Coronavirus: Is your business immune?

The outbreak of the coronavirus disease, COVID-19 continues to pose a significant threat to businesses in the UK. The impact on supply chains, transport and international travel is causing businesses to consider the impact of coronavirus on their current or future contractual agreements. Here Julie Hunter a commercial solicitor at Stephensons Solicitors LLP, discusses why it’s important for businesses to understand their legal rights and obligations in light of this global pandemic.

Coronavirus: Is your business immune?
Julie Hunter

The outbreak of the coronavirus disease COVID-19 continues to cause severe disruption and uncertainty to global trade. Now categorised as a global pandemic by the World Health Organisation, businesses must consider whether the impact of the coronavirus could cause them to default on their contractual obligations, whether this may be an inability to supply goods due to the effect on the supply chain, an inability to provide services due to travel restrictions or the cancellation of planned public events due to quarantine. Many larger businesses have already started to issue statements to their customers and suppliers in advance of any potential disruption caused by the outbreak.

Can your business delay performance or fail to fulfil its obligations under a commercial contract due to the coronavirus outbreak without facing liability? The often-standard force majeure clause contained in commercial contracts may mitigate risks and help parties navigate the difficulties caused by the outbreak.

What is Force Majeure?

A force majeure clause may relieve a party from performing its obligations under a commercial contract due to the occurrence of events which are unforeseeable or outside of its control. You can only rely on a force majeure clause if it has been drafted into your contract. A force majeure clause cannot be implied.

As force majeure has no defined meaning in English law, the effect of a force majeure clause will depend upon the way it has been drafted into each individual contract. Typically, force majeure clauses can cover:

  • acts of God, such as natural disasters and extreme weather events
  • terrorist attacks, civil war and breaking off diplomatic relations
  • compliance with a law or order, rule or direction of the government
  • embargos
  • epidemics or pandemics

Your force majeure clause may give you the right to suspend performance of the contract for a certain period of time or allow either you or your counterparty to terminate the contract entirely on the occurrence of a force majeure event.

COVID-19 as a Force Majeure

On 11 March 2020, the World Health Organisation classified the coronavirus as a global pandemic. If your force majeure clause covers the occurrence of a pandemic, then the coronavirus outbreak is likely to constitute a force majeure event.

If your force majeure clause does not cover pandemics, you must carefully consider whether the outbreak or its effects could fall into any of the other force majeure events specified in your contract. For example, you may find it possible to argue that the quarantine or isolation restrictions effecting your supply chain constitute a ‘work stoppage’, or that any international travel restrictions imposed in the UK and other countries which restrict performance could constitute ‘compliance with an order of a government’.

The court often interprets the precise wording of force majeure clauses strictly. If the situation is unclear, you should seek specialist legal advice on whether the coronavirus would constitute a force majeure event under your contract.

Invoking the clause

Even if the coronavirus qualifies as a force majeure event under your contract, you may not necessarily be able to invoke your rights under the force majeure clause.

Most force majeure clauses require you to demonstrate that the event itself has prevented performance of your contract. This means that if the coronavirus outbreak is simply causing performance to be more difficult, costly or time-consuming for your business, this may not necessarily be enough to invoke the clause.

Additionally, it may not always be desirable to invoke your force majeure clause for commercial reasons. You may need to consider the following matters:

  • Is the force majeure clause / event open to interpretation? Your counterparty may dispute your entitlement to any force majeure remedies and seek to enforce performance of the contract.
  • Could your insurance policy cover any losses or business interruption instead?
  • Will other parties / business be facing similar problems with supply or performance? Could you negotiate new terms to navigate the issues?
  • Would exercising the force majeure clause damage your ongoing relationship with the counterparty? Is there a reputational risk if the matter became public?

Breach of contract

It is possible that the effects of the outbreak on your business may not be covered by the force majeure clause as drafted or you may not have the option of relying on a force majeure contract at all.

If this is the case, any failure to perform your obligations under the contract (even if the failure is attributable to the coronavirus) may constitute a breach of contract which you could be liable to the counterparty for. However, there may be other mechanisms in the contract or under English contract law generally which may assist you and it is imperative to obtain legal advice should you find yourself in this situation.

Seeking a legal specialist

If you are currently considering entering into new contracts or are reviewing your contracts in light of the coronavirus, you should seek legal advice on strengthening your force majeure clause.

If you are currently facing threats of litigation over failed performance caused by the coronavirus or are considering invoking your force majeure clause, it is important to seek legal advice on your rights of termination and breach of contract.

About Stephensons

Stephensons Solicitors LLP is a full-service law firm with offices in Bolton, London, Manchester, St Helens and Wigan.

Business owners urged to take six steps to limit coronavirus risk to their operations

AMID all the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus outbreak business owners may feel their fate isn’t in their own hands – but in fact there’s lots that they can do to help them take control.

Business owners urged to take six steps to limit coronavirus
David Tew

“These are uncertain times. No-one knows exactly how this is going to play out. But there are certain things you can do to protect your business,” said David Tew, a dispute resolution specialist with Cartmell Shepherd Solicitors.

“A bit like the advice across society about taking sensible steps such as washing your hands, there are steps you can take as a business to protect yourself,” said David.

Here David shares half a dozen simple steps aimed at helping you and your business to be prepared and to focus on what you can control.

1. Check your ongoing contracts

“Check your contracts. What are your obligations and your rights? 

“Will coronavirus allow a contracting party to pull out of its obligations on an existing contract? It depends very much on what is the exact wording in the contract.

“In particular you should be checking is there a force majeure clause in your contracts which allows a party to suspend or terminate the performance of its obligations when certain circumstances beyond their control arise.

“If there is not a force majeure clause then it is possible to look at the legal doctrine of ‘frustration’ where it is impossible to complete a contract because of a change of circumstances outside your control. But this is open to different interpretations and may be difficult to rely on, highlighting the importance of ensuring that your contracts are fit for purpose.”

2. Check your insurance policies

“Have a close look at your business insurance policy to see if you have any business interruption coverage and check exactly what those terms are.”

3. Carry out a risk assessment

“Carry out a general risk assessment on all parts of your business to identify exactly what is at risk, and then focus on controlling those areas which are within your control.” 

4. Take practical steps

“So far much of the focus has been on the international aspect of coronavirus. But that is set to move to a more domestic level and it is important as a business owner that you do everything you can now to make sure you, your employees, your supply chain and your clients are as prepared as possible.

“If we are moving towards a situation where the advice will be for more people to self-isolate, or if there are restrictions of movement, then there are practical steps that you can take now to mitigate those risks.

“If you want to move to more remote working, then check the practical issues that will involve. Do the business processes and procedures work remotely? Check employee policies – do they cover working from home? Is it practical for all employees to work from home? Do they have a safe environment to work in?

“Review your supply chain. Have a discussion with those in your supply chain and discuss action plans with them.”

5. Keep communicating

“It is really important to keep communication channels open between you, your employees, your clients and your supply chain. Keep talking and discussing how you can support each other. Follow any guidance online https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-the-public

“Identify ways you can work together. There will be cases where because of the way a contract has been worded, it is within your legal right to ensure that those obligations are met. But that might not be the best approach when it comes to long-term business relationships.

“You are likely to want those relationships to be positive in the long term. And while the temptation might be to jump on the specific wording in a contract, remember that your clients and customers will still be here long after this situation has come and gone. How you act now, is likely to affect those business relationships in the future. 

“By showing flexibility and understanding and being willing to restructure that arrangement in the short term, is likely to be of benefit in the long term.”

6. Ensure you have good legal advice

“A good solicitor will help you with your concerns and give you the advice on how you can best protect your business. We have a six-strong team in dispute resolution at Cartmell Shepherd led by director Mark Aspin. If you are unsure about anything it is always best to ask.”

Chancellor Must Use Budget to Give Family Businesses Confidence to Invest in the Future – Starting with Maintaining BPR

The Institute for Family Business (IFB) is calling on the Chancellor to use his Budget on Wednesday to create an environment that gives family businesses the confidence to invest in future growth.

Reports that the Chancellor intends to review the Business Property Relief (BPR) in the upcoming Budget, are deeply concerning to the UK’s family run businesses.  Family businesses employ over 13 million people and generate 28% of the UK’s GDP.  Family firms continue to exist for generation after generation by innovating, adapting and looking for new markets and opportunities. They make investment decisions for the long term.

Every year 85,000 family SMEs are expected to transfer ownership of their businesses to the next generation. Removing BPR would force family run firms to pay a tax penalty on transfer, which others don’t have to. 

Fiona Graham from the Institute for Family Business said:

“Family firms are the driving force across all regions, communities and sectors of the UK. Well over 80% of businesses in Yorkshire, the North West and the East and West Midlands are family owned. In those four regions alone family firms employ nearly four and a half million people.

“Inheritance tax relief is essential to their future prosperity.  Scrapping it would have a catastrophic impact on family firms. It would lead to family run businesses being sold or broken up to pay an Inheritance Tax bill, with knock on effects on employment.  It will also damage confidence in the sector, where families would reduce investment and always plan for the worst.

“The introduction of BPR positively impacted the health of family businesses and the wider economy by giving business owners the confidence to invest and expand.

“The majority of British businesses are family businesses.  They are dependent upon BPR for their current and future prosperity. Any change to it would inevitably result in a decline in growth and investment coupled with stagnation in the number of new jobs being created.

“As the UK seeks to level up nationally in the coming years, the success of family businesses will be a crucial factor in doing so. In order to succeed and grow, they require a stable tax system and an economic environment.  The future of the family business sector – and ultimately the Government’s ambitions for regional growth and investment – rely on maintaining BPR.” 

The Institute for Family Business is the UK’s family business organisation, supporting and promoting the UK family-owned business sector through events, networking, representation, and thought leadership.

Two-thirds of British businesses are family businesses – ranging from multinational, multibillion-pound businesses to micro start-ups, the sector employs over 13 million people and contributes £182 billion in taxes. 

Brexit Opportunities: How Small Businesses are Impacted by Brexit (Plus Ways to Pivot)

Brexit is nothing short of a political tsunami, unlike anything we’ve seen in recent UK history.

It sent powerful shockwaves across the economic landscape. Small business owners are scrambling to grasp the magnitude and nature of this disruption. They have to deal with looming uncertainty and revamp their strategies, which doesn’t come easy.

But, to be fair, it’s not all doom and gloom out there.

There’s no shortage of emerging Brexit opportunities to expand, pivot, and grow your small business. They are concealed both in unexpected places and in plain sight. Leveraging them is a matter of survival in the harsh business environment.

Here is how to navigate the treacherous waters are emerge stronger than ever before.

A Deafening Wake-Up Call

We probably don’ have to repeat all the ways in which Brexit has disaster written over it.

There is a slew of notions floating around in public, which those sentiments. Instead, we want to offer something that comes in short supply– the good news.  

You can work your way around new obstacles and business risks on the road to business success. Indeed, Brexit gives us plenty of reasons to rethink our approach.

So, the first thing to do is educate yourself on all the practical consequences. The main goals are to identify opportunities amidst the chaos. They are your chance to position your business better and elevate its profile.

Some opportunities exist in the long-term horizon, while others involve a limited window of opportunity. They are also more applicable to some companies than others. There simply aren’t easy solutions and clear-cut answers.

On Top of the Game

To get on top of decision-making, factor in the particularities of your business case.

The following elements should be a part of the equation:

  • Size of the company
  • Growth/lifecycle stage
  • Industry sector
  • Type of products/services
  • Geographical presence

It’s safe to say these aspects don’t carry the same weight. Nevertheless, none of them are to be ignored.

First off, Brexit opens doors to various opportunities beyond the EU. In case you already export or serve customers overseas, that’s great news for you. If anything, it could significantly boost your sales and reinforce the market foothold.

This is also possible thanks to a weaker pound, which is conducive to export-oriented businesses. In other words, a lower exchange rate makes UK goods cheaper. It also acts as a magnet for foreign investment.

Two Sides of the Coin

The flip side is that imports are going to be more expensive.

Hence, businesses that rely on them will struggle to maintain operational profitability. One way to overcome this obstacle is to seek more UK-based partners.

Yes, such a transition requires time, resources, and thoughtful planning. But, it can pay dividends down the road.

Rest assured domestic demand is poised to surge in the wake of Brexit. In many cases, customers will be tempted to forgo foreign brands because they’ve become pricier. This is to say many UK businesses will be more competitive than their counterparts from abroad.

Of course, these are all general predictions that may not always hold to the scrutiny of reality.  

A lot will depend on the ability of the government to negotiate favourable bilateral deals. Therefore, keep up with the changes in trade tariffs, as well as currency fluctuations.

Thriving in an Unforgiving Climate

Another major influence of Brexit is regulation getting less stringent.

Yes, in general, the UK is likely to stay aligned with the EU legal framework. At the same time, however, it might diverge from it in some important ways.

This development will give more wiggle room to UK businesses. It will facilitate certain key business processes, making them quicker and possibly cheaper.  

Furthermore, bear in mind there’s one great way to capitalize on Brexit.

Namely, you could try to address newly-arising customers’ concerns and dilemmas.  The idea is to discover pain points in relation to leaving the EU and attempt to mitigate them.

A consultancy service is an obvious choice, especially for those who possess the necessary skills and expertise. But, this kind of small business is far from the only option. In fact, it’s more of a short-term, situational opportunity.

A Breath of Fresh Air

A more approachable alternative would be to refine your products and services according to the wants and needs of post-Brexit customers.

Some of the focal points to guide the process are:

These opportunities aren’t one-size-fits-all solutions. For example, legal firms are inclined to gravitate toward employment law. What is more, they could prosper by aiding UK firms in hiring employees aboard.

On the other hand, accountants may want to jump on VAT changes. A lot of businesses need assistance in comprehending them, as well as in refining related processes.

The bottom line is: conduct extensive market research and see what makes sense in your context.

Making a Strong Account of Yourself

To go the extra mile, establish yourself as a reputable expert.

Share your insights and experience with how your small business is coping with change. Turn your networking, publishing, and personal brand-building efforts a notch. Take part in discussions on how the industries ought to respond to disruption.  

Consider joining Brexit committees sprouting up recently. Get in touch with trade associations and other relevant organisations to figure out where these opportunities lie. Government consultations could also deliver a nice boost and put you close to the source of information.

Beyond that, you should feel free to explore other avenues. Trends such as automation aren’t exclusively tied to Brexit, but they certainly enable small businesses to move ahead.

Make sure you don’t miss out on those.

Brexit Opportunities: You Can Either Shape Up or Ship Out

Brexit implications come in all shapes and forms, ranging from good to bad and ugly.

This is a less-than-ideal turn of events, but it shouldn’t give rise to panic. You’re much better off embracing a proactive, paced, and strategic approach.

Do your homework to properly assess the reconfigured ecosystem. Recalibrate your business strategies and processes in the light of Brexit.

For instance, you may need to start looking either closer to home or further away from the EU neighbourhood. Make do with new tools to cover vital business functions and pave the way for expansion.

These are the stepping stones to gaining a powerful edge in the brave new market. It’s time to seize lucrative Brexit opportunities before the competition beats you to it.

Check out the entries in our economics and business section to stay in the know and future-proof your business.

Should You Open a Joint Bank Account with a Business Partner?

When you first start your business, having one bank account may have been enough to handle your financial needs. Now that you’ve grown, you’re wondering if it’s time to consider a joint bank account for your business.

Opening a joint bank account could make it much easier to handle your business’ financial needs. 

Have you never had a joint bank account? Are you curious about the benefits and disadvantages of having one?

We’re going to give you a quick rundown on what you need to know about having a joint account.

What Is a Joint Bank Account?

The concept of a joint bank account isn’t difficult to understand. Essentially, a joint bank account can allow different account holders to deposit and withdraw money. 

In terms of function, there isn’t much difference between having a joint bank account and a regular bank account for your business.

Each account holder will have their own chequebook and debit card that can allow them to make purchases or take out money at ATMs.

They’ll be able to access their account online and have all of the regular functions associated with a normal account.

Most joint bank accounts only have two account holders like spouses or two business partners, but you don’t have to stop at giving only two people access. You can open a joint bank account with three people, five people, or as many as you desire.

Joint Bank Account Pros 

Opening a joint bank account with your business partner can have a lot of benefits.

If you’ve been on the fence about whether or not opening one is the right thing to do, take some time to learn about all of the different ways having a joint account can help you and your business partner.

Transparency   

Does it occasionally feel like you and your partner are on completely different pages when it comes to finance? Opening a joint bank account can give you some much-needed insight into your spending and cash flow.

It’s easy to say that you’ll always let someone know when you make a big withdrawal or deposit, but emergencies and last-minute purchases do happen. 

Juggling multiple bank accounts for one business can start to be a little tricky. Eventually, you’ll start to lose track of what’s in each account. 

When you have a joint account, you and your business partner can handle making all of your purchases and manage all of your business expenses out of one account. It’ll make paying bills and managing finances a lot easier. 

Having two sets of eyes on the same account can also be helpful when you’re balancing the books and making purchasing decisions.

You may think that you’re able to make a purchase, but your partner can double-check your numbers to be completely sure.

Speed

You’ve found the perfect office space for your growing team and the realtor you’re talking to wants you to make an offer fast. Unfortunately, your partner has your bank account information, and they’re on vacation for the next 10 days.

Working out of a single bank account can seriously slow down some of the work and decisions you want to make.

When you have a joint account, you won’t have to worry about delaying any important purchasing decisions. As long as you have your account information, you can make purchases whenever you want.

Extra Insurance

You’d like to think that every deposit you make is foolproof, but you never know what can go wrong.

The person that wrote you a cheque may have miscalculated how much they have in their account. It’s even possible that the bank itself could have problems with clearing deposits.

You may not know this, but both the FDIC and NCUA provide $250,000 of federally backed insurance coverage for each depositor. This is done in case of bank failure.

If you open a joint account with your business partner, that $250,000 will turn into $500,000. This can give you some extra much-needed protection in case anything goes wrong. 

Joint Bank Account Cons

So far it may seem like opening a joint account could be the best thing you do for your business, but it isn’t for everyone.

There are plenty of benefits that come with having a joint account, but there are downsides too. Before you decide on opening your joint account, make sure you keep these potential downsides in mind.

No Individual Protection 

Depending on how you set up your account, creditors could have the ability to claim funds in your shared account.

If your partner is going through financial trouble or a legal matter like a divorce or lawsuit, the money you have in your joint account could be used to settle legal matters. 

You may have deposited the vast majority of the money into the account, but since the account will be in both of your names, you could lose money if creditors come after your partner.

Security Concerns 

If you give more than one person access to your secure bank account, you’ll leave yourself open to potential problems with security. 

Your business partner may accidentally lose their wallet or have it stolen. Someone getting a hold of their debit card could be enough to drain the money you have. 

Physical things don’t have to be stolen for your account to be compromised. Logging in to your bank account of a public device and forgetting to log out could be enough to put your business finances at risk.

Choose Wisley 

Ultimately, you should only open a joint bank account with your business partner if you truly trust them. 

You won’t want to share a joint account with someone that has a history of making bad money decisions, isn’t responsible, or could have serious legal trouble on the horizon. 

Do you have more questions about baking for your business? We have a lot of helpful content that can help business owners make the best decisions possible around their banking needs.

Be sure to browse all of the content in our banking tagged posts so you can learn everything you need to know about banking when you own a business.

How to Get a Secured Business Line of Credit the Right Way

A secured business line of credit is one of the best loans an owner can get.

Business is all about maximizing profits and earning a passive income. Unfortunately, not everyone has the necessary funds to start a business. This can leave many people struggling to figure out how they’ll start the business of their dreams.

Businesses borrow money for a variety of reasons, mostly to invest and make purchases benefit them. While there are a plethora of loan types, a line of credit is the only type that allows a business to keep borrowing. 

Keep on reading to learn more about lines of credit and how to get one!

What Is a Secured Business Line of Credit?

A secured business line of credit is a type of loan that you can use whenever you’d like. The line of credit (LOC) is the maximum amount that you’re able to borrow.

One of the most common lines of credit is the credit card. A credit card can be used continuously, so businesses can opt for these or other types of LOC.

If your LOC is £5,000, you can’t borrow past that. However, you can continue to borrow providing that you pay some of the money back. If you’ve maxed out your line of credit, paying off £1,000 would allow you to start borrowing up to £1,000 again. 

What makes a secured line of credit different from an unsecured line of credit is that, unlike an unsecured LOC, you need to provide collateral.

Collateral can come in the form of many things. When it comes to businesses, they’ll usually offer property and equipment as collateral.

Obtaining Traditional Bank Credit

A line of credit can be acquired at most banks and credit institutions. Many businesses will opt for traditional bank credit because it’s secure and can provide a lot of funds. The best private banks have better rates than public ones, so consider that when you’re looking for a loan.

Depending on your credit, you can get a high borrowing limit with low interest rates providing that you’re making minimum payments. 

Newer businesses will need to apply for a secured line of credit because they’ll have a hard time proving their financial eligibility. As your business establishes itself, you can start looking into unsecured LOCs. Keep in mind that you’ll have to pay high interest rates if you go for unsecured ones.

Banks often require borrowers to have a good credit score, so it may be difficult to obtain a LOC if you have a poor score or little to no credit history.

Small Business Loans

Small business loans are designed to help startup businesses get their feet off the ground. With this type of loan, you’re guaranteed low interest rates and can borrow several million.

You can get them at most banks, similar to traditional bank credit. Be sure to look at the terms and conditions of the loan. You’ll want to know the interest rate and the duration of the repayment period.

Seeking Out Investors

Seeking an investor is a great source of an LOC because they can provide a cash reserve when you need money. Investors regularly put their money into things like stocks, but you can ask them for direct money and offer them something in return.

When an investor buys a stock, they technically become an owner of the company. If you’re trying to borrow money from them, you could offer partial ownership similar to that of a stock.

You can also work out a deal in which they offer a continuous flow of money, essentially providing you with revolving debt.

No matter what you do, ensure that you have everything in a written, legally binding agreement. This protects both you and your investors in case someone doesn’t fulfil their end of the deal.

How to Guarantee That You’re Approved

Businesses have to go through a business credit application process similar to the loan process that most individuals go through. As an owner, you’ll need to meet with a lender and convince them that you’re suitable for a loan.

Do the following to guarantee that you’re approved:

Improve Your Credit Score

To get a loan of any kind, you’ll need to have a decent credit score. When it comes to a business line of credit, lenders will want to see that you’ve previously had an LOC and have managed to pay it off. 

What builds credit is paying off debt and reducing how much you borrow. The best way to do this is to start putting most of your money into the debt with the highest interest rate. While doing this, make minimum payments on your other debts to continue raising your score.

Bring Financial Records

You need to show up with organized records of your finances. This will include things like documentation of income, previous debts, and receipts of your payments. Being organized will look good to the lender and you’ll be able to present them anything when they ask.

Start Considering a Secured Business Line of Credit

If you own a business or would like to start one, a secured business line of credit can help you get ahead by providing the funds to make bigger purchases. While it’s possible to find success without borrowing, paying out of pocket will be difficult if you don’t have much money saved.

We encourage you to start looking into various banks and decide whether you should get a secured line of credit. If you have the funds to operate a business without borrowing, avoid getting an LOC so that you don’t have to pay interest.

Browse our business section to learn more about business-related finances and tips.

Drawing the Line on Free Business Giveaways

There are few business marketing practices that have stood the test of time as well as free giveaways. Whether offering products or services, this arm of advertising is popular for a reason. It gives customers a chance to get something for nothing, and it gives a business an opportunity to illustrate their strengths to the greater market. When done right, in many ways, it can be a win-win.

With that that in mind, it’s also important to remember that this can be a dangerous game. Making an avoidable mistake, or working without full comprehension of the possible positives and negatives of a position, can put both finances and reputations at risk.

When Should Giveaways be Avoided?

One of the biggest issues with free giveaways is how nebulous the results can be in terms of costs and benefits. Larger businesses might have the ability to hire marketing firms or invest in research to accurately predict the outcome of a free giveaway but, for small to medium-sized businesses, such actions can be an impossibility.

To address this issue, it can be a good idea to look at the worst possible outcome of a free giveaway, and check whether or not a bottom-line can afford the hit. Imagine a struggling Ford garage offering incentive projects where specific vehicles purchased within a set time-frame go into a draw to be fully paid off by the dealership. In the worst-case scenario, no more cars would be sold than usual, effectively adopting an enormous financial hit for zero real monetary rewards.

Businesses also need to know that not all that glitters is gold, and not everything that is offered for free is appreciated. While this is only one aspect of the free giveaway game, it is one of the most fundamental features, which even the biggest businesses can overlook.

Drawing the Line on Free Business Giveaways
Drawing the Line on Free Business Giveaways. Source: Pixabay

Take, for example, how Apple made headlines by giving away a free U2 album to iTunes users back in 2014. Apple saw this is a way to give people some of what everyone loved. Unfortunately for them, they vastly overestimated U2’s actual appeal. On top of this, the act of downloading the album automatically onto people’s devices used up room and bandwidth and messed with their shuffle functions.

In other words, just because you have the stock, doesn’t mean customers will necessarily care. Instead of such a broad shotgun approach, it’s best to narrow your sights to those who show informed interest.

When Should Free Giveaways be Used?

The most important part of this question lies, again, with the potential cost. Can a business afford the cost no matter the outcome? Then, and only then, should the business continue with this plan of action.

In the modern age, free giveaways are used to draw attention to not just a business as a whole, but also to a specific part of a business. This saw an enormous take-off at the turn of the new millennium as businesses increasingly turned to creating their own websites and, more importantly, online ordering systems.

Drawing the Line on Free Business Giveaways
Drawing the Line on Free Business Giveaways. Source: Pixabay

Online ordering and interaction systems are an enormous boost for businesses, in that they free up man-hours for staff, they can handle much more traffic than direct human interaction can, and they can operate 24/7. In these instances, free giveaways tied to online ordering systems could create unprecedented leaps in productivity. Walmart was one such example of this, where already legendary convenience was raised to an entirely new level.

More recently, this has taken the form of mobile-focused ordering systems. As more users turn to mobiles for internet use, this has again pushed for fresh illumination. Again, smaller free promotions can drive engagement, and can help spread word of mouth. This can be especially useful for businesses offering smaller goods and services, as they won’t have to eat significant costs. This might not matter so much for Walmart-sized franchises, but it will for almost everyone else.

Another method, as utilized by some businesses, is to extend already common bonuses one step further. For example, some businesses, such as online casinos for example, have long offered deposit matches as bonuses for new users, to the point where these are usually standard. New casinos, trying something different, turned to giving away no deposit bonuses, effectively one-upping the competition.

Of course, this particular industry can protect itself from what is known as wagering requirements, but the general concept of one-upmanship can still apply to a wide range of other markets.

Looking From Inside and Out

Measuring when a free giveaway is and isn’t worth the effort means walking a balancing act. What works for one industry or business might not work for another, even if the two are nearly identical. Because of this, the most important part is not to get lazy, and not to make assumptions on what will work.

By taking a step back from the industry, and doing individual research on what customers want, it can be possible to gain a much clearer picture. Work for success, but protect against failure. Try something new, but observe what others have done that worked and didn’t. Remember that there is no easy solution, but performed at the right place and the right time, a free giveaway can be a business-saver.

Reed Smith appoints former Deutsche Bank Managing Director in London

LONDON, 7 January UK – Reed Smith today announced that Joe Kohler has joined the firm’s Financial Industry Group, marking another significant addition to its banking advisory and derivatives practice.  Kohler joins Reed Smith from Deutsche Bank, where he served as Managing Director, Legal, Corporate & Investment Banking.  In that role, he co-led the bank’s sales and trading legal function globally, with deep transactional experience across the entirety of the fixed income, currencies and commodities businesses.

Reed Smith appoints former Deutsche Bank Managing Director in London

Over the course of his 18-year career at Deutsche Bank, Kohler led the legal work on many of the largest and most important transactions the bank conducted. He managed Deutsche Bank’s legal department’s response to counterparty defaults, downgrades and worked on enforcement and asset recovery efforts during the credit crisis of 2008. He also worked on the building of the first OTC derivative clearing offerings, on the development of the related market infrastructure and contributed to trade association efforts to standardise the related documents. He then helped shape the bank’s response to new regulatory developments such as EMIR, MiFID II, the collateralisation of uncleared derivatives, Brexit and IBOR reform.  Furthermore, he also has extensive experience of merger and acquisition activity in the financial sector, having led on the acquisition and disposal of many businesses and portfolios.

Kohler has led large teams on strategically critical projects within Deutsche Bank and brings to Reed Smith a deep understanding of the inner workings of the legal department within a global investment bank.  Given his sophisticated knowledge of structured finance and products, expertise across industry asset classes, and litigation and regulatory enforcement experience, and in-house familiarity, Kohler is well placed to add to Reed Smith’s bench strength providing strategic advice to banking clients on these transactions.

“Joe’s arrival adds to the bench strength of the firm’s highly regarded banking advisory and derivatives practice,” said Ed Estrada, global chair of Reed Smith’s Financial Industry Group.  “Joe is immensely respected and regarded within Deutsche Bank and throughout the investment bank community, and his reputation for providing steady and sound leadership on complex transaction and litigation matters as in-house counsel is an invaluable asset that our clients will certainly benefit from.  We are excited to have him join our team.” 

Kohler said, “As an in-house counsel, I wanted the law firms my team instructed to add something to secure a better solution than we could deliver on our own – perhaps insight, experience or capability. I was always reassured when we selected Reed Smith, because they always delivered what we had been looking for, and did so efficiently and with a profound understanding of the commercial context.  I am really excited to be joining Reed Smith’s highly impressive team.”

About Reed Smith

Reed Smith is a dynamic international law firm dedicated to helping clients move their businesses forward. Our belief is that by delivering smarter and more creative legal services, we will not only enrich our clients’ experiences with us, but also support them in achieving their business goals.

Our long-standing relationships, international outlook, and collaborative structure make us the go-to partner for the speedy resolution of complex disputes, transactions, and regulatory matters.

For further information, please visit reedsmith.com.

SMEs in cashflow black hole as they wait for £24bn in late payments

Late payments up more than £10bn in a year

15% of British freelancers spend 4 hours and above a week chasing invoices

CEO of ETZ Payments, Nick Woodward, provides commentary on how late and inconsistent payments are hurting businesses and freelancers alike

Today, new research showed that Small and medium-sized companies are waiting to receive £23.4billion, up from £13billion in 2018. More than half of businesses are chasing money owed, with the bill for trying to collect it hitting £4.4billion, says retail payment authority Pay UK. This comes as ETZ Payments reveals startling national representative research that shows that nearly a sixth of freelance and contract workers spend over 10% of their working week chasing invoices and payments. The new research from PayUK showed that the average amount owed to each firm had risen from £17,000 last year to £25,000 today. This demonstrates that across the board, self-employed contractors, freelancers, and small businesses are under strain. As we near the general election and with almost guaranteed further Brexit uncertainty, SMEs and workers are going through one of the most turbulent periods of their existence.

Nick Woodward, CEO of ETZ Payments, a back-office solution provider for the recruitment sector, offers the following commentary:

“This year and next year will undoubtedly be a turbulent period for small businesses and workers alike with myriad political and economic issues and an increasing amount of late payments. This issue is seriously harming cash flow, investment and growth across the UK economy. There are over 2 million freelancers and 5.7 million SMEs today, and with financial constraints such as chasing invoices, this will harm productivity and profit, and more needs to be done by the next government to ensure that these entrepreneurs, business owners, managers and workers, are paid justly and on time to keep the economy moving.”