The boss of Hill Dickinson has issued advice to business owners struggling to keep their firms afloat – by telling them that “survival is about cash”.
Jonathan Brown, non-executive chair of the law firm employing 850 people worldwide from its Liverpool HQ, said the business’ transition through the pandemic had been “relatively seamless” – despite the switch to working from home presenting a “massive wake up call” for the sector.
Speaking about how his firm navigated the crisis – and if he would have done anything differently looking back – he said: “Without sounding arrogant, I’d have to say no.
“In addition to IT and communications running so seamlessly, we prioritised job security from the very beginning and this made all the difference.
“The firm provided a commitment that there wouldn’t be any redundancies in the first half of 2020 and employees voted to accept a temporary pay reduction in early May to help protect everyone’s roles.
“As a result of acting so quickly, we’ve already been able to refund a quarter of this and I’m confident that if things continue as they are, we’ll be in a position to pay back 100%.
“I am extremely proud to be able to say that things have been relatively seamless. It’s been incredible to watch how well everyone has managed to adapt and work together – from the bottom to the top.”
Hill Dickinson employs more than 850 staff and offices in Liverpool, Manchester, London, Leeds, Piraeus, Singapore, Monaco and Hong Kong, with the pandemic having brought about a major, global business continuity operation.
Mr Brown added: “When people are forced apart, it’s so important to promote a sense of togetherness and remind everyone that they’re a part of a bigger picture. We worked hard to encourage collaborative working and keep employees connected – socially, too.”
For those leaders struggling to keep their firm’s head above water, Mr Brown had the following advice: “If their business is in jeopardy, they must understand that survival is about cash.
“Most businesses that go bust are still profitable, they just run out of money. If things are getting tough, don’t worry about what competitors are doing, focus on staying in the game on a cash basis and you stand a stronger chance of weathering the storm.
“As the old adage says, if you and your friend are being chased by a lion, how fast do you need to run? Well, you only need to run faster than your friend! It’s no different in business.”
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Looking ahead to this year and beyond, Mr Brown said the most important thing the Government could do to support business would be to reduce employer National Insurance contributions.
He said: “13.8% is high, especially when you consider that there’s no cap.
“A saving here would not only help to reduce wage costs and avoid redundancies, but also make it cheaper to employ people in the first place.
“With unemployment predicted to rise from 5 million to 7.5 million, this needs to be the focus in terms of restarting the economy. Furlough has been a lifeline for many – and we used the scheme, too – but not only is it expensive for the Government to fund, it still means people aren’t working and this isn’t good for either employer or employee.”