Coronavirus lockdown is affecting almost every business in the UK on a day-to-day basis. From supermarkets seeking to deal with exceptional demand and supply chain management, to retail and hospitality businesses having to totally or partially close down, to professional service businesses doing their utmost to meet client expectations in an often unfamiliar home-working environment – we all have urgent priorities to content with.
I don’t wish to in any way downplay the volume of urgent work and decision-making that the lockdown is imposing on businesses. However, within some businesses, there is likely to come a point in the next week or two when the urgent matters have been dealt with (as best they can be), and business owners/managers have some unusual downtime. The purpose of this blog is to suggest some useful things to consider during that period – things which perhaps get pushed to the back of the queue during more normal business operation.
- Terms & Conditions – do you have standard T&Cs for use with both suppliers and customers? Are they up-to-date and fit for purpose, or have they been in place for years (and perhaps weren’t right in the first place)? Have they changed as your business has changed? And if you have them, are you using them correctly – or are you just mentioning them on your invoices and hoping for the best?
- Supply Chain Management – what arrangements are in place within your supply chain? Do you have Supply Agreements with key suppliers, do you rely on your T&Cs, or is it a little more chaotic? If there is a failure in your supply chain, which leads to you failing your customers, do you have an effective mechanism to pass liability through to your suppliers? Are you “single-sourced” for key supply items, and if so are you comfortable with this?
- Customers – as above, do you have Agreements in place with key customers? If not, are you imposing your T&Cs, accepting theirs, or leaving matters “up in the air”? Are you comfortable without a clear and favourable position in light of disruption from coronavirus? Whichever arrangement, do you have adequate force majeure protection that covers things like this pandemic (and do appropriate people within your business know how to use them)?
- Data Protection and GDPR – did you deal with this proportionately and sensibly in 2018? Or did you order some “standard” documents off the internet which bear no real resemblance to your business (and so will offer you little or no protection)? Have you considered updated issues in light of home-working during the lockdown period?
- Structural Issues – is there something in your business that you are not happy with, but just haven’t had the time to sort out? This could be anything from a “silent” shareholder taking out profit without contributing to the business, to an imbalance between the value that different employees bring to the business and their respective remuneration. Has the lockdown challenged your assumptions about the relative importance of different parts of your business?
- Forward planning – what are your intentions during the next 2-4 years – business growth? Business sale? Retirement and succession planning? Whatever your intended next steps are, now is an ideal time to sit down (virtually) with the right person to advise you on how to achieve your goals.
Should you require specific legal advice or guidance on any of the issues raised by this article, please do not hesitate to contact me, Euan McLaughlin – Commercial Partner on 07818 253008 or click here to send me an email.