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We have lots of sayings that we commonly use – “Every Cloud has a silver lining”, “Can’t see the wood for the trees” and many more, but they’ve never seemed so apt as they do at this present time. As the first wave of redundancies hits our industry and friends and colleagues are preoccupied with wondering whether they will be one of the casualties, I wanted to offer an insight, learned from the painful experience of two redundancies and reassure everyone that, no matter how dark it might appear at the moment, there are some huge opportunities that emerge and that, with the right mindset, they can be the springboard for greater things.

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I posted an article here earlier today that dated back to Catering Insight in 2012 outlining the role of the manufacturers’ agent, a role I found myself in in 2008, having been made redundant at the beginning of that year. I said at the time that I saw the numbers growing, but for some reason they never really did. Now however, I think that might change.

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As companies look to reduce costs, the prevalence of remote working will possibly lead them to view the “on the road” sales-team as one area that can be contracted. However, it must be remembered that within any company, the whole structure is reliant on incoming sales and nothing happens until someone sells something – there is nothing to be manufactured, nothing to be despatched, invoiced or serviced until that sale happens, so that contraction exercise has be examined with caution.

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There is an alternative that works for all though and that is the role of the independent agent. Do we really want to cast aside the years of experience and professionalism, the skillsets and the contacts? No, thought not. By employing an independent agent, the manufacturer, wholesaler, distributor or whatever can maintain the sales function, but without the on-costs that a directly employed workforce attracts. There are lots of different options to be explored: retainers, commission only and fully expensed for example, and I cannot tell anyone what is correct for their business, but it has to be worth looking at

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For those of you that have been redundant, or are facing up to the possibility, this could just be the lifeline (and potential lifestyle change) you’re looking for. Self-employment is challenging, but incredibly rewarding in equal measure.

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Everyone will tell you that redundancy is not personal – it’s the job that is being made redundant, not the person. Let me tell you, that whilst that is strictly true, it sure as hell doesn’t feel like it. It does feel personal and its natural to think “why me?”, but particularly at the current time, no-one is going to question the reasons behind it. One thing I will say here is to take advice – you’d be surprised how many, even the big companies, get the process wrong. With one of the processes I went through it was apparent that I knew more about employment contractual law than the company and even their HR consultants – albeit with the help of a very good solicitor.

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Once you’ve decided to take the plunge, decide what you want to offer and be flexible in your thought process. I had a conversation with friend last week who, worried what the future may have in store, had backed himself into a corner by thinking that his current market sector clients would have no need for his services. He’s a hugely talented designer, with great project management skills but hadn’t even considered freelancing those services – he was fixated on his current client base and just needed his eyes opening to the wider landscape

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You’re not going to be limited to working on behalf of one company either. Under HMRC regulations, it is not permitted to have one single client as you would be viewed as an employee. As the freelancer, you’re probably okay and, as long as you can demonstrate to HMRC that you are actively seeking alternative additional clients will be left alone, but your “employer” would need to look at NI and other employment contributions. What this does is open up other income streams for you and as long as there is no direct competition amongst the companies you represent, it will give you new things to learn, new skills and opportunities to explore.

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A good accountant is a must and one who can advise you on what we call “the Chancellors Brother” guidelines. Do you really think that the Rishi Sunak’s brother (If he has one) pays a penny more tax than he needs to? If there’s a line in the sand, one side of which is legal and the other not, you don’t get any more bonus points the further from the line you stand, so pay the fees and engage the best you can – they’ll save you more than they cost.

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I can’t tell you what to do if redundancy strikes, but I can tell you what I’ve learnt over the past twelve years. If it happens to you and you’d like to talk to someone that’s’ been through it more than once and come out the other side, I’d be happy to give you the benefit of my experience so don’t feel you can’t get in touch.

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Going back to those sayings. My favourite and the one I live by?

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It’s this : “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain”