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Despite some recent encouraging economic figures, there are still significant concerns regarding the longer-term scarring effects of the pandemic on the local Northern Ireland economy.
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It is evident as we walk through shopping centres and high streets across the country and see empty unit after empty unit that the post-pandemic era will be difficult for many business owners who continue to navigate their way through this period of uncertainty.

Planning for the post-pandemic era is more important than ever for any business owner or company director. The introduction of the words, “restructuring” or “insolvency” into a conversation can be scary, but for some businesses, the use of an insolvency tool can be the saving grace that could assist in their forward planning to ensure that they do have a future in the post-pandemic world. The key is timing and seeking advice early.

As the Government withdraws their support mechanisms (furlough scheme and HMRC deferrals), letters have started to come through the door requesting that Bounce Back, Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) and other loans be repaid. This is the time to take a step back, look at the big picture, and factor in all contingencies to your financial forecasts. If the future looks uncertain, either in relation to reduced turnover or rising costs, which have reduced or even removed profit margin, then it is important to seek advice.

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So, what can you do now if you are a business owner or company director who is worried about the financial future of your business? Firstly, communicate with your key stakeholders and ensure that you document all decisions taken (a memo is better than a bad memory). Secondly, start to look at the bigger picture, and forecast for each scenario - increased turnover, normal pre-pandemic turnover, and even reduced turnover. Ensure that you review your costs and in particular, any increases in raw materials costs and the effect that has on your profit margin. Finally, if in doubt, contact an Insolvency Practitioner or advisor at an early stage to discuss your options. If you can demonstrate that you sought professional advice before taking a certain course of action, it may assist business owners or company directors in avoiding criticism in the future.   

The earlier the advice is sought, the more options are available and there are many tools at the disposal of an Insolvency Practitioner to ensure the business is on a secure financial footing going forward. However, if you are experiencing issues and they are not dealt with in a timely manner, the available options become limited. Time is therefore very much of the essence!