LWA is a local, independent practice of chartered certified accountants and business advisors providing services to clients based in the North West and across the UK.
The business works with SMEs in a range of sectors including construction, manufacturing, retail, property and childcare, as well as providing specialist services to regulated clients such as solicitors and charities. LWA also provide personal tax advice, specialising in property investment and high net-worth individuals.
Here, Managing Director Les Leavitt tells of his experience responding to the Covid-19 pandemic and offers advice to businesses looking to bounce back as restrictions ease and business returns to a new normal.
What was the impact of COVID-19 on the business?
Most of our clients were affected by the pandemic, however, due to the nature of our business we have been able to offer them support. Through regular, timely Coronavirus Guidance communications, we have helped many of them claim Government support. This included managing all aspects of the furlough grant for our payroll services clients, as well as using our position as Futrli advisors to help businesses manage cashflow and apply for funding.
Getting clients through the pandemic was a major priority – small businesses need to support each other, which is what we were proud to do.
How has your business adapted to the challenges your sector has faced?
In terms of adapting the business, staff safety and reassurance was our first priority. We invested in technology and security to ensure our staff had the means to effectively work from home. We had to furlough some of our staff during the midst of the first wave, however demand for our services increased and we are delighted to have retained all of our employees.
Will you be returning to your pre-COVID way of working or keeping some or all of the changes made?
As a business we were already using MS Teams and Zoom for client meetings before the pandemic. Personal communication has always been at the forefront of our service provision and our ethos: know, like, trust – so we will continue to use this technology.
Our approach to carrying out onsite audits now takes into consideration covid-testing and social distancing to ensure we are minimising the spread of the virus. Since lockdown restrictions have started to ease, we have begun offering our staff Covid testing kits to ensure we are all keeping each other and our clients safe.
LWA has also now formally adopted a hybrid working approach allowing our employees the option to work three days in the office and two days at home on a rotation basis.
How do you think businesses can best support employees adapting to changes to their way of working?
Businesses can support employees by listening to their needs. Also empowering employees through trust is vital to encourage them to give their best.
We’ve all been through a tough time, so empathy and rewarding staff are the approaches that the LWA Directors have taken.
What advice would you give to other businesses looking to hit the ground running and bounce-back post pandemic?
Ensure you put in place accounting software such as Xero, to help manage cashflow for your business. Furthermore, HMRC has a deadline in place for Making Tax Digital (MTD) for all VAT registered businesses to submit quarterly VAT returns using cloud accounting to avoid getting fined before April 2022. It is simple to set up and your accountant should have an onboarding process in place. Check if your accountant can provide live management account forecasting information and the impact of making key business decisions. Software such as Futrli, which works as an extension of Xero, is an excellent tool for any business owner. Futrli Predict and iwocaPay have partnered up to provide a FREE 12-month subscription whilst also allowing businesses to get invoices paid faster.
If you’re thinking of investing in new equipment, don’t forget to ensure you claim all the tax reliefs available to you such as the new Super Deduction capital allowances on new equipment, including First Year Allowances (FYAs) on certain qualifying energy-saving plant or machinery.
Take up the opportunity to apply for Government funding whilst this is still available. With the third wave of the pandemic on the rise, if you need to furlough staff there is still time to claim, plus you can apply for the Recovery Loan Scheme – the current deadline for applications is 31st December.
Has being located on Birchwood Park provided any particular benefits for your business?
Being part of the Birchwood community has allowed our advice surrounding claiming government support to be spread to individuals and businesses outside of our client base. The Birchwood Park marketing team have been fantastic in sharing all of our guidance on their website, social media and email newsletters.
Personally, for LWA as a business and for our employees there are several benefits. There is the ease of connectivity to main transport hubs including rail, bus and car links which are all catered for here on the park. There are also the open spaces which give our staff the opportunity to get out from behind their desk and enjoy the freedom of the outdoors. Our staff are able to access wellbeing facilities such as the onsite health centre as well as support for mental wellbeing and during the past 12 months these have continued to be available virtually. It is important to have pleasant outdoor surroundings and onsite facilities for mental and physical wellbeing.
Overall, the vibrant atmosphere empowers us as a business, including our staff with areas and facilities to just relax.