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Self-employment and long-term illness how to protect your business

If you're a director of a company and your team and customers heavily depend on you, becoming ill can be a huge hurdle for your business, especially if it's going to be an ongoing, long-term illness.  In a previous blog, we have talked about the loss of a significant person in the business, and how to limit the effects of that scenario. But if you are long-term ill, perhaps it's likely that you can still carry out at least some of your usual duties but will need to make some changes to keep your business solvent, just as you will need to adapt your lifestyle at home.  Here are some suggestions to put in place if you, unfortunately, become diagnosed with a long-term illness.

Work with your GP to find the best way for you to work

If one of your employees was ill and signed off work, they would more than likely provide you with a Fit for Work document from their GP.  This would suggest ways to adapt their role and work environment to allow them to return to work.  Just because you're the director, it doesn't mean you should disregard the Fit for Work note.  Speak to your GP about the type of work that you need to carry out yourself to keep the business running.  Your GP will be able to make suggestions about how often you should be working to ensure that you are able to balance your health with your responsibilities at work.  They can provide you with a Fit for Work note for your records, in case you need it for any insurance claims or creditor negotiations.

Consider growing, rather than shrinking

It can be very tempting to feel that there's no option other than to downsize the business and take on a smaller amount of work, to cut out clients or to limit products and services.  But this often means downsizing your personal income too and losing the hard work you have previously put into these clients, products or services to get to where you are now. You are more likely to need a healthy income when you're unwell, to pay for medications, home help, home adaptions, and other comforts.

It's still possible to grow the business and now might be a better time than ever to start thinking about a stronger team - hiring more staff, upskilling and investing in training for staff, or bringing in partners to the business.   Having a reliable, experienced senior management team will give you the reassurance that on days you are unable to give attention to work, that your business is still running smoothly and continues to grow. Building a stronger team will give you room to delegate more of your own responsibilities and could allow you to take a more passive income from the business without needing to work a 40 hour + week.

Keep communication lines open

When people depend on you, it can take a while for them to adjust to you not being there.   So, it's very important that you are able to keep communication lines open wherever possible.   Perhaps you'll leave really extensive notes and instructions and arrange handover days, perhaps you'll use your CRM system's features, use software like Slack or Zoho, or perhaps you'll be available in an informal way, such as on WhatsApp, text message, Skype chat.   If most of your work will be carried out from home, where possible try to visit your team in person even if just for 30 minutes every couple of weeks to stay in touch personally so long as your GP has agreed that it's safe for you to do so.   If you cannot physically make it to the office, warehouse, shop, etc.   then a video call can be very helpful too, even if it is from your bedside.

Call in expert help

When you begin the planning process for your sickness absence and amended working hours, think about whether you need Business Turnaround support especially if things have already started to slip; for example, bills getting on top of you, cash-flow struggling a little and so on. Also, think about other ways you could find some affordable help to take the pressure off.   Call answering services can be very useful to relieve the stress of needing to be constantly available and to ensure you don't miss any important messages or potential business.

Within the budgetary process, key person insurance, critical and serious health insurance, lasting powers of attorney and medical care cover should be seriously considered as an essential expense rather than a cost.  Whilst hopefully it is never called upon it could be the difference between survival or business failure.  See our earlier blogs 'dealing with the death of director/key person' and 'it happens - business interruption, are you prepared?'

For more information about planning for long-term illness or Business Turnaround support following a period of illness or recent diagnosis, please fill out an enquiry form on our website or telephone us for a free consultation and we'll help you choose the right service for your circumstances.


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