How to run a business in lockdown: Ellie and Cooper Financials
How to run a business in lockdown is our series about how small business owners are leading their companies through the coronavirus crisis. To share your story, message us: email@example.com, Facebook or Twitter.
Over 1,100 Tide members are accountants, book-keepers, financial consultants or independent financial advisors. During the coronavirus confinement, many of these experts have had an increased workload as clients turn to them for support and advice.
Tide member Ellie Cooper is Founder and Director of Cooper Financials, a small accountancy practice. We asked Ellie how the coronavirus outbreak is affecting her company and their customers.
- Meet Ellie and Cooper Financials
- How is your business affected by the lockdown?
- What plans have you had to delay or change?
- What coronavirus support will you get from the Government?
- How were your clients’ businesses affected by the lockdown?
- When lockdown easing begins, what’s your advice to small businesses?
- What have you discovered about yourself while working in isolation?
- Update from Ellie: November 2020
Meet Ellie and Cooper Financials
In 2019, after years of working for others, practising, refining and understanding her profession, Ellie was ready to take the leap to running her own business. She established Cooper Financials and since then has hired two co-workers: an expert book-keeper and an ex-Chief Financial Officer. The company offers virtual accounting services for small businesses.
Working closely with business owners, Ellie helps clients thoroughly understand the numbers their businesses depend on – not just getting the basics right but also creating cost models, cash flow scenarios and comparison data.
At Tide, we’re always pleased when finance experts recognise us as the smart choice for small businesses. And because Ellie is a digital nomad, running her business from wherever she happens to be, a Tide account suits her perfectly:
“I heard about Tide through clients. A few of them had Tide accounts and I work primarily with Xero which connects seamlessly with Tide. I started using Tide myself recently because it’s so easy to use. With the app, I can set up Direct Debits to pay my staff and invoice directly.”
How is your business affected by the lockdown?
Shortly after the lockdown began on 20 March 2020, Ellie and the team quickly found themselves taking up a more hands-on role with clients. While the lockdown might prove disastrous for many small businesses, for Cooper Financials, it brought new opportunities. Ellie says:
“Work has increased for us. Right now, small business owners really need financial advice and we’ve been working round the clock to create scenarios for them so they can make more informed decisions. We’re helping business owners be as prepared as possible for whatever happens next.”
Have you had to change or delay any plans?
Because Cooper Financials is an online business, they’re able to continue with most of their plans – but like other small businesses, they’ve had to adapt:
“The biggest change we had planned was to expand our management packs to give business owners even more insight into their finances – sales comparisons, cash flow forecasts, sales pipeline analysis and more. We’re still going ahead with this but we’ve pivoted to focus more on projection analysis. We’ve learned that asking what our clients need right now is more important than getting on with our own plans.”
What coronavirus support will you get from the Government?
Because Cooper Financials doesn’t have a property – the three staff are home-based – the company isn’t eligible for a Government coronavirus grant.
“We’re not eligible but we’ve been pleased to help many of our clients apply for Government loans. We’ve also advised clients on how to furlough employees and prepared their VAT returns and advised clients they can postpone making payments.”
How were your clients’ businesses affected by the lockdown?
Ellie reports that some of her clients panicked and sought help from Cooper Financials straight away. Some clients decided to close their businesses for the entire summer. Others chose to focus on a side project they’d had on the backburner.
“It was very interesting to see all of our clients pivot. In a matter of days, revenue streams were cut for many of our clients. We worked with them to find new ways to keep providing their services – or part of their services – to their customers. One client, a custom jewellery-maker, started doing video calls to get the exact details for clients’ orders, instead of having to meet in person.
“Some clients even found completely new sources of income and plan to carry on when coronavirus is more under control. For example, a client who runs an after-school tuition centre has started providing courses online. It’s something he’s been wanting to do for a while but hasn’t had the time to get it off the ground.”
When lockdown easing begins, what’s your advice for small businesses?
After the rapid shift to remote working and online ordering, Ellie wants to remind businesses that the UK is going to stay more ‘online’ than ever before, and that they can take advantage of this. Her advice is simple:
“To any small business owner looking at the future and seeing a big question mark, I’d advise them to keep liquid cash on hand in case we have a situation like this again.
“I’d also remind business owners to stay focused on their diversified revenue streams. Online will be the ‘new normal’ so they must learn how to work with that, instead of pushing against it or doing nothing. That will keep them a few steps ahead of their competitors.”
What have you discovered about yourself while working in isolation?
During the coronavirus lockdown, many small business owners have had to lean heavily on their accountant. Being in touch so frequently, and with high emotional stakes, it’s understandable that Ellie’s business relationship with her clients has become more personal:
“I feel a lot more connected with my clients now that we’re all working from home. Everyone’s more comfortable. It feels more personal, for example, I’m learning my client’s children’s names, whether they work early in the morning or late at night. Feeling closer to my clients on a more personal level motivates me even more to help them with their finances.”
Update from Ellie: November 2020
We asked Ellie what’s been happening at Cooper Financials since we spoke to her in April:
“It’s been going well! We’ve expanded Cooper Financials into the Singapore market and partnered with other business service companies that can help our clients.
“From the perspective of our clients, everyone seems to be making the most of the situation. A few clients have almost completely changed their business model, others have changed part of their revenue streams. It’s still tough for some, but we’re trying to help as much as we can.”
Get in touch with Cooper Financials
If your small business needs advice or help with money, why not choose another small business as your accountant? Get in touch with Ellie: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Photos by Ellie Cooper and @cooperfinancials