Telling the truth about SME life today

Ask Timpo

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I have no choice but to make redundancies. Some of the victims are employees I’m rather friendly with. Is it best to let HR deal with it, or should I sit in on the meetings” Can I take them for a drink afterwards, or is that unprofessional?

You have just learned an important lesson – don’t let your social life get mixed up with work. If possible, don’t employ a friend and if a colleague is, or happens to become, your friend, have two separate relationships.

Treat these employees like all the others. If you normally deal with redundancies yourself, do so on this occasion but if you (sensibly) leave the job to HR, let them give your friends the bad news.

Don’t expect your friends to be over the moon. They’ll be distressed and angry – a jolly jar at the local will not be welcome. Wait a few weeks before you get in touch. Then, if they want to meet, keep talk about work to a minimum and don’t make any rash promises such as “I’ll find you a job when things improve”, or, “I could lend you some money”.

It will be interesting to see if any of them send you a Christmas card.

My employees have to work over Christmas. How do I keep their spirits up?

Some employees have to work on Christmas Day and you might think that, in the current economic climate, they should be grateful to have a job. But don’t take them for granted.

Pay them more than they would expect and get in some Christmas treats – Christmas crackers, mince pies and a Christmas cake… but miss out on the mulled wine (health and safety!).

Don’t ignore them on the day. Even if you are skiing down the slopes of Davos, ring to wish them a Merry Christmas. If you haven’t gone abroad and want to be a candidate for the Best Boss in Britain, turn up dressed as Santa and give everyone a present.

I’ve saved the most important thing for last: when the holiday is over, send everyone a handwritten letter to their home simply to say, “thank you”.

I’ve been building up my business for three years and I’ve never witnessed such a rocky economic climate. I’m about to go back to my bank for refinancing and I’m worried I’m in for a nasty shock. Any tips”I almost feel sorry for bank managers these days. Let down by bosses who played and lost at the money market casino, they now work for more cautious bean counters who, in some cases, have been joined on the board by civil servants. As a result, the poor bank manager is forced to put up prices to prime customers and pull the plug on sub-prime prospects.

The days of big borrowing are over – banks have a lot less to lend.

It depends on what you need: if you simply wish to renew an existing facility and your business is buoyant, you should be okay. Expect to hear a lot about LIBOR, basis points, covenants and security – signs that you will pay more for your money. Before signing up, it’s worth checking other forms of lending such as leasing some of your assets.

If you want a higher overdraft, I wish you luck. Get the facts straight and describe the truth in glowing terms – banks still love business plans. With robust assumptions, you might get credit committee approval, but beware: the cash may come with covenants that put your whole business at risk.

Now is the time to take care of your cash flow and postpone the next good idea until you can afford it.

Picture: source



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