December 12th, 2022

3 festive lessons Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol can teach business owners during hard times

As we approach the end of 2022, both you and your clients might be reflecting on the challenges and opportunities this year has presented.

Indeed, people from all walks of life have found 2022 financially challenging. What’s more, if you or your clients own a business, you could have felt doubly hit by the effects of rising interest and inflation.

Now the festive season is here, the cost of living crisis could dampen some of your clients’ spirits as they continue to grapple with the effects of the economy on their businesses. Nevertheless, there is wisdom to be found in the Christmas period – sometimes from sources you wouldn’t expect.

Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is a tale known to many, telling of a miserly old business owner, Ebenezer Scrooge, and his journey of self-discovery over the course of Christmas Eve night.

This story isn’t just for entertainment – there are valuable lessons to be extracted from Dickens’ famous story.

So, here’s what A Christmas Carol could teach your business owner clients during hard times.

1. Generosity doesn’t always equal loss

One of the most notorious personality traits of Dickens’ unforgiving protagonist is his lack of generosity. Scrooge is described as a “squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, covetous old sinner” who lives alone, “as solitary as an oyster”.

In the first stage of the book, Scrooge is asked by some charitable workers to give money for the homeless. He replies: “Are there no prisons?”, implying he has no sympathy for those less fortunate than himself.

As business owners, your clients might have become tempted to be as cost-conscious as Scrooge this year. With Corporation Tax set to rise for many businesses in April 2023, and the cost of living crisis having an impact on overheads, they could find themselves being less and less generous as time goes on.

But in actual fact, as Scrooge learns later on, generosity does not always equal loss.

For instance, exchanging a portion of take-home pay for increased tax-efficient pension contributions, a company car, or a childcare benefit could mean your business owner clients pay fewer National Insurance contributions (NICs) on their employees’ salaries. This is known as “salary exchange” and can be offered as part of a generous remuneration package.

Similarly, charitable donations can make a business more tax-efficient. Donations are often considered “expenses” and may be deductible from a company owner’s Corporation Tax bill.

So, this Christmas, your clients could take a leaf out of Dickens’s book and learn that generosity can benefit everyone – even in a cost of living crisis.

2. Being a “human” business owner will get you far

As time goes on, it has become unfashionable to run your business like a tyrant.

This fact is lost on Ebenezer Scrooge, who wishes to force his employee Bob Cratchit to work through Christmas Day – until Cratchit begs for just one day off to celebrate with his family, which Scrooge begrudgingly grants.

In this day and age, the proof is in the statistics: research published by Aviva confirms that in a post-pandemic world, work-life balance has overtaken salary as an employee priority for the first time.

What’s more, Zurich research has found that by 2025, Generation Z (those born between 1997 and 2012) will make up 27% of the workforce. As the younger generations begin entering your clients’ businesses, becoming a “modern business owner” will be all the more important.

In A Christmas Carol, Scrooge learns this the hard way. When he’s taken by the Ghost of Christmas Present to look in at Bob Cratchit’s window, he hears himself described as an “odious, stingy, unfeeling man”.

In today’s world, being this wretchedly unpopular could land your clients in hot water.

So, as Scrooge does, it’s important for your clients to work on their soft skills, creating an approachable, honest atmosphere where everyone feels comfortable.

3. It’s never too late to change your mindset

After having his past, present and future misgivings revealed to him by the three spirits, Scrooge realises the error of his ways. On Christmas morning, he declares “the spirits of all three ghosts shall strive within me. I shall not shut out the lessons that they teach!”.

By this stage in his life, Scrooge is close to the end of his career. This could prove a valuable lesson for your clients: if they have grappled with the issues discussed here throughout their lives, it is never too late to change their mindset or their ways.

Plus, working with a financial planner could help your business owner clients gain invaluable peace of mind in the coming years and help them form healthy financial habits.

We understand how difficult times have been for entrepreneurs, and are here to provide guidance that could help reduce their financial stress, embracing generosity and warmth over the festive season.

Get in touch

We can help your business owner clients manage their finances – even the Scrooges! For trustworthy guidance this festive season and beyond, email enquiries@prosserknowles.co.uk or call 01905 619 100.

Please note

This article is no substitute for financial advice and should not be treated as such. To determine the best course of action for your individual circumstances, please contact us.

This article is for information only. Please do not act based on anything you might read in this article. All contents are based on our understanding of HMRC legislation, which is subject to change.

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