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  • Cornerstone Team

Look after the small things in life

There's a lot of talk about large industries, and large companies within those industries needing a helping hand.

The current tragedy unfolding makes clear how big an impact small things have.

So, what about smaller businesses of which many are in financial services, probably working their hardest right advising people in fear for the well-being physically and financially.

Talking of which, I saw my adviser the other day. It felt like a session with a psychiatrist. And it was useful too.

According to the Office for Nationals Statistics, the estimated number of UK nationals working in the UK is around 29.3 million. According to the Federation of Small Businesses, small to medium sized Enterprises (SMEs) account for 99.9% of the business population (5.9 million businesses).

That’s a lot of people who fly on aeroplanes, travel (or at least, sit) on trains, drink in pubs, eat in restaurants.

A few days ago, the UK PM said the government would do “everything we can to give them [companies] the liquidity they need.” Yes, various things have been mooted like business rates relief, and extra time to pay VAT. But that and £3.00 might just buy them a toilet roll.

What will help SMEs and the millions working within them?

For a start large companies paying their invoices on time would be good. Too often we read about larger companies taking up to 6 months to pay their suppliers. Such actions kill smaller businesses.

I visited the a hitherto unknown (to me anyway) section of and downloaded a spreadsheet of payment practices of thousands of companies. You can find it here - (

It’s a chunky old thing. Whilst the data is from 2017 it is still relevant. It was interesting to see the columns headed “Average time to pay” and “% Invoices not paid within agreed terms” and “Maximum contractual payment period”.

For example, M&G Real Estate took, on average, 46 days to pay invoices which represents 100% not paid within agreed terms. Likewise, Universal Pictures Entertainment Productions Limited average payment time was 76 days, again representing 100% not paid within agreed date. And finally, Arriva Trains Wales took an average 235 days to pay. Were these paid within the agreed date? Not a one. The image below is just a snapshot of the list.

Lack of cashflow will asphyxiate small businesses. Yes, the government needs to do more to directly infuse businesses. But, big businesses might want to stop hoarding paper and ensure everyone has the paper due, otherwise we will be all be up the creek without any paper.

That’s a lot of paper.

These next few months will see the worst in people. The good news is, it will see the best in people too. As Martin Luther King Jr put it – “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

What does the Government need to do with its budget? 80’s indie pop group, Orange Juice, puts it best…

And it appears it (the Government that is, not Orange Juice) has done just that. On a massive scale.

One final point. A lot of businesses will or should have a pile of cash waiting to pay corporate tax bills. If they want to distribute real cash to help businesses and their staff…why not cut the amount due?

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