t give them carte blanche to run their business without regard for the realities of its financial position and the impact of this on their creditors.
It would be entirely understandable for businesses that are emerging from their bunkers in the coming weeks to just focus on the short term and think only of their own immediate needs.
However, in my view, taking a planned, collaborative approach is going to get better results for everyone on the longer term.
The unprecedented situation in which we find ourselves is going to require pragmatism, creative thinking and openness if we’re find our collective way through it.
The legal remedies that you can take to recover money that’s owed to you will still be there if you need to go down that route, but if everyone goes in too hard too early, the likelihood is that everyone’s going to lose out.
Businesses with, or that are part of lengthy supply chains, for example, are likely to find that their peers will have their own concerns about their respective financial positions in the coming months.
Opening an honest conversation with them all, assessing the overall situation and involving professional advisors where required will help you identify and implement strategies that will enable everyone get back on an even keel as quickly as possible.
The positive and negative ways in which different companies have been acting during the pandemic are already being well noted by customers, peers and stakeholders alike.
There’s likely to be a strong collective memory of these behaviours in the future which will impact on how they are viewed and could well influence their business prospects if the impression they’ve left isn’t a good one.
Adopting a business mantra of ‘do as you would be done by’ and looking for amicable solutions to financial and business issues wherever possible will help your business, as well as your suppliers, customers and creditors, negotiate the best possible path through present challenges and on to renewed success.
By Neil Harrold, partner in the specialist insolvency team at Hay & Kilner Law Firm in Newcastle