Business Survival Guide

The guide was originally written during the pandemic (April 2020), but many points remain relevant today. 

Move your business into defence mode by taking the following actions:

Cash flow

  • Send invoices for all completed work and work in progress immediately.
  • Contact HMRC on 0800 0159 559 to negotiate extended payment terms for VAT, PAYE, Corporation Tax and Self-Assessment Income tax.
  • Contact your local authority to claim exemption from business rates or negotiate payment terms if non-exempt.
  • Contact credit card companies and other loan providers to negotiate:
    • Interest rates 
    • Payment holidays or reduced payments without penalty
  • Consider scaling back on non-essential expenditure such as:
    • Advertising and sponsorship
    • Non-essential equipment or vehicles on hire
    • Outsourced services such as virtual PA, which you can provide yourself
    • Services that can be obtained for free elsewhere e.g. HR or legal helplines can be replaced by a good internet search or may be available through an existing trade body membership or insurer
    • Review insurance cover and reduce non-essential elements e.g. breakdown cover if you are working from home
    • If you have pre-paid fuel cards, legal services retainers, consultant retainers or suppliers with minimum order quantities ensure that these are still in-line with your requirements and negotiate reductions as necessary
  • Calculate your revised breakeven point (i.e. the point at which your revenue covers your costs) and monitor daily cashflow against this benchmark.
  • Calculate how long your reserves will last if you income falls to a minimum.
  • Consider asking for up-front payment or payments on account to improve cashflow and reduce credit risk.


  • If you have employees communicate and reassure them as far as possible. Take advantage of all the financial support available from the government. Understand your obligations on sick pay and, if you need to make redundancies, understand the statutory requirements.
  • Use staff time wisely and become self-sufficient by insourcing as much as possible to reduce cost e.g. deliveries, cleaning and maintenance.


  • Monitor competitors and ensure your prices are still comparable.
  • Engineer cost savings into the products and services that you provide to reduce prices.
  • Reduce the range of products and services to minimise complexity and save time and cost.
  • Review customer base and reassess credit risk and individual requirements.
  • Focus on what you are good at and consider collaborations with other businesses to take advantage of synergies.
  • Be realistic about pricing and, if you can afford to offer targeted discounts to help customers in need do so, but not at a loss.
  • If you have surplus capacity that you cannot cancel e.g. owned yard/warehouse space or equipment, offer it for hire to other businesses that may be struggling to pay for what they are currently using.
  • Contact suppliers to secure deliveries and search for alternatives if necessary. Some suppliers may not survive or may be struggling to meet changes in demand.
  • Make sure you respond to customers concerns, communicate with them and reassure. Remember we are all in the same boat.
  • Offer free support to your customers e.g. factsheets, FAQs, links to government websites - you are welcome to point them to our Help Scout guides too. 
  • If you fail to negotiate affordable payments with lenders and you forecast that you have insufficient income and reserves to cover unavoidable expenditure over the coming months, contact a licensed insolvency practitioner to discuss a CVA or IVA. This will have very serious consequences for the business and will not be appropriate in every case, but it can buy time to pay creditors.
  • Review support available from the British Business Bank
  • Review support available from the government

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